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  • richardmitnick 11:13 am on February 8, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Wikipedia, Wikipedia has become a science reference source even though scientists don’t cite it   

    From ScienceNews: “Wikipedia has become a science reference source even though scientists don’t cite it” 


    February 5, 2018
    Bethany Brookshire

    Phrases from Wikipedia pages on hot scientific fields end up in published papers, a study finds.

    SCIENCE IN ACTION The section of a Wikipedia page on the synthesis of hydrastine was part of a project that showed how Wikipedia topics might end up in scientific studies. Farknot Architect/shutterstock; Wikimedia Commons

    Wikipedia: The settler of dinnertime disputes and the savior of those who cheat on trivia night. Quick, what country has the Nile’s headwaters? What year did Gershwin write “Rhapsody in Blue”? Wikipedia has the answer to all your burning trivia questions — including ones about science.

    With hundreds of thousands of scientific entries, Wikipedia offers a quick reference for the molecular formula of Zoloft, who the inventor of the 3-D printer is and the fact that the theory of plate tectonics is only about 100 years old. The website is a gold mine for science fans, science bloggers and scientists alike. But even though scientists use Wikipedia, they don’t tend to admit it. The site rarely ends up in a paper’s citations as the source of, say, the history of the gut-brain axis or the chemical formula for polyvinyl chloride.

    But scientists are browsing Wikipedia just like everyone else. A recent analysis found that Wikipedia stays up-to-date on the latest research — and vocabulary from those Wikipedia articles finds its way into scientific papers. The results don’t just reveal the Wiki-habits of the ivory tower. They also show that the free, widely available information source is playing a role in research progress, especially in poorer countries.

    Teachers in middle school, high school and college drill it in to their students: Wikipedia is not a citable source. Anyone can edit Wikipedia [not true any longer], and articles can change from day to day — sometimes by as little as a comma, other times being completely rewritten overnight. “[Wikipedia] has a reputation for being untrustworthy,” says Thomas Shafee, a biochemist at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia.

    But those same teachers — even the college professors — who warn students away from Wikipedia are using the site themselves. “Academics use Wikipedia all the time because we’re human. It’s something everyone is doing,” says Doug Hanley, a macroeconomist at the University of Pittsburgh.

    And the site’s unreliable reputation may be unwarranted. Wikipedia is not any less consistent than Encyclopedia Britannica, a 2005 Nature study showed (a conclusion that the encyclopedia itself vehemently objected to). Citing it as a source, however, is still a bridge too far. “It’s not respected like academic resources,” Shafee notes.

    Academic science may not respect Wikipedia, but Wikipedia certainly loves science. Of the roughly 5.5 million articles, half a million to a million of them touch on scientific topics. And constant additions from hundreds of thousands of editors mean that entries can be very up to date on the latest scientific literature.

    How recently published findings affect Wikipedia is easy to track. They’re cited on Wikipedia, after all. But does the relationship go the other way? Do scientific posts on Wikipedia worm their way into the academic literature, even though they are never cited? Hanley and his colleague Neil Thompson, an innovation scholar at MIT, decided to approach the question on two fronts.

    First, they determined the 1.1 million most common scientific words in published articles from the scientific publishing giant Elsevier. Then, Hanley and Thompson examined how often those same words were added to or deleted from Wikipedia over time, and cited in the research literature. The researchers focused on two fields, chemistry and econometrics — a new area that develops statistical tests for economics.

    There was a clear connection between the language in scientific papers and the language on Wikipedia. “Some new topic comes up and it gets exciting, it will generate a new Wikipedia page,” Thompson notes. The language on that new page was then connected to later scientific work. After a new entry was published, Hanley and Thompson showed, later scientific papers contained more language similar to the Wikipedia article than to papers in the field published before the new Wikipedia entry. There was a definite association between the language in the Wikipedia article and future scientific papers.

    But was Wikipedia itself the source of that language? This part of the study can’t answer that. It only observes words increasing together in two different spaces. It can’t prove that scientists were reading Wikipedia and using it in their work.

    So the researchers created new Wikipedia articles from scratch to find out if the language in them affected the scientific literature in return. Hanley and Thompson had graduate students in chemistry and in econometrics write up new Wikipedia articles on topics that weren’t yet on the site. The students wrote 43 chemistry articles and 45 econometrics articles. Then, half of the articles in each set got published to Wikipedia in January 2015, and the other half were held back as controls. The researchers gave the articles three months to percolate through the internet. Then they examined the next six months’ worth of published scientific papers in those fields for specific language used in the published Wikipedia entries, and compared it to the language in the entries that never got published.

    In chemistry, at least, the new topics proved popular. Both the published and control Wikipedia page entries had been selected from graduate level topics in chemistry that weren’t yet covered on Wikipedia. They included entries such as the synthesis of hydrastine (the precursor to a drug that stops bleeding). People were interested enough to view the new articles on average 4,400 times per month.

    The articles’ words trickled into to the scientific literature. In the six months after publishing, the entries influenced about 1 in 300 words in the newly published papers in that chemical discipline. And scientific papers on a topic covered in Wikipedia became slightly more like the Wikipedia article over time. For example, if chemists wrote about the synthesis of hydrastine — one of the new Wikipedia articles — published scientific papers more often used phrases like “Passarini reaction,” a term used in the Wikipedia entry. But if an article never went on to Wikipedia, the scientific papers published on the topic didn’t become any more similar to the never-published article (which could have happened if the topics were merely getting more popular). Hanley and Thompson published a preprint of their work to the Social Science Research Network on September 26.

    Unfortunately, there was no number of Wikipedia articles that could make econometrics happen. “We wanted something on the edge of a discipline,” Thompson says. But it was a little too edgy. The new Wikipedia entries in that field got one-thirtieth of the views that chemistry articles did. Thompson and Hanley couldn’t get enough data from the articles to make any conclusions at all. Better luck next time, econometrics.

    The relationship between Wikipedia entries and the scientific literature wasn’t the same in all regions. When Hanley and Thompson broke the published scientific papers down by the gross domestic product of their countries of origin, they found that Wikipedia articles had a stronger effect on the vocabulary in scientific papers published by scientists in countries with weaker economies. “If you think about it, if you’re a relatively rich country, you have access at your institution to a whole list of journals and the underlying scientific literature,” Hanley notes. Institutions in poorer countries, however, may not be able to afford expensive journal subscriptions, so scientists in those countries may rely more heavily on publicly available sources like Wikipedia.

    The Wikipedia study is “excellent research design and very solid analysis,” says Heather Ford, who studies digital politics at the University of Leeds in England. “As far as I know, this is the first paper that attributes a strong link between what is on Wikipedia and the development of science.” But, she says, this is only within chemistry. The influence may be different in different fields.

    “It’s addressing a question long in people’s minds but difficult to pin down and prove,” says Shafee. It’s a link, but tracking language, he explains, isn’t the same as finding out how ideas and concepts were moving from Wikipedia into the ivory tower. “It’s a real cliché to say more research is needed, but I think in this case it’s probably true.”

    Hanley and Thompson would be the first to agree. “I think about this as a first step,” Hanley says. “It’s showing that Wikipedia is not just a passive resource, it also has an effect on the frontiers of knowledge.”

    It’s a good reason for scientists get in and edit entries within their expertise, Thompson notes. “This is a big resource for science and I think we need to recognize that,” Thompson says. “There’s value in making sure the science on Wikipedia is as good and complete as possible.” Good scientific entries might not just settle arguments. They might also help science advance. After all, scientists are watching, even if they won’t admit it.

    See the full article here .

    Science News is edited for an educated readership of professionals, scientists and other science enthusiasts. Written by a staff of experienced science journalists, it treats science as news, reporting accurately and placing findings in perspective. Science News and its writers have won many awards for their work; here’s a list of many of them.

    Published since 1922, the biweekly print publication reaches about 90,000 dedicated subscribers and is available via the Science News app on Android, Apple and Kindle Fire devices. Updated continuously online, the Science News website attracted over 12 million unique online viewers in 2016.

    Science News is published by the Society for Science & the Public, a nonprofit 501(c) (3) organization dedicated to the public engagement in scientific research and education.

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  • richardmitnick 3:23 pm on September 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Wikipedia   

    From Nature: “Wikipedians reach out to academics” 

    Nature Mag

    07 September 2015
    Richard Hodson

    Chris Batson / Alamy

    London conference discusses efforts by the online encyclopaedia to enlist the help of scientists.

    Wikipedia is among the most frequently visited websites in the world, and one of the most popular places to tap into the world’s scientific and medical information. But scientists themselves are generally wary of it, because it can be edited by anyone, regardless of their level of expertise. At a meeting in London last week, the non-profit website’s volunteer editors reached out to scientists to enlist their help and to bridge the gap between the online encyclopaedia and the research community.

    “A lot of academics have the impression that because anyone can edit, that means it’s a Wild West,” says Martin Poulter at the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries, UK, and an organizer of the meeting. “But Wikipedia is a community of ultra-pedants who care about facts being right.”

    And it is that community of ultra-pedants, replete with laptops bearing the garish stickers of previous campaigns, that Poulter mobilized for last week’s summit. He brought them together with scientists, academics and publishers who had never attempted a Wikipedia edit for the first ever Wikipedia Science Conference in London on 2–3 September.

    Cultural barrier

    Poulter says that in many cases, Wikipedia content already is of high quality, although some dispute that. Because scientists are experts in their respective fields, their involvement could help to improve it.

    But by and large, scientists are not getting involved. The number of people editing Wikipedia is, in fact, falling, says Alex Bateman, a computational biologist at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) in Hinxton, UK. He hopes to make more scientists comfortable with the idea of editing Wikipedia pages in their field of expertise. “Most articles grow really organically, sentence by sentence”, which is a very different experience from writing a scholarly paper, he says.

    “There is a cultural barrier,” Poulter says, adding that academics often feel too busy to get into some of the admittedly “petty discussions” that sometimes take place around Wikipedia edits. “There have to be changes from both sides. That’s what we’re discussing.”

    “There are lots of disparate efforts going on around the world”, to reach out to scientists, says Bateman, “but essentially, this community hasn’t got together before.”

    Error fixing

    In one such effort to reassure scientists about the quality of the website’s articles, Wikipedia is trying to improve its biographies of living scientists. The first to benefit have been fellows of the Royal Society, Britain’s pre-eminent scientific institution. Duncan Hull, a computer scientist at the University of Manchester, UK, persuaded the society to take on a ‘Wikipedian in residence’, a part-time editor to lead edit-a-thons at the society to fix errors of omission about the fellows. Of fellows accepted in the past 20 years — around 1,000 of them in all — 30% do not have a Wikipedia page, and the biographies that do exist are often of poor quality, Hull told the conference.

    “It’s a small step,” says Hull, “[but] having that information in Wikipedia might change the scientists’ attitude to Wikipedia. If they find out they’ve got an accurate biography of them and their work, that might change their view about Wikipedia as a way of communicating information to the wider public.”

    Harnessing expertise

    Two projects, called Pfam and Rfam — databases of protein and RNA families, respectively, which are hosted by the EBI but open to editing by anyone through Wikipedia — have shown that when scientists get involved, Wikipedia’s science content benefits, according to Bateman. The databases’ entries for a protein or RNA family reflect the content of that family’s Wikipedia page, and changes made on Wikipedia are automatically drawn into the main database.

    “There have been 90,000 edits to these articles,” says Bateman, who co-founded the databases while at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, UK, in the 2000s. From articles of just a few sentences at best, some entries have grown to be truly encyclopaedic. “We never would have gone to the trouble of writing such detailed articles,” Bateman admits. “There are so many experts around the world, if you can just harness them somehow.”

    Although Wikipedia’s science content would benefit from getting more expert contributors — the site maintains a list of specific articles requiring expert attention — Poulter also thinks that academia can benefit from buying into Wikipedia. “Wikipedia is an opportunity to recapture some of the academic ethos that has been weakened by the commercial sector,” he says, pointing to the transparent process by which Wikipedia articles are created and edited.

    “If you’re working in the open, you release all your data, your drafts and everything, and you invite comments from the start, rather than only after a process which is hidden away from the public,” he says.”

    See the full article here .

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    Nature is a weekly international journal publishing the finest peer-reviewed research in all fields of science and technology on the basis of its originality, importance, interdisciplinary interest, timeliness, accessibility, elegance and surprising conclusions. Nature also provides rapid, authoritative, insightful and arresting news and interpretation of topical and coming trends affecting science, scientists and the wider public.

  • richardmitnick 2:16 pm on February 25, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Wikipedia   

    From UC Berkeley: “Berkeley’s Wikipedian-in-residence is a first” 

    UC Berkeley

    February 25, 2014
    Cathy Cockrell

    With guidance from a Wikipedian-in-residence — the first at a U.S. college or university — scores of Berkeley undergraduates will soon be publishing their academic work on one of the world’s most widely read websites.

    An aficionado of the free, collaboratively edited online encyclopedia, Kevin Gorman, 24, has been hired by the campus’s American Cultures program to facilitate Wikipedia-based research and writing assignments.

    Wikipedian-in-Residence Kevin Gorman

    Until now, Wikipedians-in-residence have been assigned to cultural institutions, more than 50 in all, such as the British Museum, the Gerald Ford Presidential Library and the U.S. National Archives.

    A hardcore Wikipedian since his undergrad days at Berkeley, Gorman was a natural candidate to bring the role to academia. By the time he graduated last year, he had edited scores of Wikipedia articles — on personal interests ranging from mushrooms to men’s rights — and had helped to design and facilitate a Wikipedia-based assignment for Berkeley course on prisons.

    According to Gorman, the combined page views for the articles they produced for Wikipedia (see, for instance, their entry for the Latina activist group Mothers of East Los Angeles) have been in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions.

    Many students initially resist Wikipedia project, he says, because they don’t want their work subjected to public view. But once they realize the potential impact of their efforts, “they start to get excited. They go from ‘you can’t make me’ to enthusiastic participants.”

    From food deserts to urban ag

    One of the first Berkeley instructors to tap the expertise of the new Wikipedian-in-residence is Associate Professor Dara O’Rourke, whose popular course on environmental justice combines classroom instruction with “engaged scholarship” through collaboration with non-profit organizations.

    “I’m not interested in students writing term papers that only I and the graduate-student instructor read,” O’Rourke says. “That’s not utilizing students’ potential to the fullest.”

    This semester, he offered students a choice for the community-service component of the course. They could collaborate directly with local groups focused on environmental justice-related issues, or they could work in teams to improve Wikipedia content on some of those same topics.

    “You can imagine building a Wikipedia page [on each topic] that is really comprehensive,” says O’Rourke.” It’s compelling that the site gets 550 million unique visitors per month.”

    Many students apparently think so, too. About 90 opted to do wiki projects, and are now busy tracking down and synthesizing previously published information on environmental-justice issues — food deserts, climate resilience, urban agriculture in Oakland and reform of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act among them.

    High-quality secondary research

    Wikipedia, the “free encyclopedia that anyone can edit,” does not accept original research. Instead, an army of volunteer editors, working in more than 200 languages, summarizes what’s been published elsewhere and provides hyperlinks to those sources. Wikipedia editors are expected to use neutral language and cite information from a range of perspectives.

    Students are drawn to this model, says lecturer and American Cultures coordinator Victoria Robinson, who worked with Gorman for her ethnic-studies course on the prison system and hired him for his new position. It appealed to students, she says, “that their work was not ‘opinion based’ and that it contributed new public information that could be viewed as reliable.”

    Creating a high-quality Wikipedia entry, however, is not as simple as it might seem. Recently, campus librarian Corliss Lee was a guest speaker in O’Rourke’s class. Her message to undergrads seated in a large lecture hall: There’s a lot of human knowledge that can’t be found via a Google search, and the campus library offers rich databases and peer-reviewed publications you can mine.

    Students doing Wikipedia projects are encouraged to look for sources in academic journals, Gorman says. One fundamental mission of UC is to enhance public access to knowledge. When you share knowledge that’s behind a paywall, you’re serving that core mission, he believes.

    A Wikipedian’s mission

    In the spirit of knowledge sharing, Gorman, in his new role, intends to write guidelines on designing and implementing Wikipedia-based class assignments, and post these how-to’s online for instructors everywhere to use.

    Systemic bias is another of his concerns — the fact that about 90 percent of Wikipedia editors are male, 80 percent are white (as extrapolated from survey results) and the lion’s share hail from developed nations.

    “Providing content not yet found on Wikipedia, in areas that suffer due to our systemic biases, is vital work” to be done at this time, he writes on the site and tells students in a slide-illustrated talk.

    O’Rourke says his students could help improve these lopsided stats. “Berkeley students are a unique and select group themselves,” he notes. But measured by racial and ethnic diversity, “our classroom is not similar to the Wikipedia high-contributor category. This is an experiment — to contribute to Wikipedia in a way that strengthens its content.”

    See the full article here.

    Founded in the wake of the gold rush by leaders of the newly established 31st state, the University of California’s flagship campus at Berkeley has become one of the preeminent universities in the world. Its early guiding lights, charged with providing education (both “practical” and “classical”) for the state’s people, gradually established a distinguished faculty (with 22 Nobel laureates to date), a stellar research library, and more than 350 academic programs.

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