Submissions/The fount of all knowledge - wikipedia as the front matter to all research.

From Wikimania 2014 • London, United Kingdom

This is an accepted submission for Wikimania 2014.

This session will take place at 09:30am on Saturday, August 9, in Auditorium 1.

The slides that we used for the session -

Submission no. 6017
Title of the submission

The fount of all knowledge - wikipedia as the front matter to all research.

Type of submission (discussion, hot seat, panel, presentation, tutorial, workshop)


Author of the submission

Cameron Neylon, Ian Mulvany

E-mail address,


cameronneylon, IMulvany

Country of origin


Affiliation, if any (organisation, company etc.)

PLOS, eLife

Personal homepage or blog
Abstract (at least 300 words to describe your proposal)

This discussion focuses on how Wikipedia could become the entry or discovery point to all significant research for the general public, and for scholars who are working just outside of the topic of interest. For most people, even researchers from closely related areas, summaries and explanations of a piece of research can be a crucial means both to discover and to begin to get into a new piece of research.

Currently overviews of research topics are supported through two mechanisms: reviews and “front matter” content. A review is a systematic summary of a field, written by an expert. These go out of date quickly, particularly in rapidly moving areas of research. Front matter is “News and Views” pieces, often found at the “front” of scientific journals that explain newly published research and put it in context. This often includes a discussion of explaining how the research is an important advance and its broader societal implications.

Both of these functions could easily be provided in a more up to date and scalable manner by tapping into a global community of experts. Wikipedia articles are often the top web search result for initial queries in many research areas and these articles are a major source of traffic for scientific journals. As the first port of call for many users of research and a significant discovery route the potential for Wikipedia as a form of dynamic, expertly curated “front matter” for the whole research literature is substantial. This facilitated discussion session will focus on how this role could be enhanced, what is currently missing and what risks exist in taking this route.

Challenges that need to be discussed:

  • Does all the research need to be CC-BY?
  • Is there enough CC-BY content available to perform this function, by exclusively building only on top of CC-BY content?
  • How do you avoid the creation of highly technical summary articles, for instance those that seem to pervade the mathematical articles in wikipedia? Conversely how do you avoid “dumbing down” in those areas where there is already high quality technical content on Wikipedia?
  • Are the principles of “Wikipedia Front Matter” sufficiently general to cover all scholarship or should the issues be tackled at a disciplinary/domain level?
  • Is granting of individual credit a requirement, and should you do that even if you could (this question is proposed in
  • Can extending the project be the basis of making this idea a reality?
  • Can we learn anything from cases where OA journals and research institutes such as the EBI have seeded articles in wikipedia already?

Cameron Neylon is Advocacy Director at the Public Library of Science, and is one of the original signatories of the altmetrics manifesto, Ian Mulvany has been involved in building Connotea, Nature Network and Mendeley and he is currently head of technology of eLife - a not for profit Open Access Publisher.

* Open Scholarship
Length of session (if other than 30 minutes, specify how long)
30 minutes
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  1. IMulvany (talk) 15:49, 31 March 2014 (UTC)[reply]
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