Friday, 19 December 2008

Scholarly Wikipedia?

Earlier this year a colleague complained that she had recently returned from a meeting of reference librarians held in a certain nameless (hint - some would say souless) planned city to the north, and the day was spent with the (insert collective noun for reference librarians) bitching and moaning about Wikipedia. The crux of the complaints was that they saw Wikipedia content as biased, lacking in authority, simplistic, and basically not as good as what would be delivered by a good reference librarian. (What's that I hear - the sound of users voting with their feet.)

So without passing judgement on these reference librarians (after all I wasn't at the meeting, and all the reference librarians I know actually use Wikipedia) I was interested to read on ReadWriteWeb that the scholarly journal "RNA Biology, has decided to ask every author who submits an article to a newly created section of the journal about families of RNA molecules to also submit a Wikipedia page that summarises the work. As Nature reports, this is the first time an academic journal has forced its authors to disseminate information this way."

According to the ReadWriteWeb post, "Every new Wikipedia page will go through the same peer review process as the original article, though afterward, of course, the pages are open for editing just like every other page in the Wikipedia."

It will be interesting to see if this is an important shift in the way in which scholarly information is disseminated. It will also be interesting to see if this actually makes scholarly information more accessible to the wider community. I can just see school and university students sneaking their Blackberries and iPhones into exams to look up Wikipedia for answers. Oh the ingenuity of digital natives!

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