This assignment was a proposal that I had to write for English comp. The proposal is how to make Wikipedia more viable. As we all know Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that has a slew of information and acts as a form of reference for many individuals. However, Wikipedia can be edited by just about everybody. Because of this it is essentially shunned by the academic community at large. I have been specifically instructed not to use Wikipedia as a reference for any research papers. I asked myself “why not?” and that’s what led to this proposal. My instructor believed that this would be a good idea to actually submit to the administrators of Wikipedia to see if it would be a possibility. Here’s that proposal minus the coversheet and page numbers.
How Can Wikipedia Be Considered More Valid
As a new student in an accredited university I have had to learn many new things. Things that I haven’t had to do in a long time like research papers, and things that I have never done before like research utilizing the Internet. Before, whenever I wanted information for a show on television or wanted information on the company that produced it, I would go to http://www.wikipedia.org. Today, if I wanted to research a certain subject, I am told that I can use any research site I want except Wikipedia because of the way it was started.
Wikipedia and other non-profit encyclopedic web sites are changing. Many may say that because anything can be changed with a keystroke, and the less popular a page is the more likely that “improper” information is seen, reference material on Wikipedia and sites like it are invalid. What I propose is a certification to make it valid. Wikipedia has changed the way they do things by adding citations. If a page does not have a citation then Wikipedia informs the reader that the information needs a citation. All that would be needed is some form of “stamp of approval” so that a user can know that this page has valid information and may be used as an official reference. If a certain page that has earned approval and has been found to release unaccredited information, then you can pull the certification and the offending page would need to reapply.
In regards to the approval process, once a page is submitted for approval, a member of academia who is considered to be a “subject matter expert” in that particular field would review the information and the citations provided to ensure that the information is valid. For example, a published professor of Paleontology could verify a page that has information concerning paleontology. A widely accepted and renowned physicist could verify a page that has information regarding physics, and so on.
Since there are many members within the academic community, the frequency of validation could be weekly or monthly depending on when the page was edited. I leave the frequency of validation and selection of validators up to the academic community because I feel that I am unqualified to do so. People are still free to edit sites like Wikipedia. However, they need to make sure that their information is cross-referenced and supported elsewhere. There would need to be a banner on the page and on the front page of Wikipedia informing the user weather or not they are allowed to use that page as an official resource.
I would like to take a moment to show both how Wikipedia is changing and cite a couple of individuals who inform their readers to check out a certain link using Wikipedia. When looking for information regarding the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, you can enter this title on the front page of Wikipedia and the corresponding page loads up. The first sentence is this information with APA format citations added by me. “Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) is a NASA infrared-wavelength astronomical space telescope launched on December 14, 2009.” (Ray, 2008; Clavin, Dunbar, Whatmore; 2009) After this section is a series of small numbers that are hyperlinked to the numbers within the reference section at the bottom of the page.
Because there are three separate references for this statement I have seen fit to place the references on the reference page under the heading Wikipedia. These references will follow other references from individuals informing their readers to reference Wikipedia.
Now I would like to give a quotation from an individual who advised their readers to “look it up on Wikipedia”. A NASA Astrobiologist named David Morrison. On his column for the NAI called “Ask a Astrobiologist”, David Morrison (2012) states, “The South Pole Telescope was supported by the National Science Foundation, and it is a radio telescope, not an optical instrument. It cannot take images or photos. You can look it up on Wikipedia”. He then provides the link to the information.
Even though this one quote doesn’t constitute overwhelming advice to use Wikipedia as a credible resource, here is an excerpt from an article by Dan Fletcher in Time Magazine on the difference in accuracy between the Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia in regards to their science pages. Dan Fletcher (2009) states that, “While a 2005 study by Nature found that Wikipedia’s science entries came close to matching the Encyclopedia Britannica‘s in terms of accuracy — with 2.92 mistakes per article for Britannica and 3.86 for Wikipedia”.
Here are just a couple of examples of how Wikipedia is changing. One example shows that even one scientist is recommending Wikipedia to his readers and the other example shows how one magazine within printed media is showing how close the accuracy level is between Wikipedia and one of the most honored encyclopedias of all time. I know it’s not much but hopefully it can give some food for thought.
Fletcher, D. (2009, August 18). a brief history of wikipedia. Time, Retrieved fromhttp://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1917002,00.html
(Morrison, D. (Last updated, 2012, September 07). Nibiru and doomsday 2012: Questions and answers. Retrieved from http://astrobiology.nasa.gov/ask-an-astrobiologist/intro/nibiru-and-doomsday-2012-questions-and-answers
(Clavin, Whitney (December 14, 2009). “NASA’s WISE Eye on the Universe Begins All-Sky Survey Mission”. NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Retrieved December 26, 2009.)
(Rebecca Whatmore; Brian Dunbar (December 14, 2009). “WISE”. NASA. Retrieved December 26, 2009.)
(Ray, Justin (December 14, 2008). “Mission Status Center: Delta/WISE”. Spaceflight Now. Retrieved December 26, 2009.)