Many discussions are instigated by peer-reviewed academic publications, which are subsequently covered by popular media (for example, here). In this situation, it seems obvious to me the question should provide an informative link to the original article.

For biology questions, I propose that PubMed is the most useful resource to link to, and we should routinely include this link for any question that refers to an academic biology publication.

Here is my reasoning:

  1. PubMed is publicly accessible, well funded, frequently used, and therefore safe from link rot.
  2. PubMed usually provides a summary/abstract of the article.
  3. PubMed usually links to the original article, but always provides sufficient information to find the original article. It frequently stores the publication in its own publicly available archive (PubMed Central), even when it is not freely available on the publisher's website.
  4. PubMed automatically provides links to related articles, which will help the reader to identify if the issue is controversial.
  5. PubMed also tracks academic debates, specifying if there have been direct responses to the original article, as was the case for the article in question above.
  6. Inclusion in PubMed can be taken as evidence of notability.
  7. PubMed is developing "PubMed Commons", which will host public responses from recognized experts.
  8. PubMed provides a standardized, simple entry point for accessing publications.

If the PubMed record is not sufficiently detailed, then a link to the original publication may be preferable. Likewise, a link to a well-written layman's summary should be included when possible (I am generally impressed by the New York Times, Scientific American, and the Economist). Too many of our questions involve links to extremely dumbed-down and distorted summaries of the original publication.

But as a rule, if an article addresses a recent peer-reviewed biology publication, I think it should include a PubMed link by default. What do you think?

1 Answer 1


The distortion of the original article by the media, or even the authors themselves, is part of the question, and we can't just remove that aspect. When a question asks about a recent study mentioned in the media, there are actually several questions that have to be answered:

  • Is the paper represented correctly in the media?
  • Is the paper itself reliable?
  • Is there other literature contradicting or supporting this article?

An ideal answer would address all points. If we would require users to directly cite scientific articles, we would remove the first aspect entirely, which I think is not a good idea. We should deal with the media distorting or misrepresenting scientific articles, this is very common and a rather important issue for people that likely won't read the actual article or don't have access to it.

A link to the original article is still a good idea, but it does not have to be in the question, it can be in a comment on the question and finally should be in the answers. Pubmed links are useful, but I would prefer to use a DOI.

  • 1
    OP mentions specific points speaking against using a DOI though – linking to PMC may have benefits over it. Nov 23, 2013 at 11:31
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    If there is a free full text available, that should be the preferred link.
    – Mad Scientist Mod
    Nov 23, 2013 at 18:10
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    Not sure how that’s relevant. If there’s an offically published free full text, both PMC and DOI will refer to it. If they don’t, the free text is liable to link rot and should not (exclusively) be linked to. Nov 23, 2013 at 18:15

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