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Primary research

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"Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn" -Benjamin Franklin

The original Wikiversity proposal of 2005 proposed that Wikiversity should, "test the limits of the wiki model both for developing electronic learning resources as well as for teaching and for conducting research and publishing results (within a policy framework developed by the community)". The creation of a system for dealing with research and publishing of results in a wiki environment is a major challenge facing the Wikiversity community.

Wikipedia has always had a rule against including original (primary) research (see Wikipedia:No original research). As described on that page, the policy against including original research in Wikipedia articles arose from the need to prevent cranks from publishing their crazy ideas in wiki format and passing them off as valid knowledge.

Wikiversity is devoted to explorations on both sides of the boundary between the known and the unknown. Learning how to participate in the on-going study of that boundary is one of the most important things that students can learn. Wikiversity cannot avoid original research and the critical educational task of passing the skills of original research from generation to generation.

For students, there is a natural progression from secondary research to primary (original) research. Thus, Wikiversity does not exclude original research, but Wikiversity still must deal with cranks. Wikiversity relies on the expert knowledge of Wikiversity participants (see Faculty club) to help recognize and exclude bogus content and the work of cranks. Within Wikiversity, all original research should be clearly identified as such. Sometimes the boundary between original research and secondary research is not clear. A critical review of previously published ideas can lead to the discovery of a new piece of knowledge. The invariable Rule of Wikiversity is that all such discoveries arising from secondary research (see Synthesis of published material serving to advance a position) must be subjected to peer review.

Casual peer review is automatic in the wiki user environment. However, casual peer review can be as dangerous as no peer review. Wiki editing decisions about original research cannot be allowed to degenerate into content disputes. If original research results arise from the activities of Wikiversity participants, they must be identified as such and subjected to a formal peer review process. The distinction between casual and formal peer review is important.

Formal peer review[edit]

Formal peer review involves a formal system of critical review of the original research result(s). The results of the formal critical review are permanently linked to the original research results and serve as a stamp of validation or a stamp of rejection. Any peer review process is only as good as the reviewers. Critical assessment of the qualifications of reviewers is required for formal peer review. Traditionally, peer reviewers are selected on the basis of credentials and a public record of trustworthy behavior. Wikipedia has developed a wiki-based system for identifying trusted Wikipedians, giving them special privileges and responsibilities, and monitoring subsequent actions by those trusted functionaries (administrators). Wikiversity needs to have a similar system for its formal peer review system. Such a system has been described.

Page protection[edit]

Since Wikiversity does not prevent participants from crossing the line into original research and since Wikiversity participants are also encouraged to document their personal learning experiences, page protection at Wikiversity is slightly more complex than at Wikipedia. Wikiversity incorporates the page protection system of Wikipedia, but adds an additional element. Registered Wikiversity participants can protect pages that they create from modification by other Wikiversity editors. This allows Wikiversity participants to easily create "archive pages" that will document their own experiences, thoughts, plans and multiple stable versions of documents set aside for study and future reference. Decisions by Wikipedia users to protect pages are always subject to review and reversal by administrators.

See also[edit]

The U  in Wikiversity          (edit)
Find your place in the Wikiversity community
Education    - Hunter-gatherers | Scholars | Browsers | Masters
Service        - Wikipedia | Wikinews | Wikibooks
Research     - secondary | original | collaboration
Other           - Support staff | Student union | Faculty club