Re: Wikipedia, Open Access and Cognitive Virology

From: Benjamin Geer <benjamin.geer_at_GMAIL.COM>
Date: Sun, 16 May 2010 17:39:01 +0300

Stevan, if the Wikipedia article on OA is inaccurate, why don't you correct it
yourself?  That's the whole idea of Wikipedia.


On 16 May 2010 14:05, Stevan Harnad <> wrote:
      David Goodman was a valuable early voice in this Forum, and he is
      one of the rare Wikipedia volunteers with academic expertise.

      David is right that OA and Wikipedia are different and not mutually
      exclusive, but he does not address the point I was making, which is
      that "whatever limited reliability and accuracy it has," Wikipedia
      comes up invariably as the first hit for google users globally. That
      means that "whatever limited reliability and accuracy it has" has a
      huge impact. So in the special case of Wikipedia's (now rather
      sprawling and mangled) entry on "Open Access (publishing)," the fact
      that the amalgam of anonymous posters and anonymous adjudicators has
      resulted in classifying OA as "OA publishing" does indeed
      report what is published [inaccurately] elsewhere" but it amplifies
      by orders of magnitude (instead of correcting it).

      To put it another way, if the problem is the confusion and
      of OA with OA Publishing, then Wikipedia is a part -- a whoppingly
      part -- of the problem rather than the solution.

      Now I too consult Wikipedia now and again. (How can I fail to do it,
      since I consult google, and google keeps thrusting the Wikipedia
      on my search term, if there is one, to the top of my hit list
      [probably accurately, according to google's PageRank metric]?) And I
      acknowledge that, despite the anonymity, arbitrariness and frequent
      unreliability and inaccuracy, Wikipedia is often surprisingly
      and useful too. Go figure.

      But Wikipedia's frequent accuracy and usefulness does not (in my
      counterbalance the fact that it is frequently unreliable and
      inaccurate too, particularly in view of the fact that it is perhaps
      now the single most widely consulted information source on the
      Insofar as the coverage is about rock star trivia or game cults, the
      unreliability is inconsequential; but when it comes to scientific
      scholarly information, it matters.

      And in the particular case of Open Access to scholarly and
      information, Wikipedia has managed to canonize the most widespread
      misunderstanding about it -- by "accurately [re-porting] what is
      published [inaccurately] elsewhere," only much louder (and without
      noting that it is incorrect): that OA = OA Publishing.

      Stevan Harnad

On Sat, May 15, 2010 at 9:55 PM, David Goodman <>
> Stevan is quite correct that Wikipedia  is  very different from OA, but
they are not alternatives; rather, they have a different functions
entirely--appropriately so.
> OA is about the primary publication of research results, and therefore
like all primary academic publishing relies on original research writing
by academic specialist researchers who take personal responsibility for
the accuracy and reliability of their work, and ensures this by expert
peer-review.  Wikipedia is an general purpose encyclopedia for general
readers, edited by group processes, makes no pretense to do more than
accurately report what is published elsewhere, specifically excludes
original research, lets no person control an article, and bases whatever
limited reliability and accuracy it has on group editing by anonymous
volunteers. There is no power for any individual or group at Wikipedia to
control or adjudicate content; the administrators deal only with conduct,
and with carrying out group decisions.
> It's not the only way to do a freely-available encyclopedia: Stanford
Encyclopedia  of Philosophy for example relies on experts taking personal
reliability, and is a suitable source for scholarly purposes. Wikipedia is
not suitable for scholarly purposes, and does not pretend to be--it's
strength is it's extremely broad (albeit usually superficial) coverage.
> There has been an attempt at a general purpose free non-scholarly
encyclopedia  but with expert peer-review: Citizendium. It has never
attained adequate momentum, perhaps due to the difficulty of getting
sufficient academically qualified people to work on a cooperative project
without tight centralized editorial control and yet not insist on
expressing their personal views.
> For my own view on the OA article in WP, see
> David Goodman, Ph.D., M.L.S.
> previously:
> Bibliographer and Research Librarian
> Princeton University Library
> now,
> one of the 800 active volunteer administrators at Wikipedia
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_ECS.SOTON.AC.UK>
> Date: Saturday, May 15, 2010 9:17 am
> Subject: [AMERICAN-SCIENTIST-OPEN-ACCESS-FORUM] Wikipedia, Open Access
and Cognitive Virology
>> On Sat, 15 May 2010, Barbara Kirsop [Electronic Publishing Trust for
>> Development] wrote:
>> > What is very confusing about [the SAGE survey's] call for
>> feedback is
>> > the title ["Open Access Publishing"].
>> >
>> >
>> > I do not understand the phrase 'Open Access Publishing'. Open
>> access is
>> > about 'access'. It is not a publishing process. The title should
>> refer to
>> > 'open access journals'. The use of the phrase 'OA publishing'
>> reinforces the
>> > idea that OA is about publishing and this is one reason why 'OA
>> repositories'> are often left out of the equation. With the title
>> provided it is unlikely
>> > that anyone will think it is about OA repositories.
>> >
>> > Those I respect in the OA world tell me I am being pedantic, but
>> it is
>> > little things like this that cause confusion to newcomers to the
>> debate. I
>> > make a plea that we stop using the phrase 'open access
>> publishing' and use
>> > 'open access journals' or 'the publishing of open access
>> journals' instead!
>> Dear Barbara, you are in no way being pedantic!
>> You are quite right that the relentless (and mindless) tendency to
>> refer to (and think of) OA itself as "OA Publishing" instead of
>> just OA
>> (thereby completely conflating and confusing Green OA self-archiving
>> with Gold OA publishing) has been an endless source of
>> misunderstanding,misdirection and, worst of all, delay in the
>> progress of OA.
>> A high-profile accomplice in the perpetuation of this constant
>> canard is
>> the entry for "Open Access" in Wikipedia, Google's ubiquitous "top
>> hit"(hence always the top hit for "Open Access" queries).
>> Originally the Wikipedia entry was entitled "Open Access," as it
>> shouldbe. But then some of the self-appointed vigilantes ("trolls")
>> in the
>> bowels of Wikipedia -- mostly anonymous individuals with plenty of
>> time on their hands who accrue the "power" to adjudicate and legislate
>> Wikipedia items and disputes not through expertise in the subject
>> matter but "recursively," through cumulative air-time in
>> adjudicating and
>> legislating! -- decided to rename the entry "Open Access
>> (publishing)." So
>> there you are.
>> Why did they do it? It's Wikipedia's usual fetish, which is that
>> "notability" -- perhaps "notoriety" is a better descriptor -- always
>> trumps truth (or expertise): The tendency to see OA as synonymous with
>> OA publishing is in the air. So, by the air-time criterion, instead of
>> clearing the air, Wikipedia just compounds the error, by canonizing
>> it.
>> Wikipedia could have disambiguated the various different senses of
>> "OpenAccess" helpfully by using something like "Open Access
>> (Research)" but
>> -- against all attempts (including by myself) not to have the entry
>> for"Open Access" re-named "Open Access (Publishing)" -- it has been so
>> re-named for several years now. (The history of the "debate" is still
>> in the entrails of Wikipedia, for the intrepid to read, but I'm afraid
>> the error is now too entrenched by troll-power to correct. Like
>> politicians, trolls tend to dig into their misjudgments and misdeeds,
>> not dig out of them.)
>> Wikipedia itself (notably, hence notoriously) is in many ways the
>> "alternative" to OA in (too) many people's minds. Wikipedia is not
>> only anonymous and not peer-reviewed, it is (aside from some recent
>> ambivalence on this score) "ideologically" opposed to peer review
>> (adjudication by qualified experts). In contrast, OA's primary target
>> content is peer-reviewed research papers. ("Peer Review" is another
>> descriptor that has been excised from the Wikipedia definition of OA's
>> target content, despite repeated corrections: The trolls will not
>> abideanything like that!)
>> So there we are: OA's biggest canard and nemesis, being daily,
>> cumulatively, canonized and amplified by Wikipedia, riding the
>> recursivetide of its own notability and notoriety (as an infectious
>> virus,cheerfully propagated by the denizens of Wikipedia).
>> I expect that this posting will elicit stout defenses by Wiki-
>> Warriors,but be forewarned that this Forum is devoted to Open
>> Access (Sic),
>> and discussion on Wikipedia ideology rather than OA pragmatics will be
>> foreclosed, as such digressions tend to drive off the mainstay of this
>> Forum who have been faithfully following the evolution of OA since
>> 1998...
>> Stevan Harnad
>> > ----- Original Message -----
>> > From: "Jakes Rawlinson" <brajakes_at_GMAIL.COM>
>> > Sent: Friday, May 14, 2010 9:49 AM
>> > Subject: Re: FWD: Please share your opinion on open access
>> publishing>
>> >
>> >>  SAGE publisher also send me this message:
>> >>
>> >>  "Your views on open access publishing are needed!"
>> >>
>> >>  I share your misgivings about the project, but I also completed
>> the survey
>> >>  and used the free-text spaces extensively to get my point of
>> view across.
>> >>  May be if enough people can provide input in this manner, it
>> might get the
>> >>  message across - or am I just being naive?
>> >>
>> >>  The message originated from SAGE (as mentioned), as I'm on
>> their mailing
>> >>  list for 'freebies'! I have little access to scientific
>> literature, so I
>> >>  have to use freebies as they come along!! Are they the same as
>> 'Springer',>>  or was SAGE's name left out not to make the conflict
>> of interest too
>> >>  obviuos?
>> >>
>> >>  Best,
>> >>
>> >>  Jakes

Received on Sun May 16 2010 - 16:09:52 BST

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