WIkipedia Journal

Questions:
How to encourage academics to contribute to Wikipedia?
How to increase the amount of good quality articles in Wikipedia?

Issues:
In order to demonstrate the work they have undertaken (to funding organisations, to their university, for promotion, for their professional reputation) academics require:
a) to be named as authors of their work,
b) that their work be their own rather than a mass collaboration,
c) that their work be in an academically reputable publication.

[Note! All of these issues were raised at GLAM-WIKI (i.e. I’m not just making them up) and all of them can be solved and still remain compliant with the requirements of a free-culture license (e.g. CC-by-SA). Also, I must mention that the original concept for this proposal grew out of working on The Sydney Journal, a side-project of the Dictionary of Sydney.]

Problem:
Wikipedia currently has no way of addressing any of these issues due to the very nature of it being an “anyone can edit” wiki. This alienates a large number of academics who are already very interested in learning about and contributing to Wikipedia but have difficulty justifying it as legitimate work. Quite simply, academics in many countries/institutions must earn “points” each year to prove they’ve been working and thereby justify to government why their institution should continue to receive funding. The points system is an an effort to provide a fair comparison between qualitatively different fields of academic inquiry but in practice can turn academia into a numbers game. Some things that earn points are publishing a book, teaching courses and writing scholarly journal articles. One thing that certainly doesn’t earn points is helping to maintain the quality of the content on Wikipedia in the academic’s area of expertise – this is despite the fact that that is precisely where 90% of their students will turn to first to get some background information.

A Solution:

“The Wikipedia Journal”

Proposal:
The creation of peer-reviewed scholarly e-journal. Academics would be encouraged to write encyclopedic articles on their area of expertise in accordance with our editorial principles (including Neutral POV, Verifiability and No Original Research) and the Wikipedia manual of style. Their article would be submitted to blind peer-review, as per the best-practices of any academically-rigorous journal, by both relevant academics and also a Wikipedian who had been a major contributor to a Featured Article on a similar topic. The final articles would be published in an edition of the “Wikipedia Journal” ready and available to merge into the existing Wikipedia article on that topic.

[Note: this proposal is not the same as “WikiJournal” on Meta (the purpose of which is to encourage Original Research scholarship) or “Wiki Journal” on WikiVersity/Wikia (the purpose of which is to publish articles about Wiki-related scholarship).]

The subjects particularly sought would be intentionally diverse and come in two main forms:
1) in part from Wikipedians’ demand for expert input on a topic (e.g. articles high on the importance scale but currently low on the quality scale) and,
2) in part from academics’ interest in participating (e.g. to be able to legitimately integrate their previously-published research into Wikipedia).
If there were enough content to warrant it the Journal could have themed editions (e.g. January edition = Psychology, March edition = Astronomy) or each edition could be broken up into sections based roughly along the academic faculty structure (Commerce, Law, Medicine, Humanities, Engineering…).

The Journal itself would, of course, be Gold Access, under the CC-by-SA license and be registered with an ISSN.  Furthermore, it is probable that the Journal would gain academic prestige (or at least notoriety!) due to three factors:
a) the number of reputable scholars who have indicated their support for Wikipedia (and might conceivably be willing to write for the Journal) giving it credibility by association;
b) the likely very high citation impact of the Journal (a corollary of the popularity of Wikipedia itself) and our ability to give precise statistics on hits, clickthroughs and utility (via the currently-being-tested “reader feedback” extension);
c) the virtually unlimited scope of Wikipedia would mean that any academic in any discipline could potentially write an article for the Journal.

Articles, once published, could then be merged into the existing Wikipedia article (or a new article created if one did not exist before) and appropriate attribution placed in the external links section of the Wikipedia article to the Author and journal edition. Also, it might be nice to have a talkpage template indicating that an academic had made substantial contributions to the article. *Hopefully* the newly refurbished Wikipedia article could then be taken to Featured Article candidacy relatively quickly. But, the Journal articles would not get any special rights to overwrite the existing article. It would be up to the Wikipedians who look after the relevant article to decide whether to incorporate the text. The academic would be encouraged to use make use of the information and references in the existing article (and read the talkpage debates) so as not to lose the good work that has already gone before.

Other benefits “The Wikipedia Journal” would provide:
– a different media format for people to be able to access the free-culture content of the Wikimedia movement;
– increased credibility to the Wikimedia movement;
– an increased awareness in academia about free-culture generally and about Wikipedia’s editorial standards/requirements specifically;
– an entry-point for recruiting academics to improve Wikipedia. After all, authors would have an incentive to monitor the progress of their article once it was merged into Wikipedia and might continue editing more broadly;
– a product scalable to multiple languages/areas of expertise/countries at minimal cost to Wikimedia funds.

Set Up:
In order to be given up-front academic legitimacy the Journal would need to be sponsored by an academic research funding body (e.g. the Australian Research Council) and perhaps also a reputable research-based University. The research funding would be used to employ an editor (see below) and the university required in order to provide a workspace and employment administration (insurance, superannuation, etc. – assuming a Chapter or the Foundation couldn’t/wouldn’t/doesn’t supply these things). The Journal could be set up as a project of a Wikimedia Chapter, of the Wikimedia Foundation or independently of any existing structure – after all, anyone can write Wikipedia articles! It would nevertheless, require trademark approval from the Wikimedia Foundation. The academic legitimacy is much more important here than the funds themselves but the funds would be useful if for no other reason than it avoids having to use money donated by individuals to the Wikimedia movement to pay for it.

It is possible that the research funding organisation would require that the journal be of specific benefit to the research community of that nation, in which case it would be a matter of publishing subjects that were demonstrably of national relevance and/or only accepting authors of that nation’s universities. For example, if the Australian Research Council funded/sponsored the Journal then it may require that the articles be in some way related to the Wikipedia [[category:Australia]] (or one of its many many sub-categories) and or be written by an academic employed at one of the Universities in Australia. If this restriction was placed upon the Journal then would simply give greater impetus for many of the Wikimedia Chapters to organise for funding in their own countries resulting in a whole series of Journals!

The Journal could be administered using the Open Journal System (which is, of course, F/LOSS) and published on an instance of Media-Wiki (perhaps at journal.wikimedia.org or at a sub-domain of the sponsoring Wikimedia Chapter or of the sponsoring university). Articles, editions and volumes could be downloaded in PDF/ODF etc. Articles would have a named author and author biography and they would have flagged revisions enabled in such a way that people would always see a version approved by the author (of course, the article would be available for editing at the equivalent Wikipedia article to which it would be linked). The official editions would be archived in journal databases such as google.scholar, and the Directory of Open Access Journals.

The Role of the Editor:
I suspect that this project would require one person whose responsibilities would be to:
– work with potential authors and find peer-reviewers;
– manage the editorial workflow;
– copyedit and wikify the text;
– manage copyright permissions;
– publish and distribute the editions through various forms (blog, email, notification at relevant wiki-projects/academic newsletters);
– ‘hand-hold’ academics/reviewers to explain Wikipedia’s editorial style, especially WP:NOR (although referencing their own previously published original research would be encouraged);
– encourage the conversion of Journal articles to Wikipedia articles and (hopefully) have them listed for Featured Article status;
– report to the Wikimedian and academic communities about the project’s progress at conferences, media etc.
– answer the phone… Having a contactable person you can talk to might be a more comfortable way for some to approach wikipedia rather than through OTRS, mailing lists or talkpages.

Future Potential/Alternative Models:
If demand/funding warranted it the journal could be a series of separate journals for specific topics (e.g. Molecular Biology, Paleontology, Constitutional Law…) and/or in different languages. The former could be achieved through partnership with specific research institutes that would be willing to provide the academic credibility/sponsorship to the publication whilst the latter could be achieved through the support of the Wikimedia Chapters and various nations’ research funding organisations. Indeed, it is quite possible that a whole network of peer-reviewed Wikipedia Journals might be established to cater for different languages and different areas of expertise all categorised at journal.wikimedia.org. It could even become a project that each Wikimedia Chapter sponsors in its own country/language.

[Edit 1: Since publishing, I’ve been made aware of the fact that by and large you can have a “commissioned journal” or a “peer reviewed journal” but not both at the same time. This is on the basis that if someone’s been commissioned to write then they can’t be rejected later on by a reviewer. Perhaps this is a fundamental flaw in my proposal or perhaps this is something that doesn’t apply in this case because the subject matter is encyclopedic articles rather than Original Research. I’ve since decided to remove the word “commissioned” from the proposal completely. Of course, in practice you can always encourage people to write, it just means they won’t necessarily pass the peer-review.]

[Edit 2: After talking with a lot of people it looks like the idea is coming clearer. The Journal would be peer-reviewed not commissioned. The Journal would be broad ranging in subject areas. However, the Journal would be restricted in scope to one country in order to make it managable – therefore it would be called “the [insert country name] Wikipedia Journal”. It would not necessarily need research funding, merely the funding and academic legitimacy provided by a university. It would need a strong and well respected editorial board – this will be the trickiest thing to put in place.]

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24 Responses to WIkipedia Journal

  1. Nupedia lives again! 🙂

    • Liam Wyatt says:

      Well, Nupedia (and Citizendium) were trying to go down the peer-review line *for the whole project* whereas this proposal is just one string to the bow. I’m certainly not suggesting ditching the wiki-way in favour of a peer-review encyclopedia, but I am saying that this approach could be productive in its own way.

  2. Longbow4u says:

    I think this is a good idea. This journal would be an addition to the existing Wikipedia and would not be a substitution. Scientists need attribution, and only this model guarantees individual recognition. The articles would be permanently available and the community decides if or in which form they would be merged into Wikipedia. Critically, the adapted articles into Wikipedia would not need to be static but can be developed further in the proven community processes. The author meanwhile can always point to “his” work in the journal.

    Encyclopaedia Britannica, which operated on a different model than Wikipedia, was also written mainly by leading scientists. Wikipedia should accomodate this group, too – but preserve the community aspect and openness of WP.

    I think this Journal should be operated by the foundation, but should be cosponsored by national research institutions and universities. It should have language editions, like Wikipedia. And the articles should be tagged by scientific subject, e.g. medicine so as to allow thematic editions or RSS feeds.

    If (when) Wikimedia Foundation becomes even more influential than it is today, it should found a proper scientific journal with original research. This would help to solve the problem in Wikipedia articles to link to scientific articles which are not Open Access, e.g. most scientific law articles in Germany. This follows the Wikipedia principle of: if you cannot convince others to contribute their tools, build your own tools. I am aware that this would require significant resources and organisation with some risk of failure. But as Top Ten website world wide and No. 1 knowledge website this might be possible in say 7 to 10 years.

  3. I like this idea a lot. It is much like Scholarpedia (which contains commissioned but anonymously peer-reviewed articles and which has an ISSN but no coherent license), just has a broader scope and does not confine itself to the top-notch experts in the field. Year proposal, as mentioned above, also bears some resemblance to Citizendium (where the review process usually involves domain generalists rather than topic specialists, and it is non-anonymous). Both operate stable versions that can be updated. The former allows for attribution, the latter not. You also mentioned that a similar journal could be set up for original research (something that the Wikipedias, but also Scholarpedia and Citizendium have avoided so far), and in this regard, it is very close to the journal PLoS ONE (meant to be for all scientific disciplines, though currently with a bias towards the biomedical fields) and the recently launched PLoS Currents (which, in essence, uses Knol as a preprint server), which I have commented here. I am also currently drafting a blog post for the Euroscientist on these matters at Wikiversity, to which everzone is welcome to contribute and where a number of related posts is referenced. To quote from just one of them: “science is already a wiki if you look at it a certain way. It’s just a really, really inefficient one – the incremental edits are made in papers instead of wikispace, and significant effort is expended to recapitulate the existing knowledge in a paper in order to support the one-to-three new assertions made in any one paper.”

  4. Dan Nessett says:

    Why not do this at Citizendium? It seems to fit into its philosophy more comfortably than within Wikipedia’s. Truth in advertising: I do most of my work on Citizendium.

  5. My comments did not come through, possibly due to the links I added. So I posted my reply on my blog at http://ways.org/en/blogs/2009/sep/12/wikipedia_journal .

  6. John Quiggin says:

    This is a great idea! As other commenters have noted, it captures some of the strong points of the Nupedia/Citizendium model, but as an input to improve Wikipedia rather than supplant it. A few points:

    The kind of thing you suggest fits, to some extent, into an existing academic category, the survey article. Taking that as a starting point, the question is how best to produce survey articles that will be useful to Wikipedians. Some points are obvious: cross-links to Wiki articles and references in a form useful for Wikipedia. Others will be trickier, for example, finding the best compromise between the encyclopedic voice favored by Wikipedia and the individual viewpoint expressed in a good survey article. In this context, we shouldn’t be too pedantic about restrictions on OR.

    • Liam Wyatt says:

      You are right the Survey Article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survey_article is indeed a good model to work with – and would be a quick/easy way of explaining to commissioned authors the desired tone.

      The “no original research” aspect will always be the trickiest to solve. Whilst it would be perfectly easy to explain/require that there need to be inline references in the articles, it would be much harder to find the balance between the necessary subjectivity of a survey article and the attempted objectivity of an encyclopedic article.

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  8. Prashanth says:

    I appreciate the line of reasoning and your suggestions. But, I have my reservations. The present system, although lacking accountability and apparently lacking in ‘expertise’ among individual contributors is a better trade-off at mass collaboration than the one your propose. The moment, you separate the expert from the amatuer, there is bound to be some sort of an ‘intellectual’ class system slowly creeping up. How does one deal with these impacts of such a journal article directly making it to WP without the community having taken part in it? Perhaps, it could lead to several different reactions among the ‘amatuers’ – indifference to those articles or spitefullness or some may even be overwhelmed.

    Albeit slow, academic involvement in WP is gradually increasing, and I’d rather see that than the Wikijournal, the kind of which you propose.

    • Liam Wyatt says:

      Oh of course I would love to see academic involvement in Wikipedia directly too. I certainly don’t suggest that the Journal should supersede Wikipedia or be given some kind of ‘special pass’ so that all its text gets copied over the top of existing Wikipedia content. No, any Journal article would be imported by the community if they chose to. If the community for some reason thought that the existing Wikipedia article was in every way superior they would be perfectly allowed to not copy any of the Journal article.

      As for ‘an intellectual class system creeping up’ I do see your concern, and share it. I do not want there to be a two-class Wikipedia. But this is why I suggest an external project like the Journal rather than what some people suggest which is to give academics special privileges on Wikipedia. Simply put, just as everyone should be able to access Wikipedia in whatever form best suits them so too should everyone be able to contribute to Wikipedia in a form that suits them. The Journal proposal is an attempt to increase the ways in which you can contribute.

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  10. Paul Wormer says:

    As a (retired) academic I contributed for a while to Wikipedia. My main problem was not lack of credit, but the fact that any nitwit could (and did) fiddle with my texts. How would you protect a text once it has been ported from the journal to Wikipedia itself?

    • Liam Wyatt says:

      It wouldn’t be. By its very nature Wikipedia is the encyclopedia that anyone can edit. BUT, as the proposal states, the Journal article would be stable and not editable by others (at least, not without the author having approved the change). This means that the article can exist in both forms – modifiable and fixed – and each would reference the other.

  11. Rod Page says:

    Interesting post, but my reaction to this is that it is precisely the wrong approach. I doubt the journal would fly. It’s not a wiki, so it looses all the flexibility of that approach (such as being up to date, and ease of fixing errors). It’s yet another journal, and why would anybody publish there rather than in a existing journal, say one which has an open access policy and which already has a good reputation? (As an aside, I think double-blind reviewing is a bad idea. Signed reviews are, in my experience, often more thoughtfully written and more useful. I’ve seen double-blind manuscripts where the authors have blanked out self-citations to avoid revealing their identity, thus making it impossible to properly review the manuscript.)

    I don’t think this is the way forward. I think there is a serious need for academics to engage with Wikipedia as it is becoming the dominant platform for basic knowledge (see http://iphylo.blogspot.com/2009/09/google-and-wikipedia-revisited.html and http://biogps.blogspot.com/2009/09/gene-wiki-google-update.html ).

    The comment by John Willibanks that “science is already a wiki if you look at it a certain way” cited by Daniel Mietchen in his comment suggests that the real challenge is to rethink our notions of credit and authorship, and broaden our notion of publication.

    • Liam Wyatt says:

      re. precisely the wrong approach:
      Gee… tell me what you really think 🙂 Are you saying that it’s not even worth giving a go?
      re. loss of flexibility of wiki approach:
      Yes, a Journal is fixed but that is also it’s advantage relative to a wiki page. They are different beasts and have their relative merits. Creating a journal does not mean deleting the wiki.
      re. why would anyone publish there rather than another journal:
      I think 1) because of it being associated with Wikipedia brings a certain cache and 2) because it is not a journal in the common model for Original Research – it is a journal for publishing encyclopedic summaries of topics.
      re. double blind reviewing:
      OK then. These kinds of procedural things can all be worked out and adapted as the process goes on.
      re. need for Academics to engage:
      Yes, and for those that are already engaging directly on Wikipedia that’s fantastic. This proposal simply gives a new method do engage that might be more suitable to different people.

      • Rod Page says:

        I guess my concern is that that you’re trying to deal with two very different models (a collaboratively edited, constantly changing wiki page and a static journal article). If an article is the basis of a wiki page, then that page may well evolve to a point where little of the original article’s content remains. Hence, you are going to have two resources, and the article may well be rapidly out of date with respect to the wiki page. Given the choice of where to devote effort, the author will then have to decide whether to update the article, or update the wiki or, indeed, both. Chances are the author will chose one or the other.

        How about tackling the issue in a different way? For example, you could use algorithms to compute who was contributed the most to an article, and display that in the wiki page (for a discussion see http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/001222.html ). You could also display additional statistics for users (such as the longevity of their revisions, the degree to which they are involved in edit wars, etc.). Wikis offer considerable potential for fine-grained analysis of authorship, and are an interesting contrast to the journal’s approach of putting a stamp of approval on something.

        I’m not saying your idea is not worth trying, and I see why you want to go down this route. But I think it’s going in the wrong direction. The real challenge is to change (e.g., broaden) the metrics by which authors are evaluated, rather than shoehorn new kinds of publishing into old metrics.

      • Rod, I agree that “The real challenge is to change (e.g., broaden) the metrics by which authors are evaluated, rather than shoehorn new kinds of publishing into old metrics.”

        However, the proposed Wikipedia journal could be useful in achieving the transition because even though would be modeled after (or shoehorned into) old metrics, it is also more compatible with the new ones you mentioned: the contributions an author injected into a Wikipedia article via a paper in the Wikipedia journal could be measured the same way as all the other contributions (just like you described it; a demo is available at wikibu.ch, e.g. http://wikibu.ch/search.php?search=Wasser states that CBeebop, Prof. Holzfäller, Dr.cueppers, Schnuffel0390 and Bene16 contributed most to the article “wasser” in the German Wikipedia), plus the old way, plus via the emerging article-level metrics of the kind in use by PLoS ( http://www.myplick.com/view/cf8qFak4Ymv/Article-Level-Metrics-at-PLoS-and-beyond ).

  12. Arthur Ericson says:

    Wikipedia, with a 97% share of the online encyclopedia market, has forced Microsoft to shut down Encarta. How long will it be before Wikipedia claims the prize scalp of Encyclopaedia Britannica?

    It will be interesting to see if Encyclopaedia Britannica survives, but recent indications do not look good. It is the combination of a) the success of Wikipedia and b) improved search engines that has put financial pressure on Encyclopedia Britannica over recent years. Many libraries, schools & individuals are questioning the need to pay for sets of expensive books, or to subscribe to Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, when the content is free on the internet, and much more comprehensive.

    Over the next year or so we will see the continued demise of Britannica as it becomes ever less relevant in a Wikipedia-dominated landscape.

  13. Will Johnson says:

    I have to agree with the above comments about exclusivity. Any approach that creates a divide between “academics” and the public is the wrong approach.

    Let anyone publish a journal article. Why not? If the article is so poor that no one wants to review it, so be it. But let the global marketplace decide that, not some ivory-tower self-created intelligentsia.

    Answers.wiki.com has the right idea to let people vote on their favorite contributor and those with the highest votes get “trusted”. We don’t need a “start-up” to determine who is good and who is not. Let the public decide all of it, from the ground up.

  14. Folarin says:

    I quite like the idea of parallel journal article and wiki document. There needs to be an open and easy method for the scientific community AT LARGE to contribute their opinion on published articles. If there are corrections, or points people want to raise the author need only respond once, rather than laborious emails repeatedly answering the same questions.

    For my part I find that the peer review system is no longer functions adequately (particularly in fields like Bioinformatics where there is such rapid change that it is often difficult to find the appropriate reviewers).

    Additionally, I have noticed there is an increasing trend for authors to provide detailed supplementary publication material and or data, software code etc. often using their own websites (which raises persistence issues, that present peer reviewed journals do not deal with). Any wiki should also look at the possibility of addressing these types of issues too.

  15. Excellent idea. Let me know how I can help. ‘Nuff said.

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