Jump to content


From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki
This is a proposal for a new Wikimedia sister project.
Status of the proposal
ReasonDiscussion moved from another page, no significant interactions since 2006. --Sannita (talk) 16:13, 17 September 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Getting (More?) Academics Involved


I'm vaguely thinking of starting a project to encourage academics to contribute to Wikipedia (via university e-mail and poster campaigns perhaps). Although Wikipedia is certainly an excellent resource, it is still greatly lacking compared to subject specific encyclopedias (The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy is one I have had personal experience with). Academics have had years of experience explaining their subject areas to those with little prior knowledge and many have already contributed to other encyclopedias. It seems to me there are three factors stopping them from contributing: 1) ignorance of Wikipedia 2) technical barriers 3) distrust of Wikipedia's anti-elitism. My thought is that if we could set up a kind of "middle ground" between the willing academics and Wikipedia we could leave them to do what they're good at (writing about their subject using a format and media they're used to) while Wiki-volunteers take what they give them and beat it into a format appropriate for Wikipedia. I'm conscious of the fact that someone has almost certainly already had this idea, and that asking for help from people "with names" so to speak may seem anti-thetical to the Wiki spirit. Thus all comments/suggestions/flames are welcomed. Cfp 10:39, 20 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Although you'll find that some academics already help out here, I think this is a good idea. Another thing we could try to do is contacting subject encyclopedias and asking them whether they'd be willing to add their stuff or licence it under the GFDL... .Kokiri 12:22, 20 Jul 2004 (UTC).

Most academics probably don't have the time to contribute, or wouldn't want to because they might see it as a waste of time. On the other hand, it's worth a try. If nothing else we might get a lot more students. Exploding Boy 12:27, Jul 20, 2004 (UTC)

Before starting a campaign, perhaps there should also be efforts to better engage the academics already working on Wikipedia. 172 16:39, 20 Jul 2004 (UTC)
I can think of at least two more reasons many academics may be reluctant to contribute to Wikipedia. First, I believe that authorship credentials are quite important in the necessary pursuit of tenure and reputation, and Wikipedia doesn't lend itself to the fixed, reproducible text with established authors that formal publications do. (As Wikipedia grows, however, I'm hoping that contributions to it will become more "respectable" in this environment.) Second, the relative loose and open contribution structure of Wikipedia, compared to professional journals, could be seen as "lowering the standards" of an academic's contributions. Such a wild and wooly information creation environment would probably seem too chaotic to be worth one's investment in time and effort. Again, I am hoping that Wikipedia's reputation, based on an ever-increasing utility and accuracy, will reduce this potential stigma over time. For now, we should anticipate such concerns by presenting solid reasons for such contributions despite them. -- Jeff Q 18:12, 20 Jul 2004 (UTC)
We need to help empower the academics already working on Wikipedia. An editorial review board headed by academics, for example, may help raise standards and guide other editors. 172 18:24, 20 Jul 2004 (UTC)
The writing of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography started being written about 10 years ago (its out in September 2004 I might add. They obtained writers by circulating higher education and also specialist groups, and in the end attracted about 10,000 contributors world-wide. But not all these are 'academics' but all have expertise in the subject matter. Surely that is what matters for Wikipedia. There will be independent scholars and retired scholars, neither of whom are 'academics' in the sense I think is meant in this discussion.
How do we attract than class of writer other than by word of mouth and by existing Wikipedians undertaking networking? Maybe we might attract new Wikipedians by placing letters and articles in journals we are involved with. What about printing out articles we have written and sending them to colleagues for comment or information, and then explaining how easy it all is to achieve? The Wiki system is streaks better than trying to get esoteric stuff published through the normal print media, with very long delays between submission and publication, and minute print runs. Writings can reach a far wider audience than the usual run of journal article, especially now that search engines like Google are in the act. Apwoolrich 18:46, 20 Jul 2004 (UTC)

It's probably a waste of time to get academics involved here, and unnecessary.

They need to publish papers under their own name in peer-reviewed publications. It's the only way they can continue in their careers. Whereas, we here toil anonymously, a little bit like the cathedral builders in the Middle Ages.

Academics aren't needed for most encyclopedia articles, which are just a very brief and broad overview at a level aimed at the intelligent layman reader, the sort of thing that someone with an undergraduate degree could write.

And there are a lot of people out there with undergraduate degrees or even PhDs who did not choose a career in academia, who probably make up the bulk of the contributors here. The Internet is a great equalizer, everyone has access to a wealth of reference material that at one time could only be accessible to someone with the resources of a university library.

Where the academics could really make a major contribution would be in the sister project Wikibooks. Free textbooks would be wonderful.

-- Curps 22:35, 20 Jul 2004 (UTC)

A few replies: I like the idea of getting academics involved at the editorial level, particularly due to the minimal technical skills this would require (it could be done exclusively through Talk pages). My thought behind particularly targeting academics to contribute is the teaching and communications skills they have of necessity picked up and I suppose this equally applies to "retired scholars". Certainly there are other specialists who it would be good to atract to Wikipedia, but there are none quite so easily reachable as active academics. Perhaps what is needed is a Wikipedia Advocacy Group (good initials at least...) I think it's worth checking out The Budapest Open Access Initiative to see the direction journals will hopefully progress in. Wiki's will never replace the traditional system of peer reviewed journals, and I don't think they should hope to. Wikipedia's strength (it seems to me) is as a comprehensive education resource, rather than a repository of the cutting-edge and often controversial material found in journals. As to whether we need academics, I genuinely believe we do. Yes for an article on why the sun rises and sets only undergrads are needed, but for articles making subtle distinctions between almost identical positions, greater experience and knowledge is necessary. It's unlikely that there are any undergrads capable of writing articles on the use of C* algebras in quantum mechanics or somesuch. REP (mentioned above) is exclusively written by fairly big name philosophers, and is an astounding size. I promise Routeldge wouldn't have been wasting their pennies on them if they didn't think they were strictly necessary. A final point is that academics are not some alien selfish species which is incapable of doing anything unless it's going to help get their department another star next time ratings come around; I'm sure many if not most contributors to Wikipedia have full time jobs, academics just happen to have the right knowledge and skills to make them ideal Wikipedia contributors. cfp 23:20, 20 Jul 2004 (UTC)

There are two good reasons why most serious academics won't get involved with Wikipedia: (1) there is no quality control and no way of ensuring that one's work is not tampered with by idiots, and (2) there is a strong prejudice at Wikipedia against anyone who has expert knowledge or professional training. If anyone says, "Um, I know that 2 and 2 makes 4 because I am a professor of mathematics," they are imediately dismissed as an arrogant elitist who is "arguing from authority." Very few academics will put up with this. Adam 12:13, 21 Jul 2004 (UTC)

As long as we're all agreed that this attitude (2) in the Wikipedia community is counter-productive, perhaps there is still hope for progress. (Another thing is that on my original plan academics would be partially insulated from the community, they would submit their article as a word doc say to some Wiki-volunteer, who would then be in charge of incorporating it - and doing any harangueing with the Wiki-community in order to do this.) I'll report back on this page if I meet with any success after my trial campaign around my uni (or possibly just a few departments from it) next academic term. cfp 15:46, 21 Jul 2004 (UTC)
I think this is a famously bad idea. No academic worth her salt is going to submit a document -- it takes time to write something up, even if you've got encyclopaedic knowledge on the subject, and they would have to write something up as they couldn't submit something they'd already written -- to some random stranger who goes by silly nickname and allow that person to then be responsible for incorporating it into the text of a preexisting article. The approach to take is the hobby approach. Put it this way: academics study what they do because deep down they love it. Most of us who contribute extensively to articles on particular topics do so for the same reasons. We just might find the odd academic who has the inclination to spend some of their free time working on articles in their areas of expertise as a bit of fun, just because they love that subject matter. Unless we have articles specialist-authored or -reviewed and then locked (from editing) to the general public we're not going to get these types of people contributing seriously or under their real names. Exploding Boy 15:58, Jul 21, 2004 (UTC)
As one of the academics here (I don't contribute under my real name), I don't exclusively write articles in my areas of expertise. What keeps me contributing is the opportunity to work outside my primary areas of research for a change. I'm under the impression that that's true of some of the others too. 172 16:13, 21 Jul 2004 (UTC)
I take your point Exploding Boy, my hope was merely to provide a way for those academics who have enough problems coping with e-mail to contribute. Obviously locking articles is completely anti-thetical to the wiki idea, and in line with this, we've got to encourage academics to contribute with no expectation of their content being treated any differently from that created by a high school student. That is to say, they will be judged by the same standards and further modified in line with these standards. However as the academics' articles will usually be better than those of the high school student, they will tend to be better treated by the community. I totally agree that we should encourage them to "take the hobby approach". Marginally shielding those who wish to be shielded from the technological knitty gritty just enables them to get on with what they enjoy (writing about their subject) rather than grappling with the finer points of wiki conventions. TBH I do not quite understand the scale of your gripe. (As for academics working outside their field, obviously the more the merrier, however once an academic steps outside their field obviously they lose much of what distinguishes them from everyone else - it is academics working in their field Wikipedia particularly needs.) cfp 20:16, 21 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Just been reading up on the Wikipedia:WikiReader project. Seems to be relevant in two ways to this discussion. Firstly seeing polished WikiReader content may help to persuade academics of Wikipedia's quality, and secondly it may be the ideal point for academics to get involved in editorial positions (inline with some of the comments above). Are more WikiReader projects planned after the current batch? Is it hoped that there will be more going concurrently in the future? Cfp 15:11, 22 Jul 2004 (UTC)

No academic will ever contribute to Wikipedia if there painstakingly written article is going to be mercilessly edited by someone who at best just has a misconception of the subject.I agree that articles written by an expert in the field should be locked down.

Is this an academic speaking from bitter experience? --cfp 21:08, 22 August 2006 (UTC)[reply]

Related pages: Article validation, English Wikipedia Quality Survey, Academic standards disease, Peer review and the Wikipedia process