There are already academic outlets to distribute research findings, so why use Wikipedia? This list summarizes how Wikipedia can help you and your research.
1. Visibility. Wikipedia is currently the seventh most popular website in the world, just beneath Amazon.com. By comparison, NIH.gov (which includes PubMed and NCBI) ranks down at about 350th and arxiv.org is 12,000th. The accuracy of its information has been scientifically verified. In the internet age, Wikipedia is the front lines of public education.
2. Opportunity. Google your research topic, and chances are a Wikipedia article will be among the top hits. Wikipedia articles are one of the first places people look when investigating a new topic. Many articles are practically empty, which gives you as an editor a unique opportunity to discuss your published work in an otherwise crowded playing field.
|Wikipedia is the top Google hit for "atmosphere", as for many research topics.|
3. Your Words - No Limits. Unless your research was featured in the New York Times, no one is likely to cite it on Wikipedia except you. And since you're the expert in your research, you're also the perfect person to do that. Academics frustrated with the long road to publication or waiting for a review invitation may be pleasantly surprised at the immediate gratification of authoring or editing a Wikipedia article.
4. Public Education. Historically, academic journals are for-profit and not open access. In contrast, Wikipedia is free for the public. Summarizing and disseminating your research on Wikipedia establishes a direct connection between you and the public who is funding the research. In an age when publicly funded research is increasingly under scrutiny, Wikipedia creates a deliverable for taxholders in the form of freely available information.
5. International Reach. Most journal articles are in English, but an increasing number of scholars speak English as a foreign language. For such researchers, the prospect of wading through densely-worded primary research articles can be laborious and time-consuming. Wikipedia provides an easy summary for foreign academics in your field to learn about your research. In addition, Wikipedia articles can be authored in any language, so foreign scholars familiar with your research can disseminate it to their colleagues.
6. Meta-analysis. Wikipedia articles can be freely edited by anyone, have an unlimited number of contributors, and last forever. Each Wikipedia entry is therefore a forum for experts in the field to come together, post their individual findings, and agree on how to resolve those findings with minimal bias. Wikipedia therefore presents a new way to analyze, integrate, and update research, unavailable in any journal. It’s like a review article written by twenty experts which never goes out of date.
7. Interconnectivity. The ability to hyperlink different entries and pieces of data creates an organizational hierarchy which places your research in context of existing knowledge and connects it to existing and emerging fields. By contributing to Wikipedia, you are writing the textbook of the future.
8. Intellectual Fulfillment. Being an editor of Wikipedia is a fun, challenging, and rewarding experience. It will help you learn to summarize your research in an unbiased, accessible way. After you’re done wikifying your thesis, you may feel empowered to edit other Wikipedia entries about topics that matter to you. Wikipedia is one of the most important sources of information for the public. The more scientists edit Wikipedia, the better educated the public will be.
9. Certificate and Publicity. If you wikify your research and inform us about it, we'll send you an official certificate, plus a nifty sticker which will make your labmates green with envy. You can list your participation in the Wikipedia Research Editor Corps under the community service section of your CV or Biosketch.
10. Wikipedia needs us. Wikipedia is not cluttered with advertising. It is a small non-profit which relies on volunteers like you and me to write its articles. If we don't put science on Wikipedia, no one is going to do it for us. If we don't correct public misconceptions on Wikipedia, those misconceptions will be held. There is no guarantee Wikipedia will last forever. Contributing academic expertise to Wikipedia will increase the value of this public resource and its accuracy, as well as our voice.