[Foundation-l] The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia (from the Chronicle) + some citation discussions

Achal Prabhala aprabhala at gmail.com
Wed Feb 22 18:42:44 UTC 2012

On Wednesday 22 February 2012 08:08 PM, Fred Bauder wrote:
> Journals pose a particular problem as they are often, as in the case of
> the three journal articles in this case, behind pay walls. Those are peer
> reviewed, while his book by a commercial publisher has not received
> academic reviews.
> Someone did send me a copy of one of the academic journal articles. But I
> have yet to see the other two which cost quite a bit.
> Fred

I was a student at really well-resourced US universities for a short 
part of my life and then spent the rest of it in far flung parts of the 
third world with little access to the kind of knowledge I had access to 
while in the US - a situation that continues here in India - and so I 
particularly identify with the access problem you've raised. Journal 
corporations like Reed Elsevier and services like JSTOR and Project Muse 
provide negligibly small entry to non-paying consumers outside their 
traditional base - rich universities in the US, Europe and a few other 
parts of the world.

This creates a weird anomaly, reflected - I am sure - on Wikipedia. Open 
Access journals - and just generally, any knowledge resource whose text 
is available to see freely on the internet - probably gets far more 
citation use on Wikipedia and elsewhere than a journal behind a paywall. 
(And in many ways this is really good - the reward for sharing or going 
OA is greater circulation and more citations).

But I can't imagine that either closed journal companies or closed 
journal article authors are pleased with this. If enough of us see some 
value in it, I wonder if we can ask someone at the Foundation to 
negotiate with these services for some kind of preferential/free access? 
Perhaps a limited amount of free browsing with a registered Wikipedia 
login or something like that. It would certainly help the work of 
editing - both in terms of citing well as well as in terms of looking up 
that citation or checking up on it. The journals market is so 
centralised, there are literally two companies and two services to talk 
to for just about everything under the sun.

A related problem is what currently happens to material on Google books. 
You follow a citation link on a Wikipedia page, say to a particular 
page, and you find that the page in question is disbarred - as it has 
not been made available under the (usually minimal) free page views that 
the copyright holder of the book has authorised Google to allow. This is 
a shame because my understanding of the situation is that even when 
something like 10% of the book is allowed to be seen, the Google books 
process is somewhat random, and doesn't necessarily include the one page 
you want in your session. But - if this were technically possible and if 
someone at the Foundation was interested in talking to Google about this 
- if each Google books citation link from Wikipedia were to assuredly 
take us to that page (assuming some minimal viewing permission, so this 
wouldn't apply to books where the copyright holder has provided *no* 
permissions) then that would be really helpful for editors, both those 
making the citation as well as others checking up on it. (And probably 
turn a lot of the non-linking citations to pages in a book into links 
that take you somewhere).

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