Grants:Project/Rapid/The evolution of Wikipedia’s medical content: past, present and future: JECH paper

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The evolution of Wikipedia’s medical content: past, present and future: JECH paper
Some Wikipedians of biomedical background had been invited to write a paper in Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (JECH) around medical content on Wikipedia. It was after submission that the cost of open access for the article was identified to be US$2520 (£1950).
target1 August 2017
start date15 July 2017
start year2017
end date1 November 2017
end year2017
budget (local currency)£1950 (excluding VAT; exempt)
budget (USD)2520 USD
grant typeGroup
contact(s)• T.Shafee(_AT_)

Review your report

Project Goal[edit]

Choose one or more of the following goals. You can add or delete goals as needed.

  • Primarily, this grant will allow us to succeed in allowing open access to an evidence-based, peer-reviewed article we have written that describes the evolution of medical content on Wikipedia. Having the article open access would increase readership substantially and align with the message of the article and the Wikimedia Foundation's mission statement.
  • Wider dissemination of the article will increase the impact of the article. The goals of the article are the following:
  1. Offer recommendations on how to add to and improve quality of medical content on Wikipedia using a socio-ecological model
  2. Describe public health implications of medical content on Wikipedia, which is one of the most commonly read online sources of medical information
  3. Encourage readers of the article and biomedical practitioners or experts to contribute to medical content on Wikipedia

Project Plan[edit]

Relevant details[edit]

1. How will you let your community know about the event? Please paste links below to where relevant communities have been notified of your proposal, and to any other relevant community discussions.

  • Ensuring open access of the paper will automatically make it available to the Wikimedia community and the global medical community at large
  • The details of the paper (after publication) would be shared with the participants of WP:MED through email lists and other relevant forums.
  • Social sharing in the form of tweets and Facebook posts from official accounts of WikiJournal of Medicine on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Possible coverage by the Wikipedia Facebook page and Wikimedia blog. Posts in the Facebook groups Wikipedia Weekly, Wikipedia & Medicine, Wikipedia & Education, Medical Cases Wikipedia etc.
  • Blog posts and articles in arrangement with various publishers as in 1 and 2.
  • Interviews similar to the one on ResearchGate.
  • This academic paper will be searchable through Google scholar and would be listed in other scholarly databases including Pubmed.
  • The journal (JECH) is considered credible and has a good impact factor. Readers of the journal would get enlightened about the potential scope of their contribution to Wikipedia.

2. Do you have experienced Wikimedia editors to lead the event?

Yes, experienced Wikimedia editors are authors of the article.

3. Do participants have the equipment or skills needed to participate and contribute high quality content? If not, how will you support them?

  • Yes, all authors of the article are qualified in the field of biomedicine and have the requisite skills required for writing a research paper.
  • Almost all authors are also the authors of the following paper:
Masukume, Gwinyai; Kipersztok, Lisa; Das, Diptanshu; Shafee, Thomas M A; Laurent, Michaël R; Heilman, James M (November 2016). "Medical journals and Wikipedia: a global health matter". The Lancet Global Health 4 (11): e791. PMID 27765289. doi:10.1016/s2214-109x(16)30254-6. 
(In the 99th percentile of millions of articles ever tracked by Altmetric)
  • The authors were invited to write the article based on their expertise.

4. How will you engage participants after the event(s)?

  • Readers ("participants") of the article, which will potentially include both Wikimedia participants as well as biomedical sciences and epidemiology experts, will gain a broader understanding of the impact of open access medical content of Wikipedia on public health. The article gives specific recommendations for readers to consider building further collaborations between individuals, institutions, the biomedical community at large and Wikipedia, which will hopefully engage them with Wikimedia projects after publication.
  • On a much smaller scale, all authors of the articles are members of WikiJournal of Medicine and will continue to contribute after this paper is published.

Dissemination of the work will be maximised via the following:

  • JECH has in-house publicity as part of the BMJ publishing group
  • The Australasian Open Access Strategy Group has offered to help promote and disseminate the publication
  • We will write a 1-2 page press release summarising key points for sending to news outlets
  • The manuscript will be posted on online repositories (ResearchGate, Mendelay, Institution websites)
  • The work has been accepted for presentation at two conferences:
  • We are writing a companion piece for the Wikipedia Signpost to be published around the same time

5. Is there anything else you want to tell us about this project?

  • Our article promotes the importance of open access to information that is achieved on Wikipedia. Our article provides a clear, evidence-based summary of the evolution of Wikipedia medical content and proposes opportunities for improvement of the biomedical content to broaden public health impact. We feel that it is of utmost importance to achieve open access of our article to further encourage this practice and to allow broad readership and a wider reach. If the article gets published without payment of the open access fees users would be unable to read the article unless they have subscribed to the journal. Even if the users are somehow able to read the article, the contents would not be available under an open license (like Creative Commons license). It is therefore important to ensure that the article is open access.
  • Any funding from the WMF would be clearly acknowledged in the paper, along with a statement that the WMF did not dictate the article's contents (to avoid any perceived conflict of interest).
  • We feel our goals and the article are in line with the Wikimedia Foundation mission statement, "to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally."
  • If the grant gets funded, the payment can be made directly to the concerned journal authorities.


Tell us how you'll carry out your project. Be sure to answer the following questions:

The authors of the article include Drs. Thomas Shafee, Gwinyai Masukume, Lisa Kipersztok, Diptanshu Das, Mikael Häggström, and James Heilman. All authors are dedicated members of WikiJournal of Medicine and contribute as volunteers to promote high quality medical content on Wikipedia. The article has been accepted by the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (JECH) and is pending publication. Our team has requested that the article be open access, and were informed of a fee of US$2520, which we are unable to pay. Our team feels open access is key to the core values discussed in the article and to allow the Wikipedia community access to the information we have put together. If the grant is funded, we will move forward with publication with open access. If not, the publication of the article may be delayed or potentially unable to publish the article at this time. We are currently working on acquiring other sources of funding for this fee, but have so far been unsuccessful.

The abstract of the article is as follows:


As one of the most commonly read online sources of medical information, Wikipedia is an influential public health platform. Its medical content, community, collaborations and challenges have been evolving since its creation in 2001, and engagement by the medical community is vital for ensuring its accuracy and completeness. Both the encyclopedia’s internal metrics as well as external assessments of its quality indicate that its articles are highly variable, but improving. Although content can be edited by anyone, medical articles are primarily written by a core group of medical professionals. Diverse collaborative ventures have enhanced medical article quality and reach, and opportunities for partnerships are more available than ever. Nevertheless, Wikipedia’s medical content and community still face significant challenges, and a socio-ecological model is used to structure specific recommendations. We propose that the medical community should prioritise the accuracy of biomedical information in the world’s most consulted encyclopedia.

What is already known
  • Wikipedia is one of the most used medical information resources globally, with immediate public health implications
  • Its model of user-generated content presents unique challenges and opportunities
  • Its content quality is variable but improving, and in need of further expert input
What this study adds
  • We summarise the major trends in how Wikipedia’s medical content, community and collaborations have changed since its inception in 2001
  • We raise specific proposals for both the Wikipedia community and medical institutions to help improve the encyclopedia


How will you know if the project is successful and you've met your goals? Please include the following targets:

  • Simply, achieving open access will be a success in aligning with the message of the article to as wide as possible an audience.
  • The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health has an impact factor of 3.2 (Top 20 in its field), the article is therefore expected to be cited many times in other scholarly articles. Open access publication will further the reach of this article.
  • Our hope is that publication of this article will begin conversations (on social media sites and through publicity surrounding the article) about how more biomedical experts can contribute to medical content on Wikipedia, and that it will result in more editors joining the medical community on Wikipedia.
  • We plan to monitor the impact of the article by Citations received, Pageviews, and AltMetrics.
    • AltMetrics will monitor the immediate general public impact of the work, whereas pageviews and citations will measure long-term impact in the medical field.
  • We will also report on all interest by the general media, and feedback from in-person presentations at conferences and meetings.


What resources do you have? Include information on who is the organising the project, what they will do, and if you will receive support from anywhere else (in-kind donations or additional funding).

  • The authors of the article include Drs. Thomas Shafee, Gwinyai Masukume, Lisa Kipersztok, Diptanshu Das, Mikael Häggström, and James Heilman. All authors are dedicated members of WikiJournal of Medicine and contribute as volunteers to promote high quality medical content on Wikipedia. All authors have collaboratively written the article in their free time, with no funding, it has been an almost year-long effort.
  • The article was submitted on 1 June 2017.
  • The article submission was accepted and has been subjected to peer-review.
  • Revisions were received from peer-reviewers on 3 July 2017 and have been addressed.
  • We plan to submit the revised version for publication imminently.
  • We are working on grants and reaching out for other sources of funding to achieve open access of the article. Each author is reaching out to his or her institution for support, but so far have been unsuccessful.

What resources do you need? For your funding request, list bullet points for each expense:

  • The only resources required are the funds to cover the open access publishing surcharge. No additional resources are needed.


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