----- Original Message ----
From: Tony Sidaway <tonysidaway(a)gmail.com>
To: English Wikipedia <wikien-l(a)lists.wikimedia.org>
Sent: Saturday, May 31, 2008 7:34:36 AM
Subject: Re: [WikiEN-l] Changing contents by copy editors (was: What to do about our writing quality? (Relata Refero)
2008/5/24 Andries Krugers Dagneaux <andrieskd(a)chello.nl>:
>> [..] What is also frequently a concern is that material is frequently
>>added to articles based on scholarly resources or books that are not
> online.. >If the original addition is carefully worded to closely
> paraphrase a point >in the secondary source, a copyeditor concerned
> about >style might well - >and frequently does - come in and change that
> such that it is no longer >sufficiently faithful to the nuances in the
> source, since the copyeditor >does not have access to the source.
> True, what helps against this is giving quotes of the dead tree sources
> in the footnotes.
It's a non-issue, in any case. If a copy edit obscures or changes the
meaning, a subsequent editor can fix it just as one would fix any
other incorrect edit. We only cite public sources so all the editor
has to do is check the "dead tree" version as a good library.
The problem is that, in technical articles with off-line sources, there are a lot of Wikipedia editors with limited knowledge of a topic making copy edits that change the meaning of the sourced (and non-sourced technical) articles and very few editors with the technical expertise to correct the mistake or even catch it.
For example this line in an article on x-ray microscopy was recently technically corrected, but still leaves many problems:
"Electron microscopy is widely used to obtain images with nanometer level resolution but the relatively thick living cell cannot be observed as the sample has to be sliced thinly and then dried to get the image."
The sentence has been changed to accurately reflect the sequence of drying and slicing--if you view the article you'll see the corrected sentence, in the midst of a jumbled mess. But the sentence and its paragraph are still in the wrong article and focused incorrectly. X-ray microscopes have the advantage of being able to view thicker material.
This article is a compilation of some basic information found in a few on-line sites. An off-line introductory text on microscopes that includes information about x-ray microscopy would clear this up readily, put the microscopes in their correct context (thick/thin, bio/materials) and eliminate this entire paragraph in its current form. Instead a technical editor came by and edited a single sentence for accuracy. This is how copy editing is also done on Wikipedia: copy edit a sentence for grammar while leaving behind gross misinformation.
Well-edited falsehoods have no place in an encyclopedia.
If a copy editor obscures or changes the meaning of a technical article about a concept that is difficult to translate into layman's terms, another copy editor will probably not be by to make the necessary technical edits. That's not what copy editors do.
There's no reason to expect copy editors to make technical edits, to recognize introduced technical inaccuracies, or to avoid introducing further inaccuracies with copy editing.