A few months ago we read a user survey conducted by arXiv and were inspired to create Librarian . We decided to solve the two biggest pain points mentioned by arXiv users: getting quick access to references and being able to extract the Bibtex of the paper they were reading. Today we are happy to announce that we are launching a new feature that allows users to post comments on arXiv papers.
arXiv is the platform that researchers use to share their most recent work with the world. New findings are posted to arXiv on a daily basis before they are even reviewed or published in journals. It was on arXiv that Grigori Perelman published the papers that led to the proof of the Poincaré Conjecture, one of the seven Millenium Prize Problems , for which he was awarded (and declined!) a million dollars and a Fields Medal. Perelman’s first proof was far from being easy to understand and even had minor errors/gaps in the argument that needed to be fixed before he could claim with confidence that he had found a proof to the Poincaré Conjecture. At that time, most of the discussions about Perelman’s proof were kept in private silos inside Universities or in email threads. We believe that there should be a place online where these discussions live and where people can openly and publicly collaborate. There have been multiple demonstrations of how powerful open collaboration around papers can be: Terrence Tao’s proof of the Erdős discrepancy (an 80-year-old number theory problem posed by the great Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdős) was deeply influenced by a comment on his blog . In addition, there are fields such as Machine Learning and Deep Learning where the rate at which new papers are published is so high that it’s imperative that there exists a place where researchers can discuss and review the most recent advances in the field before they are published in journals.
That’s why we decided to add the ability to comment papers to Librarian . The comments are added via a Chrome Extension directly on the paper, so that you don’t need to leave arXiv and go to another website. We added support for markdown and Latex while also being able to add links to other content that can enrich the discussion (like images, videos, other PDFs, presentations, code etc). Finally, we made it easy to share comments with anyone that doesn’t have the extension installed; you can just share a link and they will be able to have access to all the comments on the paper.
There’s a lot of potential energy that can be unlocked if there are more open discussions about science and our ultimate vision for Librarian is that it becomes a platform where people can collaborate and share knowledge around arXiv papers.
We would like to thank Ian Goodfellow and Jess Riedel for all the constructive feedback and valuable insights during the development of this feature.
Fermat’s Library Team