Proposal talk:Legitimizing a Scholarly Collaborative

From Strategic Planning


I think this proposal would be incredibly costly as well as moving away from a scalable project. A rough estimate, if every article took ten minutes to review on average, and required one review per year, this would need roughly 250 employees working full time just to review the 3 million articles in en:WP. Salary alone would be at least 15 million USD per year, plus any administrative overhead. (For the math inclined, 3*10^6 [articles]*10 [min/article]/(60 [min/hour] * 40 [hours/wk] * 50 [wks/yr]) * 60000 [USD/yr] = 15 million USD.) I would guess this is a 20 million USD proposal with managerial staff, facilities, and other overhead costs. This cost is prohibitive without a funding plan.

The value of Wikipedia, and Wikimedia projects in general, is that they are scalable. The servers are a minimal cost and do limit growth to a degree, but otherwise new volunteers means a new mix of talents: some administrative, some technical, some editorial, some (ideally most) interested in content. Paid staff of this magnitude and focus is a limit on growth. In a sense, it has already been tried: Encyclopaedia Britannica. Wikimedia needs to differentiate itself from this approach.

On the positive, I do think legitimizing Wikimedia projects for academic audiences is valuable. (Shameless plug for my own proposal, Proposal:Improve interfacing with academia.) While I agree with the goal, I am not convinced this is the approach to use. --TeaDrinker 03:42, 15 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]

It can be privately funded. Different sources of money can be available, than the ones Wikipedia gets. Funding is a major concern, though. The legitimacy of this initiave will folter, if for instance, proponents of Intelligent Design will become major funders. In the present setup of Wikipedia, the volunteers have the power. So, there must be reliable financiers.Daanschr 07:28, 24 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]


Why? The reliability issues were weathered about 2005, when WP was low quality in relation to today. Now that it has a fairly acceptable quality as regards to many encyclopedian articles ¹), and is richer in number of entries than any existent encyclopedia, I still should say that one shall never use Wikipedia as a citation source when writing school articles. As it was before the emergence of Wikipedia and even Internet, students could cite major encyclopedias, and were allowed to. I should say that also is a bad thing, as long as primary research sources and secondary analysis sources are available, to be reached from the References and the External links parts of the articles.

¹) encyclopedian articles hear means articles about topics that use to occur in encyclopedias, WP has, as said before, much-much more, some of it pretty trivial...

One should always treat any encyclopedia with suspicion, the commercial and proprietary ones might be biased by an egghead professional that writes POV like unacceptably, they're not clean from bias, quite the contrary. POV is less of a problem in Wikipedia, the intolerance against POV is high, the trouble is that the texts might here and there be confusedly written by confused editors, and that the article entirety is mangled. Using the links provided and reading carefully and critically, a student can get a better balanced overview over the topic.

Wikipedia should strive for NPOV, credibility and readability, not for legitimacy. Legitimacy would require some kind of organisation that includes election of expertise, expertise that might be lower quality than expected, and after being elected is hidden behind the rules of expertice for exercising their POV. And what kind of experts are to be elected for areas such as Astrology, Parapsychology, Homeopathy and Crypto-zoology? Should we drop all details in those topics in order to attain some kind of legitimacy? I instead think we should permanently drop the idea of legitimacy, since I would have a hard time correlating en:Western Astrology (which I BTW doesn't quite believe in, and at times get very annoyed at) with en:Babylonian Astrology (which is irrelevant to me, except that it provides a lot of old astronomical constellations some of which survive today) Rursus 12:47, 18 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]

Legitimacy? YES!

Rursus, I completely disagree with your statement. I have read and heard similar statements and my feeling is that such responses are reactionary and not based on the present context. Legitimacy is not only important, but it should be a goal to which Wikipedia strives for constantly. (Other Wikimedia projects strive for it, so why not this one.) Lack of legitimacy is at the core of Wikipedia (WP) being an accepted source.

Wikipedia claims to be an encyclopedia (I am not being sarcastic). As a result, it must fulfill certain standards- credibility, reliability, etc. in its presentation of “human knowledge”. These are the same for any encyclopedia, no matter the format. They all need to be encyclopedic. One only needs to view the goals and principles of Wikipedia to verify this.

I agree that all encyclopedias should not be cited or be the primary source for serious research. They all should be viewed with suspicion, but suspicion comes in degrees (as is NPOV). Wikipedia is viewed with more suspicion because of certain characteristics and policies that directly affect its credibility, reliability, and other components of its “encyclopedia-ness”. As a consequence, its legitimacy as an encyclopedia is also affected.

Once legitimacy is affected, its acceptance by some of the very people for which it is created, is withheld. Among that group are people in academia, for whom WP’s purpose as a reference source is controversial. Any proposal that can reasonably and meaningfully incorporate them into the collaborative process is much welcomed and necessary if Wikipedia is not to digress into irrelevance.

This proposal may not be the best or only means to accomplish it, but it would not be as difficult as you outlined.GMJ 04:05, 20 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]

Legitimacy? NO!

If you have ever found the content of articles on controversial topics to be maddening as a result of interest groups or cliques "capturing" the article, just think how you would feel if Wikipedia were captured by an academic priesthood. If you think that refereed academic journals are open to all degree-bearing scholars regardless of their disagreement with the prevailing academic fashions you have not been paying attention to academia. In some cases there are refereed journals for a diversity of opinions of controversial topics but they will usually be journal A for POV A and journal B for POV B. There are Socialist and Austrian School economics journals which agree on next to nothing, yet both would be considered reliable sources. There are biology journals that flatly contradict assertions in feminist journals, and so on.

By turning over controversial subjects to an official priesthood, only one point of view is likely to be represented, depending on which creed gets the upper hand. There is a lot to be said for the kind of consensus democracy that has served Wikipedia to date. Applying the Wikipedia virtues, any serious and persistent Wikipedia 'amateur' can get a hearing for reliably sourced contrary opinions. If deleted today, there is always next week or next year. Where else does that happen so broadly and consistently?

Also, it's not like there are no online alternatives to Wikipedia. For example, in Philosophy there are the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Better to encourage university-based topical encyclopedias and let Wikipedia do what only Wikipedia can do.—Blanchette 20:56, 5 October 2009 (UTC)[reply]

Who ?

The problem Rursus pointed out will not only affect areas that are not much studied by academics (astrology etc. but also all kinds of "popular culture" : who's gonna be the expert-judge regarding video games ?), but also very well-established fields like history, literature, etc. It would expose Wikipedia to the bias of a small number of people, which is IMHO far worse than the evils of the "laissez-faire editing". Also, it goes against the principles of Wikipedia, IMHO : yes, Wikipedia claims to be an encyclopedia, but many encyclopedias with editorial comittees, peer-review, and reliance on "experts" already exist. Why try to make another, at the risk of slowing down, if not completely freezing, Wikipedia's dynamism and specificity ? --Tovarich1917 22:13, 20 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]


Generally, i am sympathetic to the idea. The lack of quality of many articles has nearly caused me to leave, and i hardly edit articles lately. I don't know if this is the right solution, though. I believe more in stimulating discussion using literature and expert knowledge. An ideal article would be one in which there has been a genuine discussion on the most relevant literature of a topic. Instead of a company forcing its own view on articles (can this articles still be edited afterwards by everyone?), it works better to force editors to first read papers, articles and books and than discuss these, still keeping NPOV-policy intact.

When an article has been dealt with in this way, there is the problem that the quality can be lost due to editing by individual editors. I don't like to lose that ability. Instead, a collection of frozen articles can be created, which can exist next to the still editable article on the same topic. This way, the entire structure of Wikipedia can still continue to exist, but the expert made material will co-exist next of it.Daanschr 07:22, 24 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]

Hey, I agree with you, which is the reason why I have stopped editing altogether. The compromise you offer will be deemed ineffective because it sets a hierarchy between those articles that are scholarly reviewed versus those that are not. But the most important reason is that it goes against the prevailing Wikipedia culture. So I can predict the this proposal and any like it will be unsuccessful.GMJ 03:10, 27 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]

Regarding my proposal, it depends on how the scholarly article is being written. It can be written in such a way, that it is less accessible to the wider public, for instance by focusing heavily on describing the debate or on details. The editable article would be more accessible by using more popular language and an easier to read format.

I wonder how such a company, as proposed, will be accepted by the Wikipedia community. There needs to be an open, cooperative character without power abuse or too much bureaucracy. I am afraid such a company will suffocate Wikipedia. The biggest threat would be the paid contributors who fight to stick with their job and income without contributing anything positive.Daanschr 08:09, 27 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]

GMJ, suppose your proposal will not make it, perhaps we can cooperate in the future. The difference of opinion we have is in the method, not the goal.

I am active on Wikiversity, so if Wikipedia can't be changed for the better, Wikiversity could play a role in increasing academic values. For instance, articles of academic quality can be stored on Wikiversity with a link on Wikipedia articles. At the moment Wikiversity is very small and uneventful. But at least it is part of the wider Wikimedia Foundation and Wikipedia.

If you don't like the Wikiversity option than i volunteer to try again to improve Wikipedia from the inside.Daanschr 15:02, 31 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]


Experience so far suggest that this will be counterproductive. The really bad example is the Tree-of-Life project on the English Wikipedia, which effectively is a collaborative operating to exempt the members from the NOR-, NPOV- and Verifiability-policies. The results are atrocious. However, there are other collaboratives which mainly add to the bureaucracy. - Brya 06:54, 26 August 2009 (UTC)[reply]


Some proposals will have massive impact on end-users, including non-editors. Some will have minimal impact. What will be the impact of this proposal on our end-users? -- Philippe 00:12, 3 September 2009 (UTC)[reply]

Responding to the need for scholarly legitimacy

Wikipedia emerged precisely from the need to allow people who were not "experts" to be allowed to contribute the knowledge without certification. In the motivation section it assumes the goal is to make allow more academic [to be] willing to accept it as a scholarly source, thus providing far greater use for this group. Certainly, it would be a good idea if Wikipedia could be considered a worthwhile source for all users, but I think the models are not compatible.

Currently Wikipedia is open and accessible to all and empowers a voice of all users, including those not certified through a degree granting institution. The implementation of this proposal as written would recreate the model of other encyclopedias and sources, in which a number of people would be granted the power to determine what is authorized and unauthorized information. Thus diminishing the current role of Wikipedia's open access model.

In agreement with previous comments, I'm not sure that the certification of Wikipedia as a a legitimate source by the academic community is an important nor desirable goal. Already, Wikipedia is used in colleges and even by academics on an informal basis. The fact that legitimization has become an issue at all shows that it is impacting academic activity, even if indirectly. The critical issue seems to be a concern about controlling who is allowed to have a voice on particular issues within Wikipedia.

Additionally, academic oversight and control of content would not necessarily improve the reliability of the information on Wikipedia, nor does it improve the independent critique and verification of the information. A huge amount of the information that academic experts use to make their decisions of reliability are built on sources with restricted access, such as journal articles that very often can only be accessed through payment or affiliation with an institution of higher learning.

I do think there is a valuable aspect to having scholarly collaboratives. I think it would be a good thing if academics created scholarly collaboratives that focused on improving the information that already exists. I think that if experts had official structures that increased their commitment to active editorial role in the already existing Wikipedia, the information and reliability these articles can only improve. I do think that this scholarly voice should have to share itself with the already existing voices, who have made Wikipedia the informative source that it already is. If such collaboratives were seen to provide valuable content, the information they add to Wikipedia should stabilize quickly as the global community would clearly recognize its merit in the marketplace of ideas.

Finally, I do not believe that the Wikimedia foundation should directly subsidize such activity. If there is a need amongst the academic community increase Wikipedia's scholarly legitimacy, those who have this concern need to marshal the resources to address it. --Wtfiv 18:17, 26 September 2009 (UTC)[reply]

I agree. Many universities have compulsory modules on Academic research, often in the first year (UK). The students learn how to cite, reference and provide an accurate overview of competing arguments. Universities should be approached and encouraged to "adopt" a selection of articles that are relevant to course subjects. Students would select an article (or selection) and improve it. The edit history could be submitted as coursework, so students work could be assessed on their contribution. Students wouldn't be cutting and pasting from Wikipedia to produce an essay but be improving citations and references. --Alchemist Jack 12:15, 28 September 2009 (UTC)[reply]

An alternative Solution

Most of the time we talk about how we should freeze the content after it been edited and review but i don't know why this would have to take place. People can always copy the original(frozen copy) and edit it anyway they like and remove any point of view bias they may talk about. I made a proposal for a "Multiple revision for wiki (basic,advance)"(at least i think I did) not showing up in the proposal list ,probably because i just created it to adress this very issue.


people often talk about how to fund for the auditing process. I always like the option for user to choose to allow a few Google add to pages which would help pay for some of it. The big thing i think they should do is start a membership program to address this very issue.

I would like to see something on the donate page that says help expand the wiki buy because a paid supporter to day.

With something like the following as a feature list of benefits

  • You help keep keep the wiki accurate.
  • You git to vote on which articles you what check for accuracy
  • you git to vote on which articles you what expanded but professionals
  • you help wikimedia grow
  • many more

Privatizing Wikipedia?

I don't agree with this proposal, eventhough I do agree to it's concerns. This proposal is (atleast in my vision) about privatizing Wikipedia, which is it's death centence. There is more than enough private websites, and anybody can create a website of his own. The key for its advanture is that everyone can edit, and we are looking about we can "advance" Wikipedia even more, and not about to limit it. The key for all that is in Proposal:Academic Peer Review -layer and even better in Proposal:Add or redesign tab for original research.

Use technical improvements and user guidance to enhance academic credibility

I think that this proposal has a worthwhile goal, but needs a better way to get there. To create a properly peer reviewed, reliable, citable form of Wikipedia, consider the following.

  • Wikipedia articles are channels, not static text. Using an article link (e.g. ) as a reference in a term paper or other scholarly work is just like referencing the National Geographic Channel. The same show may not be playing there tomorrow. Students should be instructed that if they truly can't avoid the temptation to cite Wikipedia, at least they should make a citation from the article history (like ), preferably enhanced by a human-readable description (e.g. Wikipedia article "Global warming", last edited by Raul654 at 04:58, 11 October 2009).
  • Wikipedia is a search engine. Any fact a student wishes to cite from Wikipedia should - hopefully - be associated with some inline citation that can be pursued.
  • Wikipedia is a source of last resort. As a rule, students should be expected to make the effort to dig out the original, reputable, peer reviewed journal articles that support their facts. Still, in some cases that may just be impractical. Sources may not be freely available, and interlibrary loans may not be practical for classroom assignments. A link to a dubious but traceable source is better than nothing, and it may also be better than pressuring the student to omit an interesting idea.
  • Wikipedia could become more than a last resort, if versions could be cited that are known to be fairly reliable. That requires:
    1. A specific historical version of the article is reviewed in its entirety by one person, not just edited in one small segment
    2. The person doing the review is qualified to do so
    3. The reviewer is permitted to chop out any portions of the article which he feels are irrelevant or has difficulty assessing, without concern for vandalizing Wikipedia as a whole
    4. Some index of reviewed versions is available, which can be consulted by readers.
None of these actually require changes to the software. The reviewer can indicate that he went over the whole article by a comment in the edit summary; he can document his credentials on a user page; he can chop out portions for a historical edit and then revert his changes; and the index of previously reviewed versions might be implemented as a simple "navbox". However, it would be more elegant if the underlying Wiki software were modified to permit the submission of a "reviewed version" - simply an edit that includes a statement that the entire article has been reviewed, links automatically to credentials, and allows the deletion of sections (or other content changes) only for the purpose of creating a new historical revision, without having any effect on the current version of the article. Mike Serfas 10:23, 11 October 2009 (UTC)[reply]