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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This initiative is great: Wikipedia aims to summarize all of human knowledge, and that isn't going to happen without involving the research community to a much greater degree.

The RNA Journal policy only applies to review articles describing RNA families, requiring the author to write a Wikipedia article about the family. Just like our articles about protein families, these new articles are needed and important.

I agree with you that the specialized nature of the information poses difficulties, and that the articles should be written from an NPOV standpoint in simple language aimed at laymen (without watering down the content). Wikipedia deals with those issues all the time.