Research:The academic integrity of the English Wikipedia’s articles on Human Sexuality
Wikipedia, is a great collection of human knowledge. Important topics which are often controversial and usually perceived as innately bias can get a breath of non-bias and objective documentation on Wikipedia. However, this fascinating occurrence would not be possible if it not for sources and especially academic ones. While many articles are inundated with articulate and objective academic sources some extremely important ones are not. An example of a fundamental topic on Wikipedia that has low academic source reliance are topics relating to human sexuality.
A collection and categorization of referenced sources on the English Wikipedia’s article “gay” revealed that 31% derived from activist publications in contrast to 17% from accredited academic sources. This small sampling of data has led me to a hypothesis that articles relating to human sexuality on Wikipedia for example, gay, lesbian and bisexual articles have a damaging lack of support from objective academic sources in turn dampening their academic (or even factual) integrity. These articles receive extensive public interest and could have a substantive impact on public perception on the issues they cover, therefore further emphasizing the need to ensure their integrity.
It is based on this preliminary research that I would seek to collect further data from a broader range of articles about Human sexuality to support my hypothesis. This would primarily involve collecting and sorting references provided by editors on pages related to Human sexuality and ascertaining which percent of those references constitute academic sources.
Describe in this section the methods you'll be using to conduct your research. If the project involves recruiting Wikimedia/Wikipedia editors for a survey or interview, please describe the suggested recruitment method and the size of the sample. Please include links to consent forms, survey/interview questions and user-interface mock-ups.
Please provide in this section a short timeline with the main milestones and deliverables (if any) for this project.
Policy, Ethics and Human Subjects Research
Given that such a large percentile of the content on the English Wikipedia’s articles about human sexuality is supported by references from gay-rights activist groups a relevant and substantiated concern is the possibility of impeding the advocating of gay rights by this research. However, this factor has been considered as a genuine and legitimate ethical concern for which I have drawn the following conclusions:
“In recent years, academic sources have increasingly accepted human sexuality as a non-illness without stigma. If anything, most substantiated sources of scientific publication on the issue have done more to advocate for gay-rights by countering preconceived notions and social misnomers with reason and observation based evidence. Furthermore, academics in the field are very aware of the ethical concerns related to their publications and how, particularly in today’s world, their research and resulting publications will affect the lives of those who are subject to their research. The issue in relation to this research it could be said that the results might be used to justify the removal of content on Wikipedia that promotes the advocating of the rights of those who are gay, lesbian or bisexual. However, I would counter this supposition by first mentioning that facts should always prevail over information created by dogma and this is especially so on an encyclopaedia. Given that most academic publications on the issue of human sexuality make objective and well supported claims which do not often impede the advocacy of gay rights but rather in the overall majority of cases support it any content on Wikipedia which is currently supported by purely activist sources would either be incorporated or replaced by content which is proven by research in the scientific community. This would overall improve the quality of content.”
With this said more can be done to ensure this study does not impede the work of those advocating the rights of gay, lesbian and bisexual people. Therefore, to ensure this study does not create ethical problems on the aforementioned grounds, the following safeguard will be incorporated into this study:
- The definition of what constitutes an “activist source” in this study will be strict. While this should not impede the objectivity of the study it should ensure that sources which may appear Prima facie to be activist are thoroughly vetted to ensure they do de facto constitute activist sources. For example, a source from an organization for which its principle role is to propagate the rights of LGB people will be investigated as to if its publications are produced by those with academic qualification.
Once your study completes, describe the results an their implications here. Don't forget to make status=complete above when you are done.