The thoughts of a web 2.0 research fellow on all things in the technological sphere that capture his interest.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Merging Academia and Wikipedia

There's an interesting story at ReadWriteWeb about the journal RNA Biology insisting that authors submit a Wikipedia stub article along with their main journal article (see guidelines). Rather than a stub article in the main Wikipedia space, it is merely asking for a stub article within the author's user space, although for some articles a main Wikipedia stub may be more appropriate. ReadWriteWeb comments:
The relationship between academia and the Wikipedia has always been an uneasy one, and it will be interesting to see how the academic community is going to react to this experiment.

With the majority of stubs being placed in user-spaces, rather than the main Wikipedia space, it is likely to be perceived as extra work with little extra benefit by academics. It will, however, hopefully encourage more academics to contribute to Wikipedia more widely, which can only be a good thing for Wikipedia.

Does the academic community have an 'uneasy' relationship with Wikipedia? Or merely get exasperated with some of the more crowd-happy evangelists, and those who fail to recognise its potential drawbacks. The crowd is great up to a point, but there is still a place for experts and authoritative sources.

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posted by David at


Blogger Dr. Aaron Rose-Milavec said...

In a research article written by six researchers (including two women) from the University of Minnesota, the following claims are made:

Wikipedia is the great success story of collective action on
the Web. It is also a source of wonder: its essential idea –
that a useful encyclopedia can be created by allowing anyone
to create and edit articles – seems absurd. Some people
are ignorant, some are malicious, and some are just bad
writers. Yet, Wikipedia seems to work. As of this writing, it
contains nearly two million articles and ranks among the top
ten most visited sites on the Web. Further, some research
has found that the accuracy of Wikipedia and Encyclopaedia
Britannica are roughly equivalent [9].

Antisocial behavior (damage). Much work has been de-
voted to characterizing, detecting, and managing behavior
like flaming (personal attacks) and spam (irrelevant content
designed for financial or other gain). For example, Slash-
dot uses a socially-based moderation system that is effective
in making it easy to ignore uninteresting or offensive con-
tent [14]. More generally, Cosley et al. [7] presented a model
and empirical results suggesting that a policy of reviewing
content after it is “published” (as in Wikipedia) eventually
results in quality equivalent to that obtained under a pre-
review policy (as in traditional peer-reviewed journals).

Source =

In a recent blog, “Why Don't They Just Start A Wikipedia For Scientific Papers?,” Mike Masnick argues that the peer review process of scientific journals is too slow and too haphazard and that an open review system as used by Wikipedia is to be preferred. Source =

It’s hard to believe, but this idea eventually got a hearing and an implementation two years later (12/08):

Now, RNA Biology has decided to ask every author who submits an article to a newly created section of the journal about families of RNA molecules to also submit a Wikipedia page that summarizes the work. As Nature reports, this is the first time an academic journal has forced its authors to disseminate information this way.
Source =

John Sutherland, in an op-ed, “Something wiki this way comes,” published in the Guardian wrote of the ambiguity that he feels about Wikipedia:

This is a subject on which academics are unusually unanimous. Wikipedia is useful - and in some areas, such as just-happening literature and history, uniquely so. But it's also treacherous, and frequently unbalanced. God invented editors for a reason.

My experience is identical with Professor Parini's. I recently edited a novel of Robert Louis Stevenson's - The Black Arrow. It's historical and regional. The Wikipedia entries for Stevenson are superb. They must, I suspect, have been done by an enthusiastic, omniscient Stevensonian - the kind of amateur scholar who used, in the past, to secrete their knowledge in columns such as Notes and Queries. Why, other than for a love of the subject, anyone would spend such a vast amount of time to prepare these entries, without any expectation of reward or name recognition, I don't know. But I'm profoundly grateful. And I cite it.
Source =

I myself have never published an article in the Wikipedia but I have edited a few. The article on the Didache, for example, has moved from being a sorry regurgitation of worn-out opinions (2002) to a rather classy and overall accurate review of the state of the art in Didache studies (2009). I trust that some people are now reading my elephant and mouse (my big and small Didache books) precisely because they were cited in this Wikipedia article.

Meanwhile, my most recent book, Salvation Is from the Jews, has a few references to Wikipedia and loads of references from the Web.

Dr. Aaron Milavec

26 February 2009 at 04:08


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