[Foundation-l] Wikiversity

Cormac Lawler cormaggio at gmail.com
Tue Aug 15 16:52:49 UTC 2006

On 8/15/06, Amgine <amgine at saewyc.net> wrote:
> On 15-Aug-06, at 1:14 AM, Cormac Lawler wrote:
> > I very much agree with what I think Elian was saying, in that I think
> > NPOV is a useless concept when applied to research. If we stick to the
> > concept of NPOV (in all its ambiguity and complexity) we get nowhere
> > in actually allowing someone to test and apply their learning about
> > the world in an academic context. NPOV works for an encyclopedia - it
> > will not work (or, at least, not the same way) for a place of
> > learning.
> >
> > I don't know what kind of NPOV in research you were referring to,
> > Amgine - there is a whole range of complexity on doing and writing
> > research - and all academic research should be structured in a way
> > that does not compromise ethics, with a methodology that can be
> > justified, and be grounded in the appropriate literature (hopefully to
> > make some contribution to that literature). That's good research
> > practice - not NPOV. But yes, what we need to do, over the coming
> > months, is to create a framework and guidelines for good practice in
> > research, including ethical and methodological guidelines. That will
> > determine what kind of research will be hosted and what we are to do
> > with/about it.
> A research proposal or report will address the current state of the
> literature, presenting all relevant views on a given topic as well as
> the current scientific consensus. It will present its hypothesis or
> problem statement in a neutral manner, and justify the research. This
> includes research survey articles.
> After that it will explain how the research will be/was conducted,
> justifying the methodology. If it is a report it will then present
> the primary findings of the research, both predicted and unexpected,
> and in observational research it will discuss additional findings not
> part of the original hypothesis that were found while conducting the
> research.
> The conclusions drawn from the research in reports are carefully
> presented with arguments to justify them.
> In all of these elements of research NPOV is clearly an element of
> good research. It may not be explicit as it is in en.Wikipedia, but
> non-neutral research does not generally survive peer review at
> journals which is, after all, very much like a wiki.

Yes, your outline of research (and good practice) is fine - until the
assumption that all of that good practice constitutes NPOV. I
absolutely agree (not many wouldn't) that research needs to be
justified, but I have a problem (possibly simply semantic) with
requiring that research be "neutral". Even though a piece of research
needs to be grounded in what other people have done, it can take a
provocative stance, advocate that a system needs changing etc.
Furthermore, it is very much written from a point of view - a whole
set of assumptions about how the world works. Maybe I'm arguing for
something quite particular here, but most of the research i immerse
myself in does not exactly subscribe to a view of the world which can
be objectively described - or even, that the researcher is somehow
able to present the research or their methodology as somehow
"neutral". I have difficulties with the notion of "neutrality" in
Wikipedia (though it works well enough), but I have even more of a
problem with it when applied to research.

However, i appreciate what you are arguing for, and i fully agree with
it. We eventually need a system of peer review of research to be
hosted on wikiversity, as well as a community of researchers who are
prepared to provide constructive criticism on each others work. We
also need guidelines to help people starting out, as to what they
should be thinking about throughout their research planning and
fieldwork. If we need some sort of concept that equates with NPOV,
then we should think about that concept and give it meaning (as Jimbo
said, during Wikimania, that we have done with NPOV itself).

So, my parting thought is: What is that concept? What is Wikiversity's NPOV?


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