The highly successfull Wikipedia is not the proper place for original research.
Hence the the idea of Wikiresearch, a project to do wiki-style scientific research: collaborative and under a free license.
Existing free text projects
- Wikipedia is a "free encyclopedia" being written "collaboratively" by many voluntary contributors from all over the world. Since 2001 over 260.000 English language and over 90.000 German articles have been written.
- Wiki: anyone with an internet connection can edit any article except for a few protected pages.
- Wikipedia's parent organization is the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit corporation organized under the laws of Florida. Copyrights of edits are retained by contributors.
- Articles are licensed under the GFDL and the MediaWiki software that the project runs on is released under the GPL. This makes sure the encyclopedia remains free. Anyone could start a mirror or a fork.
MediaWiki has quite some advantages over other wiki systems.
- No use of UpperCaseLinks or little icons to indicate existence of a link;
- Colors of links indicate whether it's an external link or an existing or still non-existing article;
- Edit history has an adequate diff function, which facilitates maintenance and makes eradicating wiki vandalism a snap;
- Modular WikiTeX system: possibility to incorporate rendered TeX objects;
- Section editing;
- Image rescaling;
- Message "transclusion";
- Use of namespaces to separate articles from discussions (Talk page), user pages and messages;
- Easy to find information about the structure, such as relationships between pages, wanted pages, pages with many or no links.
Some more free collaborative projects
- Wikibooks, for textbooks
- Wikiversity, a brand new "project geared towards learning"
- Disinfopedia: information about "PR firms, think tanks, industry-funded organizations and industry-friendly experts influencing public opinion and public policy on behalf of corporations, governments and special interests."
- Consumerium: free software and infrastructure for "storage, transport and display of product information to consumers and feedback to the producers to enhance the consumer experience, advance product development and to keep this planet as hospitable as possible in the future"}}. Most research is done directly on Wikipedia. Note that this not "original" research.
- CorpKnowPedia: Charting the corporate landscape.
- Wikitravel: travel guide under CC-BY-SA.
No original research
Wikipedia is not the place for original research such as "new" theories.
Not a primary source, but a
- secondary source: one that analyzes, assimilates, evaluates, interprets, and/or synthesizes primary sources; or a
- tertiary source: one that generalizes existing research or secondary sources of a specific subject under consideration.
A Wikipedia entry is a report not an essay.
Free information and Free Software
Threshold of joining free information projects is much lower.
- No "weird" syntax;
- Typos and spelling errors won't crash a computer;
- And many people can correct typos;
- Not necessary to be an expert.
- Translations into many languages;
- Requires an internet connection;
Both Free Software and wiki projects evolve like stone soup. But much more people are capable of adding their flavour to wikis.
Wikipedia: huge soup containing many ingredients, constantly boiling, and people constantly throwing in new ingredients.
Scientific institutes and the market
Neoliberal trend to private financing of science; according to neo-liberal theory this would lead to more useful knowledge and products.
However it leads to:
- Bias of resulting findings;
- Less cooperation, especially in commercially viable fields of science;
- Restrictions on results:
- non-free software;
- patents, possibly on software;
- file formats (such as MP3);
- knowledge about organisms (basmati rice), medicine.
In 1970s developers (mostly at scientific institutes) shared software like Free Software.
In 1980s software became more restricted, which caused RMS to start the GNU project, and to introduce the concepts of "Free Software" and "Copyleft", specifically devised to "give users freedom and to restraint the possibilities for privatization".
Scientific institutes make use of Free Software, however often also of proprietary software: e.g. MATLAB, on a GNU/Linux OS. No urge to move away from proprietary to collaborative model.
Scientists do create Free Software though, as paid work but more often in spare time.
- Many scientific articles are exploited by publishers, with use restrictions.
- More and more articles can be freely accessed online.
- Often online access is paid.
- Redistribution is hardly ever possible.
- Modification or reuse beyond simple quoting is out of the question.
Often publications discuss results obtained with software that is not freely available, only vaguely sketched in the article. This is problematic for falsificating or repeating the results.
Even inside institutions there is sometimes limited cooperation.
Wikiresearch - practical
First experiment of Wikiresearch has already been started at Wikibooks: Wiki Science, a study of the way wikis grow, change and adapt.
- Putting articles in Wikiresearch is to be encouraged;
- published as well as unfinished articles;
- articles rejected by journals and conferences might contain slightly too original research and can be improved at Wikiresearch.
Accompanying source code should definitely not be under the GFDL. It is better to use a copylefted free software license, preferably the GPL.
Maintainership and responsibility
MediaWiki software allows to restore previous versions and see which user (or IP address) changed what.
Until now the various Wikipedia projects have experienced relatively little vandalism.
Regular users with a login often check what has been changed and by whom, where anonymous edits are regarded with a bit more suspicion.
Certain Wikipedia pages are attractive to vandalists, but these pages are also checked very often by regular contributors.
For original research things could be a bit more tricky. Time and a functional system will tell how much of a problem vandalism will be on a research wiki.
Author-itarian vs. anarchistic
Author-itarian --- Anonymous
Hierarchical --- Anarchistic
Having only a bunch of main authors, or rather authorities would go against the wiki principle and it probably wouldn't lead to the amount of participation that can be attained with a more anarchistic model.
GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL) is a good choice since it ensures licence compatibility with the existing GFDL text corpus.
In principle it's possible to have pages with different license than the "encouraged" license.
Attribution of the writers is to be ensured though. This is good for tracing back the original author and is a way to avoid legal plagiarism.
For a Creative Common license this would mean that the Attribution option needs to be picked. Extra options, like ShareAlike or NonCommercial would mean text can't be incorporated in GFDL projects. NonDerivative goes against the entire idea of working in wikistyle.
The Debian project considers both the GFDL as well as the Creative Commons Attribution license to be non-free. Some prefer not to use a copyleft in order to provide the most freedom that is possible.
Mathematics is most adequate for Wikiresearch. Almost entirely based on strict proofs, with little room for opposing viewpoints.
Some biological research has already taken place at Wikipedia, on color blindness.
Experiments with test subjects it can be done on Wikiresearch. Questions, test pictures and test sounds can be placed on the wiki. And there will be enough test persons if there is need for a heterogeneous sample of the general population (which is common for many psychological tests anyway).
History and such are often about defending a specific point of view, which is less adequate. Wikipedia or Wikibooks is a proper place when it is written from a neutral point of view.
Since late 19th century English has become by the most important language for both scientific and political affairs.
Wikipedia is already worked on in over 80 languages. Polyglots translate information from one language into another and even very small language communities can work on extending a knowledge base in their own language.
Research can be translated from English, or any smaller pivotal language, into other languages and research can be undertaken in any other language and translated into a pivotal language later.
Traditionally science and scientific texts state the names of the authors more or less prominently. Wiki projects tend to anonymize texts; on MediaWiki wikis authors are usually only mentioned in the page history.
- Not attractive for most "established" scientists;
- Attractive to:
- people who haven't finished their studies (yet) -
- or haven't even started them;
- people who chose a different career path;
- or scientists that want to work on fields completely different from what they are known for.
If a research wiki can attract a sufficient number of qualified people the wiki can probably qualify as a system equal to peer review. The difference is that peers aren't chosen among a small group of highly respected people. This can lead to both more original research as well as more charlatanesque works.
A lot of work can be done on improving Wikipedia articles, that can also be used as a clear definition for general concepts.
Results could take the form of a Wikibook, be used on Wikiversity, or even on Wikipedia.