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Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Open Access Research and Wikipedia

The March 2007 edition of First Monday contains an article titled "What open access research can do for Wikipedia" by John Willinsky. Willinsky looks at how increasing the amount of external links to open access peer-reviewed journals will 'enrich and enhance' the content available on Wikipedia as well as increase the incentive to publish in open access forums.

The study examines random samples of Wikipedia articles and looks at the number and nature of sources available, open access references and open access potential. Willinsky suggests that "if Wikipedia were to form more of a public access point to this research and if public expectations around this “see for yourself” posture increases, then researchers and scholars may well have a greater incentive to make their published work open access."

Willinsky concludes:

"Wikipedia, in this way, can begin to act as more of a gateway to learning and knowledge, in addition to being a ready reference source. To further link these parallel ways of contributing to knowledge’s public sphere speaks to nothing less than the human right to know what is known. Finding ways of bringing these new approaches to knowledge into closer proximity and association can only strengthen and extend that commons in both its democratic and educational dimensions."
Improving the authority of sources (or putting in sources in the first place) would clearly be a tremendous improvement to Wikipedia. Reinforcing the idea of Wikipedia as a portal to other sources provides even greater incentive for wiki editors to do this. Students and academics can not (or at least should not) cite Wikipedia, and yet, it is often be the first place many people look. It would be very useful if Wikipedia could reliably be used to locate relevant external authoritative literature.

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