Wikipedia and the ecosystem of knowledge

Thanks to a vibrant community united by a few core principles, plus detailed policies and safeguards against trolls and vandalism, Wikipedia has already become a piece of the knowledge ecosystem. Like science, its aim is to propose a synthesis of existing knowledge and conflicting interpretations of reality. It also changes the way people interact with knowledge thanks to its extensive use of hyperlinks, portals, and categories.

As a consequence, I suggest academics contribute to articles in their field. They could also use Wikipedia as a course assignment and make sure that the topics related to their discipline are fairly presented in this encyclopedia.

URL : Wikipedia and the ecosystem of knowledge

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Content Volatility of Scientific Topics in Wikipedia: A Cautionary Tale

Wikipedia has quickly become one of the most frequently accessed encyclopedic references, despite the ease with which content can be changed and the potential for ‘edit wars’ surrounding controversial topics. Little is known about how this potential for controversy affects the accuracy and stability of information on scientific topics, especially those with associated political controversy. Here we present an analysis of the Wikipedia edit histories for seven scientific articles and show that topics we consider politically but not scientifically “controversial” (such as evolution and global warming) experience more frequent edits with more words changed per day than pages we consider “noncontroversial” (such as the standard model in physics or heliocentrism).

For example, over the period we analyzed, the global warming page was edited on average (geometric mean ±SD) 1.9±2.7 times resulting in 110.9±10.3 words changed per day, while the standard model in physics was only edited 0.2±1.4 times resulting in 9.4±5.0 words changed per day. The high rate of change observed in these pages makes it difficult for experts to monitor accuracy and contribute time-consuming corrections, to the possible detriment of scientific accuracy. As our society turns to Wikipedia as a primary source of scientific information, it is vital we read it critically and with the understanding that the content is dynamic and vulnerable to vandalism and other shenanigans.

URL : Content Volatility of Scientific Topics in Wikipedia: A Cautionary Tale

DOI : 10.1371/journal.pone.0134454

Amplifying the Impact of Open Access: Wikipedia and the Diffusion of Science

Authors : Misha Teplitskiy, Grace Lu, Eamon Duede

With the rise of Wikipedia as a first-stop source for scientific knowledge, it is important to compare its representation of that knowledge to that of the academic literature. This article approaches such a comparison through academic references made within the worlds 50 largest Wikipedias.

Previous studies have raised concerns that Wikipedia editors may simply use the most easily accessible academic sources rather than sources of the highest academic status. We test this claim by identifying the 250 most heavily used journals in each of 26 research fields (4,721 journals, 19.4M articles in total) indexed by the Scopus database, and modeling whether topic, academic status, and accessibility make articles from these journals more or less likely to be referenced on Wikipedia.

We find that, controlling for field and impact factor, the odds that an open access journal is referenced on the English Wikipedia are 47% higher compared to closed access journals. Moreover, in most of the worlds Wikipedias a journals high status (impact factor) and accessibility (open access policy) both greatly increase the probability of referencing.

Among the implications of this study is that the chief effect of open access policies may be to significantly amplify the diffusion of science, through an intermediary like Wikipedia, to a broad public audience.

URL : Amplifying the Impact of Open Access: Wikipedia and the Diffusion of Science

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Social construction of knowledge in Wikipedia

« This paper investigates how knowledge is constructed collaboratively in a crowd-sourced environment. More specifically, the study presented in this paper empirically analyzes online discussions in regard to Wikipedia entries on the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Disaster that occurred in March 2011 in Japan. For this study, we examined the encyclopedia articles in both the English and Japanese versions of Wikipedia. The findings indicate similarities and differences between the two language versions. The implications of the study for collaborative knowledge production are also discussed. »


The Valuation of Unprotected Works: A Case Study of Public Domain Photographs on Wikipedia

« What is the value of works in the public domain? We study the biographical Wikipedia pages of a large data set of authors, composers, and lyricists to determine whether the public domain status of available images leads to a higher rate of inclusion of illustrated supplementary material and whether such inclusion increases visitorship to individual pages. We attempt to objectively place a value on the body of public domain photographs and illustrations which are used in this global resource. We find that the most historically remote subjects are more likely to have images on their web pages because their biographical life-spans pre-date the existence of in-copyright imagery. We find that the large majority of photos and illustrations used on subject pages were obtained from the public domain, and we estimate their value in terms of costs saved to Wikipedia page builders and in terms of increased traffic corresponding to the inclusion of an image. Then, extrapolating from the characteristics of a random sample of a further 300 Wikipedia pages, we estimate a total value of public domain photographs on Wikipedia of between $246 to $270 million dollars per year. »


“The sum of all human knowledge”: A systematic review of scholarly research on the content of Wikipedia

« Wikipedia might possibly be the best-developed attempt thus far of the enduring quest to gather all human knowledge in one place. Its accomplishments in this regard have made it an irresistible point of inquiry for researchers from various fields of knowledge. A decade of research has thrown light on many aspects of the Wikipedia community, its processes, and content. However, due to the variety of the fields inquiring about Wikipedia and the limited synthesis of the extensive research, there is little consensus on many aspects of Wikipedia’s content as an encyclopedic collection of human knowledge. This study addresses the issue by systematically reviewing 110 peer-reviewed publications on Wikipedia content, summarizing the current findings, and highlighting the major research trends. Two major streams of research are identified: the quality of Wikipedia content (including comprehensiveness, currency, readability and reliability) and the size of Wikipedia. Moreover, we present the key research trends in terms of the domains of inquiry, research design, data source, and data gathering methods. This review synthesizes scholarly understanding of Wikipedia content and paves the way for future studies. »


The dynamic nature of conflict in Wikipedia

« The voluntary process of Wikipedia edition provides an environment where the outcome is clearly a collective product of interactions involving a large number of people. We propose a simple agent-based model, developed from real data, to reproduce the collaborative process of Wikipedia edition. With a small number of simple ingredients, our model mimics several interesting features of real human behaviour, namely in the context of edit wars. We show that the level of conflict is determined by a tolerance parameter, which measures the editors’ capability to accept different opinions and to change their own opinion. We propose to measure conflict with a parameter based on mutual reverts, which increases only in contentious situations. Using this parameter, we find a distribution for the inter-peace periods that is heavy-tailed. The effects of wiki-robots in the conflict levels and in the edition patterns are also studied. Our findings are compared with previous parameters used to measure conflicts in edit wars. »