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Wikipedia ‘is ideal tool’ to measure dissemination of science

Wikipedia ‘is ideal tool’ to measure dissemination of science

Times Higher Education

Pola Lem
September 13, 2023
Wikipedia could prove an invaluable source in charting the output of scientific knowledge as it diffuses into the public discourse, argue the authors of new research.
Rona Aviram and Omer Benjakob, whose findings were published on 13 September in the journal Plos One, combed over thousands of iterations of articles in the online encyclopedia related to the gene-editing technology CRISPR, which served as a case study into how scientific findings influence Wikipedia entries.
Dr Aviram, a researcher at the Paris-based Center for Research and Interdisciplinarity (CRI) and at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, and Mr. Benjakob, a CRI fellow and investigative journalist, found that science played a significant role in how Wikipedia articles changed over time.
The evolution of Wikipedia articles – how users tweak text, removing older phrasing and links even as they add new ones – is a largely untapped resource for researchers to document the “incremental growth of knowledge” and ways in which scientific knowledge “accumulates and translates into public discourse”, they say.
While there exists a body of research evaluating which citations make it into Wikipedia, the researchers say the method used in their study goes deeper, looking at how the text itself changes over time.
“Imagine we could see a scientist’s revisions on their papers. That would be the equivalent of what we’re doing,” said Mr Benjakob, likening the technique to an “MRI of the scientific consensus” – a cross-section of knowledge in the way that magnetic resonance imaging scans show a detailed picture of internal organs.
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