Academic standards disease

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This was once a funny article. See Academic Standards Disease for that version.

Academic standards disease is a metaphor used on Wikipedia as a pejorative characterisation of a perceived excess of zeal among those who call for "higher academic standards."

The debate is one that goes way back to the original days of Wikipedia, when its ancestor "Nupedia" was begun, under the auspices of being a peer-reviewed, authoritative encyclopedia. Costing thousands, and producing only 12 articles in two years, Nupedia was by all accounts a failure. Wikipedia on the other hand surprised everyone; not just by its rate of production, but by the relatively good content it produced. Good researchers could team up with good writers to produce very good quality articles, even by the standards of professionally run encyclopedias. As with most who choose to join the Wikipedia community, the belief that letting everybody in "shouldn't work," soon will give way to the evidentiary fact that "it does work."

It is within the context of this discovery that the "open-to-all model" is useful for producing a well-researched encyclopedia, that the criticisms of academics (usually newcomers) seem to many to be antithetical to not just wiki philosophy, but to Wikipedias general emerging culture. (See Wikiculture, wikifaith.)

Academics claimed that a lack of "standards of accuracy," coupled with its openness, "without regard to credentials or level of knowledge," creates a situation where the academic must also be a teacher: those with a high level of knowledge have to explain facts, details, and concepts "again and again" to those with less education and knowledge. Wikipedians often counter that, if it were up to the academic critics, Wikipedia would be run like Nupedia. By requiring qualified peer-review, Nupedia produced nothing at all in the same amount of time that Wikipedia produced an extreme amount of material.

The mere fact of Wikipedia's continued existence leaves many conventional assumptions about human nature and common intelligence (or lack therof) in doubt; some anti-academics even claim that this doubt should extend to the very notion of "academic qualifications" and its related social hierarchy as any meaningful criteria. The critics, Wikipedians point out, are advocating academic standards out of an ignorance for how Wikipedia has been so successful. Or, because they seek to install exclusionary rules, and hence an exclusive social order, for a project which was built on the work of those who only contribute because Wikipedia is inclusive. According to most Wikipedians, while the contributions of qualified academics should be respected, the criticisms by these Wikipedian academics toward Wikipedia's inclusive culture are at least a paradox, if not an outright contradiction.

The philosophy of inclusionism, which has been argued to be an unavoidable part of the wiki process, is blamed by academics to have driven away several contributors with admirable credentials or skills, while those with more will than ability to contribute stay on. Wikipedians have come to believe that having "standards" is subjective and will simply kill the project. Those who have standards of accuracy are excessively zealous in removing sub-standard material, both by deleting it and by treating those who contribute it as undesirable.

Since article development is dynamic, those familiar with static, hierarchical or linear processes often perceive dynamic development as chaos, disorder, and deviation from accuracy. The inherent difference between this modality of development and others sometimes causes academics to be frustrated, leading sometimes to unpleasant behaviour and incivility.