There is a long tradition in the scientific community for the discussion and exchange of ideas that covers this. For example, the Royal Society was a group of people who got together to read their papers to one another as a group. The lectures were then collected and published to the world as a whole in the proceedings. Conferences are simply the modern day equivalent. In my field, conferences are a prime chance to bounce off your research to a large group of experts to get feedback and comments prior to publishing your work. Anyone can attend the conference as long as you show up and pay (but we all pay regardless). When submitting a paper to a journal, it is passed on to experts in the paper's field who provide feedback on the validity, results, method and prior work. Upon publishing a paper, a correspondence address is always included as well as the affiliation of the authors. People can write directly to the corresponding author or even write comments to the journal editor to be published in the near future (I've seen some rather negative rebuttals published in this fashion). There has always been a long tradition of exchange of ideas and thoughts amongst researchers, I've had people send me notes based upon my conference talks, journal papers, and preprints on arxiv. This isn't a closed network though. Anyone can attend the conferences, anyone can read the journal papers, anyone can write to the authors. Admittedly, the barrier to do this is rather high since access can be expensive.
The comments section on a popular science website is not the place for any real discourse, particularly with the authors. Researchers are under no obligation, nor do they have the copious free time, to shift through the chaff to answer all the questions and any serious discussion requires a lengthy back and forth for which a comment section is ill suited.
If you are interested in seeing more about how discourse is conducted in the research community, there are many collections of correspondences that have been published that gives an insight into just how much back and forth exists. I've read through a collection on letters on wave mechanics that you can get on Amazon for a small price that details correspondence between Einstein and other physicists. Many important ideas and inspirations in physics have evolved out of a passing comment in a postcard or daily walk.