[Foundation-l] Paid editing, was Re: Ban and moderate

Andreas Kolbe jayen466 at yahoo.com
Sun Oct 24 14:20:46 UTC 2010

--- On Sun, 24/10/10, SlimVirgin <slimvirgin at gmail.com> wrote:

> >> By excluding high-quality media sources you're elevating the lowliest
> >> scientist as a source, and the vested interests that finance the
> >> research, above the most senior and experienced of disinterested
> >> journalists. That makes no sense to me.
> >
> > The specific case raised here, the BBC is, sadly, not a high quality
> > source for science reporting, being notoriously even worse than the
> > typical run of the media.
> >
> > (Wonder if I could cite Ben Goldacre on that.)
> >
> > Though their recent move to linking to original sources may help.
> In the example I gave I cited both the BBC and the original study, and
> it was still removed.
> How do we handle articles about drugs if we're not allowed to use the
> mainstream media? Removing them leaves those articles almost entirely
> reflecting the position of the pharmaceutical industry, which is the
> funder and beneficiary of much of the research.

It swings both ways, doesn't it. Present consensus is that the MMR vaccine/autism controversy was without merit; by giving it undue weight, we may have discouraged parents from having their children vaccinated, and may have contributed to multiple deaths. Measles outbreaks had practically disappeared; now they're back.

Our first basic job in writing an encyclopedia is to reflect the scholarly literature that exists on a topic. That is how encyclopedias are written. A Wikipedia article shouldn't look like a press review if there is a significant amount of scholarly literature on a topic. 

Having said that, we should also note, in a disinterested tone, the existence of any notable controversies in the public consciousness, making clear who says what, and on what basis. The high-end media will be indispensable for that.

A few weeks ago, I proposed updating en:WP's verifiability policy with the following wording:


Academic publications, such as peer-reviewed journals and books published by well-regarded academic presses, are usually the most reliable sources in topic areas where they are available. Non-academic sources may be used as well, particularly if they are respected mainstream publications. This includes books by reputable publishers as well as newspapers, magazines, journals and electronic media.

The appropriateness of any source depends on the context. In topics which are the subject of scholarly research, the most authoritative sources are academic works that have undergone scrutiny by a community of experts in that field. Quality mainstream media are equally valuable sources for areas such as current affairs – including the socio-economic, political, and human impact of science – or biographies of living persons. In general, the best sources have a professional structure in place for checking or analyzing scientific findings, evidence, facts, and legal aspects; the greater the scrutiny given to these issues, the more reliable the source.


That wording has attracted a significant amount of support, but SlimVirgin fears it will further move the balance towards improperly excluding media sources.


It's not an easy thing to get right; the discussion on the WP:V talk page (which also includes a variety of alternative proposals) could benefit from wider input. 



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