This is a proposal for a major overhaul of the research section on Meta the Wikimedia Research Committee is currently considering. Feedback and suggestions are welcome.
State of Meta:Research
As of May 2011, navigating the research section of Meta is pretty complicated, both for researchers and for Wikimedia editors. Outstanding issues include the following:
- instructions and resources for researchers (e.g. procedures to request special API privileges for research purposes or to have subject recruitment methods reviewed and cleared by the Research Committee) are hard to look up;
- research project pages are not clearly separated from research policy or research discussion pages (some of them are classed as subpages of Research/Projects, some of them aren’t)
- obsolete discussions and proposals (such as those from the Wikimedia Research Network (or Wikimedia Research Team), one of the early incarnations of a research policy-making body at Wikimedia) are not properly marked as archived
- the research project directory (Research/Projects) is not very visible
- research-related pages are hard to distinguish from general pages about anything else
Below are the goals I am planning to achieve with this proposed overhaul:
- make it easy for researchers to find the resources (and WMF support) they are looking for, as well as guidelines we expect them to comply with
- bring as much transparency as possible to research involving the Wikimedia community, by reducing potential attrition between the community and researchers and ensuring that research is not disruptive of editor activity
- design a scheme of incentives to increase researcher participation and to increase the number of projects included in the research directory
- design a series of incentives to nudge researchers towards releasing their datasets under an open license and publishing/self-archiving their research results via open access outlets/repositories.
- make Meta:Research the main hub where research on Wikimedia projects is discussed, reviewed and tracked;
- provide support to the publication of research data on Wikimedia projects via a unified open data infrastructure
- integrate structured bibliographic data into Meta:Research via whatever solution the community decides to opt for
On May 2, 2011 a dedicated Research: namespace was created on Meta. This simple change already enables a range of new functionality, including: filtering and searching research pages more easily, creating shortcuts, setting up special properties for all pages in the namespace. Before we start moving pages under this new namespace, I’d like to share some thoughts on the future layout of the new Meta:Research section.
I’d like to make Meta:Research as usage-oriented as possible and focus on different types of information researchers and community members will be looking for:
listing current and past studies, spanning both internal WMF research and external research
including links to data repositories, code libraries and tools, forums and discussion groups for wiki researchers
organized in the form of FAQ and pointing to the body of support pages, guidelines and official policies that will be produced over time by the RCom
there is already an unstructured list of wiki researchers on Meta, some of whom with a registered user account. I would like to add some structure to it and make sure individual users maintain their contact details and research information up-to-date.
To this aim the following top level nodes will be created:
(to group pages such as: Research:Projects/Editor_Trends_Study)
(for pages like: Research:Resources/List_of_code_repositories_for_wiki_research)
(for help pages as well as policies and guidelines: Research:Support/Recruiting_participants_for_a_survey)
May 31, 2011 Update: after experimenting with page prefixes, we decided to revert to a standard, flat structure, with no top-level nodes. We will aim to implement a simple navigation/categorization system using templates and categories instead.
Subpages for each of these nodes will have dedicated navigational templates and infoboxes, for example a project page will include a template like the following:
Templates will automatically take care of adding a project page to the relevant categories, which will allow us to filter and keep track of projects by research field, status, year etc.. For example, the above template will add project “Drivers of editor retention” to the following categories:
Category:Research/Projects by year/2011 Category:Research/Projects by discipline/Computer science Category:Research/Projects by discipline/Sociology Category:Research/Projects by methodology/Quantitative Category:Research/Projects by status/Published results Category:Research/Projects by output/Open data Category:Research/Projects by output/Open access Category:Research/WMF supported projects/Data collection Category:Research/WMF supported projects/API privileges
High-level information about individual projects will be surfaced in the Research:Projects directory. Resource pages and support pages will also have dedicated templates. Upon creation, these pages will be pre-populated with the appropriate headings and templates to be filled out. People pages won’t need a dedicated top level node, as we already have a User: namespace for registered users. We will explore the possibility (through the Account Creation Improvement Project currently run by WMF) that, whenever an individual registers a new account for research purposes, a "researcher infobox" is created by default in the user page and pointers to Meta:Research are added.
All information related to the RCom activities and areas of interests as well as any open discussions/drafts produced by RCom members will be moved to a dedicated Research:Committee top-level node. All RCom-driven research projects (such as the Expert participation survey) will be moved under Research:Projects. We will separate ongoing discussions from official documents by moving the latter under the Research:Support node.
Materials from older pages that can still be used will be merged or moved under the new structure. Legacy pages and previous discussions that cannot find a home under the new structure (see this category for a long list of obsolete pages) will be moved under a Research:Archive node.
We will also restructure the main page, which is currently cluttered with a lot of information. Research:Index will be the entry point for new and existing users, pointing them to the relevant subsections and displaying as little information as possible to facilitate navigation (see mockup below). It will include a news box and a section for featured projects. Featuring projects on this page (as well as on other Wikimedia outlets) is one of the incentives we can use to encourage (if not enforce) open data sharing and open access publication/archiving of research results.
- We are currently reviewing a number of solutions to set up a public repository of open research data
- See the ongoing discussion on wikiresearch-l started with this thread: http://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wiki-research-l/2011-March/001361.html
- See for example Aaron’s draft
- See Mayo’s proposal for standardizing sections of project pages