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Proposal:Journal (A peer-review journal to allow/encourage academics to write Wikipedia articles)

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This proposal is associated with the bolded strategic priorities below.

  1. Achieve continued growth in readership
  2. Focus on quality content.
  3. Increase Participation.
  4. Stabilize and improve the infrastructure
  5. Encourage Innovation


A proposal to establish a peer-reviewed journal to allow/encourage academics to write articles and receive academic recognition for them – increasing the breadth of content offered by Wikimedia, the quality of content in Wikipedia, and Wikimedia's standing in the academic world.


  • How to encourage academics to contribute to Wikimedia projects?
  • How to increase the amount of good quality articles in Wikipedia?


To demonstrate the work they have undertaken (to funding organisations, to their university, for promotion, for their professional reputation) academics require:

  1. to be named as authors of their work,
  2. that their work be their own rather than a mass collaboration,
  3. that their work be in an academically reputable publication,
  4. structured peer review.

A further issue is that the cost of publication in many open access journals is more than many can afford.


Wikipedia currently has no way of addressing any of these issues due to the very nature of the “anyone can edit” thesis. This alienates a large number of academics who are already very interested in learning about and contributing to Wikipedia but have difficulty justifying it as legitimate work. Quite simply, academics in many countries/institutions must earn “points” each year to prove they’ve been working and thereby justify to government why their institution should continue to receive funding. The points system is an effort to provide a fair comparison between qualitatively different fields of academic inquiry, but in practice can turn academia into a numbers game. Some things that earn points are publishing a book, teaching courses and writing scholarly journal articles. One thing that certainly doesn’t earn points is helping to maintain the quality of the content on Wikipedia in the academic’s area of expertise; this is despite the fact that that is precisely where 90% of their students will turn to first to get some background information.

Much open-access publishing requires the author(s) to pay a significant amount of money. This places publication out of the reach of many, especially from the developing world. Thus, a large portion of academic knowledge / potential is lost to the paywalled literature.


“The Wikipedia Journal”


The creation of a peer-reviewed scholarly e-journal. The journal would publish material in a number of formats:

  1. Academics would be encouraged to write encyclopedic articles / review articles on their area of expertise in accordance with our editorial principles (including neutral POV, verifiability and no original research) and the Wikipedia manual of style. Their article would be submitted to a public peer-review process (i.e. with the reviews being public, though reviewers may choose to remain anonymous), as per the best-practices of academically-rigorous journals. Reviewers would be both relevant academics and also experienced Wikimedians, e.g. a Wikipedian who had been a major contributor to a featured article on a similar topic. The final articles would be published in an edition of The Wikipedia Journal”, ready to be merged into the existing Wikipedia article on that topic.
  2. This proposal would build on the experience with "WikiJournal" on Meta (the purpose of which is to encourage Original Research scholarship) and "Wiki Journal" on WikiVersity/Wikia (the purpose of which is to publish articles about Wiki-related scholarship). Articles would be tagged by whether they are a review or primarily research.
  3. This site could also be a central repository for all suitably licensed open access publications, with a copy of each publication added to this Wiki with appropriate attribution. Thus, if any of these open access publications were to fold/fail/suffer internet problems, a copy would be held safe.

The subject matter would be focused during a pilot phase and then opened up more widely in two main ways:

  1. in part from Wikipedians’ demand for expert input on a topic (e.g. articles high on the importance scale but currently low on the quality scale) and,
  2. in part from academics’ interest in participating (e.g. to legitimately integrate their previously published research into Wikipedia).

If there were enough content to warrant it, the Journal could have themed editions (e.g. January edition = Psychology, March edition = Astronomy) or each edition could be broken up into sections based roughly along the academic faculty structure (Commerce, Law, Medicine, Humanities, Engineering…).

The journal itself would, of course, be gold access, under the CC BY license, and be registered with an ISSN. It is probable that the journal would gain academic prestige (or at least notoriety!) due to three factors:

  1. the number of reputable scholars who have indicated their support for Wikipedia (and might conceivably be willing to write for the journal) giving it credibility by association;
  2. the likely very high citation impact of the journal (a corollary of the popularity of Wikipedia itself) and our ability to give precise statistics on hits, click-throughs and utility (via the currently-being-tested “reader feedback” extension);
  3. the virtually unlimited scope of Wikipedia would mean that any academic in any discipline could potentially write an article for the Journal.

Articles, once published and if of an encyclopedic format, could then be merged into the existing Wikipedia article (or a new article created if one did not exist before) and appropriate attribution placed in the external links section of the Wikipedia article to the Author and journal edition. Also, it might be nice to have a talkpage template indicating that an academic had made substantial contributions to the article. *Hopefully* the newly refurbished Wikipedia article could then be taken to Featured Article candidacy relatively quickly.

Other benefits of The Wikipedia Journal

  • reducing / eliminating the cost barriers to "open access" publication due to Wikimedia servers being funded by donations and content creation being run by volunteer editors
  • a different media format for people to be able to access the free-culture content of the Wikimedia movement;
  • increased credibility to the Wikimedia movement;
  • an increased awareness in academia about free-culture generally and about Wikipedia’s editorial standards/requirements specifically;
  • an entry-point for recruiting academics to improve Wikipedia. After all, authors would have an incentive to monitor the progress of their article once it was merged into Wikipedia and might continue editing more broadly;
  • a product scalable to multiple languages/areas of expertise/countries at minimal cost to Wikimedia funds.
  • public version control would allow to follow knowledge in a given area as it unfolds


To be given up-front academic legitimacy, the journal would need to be sponsored by an academic research funding body(s) (e.g. the Australian Research Council) and perhaps also reputable research-based universities. Research funding may be needed to employ an editor (see below) and a university required in order to provide a workspace and employment administration (insurance, superannuation, etc., assuming a chapter or the foundation couldn’t/wouldn’t/doesn’t supply these things). The journal could be set up as a project of a Wikimedia chapter, of the foundation, or independently of any existing structure – after all, anyone can write Wikipedia articles! It would nevertheless, require trademark approval from the foundation. Academic legitimacy is much more important here than the funds themselves but the funds would be useful if for no other reason than it avoids having to use money donated by individuals to the Wikimedia movement to pay for it.

It is possible that the research funding organisation would require that the journal be of specific benefit to the research community of that nation, in which case it would be a matter of accepting subjects that were demonstrably of national relevance and/or only accepting authors of that nation’s universities. For example, if the Australian Research Council–funded/sponsored the Journal then it may require that the articles be in some way related to the Wikipedia category:Australia (or one of its many many sub-categories) and /or be written by an academic employed at one of the Universities in Australia. If this restriction was placed upon the Journal, then that would simply give greater impetus for many of the Wikimedia Chapters to organise for funding in their own countries, resulting in a whole series of Journals!

The Journal could be administered using the Open Journal System (which is, of course, F/LOSS) and published on an instance of Media-Wiki (perhaps at journal.wikimedia.org or at a sub-domain of the sponsoring Wikimedia Chapter or of the sponsoring university). Articles, editions and volumes could be downloaded in PDF/ODF etc. Articles would have a named author and author biography and they would have flagged revisions enabled in such a way that people would always see a version approved by the author (of course, the article would be available for editing at the equivalent Wikipedia article to which it would be linked). The official editions would be archived in journal databases such as google.scholar, and the Directory of Open Access Journals.

The Role of the Editor:

I suspect that this project would require one person whose responsibilities would be to:

  • find authors and find peer-reviewers;
  • manage the editorial workflow;
  • copyedit and wikify the text;
  • manage copyright permissions;
  • publish and distribute the editions through various forms (blog, email, notification at relevant wiki-projects/academic newsletters);
  • ‘hand-hold’ academics/reviewers to explain Wikipedia’s editorial style,
  • encourage the conversion of Journal articles to Wikipedia articles and (hopefully) have them listed for Featured Article status;
  • report to the Wikimedian and academic communities about the project’s progress at conferences, media etc.
  • answer the phone… Having a contactable person you can talk to might be a more comfortable way for some to approach wikipedia rather than through OTRS, mailing lists or talkpages.

Future Potential/Alternative Models:

If demand/funding warranted it the journal could be a series of separate journals for specific topics (e.g. Molecular Biology, Paleontology, Constitutional Law…) and/or in different languages. The former could be achieved through partnership with specific research institutes that would be willing to provide the academic credibility/sponsorship to the publication whilst the latter could be achieved through the support of the Wikimedia Chapters and various nations’ research funding organisations. Indeed, it is quite possible that a whole network of peer-reviewed Wikipedia Journals might be established to cater for different languages and different areas of expertise, all categorised at journal.wikimedia.org. It could even become a project that each Wikimedia Chapter sponsors in its own country/language.

Potential Costs

Ideally, the cost of hiring the editor and providing facilities for their work would be borne by an academic grants organisation and/or the co-sponsoring university. The project would be hosted on a Foundation or a Chapter website and this would entail hosting fees, but this is minimal and covered by the Wikimedia Movement.

Community Discussion

Do you have a thought about this proposal? A suggestion? Discuss this proposal by going to Proposal talk:Journal (A peer-review journal to allow/encourage academics to write Wikipedia articles).

Since this was first written, there has been a fair bit of feedback on the original blogpost, it looks like the idea is coming clearer. The Journal would be peer-reviewed, not commissioned. The Journal would be broad ranging in subject area rather than being discipline specific (at least to start). It would not necessarily need research funding, merely the funding and academic legitimacy provided by a university. It would need a strong and well respected editorial board - this will be the trickiest thing to put in place.


A similar non Wikimedia site has been set up for medical content called Open Medicine

Iceaxe5 (talk) 12:56, 24 April 2012 (UTC)––

Want to work on this proposal?

  1. --Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 03:17, 27 September 2011 (UTC) (I have approached a number of established journals to see if they where wanting to do this for science articles. The Journal of Medical Internet Research has taken me up on the offer. Further details)
  2. Looks promising! Supten (talk) 12:49, 29 March 2012 (UTC)
  3. Definitely I will pledge my humble support to this initiative.Drtb (talk) 18:05, 30 March 2012 (UTC)
  4. Manu Mathew (talk)- Would love to work on this idea. 22:08, 30 March 2012 (UTC)
  5. Count me in - and we should include something about this at our Coventry study day in August Sharkli (talk) 23:16, 30 March 2012 (UTC)
  6. I could help wikify and this would also help me with a project I am working for with Wikimedia New York City. Peter.C (talk) 00:50, 1 April 2012 (UTC)
  7. I am very interested in that and have proposed a Wikimania session on the topic. The exact composition of the panel is still in flux, and suggestions are welcome. I am also involved with the Topic Pages at PLoS Computational Biology. -- Daniel Mietchen - WiR/OS (talk) 22:28, 1 April 2012 (UTC)
  8. I'm in as well - look forward to taking this ahead Wiki sc (talk) 13:35, 2 April 2012 (UTC)
  9. Sound quite interesting. --Oop (talk) 11:31, 7 April 2012 (UTC)
  10. A worthy initiative, looking forward to contributing. Sasata (talk) 18:44, 23 April 2012 (UTC)
  11. You've got our team's vote to work on this proposal, which includes our Journal's Editorial Board and initial invited author list. This includes approximately 20 internationally known public health experts. We are prepared to shift our Journal to WMF's platform from a website we've created on our end. Projected release date is Sept 1, 2012, however we can accommodate WMF's schedule. -James Wilson, M.D.
  12. I am quite interested in this concept, even though I still see a number of issues --WiseWoman (talk) 13:28, 30 June 2012 (UTC)
  13. Definitely interested as my boss just asked me to set up some kind of course for teachers with Wikipedia (no not terribly well defined but this just happened so Im looking for ideas.Thelmadatter (talk) 14:55, 30 June 2012 (UTC)
  14. This is needed. More venues for wiki studies = good thing. -- 22:40, 30 June 2012 (UTC)
  15. Would love to help in anyway possible Peter.C (talk) 21:55, 3 August 2012 (UTC)

References 22:41, 2 July 2012 (UTC)David C. Van Metre, DVM, DACVIM, Colorado State University