Open Scientific Sharing with No Walls lets you recommend papers, comment on them, discuss them, or simply add them to your reading list.

But instead of “locking up” your comments within its own website - the “walled garden” strategy followed by other services - it explicitly shares these data in a way that people not on can easily see. Any other service can see and use them too. It does this by using existing social networks such as Google+, so users of those social networks can see your recommendations and discuss them, even if they’ve never heard of

For example, if you’re a Google+ user, you post comments on using your usual Google+ identity and posting process, with key hashtags automatically added to identify the paper you are discussing. And of course your post will be seen by your usual Google+ audience – in addition to people who see it on

So: if you want to strip the idea down to one sentence, it’s this: given that social networks already exist, all we need for truly open scientific communication is a convention on a consistent set of tags and IDs for discussing papers. That makes it possible to integrate discussion from all social networks – big and small – as a single unified forum.

Getting Started

To see how it works, take a look here:

Under ‘Recent activity’ you’ll see comments and recommendations of different papers, so far mostly on the arXiv.

Right now works with Google+. Support for other social networks such as Twitter is coming soon. But here’s how you can use it now:

  • We suggest that you first create (in your Google+ account) a Google+ Circle specifically for discussing research with (e.g. call it “Research”), unless you already have such a circle.

  • Click Sign in with Google on or on a paper discussion page.

  • The usual Google sign-in window will appear (unless you are already signed in). Google will ask if you want to use the Selected Papers network, and specifically for what Circle(s) to let it see the membership list(s) (i.e. the names of people you have added to that Circle). uses this as your initial “subscriptions”, i.e. the list of people whose recommendations you want to receive. You should include all Circles that contain researchers who work in your field (including your new Research Circle, if you created one).

    Note the only information you are giving access to is this list of names; in all other respects is limited by Google+ to the same information that anyone on the internet can see, i.e. your public posts. For example, cannot ever see your private posts within any of your Circles.

  • Now you can initiate and join discussions of papers directly on any page.

  • Alternatively, without even signing in to, you can just write posts on Google+ containing the hashtag #spnetwork, and they will automatically be included within the discussions (i.e. indexed and displayed so that other people can reply to them etc.). Here’s an example of a Google+ post example:

    This article by Perelman outlines a proof of the Poincare conjecture!
    #spnetwork #mustread #geometry #poincareConjecture arXiv:math/0211159

    You need the tag #spnetwork for to notice your post. Tags like #mustread, #recommend, and so on indicate your attitude to a paper. Tags like #geometry, #poincareConjecture and so on indicate a subject area: they let people search for papers by subject. A tag of the form arXiv:1234.5678 (i.e. the official arXiv ID for the paper) is necessary for arXiv papers; note that this does not include a # symbol.

    For PubMed papers, include a tag of the form PMID:22291635. Other published papers usually have a DOI (digital object identifier), so for those include a tag of the form doi:10.3389/fncom.2012.00001.

    Tags are the backbone of; you can read more about them here.

  • you can include LaTeX in your posts and comments. Click here for details

  • You can also post and see comments at This page also lets you search for papers in the arXiv and search for published papers via their DOI or Pubmed ID. If you are signed in, the homepage will also show the latest recommendations (from people you’re subscribed to), papers on your reading list, and papers you tagged as interesting for your work.


Papers are the center of just about everything here. Here’s what you can do with a paper:

  • click to see the full text of the paper via or the publisher’s website.

  • read other people’s recommendations and discussion of the paper.

  • add it to your Reading List. This is simply a private list of papers – a convenient way of marking a paper for further attention later. When you are logged in, your Reading list is shown on the homepage. No one else can see your reading list.

  • share the paper with others (such as your Google+ Circles or Google+ communities that you are part of).

  • tag it as interesting for a specific topic. You do this either by clicking the checkbox of a topic (it shows topics that other readers have tagged the paper), by selecting from a list of topics that you have previously tagged as interesting to you, or by simply typing a tag name. These tags are public; that is, everyone can see what topics the paper has been tagged with, and who tagged them.

  • post a question or comment about the paper, or reply to what other people have said about it. This traffic is public. Specifically, clicking the Discuss this Paper button gives you a Google+ window (with appropriate tags already filled in) for writing a post. Note that in order for the spnet to see your post, you must include Public in the list of recipients for your post (this is an inherent limitation of Google+, which limits apps to see only the same posts that any internet user would see – even when you are signed-in to the app as yourself on Google+).

  • recommend it to others. Once again, you must include Public in the list of recipients for your post, or the spnet cannot see it.

    We strongly suggest that you include a topic hashtag for your research interest area. E.g. if there is a hashtag that people in your field commonly use for posting on Twitter, use it. If you have to make up a new hashtag, keep it intuitive and follow “camelCase” capitalization e.g. #openPeerReview.

LaTeX supports the use of LaTeX equations, both “inline” and “display” math. Specifically, it uses MathJax to convert LaTeX to the format that will best display equations in your particular browser. A few notes:

  • LaTeX is supported in all user content: recommendations, posts, and comments.
  • the recommended delimiters for inline math and display math are \( ... \) and \[ ... \] respectively. These are the defaults recommended by both LaTeX and MathJax. If you use these, your equations will display correctly in a very wide variety of settings, from LaTeX to the web.
  • the use of $ as a delimiter for inline math is deprecated but allowed, mainly to support old, legacy content. For any new writing that you do, we strongly recommend that you use \( ... \) instead. Note:
    • \$ is ignored (i.e. not treated as inline math delimiter).
    • to protect against text like “it costs $5 for five minutes and $15 for the full half hour” (and errors like omitting one of the $ delimiting an equation), $ will only be treated as the start of inline math if it’s followed by a character that is not whitespace or comma (,), period (.), colon (:) or semi-colon (;). Similarly, $ will only be treated as a the end of inline math if it’s preceded by a non-whitespace character.
  • of course, Google+ will display LaTeX in your posts as text, not as equations. But that’s a bit beyond our control.

LaTeX in arXiv Abstracts

Usage of LaTeX in arXiv abstracts is unfortunately rather inconsistent: some papers include it (typically as $inlinemath$); others don’t; and some abstracts have serious errors in their $inlinemath$ (such as unbalanced $). Hence, it would not be appropriate to activate $inlinemath$ on all arXiv abstracts; that would turn some abstracts into an ugly mess. Instead, gives you control over whether you want a specific abstract: just click the “Treat $ as inline math” button in the Next Steps box on the right (or click it again to toggle it off). Furthermore, “crowdsources” the default setting: if multiple people turn it on (as opposed to turning it off), that becomes the default setting for that abstract.

Why are you so anti-$?

We have no antipathy to capitalism, but we do hate $ as a marker for inline math. If you’re habituated to $inlinemath$ and loath to change, please consider: why do you bother typing all those $ anyway? What’s the point? A human being can tell which parts of a text are math (vs. not) without needing the $. Thus their only purpose is to inform a computer which parts are math (vs. not). But do they do this? No: $ is supposed to indicate a transition between math and text, but it does not indicate whether the math is starting or ending. Would you replace all the parentheses (...) in your equations with $...$? No – you wouldn’t be able to tell whether $ means open or close. Similarly, a computer can’t tell whether $ means start-inlinemath or stop-inlinemath (even though that may seem obvious to you), for the very simple reason that it can’t tell the difference between math vs. text – that’s why it needed a delimiter in the first place! Concretely, if a user accidentally forgets one $ for an equation (or, perish the thought, writes “$15”), then $ immediately shows its worthlessness by reversing the correct calls (all subsequent text gets called as inline math, and all inline math gets called as text).

To make a long story short, $inlinemath$ must die, because

  • people make mistakes;
  • computers must be able to detect and handle those mistakes sanely;
  • $inlinemath$ makes that impossible.

If you want more gory details, for a start see this discussion.

Open Design

Note that thanks to our open design, you do not even need to create a login. Instead, authenticates with Google (for example) that you are signed in to Google+; you never give your Google password or access to any confidential information.

Moreover, even when you are signed in to using your Google sign-in, it cannot see any of your private posts, only those you posted publicly - in other words, exactly the same as what anybody on the Internet can see.