Wikipedia rocks

I love Wikipedia, so much so that I’m actually thinking of making a donation. Of course, that would likely have to come from my salon and clothing budget, and I’m trying to save up for a nice pair of Birkenstocks. Hopefully I don’t offend with my shoe choice; I just love these guys. But I digress…

It never fails – when I need to learn about something completely novel to me, Wikipedia has the answers. The entry may not tell the whole story, but the articles contain at least enough information and citations to get there on my own. And I just love that the online community works to maintain the accuracy of the articles – what a lovely communal resource.

In spite of my fondness for Wikipedia, I feel a little bit like I’m cheating when using this resource for scientific lit review. Ten years ago, I never thought I’d be using an online encyclopedia to assist with *real* research. With their shallow and obsolete entries, my parents’ weathered set of Encyclopedia Britannicas were barely acceptable as office décor. But Wikipedia always provides at least a decent overview of the topic in question, as well as links to actual research papers. It just works so damn well for exploring new (to me) areas of research.

So here’s the question for all you science-loving, online-savvy bloggers out there: Have you checked out the accuracy of your citations and research on Wikipedia?
Likely your favorite area of research is highlighted, maybe even some of your past publications. Maybe you’ve even contributed to an article. What say you??


7 thoughts on “Wikipedia rocks

  1. Heh. I was talking to a woman who is looking to become a textbook rep for an education publisher, and spent much of the time telling her how textbooks are increasingly coming up short against Wikipedia.

    I’ve contributed to several articles on Wikipedia. I don’t go searching for my papers in Wikipedia to check for accuracy (unless it’s a page I’m contributing to), as I doubt any of mine are up there.

  2. I think the quality of Wikipedia can vary drastically from field to field. For example, the subject of percolation theory is very thoroughly and well done because one of the leading researchers in the field is rather fond of Wikipedia and devotes significant time to editing and expanding it. More tech savvy fields in general seem to have better Wiki pages, as the experts are more likely to have embraced the platform.

  3. I find that when there are citations, it can be helpful. I think it was awesome when Neuroscience asked researchers to try and keep up topic areas in Wikipedia and to edit for accuracy.

  4. I’m in there. 🙂 The article on my subfield was actually a lot better a few years ago. Now it’s longer and mostly about movie stars, which is kind of bizarre because in terms of importance to the topic they merit maybe a portion of a sentence. But my work is still in there. They tend to cite the policy briefs rather than the scholarly articles.

  5. I actually send my students to Wikipedia to do research, or as a resource if the text book/lecture notes are not clear, and Wikipedia is an acceptable resource for take-home open book exams.

    Its been fun watching the encyclopedia grow through my academic life. In early grad school, it was barely sufficient to use as a study guide for my quals, or for general background information/references for a project. Now I look up a parameter that I can never remember the exact implementation of, only to see a collaborator has written the article.

  6. Definitely true, although the article in my field is pretty decent. I was super happy to see a couple of my papers cited this past year 🙂

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