"Academia" is the name for a huge
institutionalized process of peer
review. Wikipedia is peer review on steroids, so you'd think that
academics would be clamoring to contribute to Wikipedia, especially since
academia and Wikipedia both love free expression and open discourse. The
difference is, academia is peer review with competition for prestige and
resources, and Wikipedia is not.
You're absolutely correct, here. Wikipedia is an individually thankless
project, and perhaps best so.
If Wikipedia creates a space into which academic
competition can expand,
then scholars will fill it. As soon as some scholars see a way to
pad their CVs or increase their prestige in their field through
contributing to Wikipedia, they will.
How do you create a space where scholars can compete? Since the prizes in
academia are relevance and prestige, and since relevance/presitge are
measured by the number of people who are citing your work, Wikipedia could
allow users to cite scholarly works in articles, and track those
citations competitively. For example:
I can't say I like the idea of encouraging our editors to spend less
time editing articles and more time trying to come up with their
profound thesis for the month. And to what end? So one can cite his
own work in an article edit, or so others can cite the work of experts?
If the former, then I fail to see the point in this, and if the latter,
I ask why someone would publish on the Wiki if he isn't going to
You don't need a self-standing complex of assertions and conclusions to
make a valid contribution to an article, and it's probably best if most
of our editors (not to be offensive) stick to adding key points to
articles where appropriate, rather than trying to branch out too far
into fields they aren't experts in
- Allow users to upload read-only versions of their
Wikipedia is not a Web host. The entire point of a Wiki is to provide
for the open editing of content, and when this is negated, said content
may as well be on Geocities.
- Give users the ability to cite and link to these
papers from within the text of the Wikipedia article.
This is already possible via off-site links, and ties in with the point
- The author of each paper should have his/her own
profile. This is where
score is kept. There you'll find:
- the user's "Area of Expertise": a list of the Wikipedia articles which
cite the user's papers.
- A list of users who have similar Areas of Expertise, base.
Now you're talking about ranking an editor's usefulness in a formal way,
establishing a social hierarchy--something the community has resisted at
every stage thus far.
Just as Wikipedians keep each other honest by checking
each others' work,
scholars (and non-academic Wikiepdians) will keep each other honest by
reviewing each others' citations in articles.
Again, this is no different from the current system, except that we'd be
turning Wikipedia into a Web host.
The first scholar to cite his work in a wikipedia
article will be the
expert on that subject. But, there's no point in being an expert if no
one knows about it, which is why word will spread, and others will follow.
If a subject that applies to a scholar's work does not exist as an
article, then the scholar will have an incentive to write it, in order to
include his/her citation and increase or refine his/her area of expertise
relative to others. Since scholars who are similar can see each other,
once a scholar writes a new article, the others can add their own
citations, to stay competitive on those topics.
Again, why should we encourage this?
Another way scholars can compete is by answering
questions from users.
Google's pay-per-use "Ask Google", is interesting, and useful, but
terribly centralized. If Wikipedia allowed users to ask questions to
scholars through Wikipedia, then allowed users to rank the responses from
scholars, then scholars could be ranked relative to each other based on
their ability to answer questions in certain fields. All questions and
answers would be saved and searchable by keyword, or browseable by the
articles it is categorized under, therefore available to other users.
This already exists, although the page in question wasn't initially
created for this reason: [[Wikipedia:Reference desk]]. The only thing
different about what you propose is the addition of a ranking
system--see above; "social hierarchy."
The result would be information on scholars' areas
of expertise and
information on scholars' ability to answer questions in that area, which I
think would be important information when competing for jobs.
My basic assumption behind this is: once academics have the opportunity
to get credit for their work, in a way that ranks them competitively to
others in their field, the will do so.
What do you think?
See my comments above. What you propose isn't in itself a bad idea,
and could be very well implemented as part of a project distinct from
Wikipedia, but I think it's entirely contrary to the direction the
community has been following.
Austin D. Hair <austin(a)austinhair.org>