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Wiki Education; medical content; PR firms

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By Chris Troutman, Andreas Kolbe, Andrew Lih, The ed17, Gamaliel, Pine, LtPowers, Antrocent and Kevin Rutherford

Wiki Education Foundation course: building ties to academia

Wiki Education Foundation logo

The Los Angeles Times highlighted a recent Wiki Education Foundation (WEF) course at Pomona College in their article "Wikipedia pops up in bibliographies, and even college curricula". We interviewed Char Booth, the campus ambassador for the course, for additional details.

The article discussed the changing attitudes among academia toward Wikipedia, characterizing academia's earlier sentiments of Wikipedia as "the bane of teachers ... amateurish, peppered with errors and too open to nasty online spats over content." The article cites Wikipedia's early anti-establishment user base for the initial rejection of degreed academics and quotes Kevin Gorman, himself a WEF Regional Ambassador and Wikipedian in Residence at University of California, Berkeley, speaking about the ongoing need to diversify beyond the "basically techno, libertarian, white dudes" so prevalent since the early years of Wikipedia.

The course, Poli3, came to Wikipedia through a working relationship between Booth, a WEF campus ambassador and librarian in the Claremont Colleges consortium (of which Pomona College is the founding member), with a fellow Claremont librarian, Sara Lowe. Booth, a self-described champion of "the pedagogical use of Wikipedia" needed an interested faculty member to host the program. Lowe introduced Booth to Professor Hollis-Brusky in the summer of 2011. After hours of conversations and many e-mails the course's first entrance to Wikipedia happened in the Spring of 2012 and has become an annual event since. The practice of sending students to create a new Wikipedia article or develop a stub for a grade rather than writing a traditional research paper is a cornerstone of the collaboration. The LA Times article quoted Professor Hollis-Brusky: "Even the best research papers get buried in a drawer somewhere... [t]hese make a real contribution to the public discourse."

The Times mentioned four of the articles assigned, namely First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, Federalist No. 70, FairVote, and Clean Diamond Trade Act. Because the class was comprised of 28 students, articles were assigned as group projects. Each student group developed their collective work in stages from outlines to drafts in order to refine the scope of the project and eliminate redundancy. Although each student had registered their own Wikipedia account, much of the editing was performed in sandboxes by single-purpose accounts both to protect student privacy and to reflect each student group's consensus product. Booth says that the end results were some very student-focused articles and that the effort "has been successful beyond my wildest expectations." Not only does she expect the annual Poli3 course to continue its association with Wikipedia but she also expects another political science class and perhaps three others in the near future.

The LA Times posits, again quoting Kevin Gorman, that Wikipedia "has essentially become too large to ignore." The Times mentions recent initiatives from both the American Sociological Association and the Association for Psychological Science to bring academic editing into Wikipedia to ensure the reliability of what the general public reads. It also mentions the recent series of edit-a-thons in the LA-metro area organized by East of Borneo, a Cal-Arts sponsored online magazine, as proof that industry professionals are increasingly reaching out to contribute in a cooperative manner. The article further mentions that the Wiki Education Foundation coordinated with more than 150 different courses across the US and Canada in the Spring Semester of 2014, including classes at Carnegie Mellon University, University of California, San Francisco, and Boston College.

When asked about her role as a campus ambassador while also employed as a librarian, Booth replied that it's a "really natural relationship." She sees her role as a librarian as a function of developing student information literacy skills as well as bringing them to resources. She says that Wikipedia is a public resource and everyone who enjoys what she calls "information privilege" should consider their responsibilities toward informing that resource. Though she does not consider herself a Wikipedia editor she identifies as an "educator who uses Wikipedia" seeking to improve the public knowledge base.

Ongoing media debates about Wikipedia's medical content

The relationship between the United States Food and Drug Administration and Wikipedia's mission has been the topic of a number of recent news articles looking at both the reliability of Wikipedia's medical content and the role the FDA and pharmaceutical companies should play in improving it

A study published in the June 26, 2014 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine found that Wikipedia articles often fail to reflect the latest FDA guidance. As reported by CBS News, the study's authors:

The authors suggested that the FDA should take a more active role in Wikipedia curation, stating that "our findings also suggest that there may be a benefit to enabling the FDA to update or automatically feed new safety communications to Wikipedia pages, as it does with WebMD." The study attracted coverage from CNN, US News & World Report and more specialist publications such as Medical Marketing & Media.

On a closely related matter, The Wall Street Journal (June 17, 2014), The National Law Review (June 23, 2014) and others covered the recent publication of the FDA's draft social media guidance for companies producing prescription drugs and medical devices. The draft guidance suggests that companies should feel free to correct misinformation in sites such as Wikipedia themselves, or alternatively could contact an article's author to advise them of any errors. Comments on the FDA's draft guidance are invited before the finalized version will be released.

Also on June 23, the online news blog of the Cochrane Collaboration published a piece written by members of WikiProject Medicine, titled "Is Wikipedia’s medical content really 90% wrong?". The piece critiques a study published in May 2014 by The Journal of the American Osteopathy Association, which concluded that nine out of ten Wikipedia articles on the costliest medical conditions had factual errors, leading to numerous news headlines such as "9 out of 10 health entries on Wikipedia are inaccurate" (see previous Signpost coverage). Health IT Outcomes published a brief report on the same topic (June 30, 2014).

PR firms pledge not to game Wikipedia

TIME (10 June 2014) and many other major news outlets reported that a number of major PR companies, including Ogilvy & Mather, Edelman and Porter Novelli, had published a statement indicating their commitment to respect Wikipedia's guidelines, policies and terms of use (see Signpost coverage).

The statement can be viewed on Wikipedia.

In brief

Meet Carl Linnaeus, the man who researchers believe was the most influential figure on Wikipedia

The photo used to illustrate Wikipedia's article on grinding
The National Archives logo

A piece by Dariusz Jemielniak himself, "Wikipedians wallow in creating norms", appeared on South Africa's Independent Online news website (June 28, 2014). Another book that discusses Wikipedia and internet culture in general, Virtual Unreality by Charles Seife, was reviewed in The New York Times on 1 July. (Andreas Kolbe)
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I really wonder what did that Washington Post journalist do in school. Or, how badly does Post's staff think about its readers. That comment says more about American education and journalism than about Linné. -- (talk) 12:42, 6 July 2014 (UTC)[reply]

  • A plethora of substantive articles this week-- and a lovely video about Adrianne Wadewitz that I would have missed otherwise. Bravo, Signpost editors! Djembayz (talk) 15:15, 6 July 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  • "recent initiatives from both the American Sociological Association" - which, unlike the APS one (which was quite successful), has to the best of my knowledge (and I was the Wikipedian contact for the ASA, and the only person to my knowledge to try to collect stats on it) resulted in almost zero activity (outside that of a few sociologists like me who were active on Wikipedia before, signed in for the Initiative, and continued as before). The ASA / APS difference is worth investigating, but as far as I can tell, APS continued with support and advertising for it, whereas ASA after some initial push was left with half-functioning webpage (that soon went down). This tied with the rotation of presidents, the one interested in Wikipedia retired, the new one never responded to my emails... --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| reply here 13:53, 7 July 2014 (UTC)[reply]

I'm not surprised at Ethiopia's response to Wikipedia. After devoting several years to writing articles on that country, I found it was far easier to research topics from the 15th & 16th centuries than contemporary issues. Even to simply report the "official" POV on some matters was a challenge: for example, almost no major government official has a resume online somewhere. It's sad, because there is so many positive items relating to Ethiopia that deserves inclusion in Wikipedia -- but to write about them requires far more effort than to write on topics of interest to white, middle-class folks living in Europe & North America. -- llywrch (talk) 16:27, 7 July 2014 (UTC)[reply]

  • Does anyone know if The Grand Budapest Hotel is published CC-BY-SA or if the newspaper in it is at least? It would seem to me that license of Wikipedia's content isn't being followed otherwise. Zell Faze (talk) 17:47, 7 July 2014 (UTC)[reply]

Re: the initial rejection of degreed academics - Funny how history gets distorted. Academics have always been welcome. What rejected was the right of an unquestioned final say of any wikipedian; an "anti-credentialist" approach, which was eventually detailed into WP:OWN, WP:NPOV, WP:VERIFIABILITY, etc. Staszek Lem (talk) 23:39, 7 July 2014 (UTC)[reply]

I had hoped my description would be both accurate to the LA Times article and brief in its handling of the issue. I don't think I've distorted history, although that history hasn't been responsibly studied yet. As I recall, Jimmy Wales and others at the beginning of the project rejected vetting by academics. The anti-credentialist attitude would seem to encompass a rejection of degreed academics; not an absolute prohibition on their contributions but a deliberate disregard for their authority. Chris Troutman (talk) 22:19, 8 July 2014 (UTC)[reply]
Almost what I meant: no one was to have an inherent right to vet anything (but for Jimbo :-) . However let me stress once again that the simplistic phrase "initial rejection of degreed academics" is misleading in both aspects: we neither reject academics as contributors (if they treat us dilettantes with due respect, even if we don't understand something), nor we reject their authority (if their authority is expressed as a superior skill in providing convincing references and not as bullying). Staszek Lem (talk) 02:08, 9 July 2014 (UTC)[reply]

US-centric bias

The item in the "In brief" section titled "National Archives announce collaboration with Wikimedia Commons" never mentions that the National Archives in question is that of the United States. Do we really need to remind Signpost editors (who should be more aware of systemic bias than most other editors)that this here website ain't Yankopedia? Roger (Dodger67) (talk) 17:29, 10 July 2014 (UTC)[reply]

Indeed, for a moment I thought it meant the real National Archives. All the best: Rich Farmbrough16:07, 12 July 2014 (UTC).
@Dodger67: @Rich Farmbrough: Good point; I've added "US". Thank you! Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 17:51, 14 July 2014 (UTC)[reply]


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