Peer-reviewing Wikipedia…

From an interview with James Heilman, one of the primary editors of Wikipedia’s health and medical content…

Wikipedia’s health-care content is made up of about 25 000 articles in English and this content is viewed about 200 million times a month. The articles range from a few hundred to more than 10 000 words in length. Wikipedia is currently the most used online health-care resource globally, as measured by page view and by unique visitors, and is used extensively by professionals and the lay public alike. It is the web site most used by medical students except for Google and it is consulted by most practising physicians in the developed world.

It’s easy to overlook Wikipedia as a vast repository of scientific information, and how much, for vast numbers of people, it is their first point of call for this information. What’s even easier to overlook is how much effort and time goes into making sure the information within its pages is up-to-date. No matter how hit-and-miss it may seem.

We have several efforts to improve the quality of the content. As part of one of those, we have selected 80 articles in English, each covering core health or medical topics, and we are working to raise these up to a professional standard. This work is followed by a semi-formal peer review by volunteers – so far we have completed 20 articles – and, finally, translation into as many other languages as possible in collaboration with Translators Without Borders. We have already begun translation into more than 30 languages and hope that we can eventually translate this content into all of the 285 languages in which Wikipedia exists. Some of our 80 core articles are also going through a more formal peer-review process via Open Medicine, our open-access journal artner. This means that some of the content will be indexed in PubMed and there will be opportunities for the authors to get formal recognition. If put together as a textbook, these 80 articles, would run to about 2000 pages. While Wikipedia contains much content supported by the Cochrane Collaboration, we are developing a mechanism to update this in a timely fashion. Several editors are also working to persuade more health-care professionals to join us in our efforts.

Source — January issue of the WHO Bulletin

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