Monday, September 30, 2013

Credit for Articles

As a lifelong hypochondriac, I often use Wikipedia to look up diseases and medical conditions.  Some of the articles are lengthy and somewhat technical and seem reliable, but most of the time, I have no idea whether the information is good or bad.  I then turn to a site with vetted content, such as WedMD or the Mayo Clinic; both of these sites are directed at laypeople, and tend to be rather superficial, at least in my experience.  Today I read about a new initiative from the University of California at San Francisco; fourth-year medical students will be able to earn academic credit at UCSF by editing Wikipedia articles, adding images, reviewing edits made by others, and adding citations where needed.  Eighty articles are targeted for improvement; these are articles that tend to be accessed often (they are on important subjects--tuberculosis, syphilis) but lack citations and have uneven content.  The project, which is part of Wikiproject Medicine, will help medical students learn how to communicate better with their patients, which would certainly be a good thing.  Today's New York Times has an article that provides more details about the initiative. 

Reading about the project made me wonder if a similar project undertaken by a law school would improve the quality of legal information on Wikipedia.  The opportunities and challenges would be similar in both fields.  One major difference would be the intended audience.  Wikiproject Medicine is aimed at a global audience as a way of disseminating reliable medical information to people who might not otherwise have access to it.  Such a project undertaken by a U.S. law school would necessarily be limited in scope.

1 comment:

Betsy McKenzie said...

What an interesting idea, Marie! My daughter once challenged me on why law librarians weren't posting on Wikipedia, and pointed out what great information was there - very accessible and easy to follow for the layperson. I must admit that she was right. I don't know who is putting it up as wikipedians, but they actually are doing a pretty good job on the legal posts.