Research:Paid Contribution Disclosure and COI in English Wikipedia

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20:06, 2 April 2024 (UTC)
none as of 4/2/24
Duration:  2024-January – 2025-January
COI, paid editing, disclosure

This page documents a research project in progress.
Information may be incomplete and change as the project progresses.
Please contact the project lead before formally citing or reusing results from this page.

This is a qualitative research project aimed at increasing understanding of paid editing practices and interactions in English Wikipedia. Relevant outcomes will be scholarly publications and dissemination of findings to relevant Wikipedia communities to inform future conversations related to paid contribution policy.

Policy attempting to address the issue of paid editing such as (WP:Paid) has thus far emphasized disclosure of financial COI and "strongly discouraged" editing in favor of edit requests when a financial conflict is present(WP:COI). While other policies have been proposed, the COI guideline and WP:Paid policy represent the most current and currently actionable methods for governing paid and/or conflicted contributions. Such policy rests on a few shaky assumptions, however, that 1) external editors will disclose their COI and 2) internal editors will cooperate with paid editors to help execute a requested edit (providing it follows all other content policy).

William Beutler, in analyzing this issue from the perspective of both a volunteer and paid editor in English Wikipedia, has identified the complexity of the situation in which the current policy and systems for enacting that policy are not well-understood. "[T]he edit request system" especially, writes Beutler, "remains opaque and poorly understood on both sides of the COI divide" (13). Beutler continues with a call for more research: "The only way for this to meaningfully improve is for independent researchers to examine the current ecosystem to describe how well, or how poorly, the system actually works in practice." In part an answer to Beutler's call, the current research explores the issue of paid contributions in order to influence future policy discussions and proposals.


This study will utilize mixed methods for understanding qualitative and quantitate aspects of the issue at hand. In terms of the qualitative methodology, the researcher will engage in participant observation and autoethnography, taking on clients and engaging in open disclosure of paid editing in order to learn more about how particular policies (WP:PAID; WP:COI) are interpreted and enacted within English Wikipedia.

In addition to this qualitative methodology, the researcher will also engage in a computational method for analyzing edit requests in the context of a conflict of interest (Wikipedia:COIREQ).

The researcher is openly looking for collaborators interest and expertise in social computing, computer science and/or Wikipedia research.


January 2024 - January 2026 One year on qualitative methodology. 6 months on computational methodology. 6 months writing and reporting on findings.

Policy, Ethics and Human Subjects Research[edit]

TBD - first phase will be conducted with public/observable data.




Provide links to presentations, blog posts, or other ways in which you disseminate your work.