Monday, December 22, 2008

RNA Biology

The magazine RNA biology announced that they are requiring researchers publishing research on families of RNA molecules in the journal to write a Wikipedia article summarising their findings. The notion is that the paper in the magazine is original research and the Wikipedia article that will also be peer reviewed, will be a summary.

There are several problems:
  • Wikipedia is an encyclopaedia with different subjects linked by hyperlinks. It is not a collection of summaries of scientific articles. This means that information that is relevant in one research paper is likely to find a home in many Wikipedia articles. This makes a traditional peer review, where the review takes place before publication, problematic if not impossible.
  • The proposed Wikipedia article is a summary of a scientific paper. Scientific papers do not provide a neutral point of view and they should not be neutral. For Wikipedia NPOV is essential and people get banned for pushing their point of view.
  • The subject matter is so specialised that a typical Wikipedia admin will not be able to judge it. This allows for a lot of misunderstandings and conflict.
  • Writing a scientific article and writing a Wikipedia article requires different skills. Wikipedia serves the general public and its articles should reflect this. A different vocabulary, a different style of writing is required.
I think there is a need for more discussion before this actually starts happening.

NB the article that proposes this is a paid for article in Nature, there is also a press release about this.
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