Sunday, October 03, 2010

Advice for Scientists-turned-Wikipedians

The most influential information resource in the world?
Like it or not, Wikipedia has become the first resource that most people turn to for scientific information on the Internet. As a result, minor inclusions and major omissions may become extremely influential, as may inaccurate information that inadvertently (or deliberately!) finds its way onto a given Wikipedia page.

Biologists, especially those involved in biodiversity, are in a great position to contribute, but how do we start? Here are ten simple rules from scientists at Cambridge and the Sanger Institute on what to do and what to avoid.

They observe that the anonymity of the Internet makes it possible for a nonexpert Wikipedian with editorial status to reject your well-crafted, expert opinion on a subject for a variety of reasons. The inability to argue from academic authority on Wikipedia is, in my opinion, a good thing for science writing - it promotes clarity and simplicity in the communication of scientific ideas and information, which feeds back into how we think and write about science both for scientists and the public.

For educators, having students write mock-up Wikipedia entries, or criticize (carefully chosen) existing entries on a given subject may be very useful in demonstrating the both the potential and limitation of Wikipedia as an information resource. The act of writing for a general audience will also certainly help consolidate one's own knowledge.

1 comment:

Nature ID said...

Love your blog! Thank you.