atom feed25 messages in edu.ku.nhm.mailman.taxacomRe: [Taxacom] The strain between Wiki...
FromSent OnAttachments
Gregor HagedornFeb 11, 2011 12:47 am 
Francisco Welter-SchultesFeb 11, 2011 4:45 am 
Nadia TalentFeb 11, 2011 5:42 am 
dipt...@freeler.nlFeb 11, 2011 6:14 am 
Francisco Welter-SchultesFeb 11, 2011 6:48 am 
Roderic PageFeb 11, 2011 9:45 am 
Doug YanegaFeb 11, 2011 10:32 am 
Francisco Welter-SchultesFeb 11, 2011 12:22 pm 
Curtis ClarkFeb 11, 2011 6:16 pm 
Stephen ThorpeFeb 11, 2011 6:29 pm 
k katMar 4, 2011 8:07 am 
Francisco Welter-SchultesMar 4, 2011 8:46 am 
dipt...@freeler.nlMar 4, 2011 9:33 am 
Peter DeVriesMar 4, 2011 11:23 am 
Stephen ThorpeMar 4, 2011 2:02 pm 
Stephen ThorpeMar 4, 2011 2:09 pm 
Peter DeVriesMar 4, 2011 7:12 pm 
Stephen ThorpeMar 4, 2011 11:14 pm 
dipt...@freeler.nlMar 5, 2011 12:23 am 
Stephen ThorpeMar 5, 2011 3:56 pm 
Jim CroftMar 5, 2011 4:12 pm 
Stephen ThorpeMar 5, 2011 4:24 pm 
Jim CroftMar 5, 2011 4:41 pm 
Stephen ThorpeMar 5, 2011 4:54 pm 
dipt...@freeler.nlMar 6, 2011 12:37 am 
Subject:Re: [Taxacom] The strain between Wikipedia and Science
From:Doug Yanega (
Date:Feb 11, 2011 10:32:41 am

Given that, after something on the order of 6000 edits, I have possibly done more editing of Wikipedia than any other contributor to this list (the top-ranked biologist on WP has done over 118000 edits, the second-ranked 68000, but I don't think they're on this list), I can address some of the issues here, though my experience is with the English WP, and perhaps there is a less civilized culture on the German WP, from Francisco's description.

Francisco wrote:

It is impossible to correct errors in Wikipedia, if these errors are repeatedly published in scientific publications, mainly in the secondary literature. It is extremely difficult to get an error corrected in Wikipedia even if this error was published only once in one single scientific publication - and the amateurs do not know that this publication is not significant, at least in what concerns this special statement.

One of the core WP policies - "Neutral Point of View" (NPOV) - is being misapplied in such cases. Yes, an erroneous statement, once published, cannot simply be removed by someone who knows that it is incorrect; that is one of the side-effects of true neutrality. HOWEVER, if something erroneous has been published and someone ELSE has published a statement declaring the work to be erroneous, then NPOV means that this criticism can be included, and cited. The actual policy: "All articles must adhere to the Neutral point of view policy (NPOV), fairly representing all majority and significant-minority viewpoints published by reliable sources, in rough proportion to the prominence of each view. Except in articles devoted to them, tiny-minority views need not be included. Where there is disagreement between sources, use in-text attribution: "John Smith argues that X, while Paul Jones maintains that Y," followed by an inline citation. Sources themselves are not required to maintain a neutral point of view; indeed most reliable sources are not neutral. Our job as editors is simply to present what the reliable sources say. "

Any editor who removes a citation to a critical reference (e.g., "Paul Jones maintains that Y") in order to preserve a discredited one (e.g., "John Smith argues that X") is guilty of an NPOV violation. If you revert their removal of the critical citation, and explain that their removal was inappropriate, and they remove it *again*, that can be drawn to the attention of administrators, who generally take a VERY dim view of "revert wars".

Some proportion of scientific knowledge has not been published at all, for example very simple and basic facts - it is occasionally impossible to mention such knowledge in Wikipedia.

If one reads the rules carefully, the policy is that common, easily-verified facts do NOT need to have citations given. Here is the quote: "To show that it is not original research, all material in Wikipedia articles must be attributable to a reliable published source. But in practice not everything need actually be attributed. This policy requires that all quotations and any material challenged or likely to be challenged be attributed to a reliable, published source in the form of an inline citation, and that the source directly support the material in question." and it gives the example: "Paris is the capital of France" needs no source because no one is likely to object to it, but we know that sources for that sentence exist."

Of course, there are jerks who challenge everything, even statements like "Paris is the capital of France" just to make themselves feel more important. If they are persistent, however, admins can rein them in, and even block their access or protect the articles they are screwing with.

Inconsistent application of different rules applied for WP contributors is also a problem - well-known members of the inner circles of the Wikipedia community feel allowed to publish anything they like, but a scientific expert who likes to contribute is forced to provide published references for every single statement. In cases of divergent opinions concerning a special question, the amateur who knows the rules and how to win such a case, will always win, regardless of the expert providing published references to support a view or statement.

They also feel free to delete every contribution they like. This has been addressed in the survey. The rule is that you can delete anything you like, just by saying "not encyclopedia relevant", without any consequences.

This is generally NOT true, because administrators are generally NOT tolerant of bad behavior. If you can solicit administrative intervention, even the most devious editors can be sanctioned. That being said, it can be difficult to persuade admins that someone is acting in "bad faith", and one must often know and be able to cite the core WP policies that are being violated in a particular case. In other words, admins do not generally care about the academic nature of a dispute, but - like a lawyer - if you tell them that NPOV, 3RR, and WP:OWN violations are taking place, then this will get their attention. You can even call for arbitration, and bad editors always lose when this happens.

I have been forced outside the biological section of the German WP community and today I contribute mainly to the English WP where such behaviour is less strongly developed, and I experienced more tolerance. I also learned that other German bioscientists were equally chased away, and they also started contributing to the English section. I would have wondered if this would have been my single personal problem.

This, again, makes it sound like the German WP is not populated by administrators who are genuinely interested in promoting and protecting WP's core policies. In every contentious case I have been involved in with the English WP, one way or another administrative intervention resolved the problem, and either sent the fools on their way, or forced them to actually play by the rules, instead of hiding behind them. Of course, for someone who is unable or unwilling to spend the time necessary to deal with administrators, this may not seem like such a great system ("Sure, I can eventually win this battle, but if it takes 2 months, is it worth my time?"). For me, the number of times I've had to go to such extremes has been very minimal - maybe a half dozen genuine problems in almost 10 years of editing - so maybe I've been fortunate in that regard, and you've been unfortunate.



Doug Yanega Dept. of Entomology Entomology Research Museum Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314 skype: dyanega phone: (951) 827-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's) "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82


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