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Wikipedia Wants More Contributions From Academics 385

Posted by samzenpus
from the professor-pitch-in dept.
holy_calamity writes "University professors don't feel their role as intellectuals working for the public good extends to contributing to the world's largest encyclopedia, the Guardian reports. Wikimedia foundation is currently surveying academics as part of a search for ways to encourage them to pitch in alongside anonymous civilians and raise quality. The main problem seems to be the academic ego: papers, talks and grant proposals build reputation but Wikipedia edits do not."
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Wikipedia Wants More Contributions From Academics

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  • Isn't it obvious? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Haedrian (1676506) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @05:37PM (#35671496)

    You're asking an academic to write stuff in the same vein as John D Public.

    Our Professors tell us to NEVER use wikipedia except as for a citation. Do you think they're going to then go do their edits? If wikipedia wants academics they'll need a nice clean slate for only academics to play in.

    • by jdpars (1480913) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @05:39PM (#35671528)
      A clean slate for academics... hmm. And maybe we could collect all of the academic-written articles into a book format to sell to raise money for Wikipedia? And since it'd be a lot of information, we could divide it into volumes! And we'd need to name them after Wikipedia, but more book-like. Encyclopedia, maybe?
    • by jgtg32a (1173373)
      You had a Professor that said you could cite Wikipedia? Hell, I had a teacher said Wiki is a great place to start but if you ever cite it in one of your papers you fail the course not the paper the course; wiki is an encyclopedia and you are in college.
      • by Noughmad (1044096)

        No, what we are told and what I presume the GP was talking about is going to Wikipedia and looking up the articles cited from there.

      • by gman003 (1693318)
        I once had a teacher that failed me for later telling him that I used Wikipedia's "references and external links" as a basis for my research. I actually had to issue an appeal just to get them to allow Wikipedia to be used as essentially a search engine.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by JonySuede (1908576)

          you go to a sick place

          • Re:Isn't it obvious? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by gman003 (1693318) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @07:02PM (#35672414)
            Nah, that teacher was just... obsessive... with history. And slightly evil - he played the Imperial March before every test, had a framed picture of Mao, used an actual Aztec skull chalice as a pencil holder, had an (empty) can of Zyklon-B from the Nazi death camps in the room, owned the sword of a convicted Japanese war criminal, and had a historic Nazi flag hanging in the back. And he had a pretty sinister laugh...

            OK, yeah, the guy was evil, but it was a cool evil. Besides that one event, we got along well. I wonder if he still teaches there...
            • by Ihmhi (1206036)

              Hurm, I heard about that guy from my Archaeology teacher across campus. Mr. Jones thought he was a dick.

      • by Haedrian (1676506)

        Not what I meant. You could look at the cited sources and hunt for information there.

    • by Shadow Wrought (586631) * <shadow...wrought@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @05:42PM (#35671574) Homepage Journal
      If wikipedia wants academics they'll need a nice clean slate for only academics to play in.

      Exactly. Because Academics went to school for all those years so their edits can carry the same weight as anyone off the street. Its an even better bonus that if the random dude of the street has been contributing longer they'll get a bump in credibility.
      • Re:Isn't it obvious? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @06:01PM (#35671792) Homepage Journal

        I don't see how it can be done at all in wikipedia's current state. You'd need something like protected edits or two separate pages for each subject. It basically throws the idea behind wikipedia into the toilet. It probably would be a good idea if wikipedia's house is in order, but the latest fiascos show that the whole thing is out of control and is being hijacked by some losers with inflated egos that go on campaigns against people. I personally can't even make an edit on a talk page without some self-important ass being rude to me. No academic who has spent years studying their subject is going to put up with that.

        • by pleclair (608155) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @09:04PM (#35673468) Homepage
          As an academic (physics prof.), I can tell you this is exactly why I don't contribute. Ditto for the GP post. I spend many, many hours per week educating students and learning more about my field to stay on top of things, not to mention all the years at university. So, yeah, I expect my opinion in my areas of expertise to count for something more than average.

          That being said, my domains of expertise are limited, and that is something not all academics are good at recognizing. Being a PhD in one subject doesn't imply anything about your fluency in another (though it sometimes make you *think* otherwise), so even a 'privileged contributor' status of sorts would have to be implemented carefully I think (e.g., I should not be allowed privileged status to edit medical articles, for instance, I am not qualified for that).

          If the climate gets better, I'd love to help out. But that doesn't look likely at this moment. Best I can do for now is keep putting out free texts, notes, solved problems, etc. and hope people find them.
        • As another academic, this is also why I don't spend much *effort* contributing, although I do make the occasional edit to articles which are sorely lacking in value. I am one of perhaps 100 of the worlds top experts on cerium oxide (being conservative because I can't read Chinese papers). However, while I was perfectly fine with writing the basic outline of the article, there's no way I'm going to waste my time checking things that others add unless I know offhand if they are correct. Besides, the edits oth

      • by lgw (121541) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @06:06PM (#35671842) Journal

        It doesn't matter who does the edits: an academic subject matter expert, or a random website visitor. The article will be deleted anyway. It's only a matter of time before wikipedia deletes itself down to 0 articles.

        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          I think the difficulty of getting new material accepted is just as problematic. Say you want to add a new paragraph or section. In order for it to not be immediately deleted you need to discuss it first, write it, get it checked by other editors and then finally add it to the article. Who is going to bother investing all that time and effort when there is a good chance the other editors will just reject it anyway?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      It also doesn't help when someone anonymous assumes "ownership" of an article and fights any changes you make to it. Then the whole thing turns into a colossal waste of time, even if you are an academic with something important to say. Unless you're contributing to a niche, your time is better spent working with students or writing for grants.
    • by bloodhawk (813939) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @05:43PM (#35671586)
      Unless Wiki has done something about the moronic system they have in place that allows people to camp articles and defend them by simply deleting anything that doesn't conform to their exact views I can't see why more professional people would be the slightly bit interested in wasting their time there. I corrected a few articles a few years back now where I had enough expertise to realise some mistakes only to see them deleted the very next day, consequently they were also the last contributions I ever made to wikipedia,
      • by Moryath (553296)

        Don't worry. It's pretty much just like you imagine it [livejournal.com]. I haven't seen any changes in years of checking in even after reading what I link you to - and he's pretty much 100% accurate on how Wikipedia really works.

      • by rilian4 (591569)
        Ditto here. I have a friend who went through pretty much the same thing you describe. He gave up just like you and no longer feels it is worth his time and effort to keep fighting the trolls who are camping certain articles.
  • Original Research? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xgamer4 (970709) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @05:37PM (#35671502)
    Or, perhaps, academics don't see any reasons to contribute to something that'll erase anything they might add because of Wikipedia's No Original Research [wikipedia.org] clause?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by brunes69 (86786)

      +1. Wikipedia has been on such a deletion frenzy lately that I would never want to contribute anything there. They delete all kinds of highly referenced and relevant articles simply because the editor does not know about the subject.

      I will never understand why wikiepdia is so frenzied about deletions. If an article is relevant and of good quality, it should stay. It is not like they are going to run out of bytes, I just don't get it.

      • by gman003 (1693318)
        Agreed. The worst part is that they delete actually referential articles while allowing all kinds of fan-info pages to continue. To wit: there are 13 pages of "List of Pokemon", and 46 pages just for individual ones. Useful information? For some. However, given the rise of fandom wikis just for that type of information, it makes Wikipedia look far less professional. Especially since a good deal of it is written "in-universe", treating fiction as though it were reality.
      • by timholman (71886) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @06:16PM (#35671950)

        I will never understand why wikiepdia is so frenzied about deletions. If an article is relevant and of good quality, it should stay. It is not like they are going to run out of bytes, I just don't get it.

        It's the Wikipedia "split personality" syndrome.

        On one hand, Wikipedia wants to be taken seriously as an information resource, so the editors delete huge swathes of articles because they aren't "notable", i.e. "a real encyclopedia wouldn't publish an article like this, so get rid of it".

        On the other hand, Wikipedia wants to preserve its culture of "any idiot with a keyboard and an agenda has just as much right to edit an article as an expert in the subject".

        The problem is that those two viewpoints are in complete opposition to each other. Wikipedia cannot have its cake and eat it too. Frankly I thought it was a much better online reference when it allowed all those obscure articles, and didn't take itself so seriously.

      • by guspasho (941623)

        Just last night I was reading this page [wikipedia.org], a list of mostly minor planets in the Star Wars canon, so extensive that that one page was just C-D! Someone explain to me why Old Man Murray gets deleted but all this irrelevant stuff is still there. Surely he's more notable than most of these imaginary planets!

      • by wrook (134116) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @07:48PM (#35672868) Homepage

        What I find fascinating is the idea of a guy spending years and years researching a subject and writing a long, detailed article describing his research only to have it edited down to nothing.

        I am, of course, referring to Ford Prefect's article on the Earth edited down to 2 words: Mostly harmless. Presumably because it wasn't notable enough.

        Talk about prescient....

    • by Brett Buck (811747) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @05:45PM (#35671598)

      Exactly, the entire premise of the thing precludes any actual academic content from actual experts.

    • by Carewolf (581105) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @05:47PM (#35671636) Homepage

      Exactly. Wikipedia is expert hostile. There is no procedures for evaluating merit, and using simple logic constitutes research, the only valid arguments on wp are:
      officially) who can find the most links on the web
      unofficially) who has the highest authority as a wikipedia editor/closest to founders.

      Both of these are stupid and unacademic.

      • by Moryath (553296)

        You forgot:
        unstated but administratively sanctioned) which side has an admin willing to abuse his powers first to "win" the argument by banning the other side.

      • who has the highest authority as a wikipedia editor/closest to founders.

        I see that you do not have a lot of experience with the academics and the politic around them.

    • by Jahava (946858) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @05:49PM (#35671662)

      Or, perhaps, academics don't see any reasons to contribute to something that'll erase anything they might add because of Wikipedia's No Original Research [wikipedia.org] clause?

      Why would this be any more of a problem? Academic authors ought to be able to cite research papers just like anyone else; in fact, they could even cite their own publications.

      The goal isn't to use Wikipedia as a new publishing mechanism for academic papers. It's to get academics (who probably have a better understanding of a nice suite of topics versus their non-academic counterparts) to contribute material to the encyclopedia. The belief is that, in many cases, that material will be higher quality due to its academic origins. However, the material is still subject to all of the constraints that any other material is.

      If Wikipedia didn't have these standards, it could not ever hope to hold its own as a legitimate source of quality research, which is the goal it seems to be striving for.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by brunes69 (86786)

        Except that you can not reference anything on wikipedia that is not on the web, and most academic papers on the web are behind paywalls. So the whole thing falls apart right there.

        • by Leebert (1694) *

          Except that you can not reference anything on wikipedia that is not on the web

          No guideline that I'm aware of exists that says that. I see books cited quite often on Wikipedia.

        • by mgiuca (1040724)

          Wikipedia often references pay-for material that isn't on the web. It's just as valid, but harder to verify (so it's preferable if there is free material on the web).

          Personally, I think this is a problem with the "old model" of academia, not Wikipedia itself. Wikipedia thrives on free information (that's the whole point -- to make information free in a verifiable manner). Having information that is free, but only verifiable by paying sort of breaks that model. Academia needs to embrace the new model of the

        • by geniice (1336589)

          Not so. For example only one of the sources on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southsea_castle [wikipedia.org] is web based.

      • The No Original Research [wikipedia.org] clause is pretty clear on the “not already published by reliable sources” part, yet I’ve seen multiple instances of my fellow researchers’ contributions get reverted because they happened to include a paper written by the contributor herself/himself. Never mind that the paper was peer-reviewed by those qualified to do so, and appeared in a reputed conference or journal.
    • by Kagato (116051)

      +1 No original research, and you're not supposed to cite your own work. There's a lot of Ego going on for sure, I don't think it's the Academics however.

    • by takowl (905807)

      Academics can contribute plenty of general subject knowledge that isn't original research. And they're unlikely to want to contribute original research, because they'd rather get it published in a journal, where it counts for boosting their career. Once it's published there, it can be cited, so it's fair game for Wikipedia.

      A much more plausible explanation is simply that academia moves slowly and ponderously, and won't really change to accommodate anything new until long after it's established in society at

      • Or none. The number of Wikipedia contributors has fallen over the last couple years. This is an attempt by Wikimedia to boost the quantity (and quality) of contributors. But it fails to address the basic flaw in having real experts come in. I can edit articles all day, but as long as some friggin' kid with an obsession can simply revert any edits I make, it's not worth the effort to monitor.

      • by rmstar (114746)

        Come back in a decade or two, and I think there'll be a lot more experts contributing to Wikipedia.

        I am sceptical. Primarily because while it is ok to be a content contributor, it is not nice to be a content defender. Arguing with uneducated (and possibly mean) people over the fine points simply lacks dignity and will lead any academic that has some vestigial self-respect running for higher ground. Having a 15 year old edit the prose of a famous professor simply makes no sense.

        Besides, as a working academic

  • Ego? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Henk Poley (308046) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @05:38PM (#35671516) Homepage

    Most I hear from academics is that they got annoyed with Wikipedia once somebody removes their well explained text, around a subject they know a lot about, once too often.

    • Re:Ego? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tverbeek (457094) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @05:45PM (#35671614) Homepage

      Yeah, calling it "ego" implies that it's unwarranted. Professionals/experts in any field (including academics) often get sick of dealing with retards, trolls, under-informed know-it-alls, control-freaks with OCD, and your basic antisocial sociopaths... and Wikipedia has lots of those.

    • Re:Ego? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mewsenews (251487) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @05:48PM (#35671650) Homepage

      Exactly.

      "Hey you guys are really smart, right? Want to come hang out with a bunch of people who aren't? They aren't too annoying until they come by and start correcting you, when they have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. C'mon, it will be fun!!"

      I don't even like academics but the self proclaimed wikilords trying to attract knowledgeable people is pretty hilarious.

      • Why dont you like academics? Most of them are pretty reasonable. Like anywhere, some of the most vocal ones are the worst and give the rest a bad name. You will meet many very humble academic types if you actually go to grad school and interact with some of the professors on that level.
    • Yep. That's why I stopped editing. I spent years studying a few figures in literature, reading in archives, talking to the actual people, reading every damn thing they ever wrote, and I write some text on Wikipedia. Then some bozo comes along and edits my work away. And, of course, all that wasted energy did absolutely nothing to advance my career. I know that everyone thinks we just sit around smoking pipes or something, but I'm busy as hell. And working on Wikipedia is basically charity work. Having your
  • "Ever since the Phoenicians invented money, there has been only one answer to that question." -- Clarence Darrow
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Academics want to get promoted and tenured. Publishing in PEER REVIEWED journals with high citation and impact scores gets you promoted. Writing for online references that may be used by logarithmically more people does not. Change that reality and you can have all the contributors you can handle.

      Set Wikipedia to be a peer-reviewed reference. Give citation credit for whole pieces or sections of articles, be able to get accurate numbers of users to the authors and you get useful stuff on their end.

      • Maybe. If I write a bunch of reviews and encyclopedia articles, I'm not going to get tenure. That's considered more bush league than Ivy League. Peer reviewed journals and book publications will always be the way to tenure. And that's right. Academics at research institutions shouldn't necessarily spend time on presenting information to the public. It's good that some do, certainly. But if you spend your time writing popular pieces, it's hard to spend time running your lab, doing research, writing books and
  • by still_sick (585332) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @05:40PM (#35671548)
    A few weeks back there was a /. article about there were a sizable portion of wikipedia contributors who were just up and leaving because they didn't want to deal with that anymore.

    I wouldn't expect a person who spends their days doing research / classes on their topic-of-expertise to have more patience than anyone else in dealing with that.
  • by ferongr (1929434) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @05:40PM (#35671550)

    ... their precious time to editing Wikipedia, they should first up find a solution to shield them from the drama some Wikipedia editors, admins and ArbCom members love so much.

    • The solution would be the same as most for an academic: assign the work to a grad student.
      • Look at this from a professor's perspective:
        "If I have 4 big projects and 12 grant applications in the works, and 2 grad students, I should waste their time on editing wikipedia? I have carefully interviewed and selected these students because I think they are smart enough to do good work. Having them spend time on wikipedia is no less of a waste than if I spend my time doing it. I need to consistently produce results so that I can get grants to support further research, including grad students. If you

    • by takowl (905807)
      This is a repeating theme in /. discussions of Wikipedia. But it doesn't fit with my experience. I've been editing for a few years now, and for the most part it's perfectly civil. I've had one or two arguments, but even those were fairly mild (no swearing or ALL CAPS). Admittedly I generally pick uncontroversial topics, but I think most topics in an encyclopaedia are quite uncontroversial. So why do other people's experiences differ? Is it just a few complaints getting amplified? Are the people who're compl
      • by jbolden (176878)

        A lot of the people on /. were on wikipedia before there was a culture shift. It sounds like you weren't around prior to the Userbox wars when the culture was different. The community really did rule and admins didn't have much actual authority. Wikipedia used to be frustrating but it was remarkably fair. Now admins can casually indefban someone. Its a mean dictatorship.

      • or "hot" topics. I had couple of times arguments about some WWII topics with people how read popular history books and consider them as final truth, even to detriment of common sense. That was frustrating and depressive. Another very negative experience was support of the article about promising new tech. That article is under nonstop attack from spammers, promoters and astroturfers, some of them very persistent. That is even more depressive. On the other hand articles on pure mathematical subjects are (al
  • Tenure, promotion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jdgeorge (18767) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @05:41PM (#35671556)

    More to the point, tenure and promotion depend significantly upon recognized publications. I'd speculate that there is zero incentive for an academic to spend time updating Wikipedia, but the traditional conference/journal/book publication path is required for advancement in the academic career.

    To represent the disinterest in Wikipedia updates as "academic ego" is extremely misleading.

    • Exactly. When tenure is based on publishing, then teaching, then service, and editing/peer-reviewing journal articles *barely* counts as service, Wikipedia ranks somewhere between sleep and bathroom breaks in terms of priority. Academic ego has absolutely nothing to do with it: credit in a way that matters does. Academics are too busy doing 'real research' to bother editing an online encyclopedia for no benefit but warm fuzzies.

      In other news, what's with posters adding their own personal bias to news articl

    • by Kludge (13653)

      Parent post is correct. When I undergo my annual performance review, my reviewers only really care about one thing: number of publications in peer reviewed journals. Everything else comes in last.
      It's not a good system for a number of reasons. For example, it discourages me from actually acting as a peer reviewer for these journals. Doing a good peer review takes time and I get no credit for it. So why should I do it? Unfortunately this leaves journals desperate for good peer reviewers.

  • by lyml (1200795) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @05:41PM (#35671560)
    Anyone contributing something to wikipedia is bound to get disrespected by the moderators with obvious personal causes.

    Being overwhelmed by reverts by random internet zealot while having a degree in the field you are trying to work in can be infuriating and pretty hard to live with.
  • Ego my ass. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @05:41PM (#35671564)

    I'm a professor of mathematics, and in the past I've attempted to contribute to several math related articles on wikipedia. You know what always happens? Someone reverts all my edits within a day or so. It doesn't matter how meticulously crafted and referenced the added material is, my contribution gets removed.

    I stopped bothering years ago, and it has nothing to so with my inflated "academic ego", a ludicrous concept itself. If recognition was largely important to academics, they probably wouldn't be academics!

    • by Rhywden (1940872)
      And if that kind of stuff happens in mathematics, you can easily guess why the "softer" sciences like psychology or politics won't even begin to play.
      You see it's both the boon: Anyone can contribute. And the bane: Anyone can "contribute".
    • by Kagato (116051)

      Quite true, people who know about 1/10 of what you know about the subject are going to decide what's notable and what's not.

    • Re:Ego my ass. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Nemyst (1383049) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @06:05PM (#35671836) Homepage

      THAT is Wikipedia's real problem. I'm afraid it might well be the harbinger of its demise if they do not quickly sort things out. Right now adding to Wikipedia is virtually impossible.

      I'm a physics undergrad; I plan on moving on to a PhD and I would personally love to add stuff to Wikipedia. It's been a very resourceful starting point for a lot of information and details on courses and I'd be happy to give back. Unfortunately, articles seem to be set in stone by now and I'm not interested in having to fight for every inch of text I'd want to add.

    • Re:Ego my ass. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @06:41PM (#35672214)

      My first large scale mathematics-related edits to Wikipedia were also heavily reworked/reverted. Quickly, ruthlessly, and *absolutely correctly* changed. While mathematically correct, they also happened to be written at a level of detail not appropriate for Wikipedia.

      Even as a mathematician, I get frustrated sometimes looking at Wikipedia articles from other fields of mathematics that are narrowly aimed at specialists within the field. In some senses an article written by an outsider can be better than one written by a professional mathematician, because it's less likely to be aimed at the wrong audience.

  • The Problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @05:45PM (#35671604)

    Ph.D. historians (and similarly, all other scientists) really, really hate it when their texts are edited by a highschool dropout who thinks he remembers a history channel feature broadcast three years ago which totally refuted the presented facts and conclusions written by the academic who only studied the subject for a measly twenty years.

  • by nedlohs (1335013)

    Those things keep them employed. The guy with more journal articles and grants is going to get the job over the guy with more wkipedia edits.

  • by Gripp (1969738)
    they already have their own wiki - arxiv.org. if the wiki guys want it, all fo the info is right there for the taking...
    • by j-beda (85386)

      good point

      I've largely given up on contributing to Wikipedia. Over the past few years as I have put in a couple of hours of adding content to a variety of topics I have repeatedly found that content removed by someone claiming a lack of notability or usefulness or perceived advertisement or whatever. Wikipedia is great for keeping track of Dr. Who episodes and comic book characters, but the politics of adding useful information to actual real world places is just ridiculous. The "deletionists" have largely

  • I don't think it is ego as much as them wanting to be paid for their work. Most people edit Wikipedia want to see something they wrote on the internet and feel it is rewarding. Academics already get this. They get paid to write journal articles so they wouldn't see it as beneficial to start doing the same thing and not getting paid.
  • A founding principle of Wikipedia is the specific rejection of established credentialing.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Anti-elitism

    Unless the wikipedians explicitly reject this principle, and somehow translate "real world" credentials into sway in the wiki, I don't see why any academic would bother.

  • by Bieeanda (961632) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @05:56PM (#35671752)
    Because seriously, that cute little jab at the end reads more like a Wikipederast getting shirty over academics telling Jimbo and arbcom to take a collective flying leap, than it does as an actual criticism of their refusal to get involved.
    • by blair1q (305137)

      If you were diligent about reading the firehose (aka "recent submissions") then it might have been rated too low to make it to the front page. Although I think it has to be -eleventy, because -1 stuff is getting through a lot.

  • Sure, I could contribute some detailed articles in my area of expertise - and then I would have to fight a never-ending battle to keep my contributions from being mangled by someone who thinks he understands the subject, but really is barely more than an addled sociopath with an agenda. Been there, done that - never again.

    While Wikipedia is a great reference for pop culture, it is not the place for a serious academic articles - not unless some major changes are made to the way articles are edited and admin

  • Pay us. (Score:2, Funny)

    by blair1q (305137)

    One of the reasons we know we're smart is we don't work for free, you dopes.

  • by LordStormes (1749242) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @06:00PM (#35671788) Homepage Journal
    1. Hire a person or two to work @ Wikipedia (I live in town, Jimmy, hire me!) to accept and process documentation from users indicating them an expert on subject matter. So, I submit my PhD in Astrophysics, and I get the Astrophysics Expert flag on my account. I give my resume saying I've been a programmer for 30 years, and I get the Computer Programming expert flag. 2. Use the existing tag cloud-style architecture to tag articles by their subject matter (ie, this article on geostationary orbit goes in Astrophysics). 3. Any edits made by a Verified Expert to an article flagged as being part of their area of expertise must be voted down by multiple Wikipedians before they can be removed.
    • by slashqwerty (1099091) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @09:26PM (#35673624)
      Some time shortly before Wikipedia sprang into existence Richard Stallman proposed a free universal encyclopedia [gnu.org] much like what Wikipedia became. Except, Stallman thought things through a bit more. His proposal to address reliability was to have organizations 'endorse' articles. An article would be much more trustworthy once a number of reputable organizations have put their stamp of approval on it. If someone modified an article, the modified version would need a new endorsement.
    • Limit these special accounts to academic e-mails addresses. Then, anyone can cross-reference them to actual .edu web pages and verify their identity in that manner, and call them out if they're shown to be invalid.

      You'll still have the occasional bad actor (e.g. from a for-profit school), but nothing nearly as bad as what's happening now.

      And I think you meant to say multiple people in the same field for #3, because the way you have it, it's no different than what's happening right now.

  • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @06:07PM (#35671868)

    Research papers, talks, and grant proposals aren't ego. They're what you get paid for. As a tenure track (around here) you have to average about 1 paper a year as your own, or a talk (depends on your field), or both, + supervise grad students who also publish papers. And you pay for all of that with grants which you get from having successful grant proposals. Once you have tenure the 'papers per year' metric drops a bit but the basic 'publish or perish' mantra applies.

    Research and writing are work, they take time to do well. If I'm not going to get credit for it I have to do it 'on my own time'. I don't know a lot of people that work for 8 hours a day and then go home and try and do the same thing for another 6 hours for the fun of it. Some profs eat sleep and breathe their work though, but even then, if you have things like families an

    With OSS you can contribute, and then write about your contributions or you can 'give it away' (say host on some website) for free. And the author gets credit for both the software and papers written about it. With wikipedia your changes could be tossed if some random admin doesn't like them, or if someone else comes along and decides to change it. Your name never shows up, and you don't get credit for it in any way that would go on a grant proposal or that you can say at a promotion and tenure meeting as meaningful work you've done.

    I'm sure if there was a good way to give academic credit for contributions to things like wikipedia it would be a great place for people to start publishing work.

  • by repapetilto (1219852) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @06:14PM (#35671926)

    I've seen very few pro-wikipedia comments here but have read many decent wikipedia articles, so I think there may be selection bias going on.

    Personally, I have edited various biomedical, biochemical pages and never had any problem. In fact the majority of future modifications only improved upon what I had created. I almost always use wikipedia as a starting point when learning about a subject. Often there is some random fact or connection someone has added to the articles that wouldn't fit well enough for a review article and I would have never thought to check on my own otherwise. Anyone who knows how to do actual research wouldn't really trust even a textbook or peer reviewed article 100% anyway.

    I see no problem at all with double checking everything seen on wikipedia before taking it as "fact," this is what people should be doing no matter what the source is. Even if it is a primary source, you need to look at the data and decide for yourself. Of course, if you aren't an expert in an area then it may not be worth the time to double check everything. In that case peer review is more trustworthy than wikipedia, but there should still be a nagging thought in the back of your head that the info is beyond what you should feel "sure" about. Then it becomes important to know your boundaries.

    Anyway, I have found reading and contributing to wikipedia a rewarding experience.

  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @06:32PM (#35672122)
    Since when has a University Professors role been "intellectuals working for the public good"?

    They are paid teachers. Not paid Wikipedia editors. If Wikipedia wants them to contribute I'd suggest they stop insulting them and instead try and get them to at least submit references to their own papers on topics they are familiar with so other people can then quote out of them or something.
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      'Since when has a University Professors role been "intellectuals working for the public good"?'

      Every reputable university I know of, and the general professional ethics of academia require that professors teach and mentor students, contribute to human knowledge, and perform an outreach role to the community.

      There are some professors who hold teaching positions. Others don't really "teach" much (and aren't really paid for it). Their teaching contribution comes from supervising their grad students. But mos

  • by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @07:14PM (#35672544) Homepage Journal
    Academics don't skip out on editing wikipedia because of ego. Academics skip out on editing wikipedia because they don't have time to do so. Most academics who are involved in research spend so much time writing grant applications and doing other critical job-maintaining functions that they simply don't have time to fight with wikipedia editors to try to improve a page - even if it is a page that directly relates to their own work.

    If wikipedia wants more academic work, they need to do it themselves. They should spend more time looking for primary sources, and whenever possible obtaining them and citing them properly. In this case, the NIH actually helps wikipedia's cause as a new rule for NIH funding states that NIH funded research must be published in publicly-accessible, no-fee journals (or copies of the same article must be made available freely through NIH pubmedcentral).

    So in other words, wikipedia really isn't in the right to be accusing academics of having "ego" issues. Wikipedia is asking for academics to work for less than nothing, as they would be diverting time away from their own working hours (which is often close to around the clock as it is) to do something that does not help them keep their research moving.
  • by Spykk (823586) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @07:20PM (#35672612)
    Wikipedia doesn't allow any original research. Doesn't it make more sense for the academics to post their work somewhere that wikipedia can cite it? You don't need a phd to paraphrase something and post a link to it...

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