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Why do scientists (not) contribute to Wikipedia?

February 10th, 2011 by

wikipedia logoAn excellent article published last month in the Chronicle celebrates Wikipedia’s 10th anniversary by observing that today the project doesn’t represent “the bottom layer of authority, nor the top, but in fact the highest layer without formal vetting” and, as such, it can serve as “an ideal bridge between the validated and unvalidated Web”. An increasing number of university students use Wikipedia for “pre-research”, as part of their course assignments or research projects. Yet many among academics, scientists and experts turn their noses up at the thought of contributing to Wikipedia, despite a growing number of calls from the scientific community to join the project (see for instance this recent initiative of the Association for Psychological Science or this call for biomedical experts to help contribute rigorous public health information in Wikipedia).

A survey has been launched by the Wikimedia Research Committee to understand why scientists, academics and other experts do (or do not) contribute to Wikipedia, and whether individual motivation aligns with shared perceptions of Wikipedia within different communities of experts. The survey is anonymous and takes about 20 min to complete. Whether you are an active Wikipedia contributor or not, you can take the survey and help Wikipedia think of ways around barriers to expert participation.

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