Monday, October 3, 2011

Acetylcholine and our Academics an appeal to edit.

Interesting discussion this morning with an academic about improving scientific pages on Wikipedia.  This professor writes "I never met a single scientist who'd spent time on a wikipedia entry. They just don't have the time for that sort of thing (and having tried, I can tell then it isn't a job to be undertaken lightly!). For example, many of my colleagues have commented on how poor the entry on acetylcholine is. None has bothered to spend the week it would take to rewrite it properly (and then, it seems, go through interminable wrangles too)"

Interesting point!  But what I'm understanding here is that academics can not be bothered to improve the pages to educate the rest of us.  The hoop-jumping and "wrangles" that are needed on Wikipedia might be overwhelming indeed, but it is what it is.  Yes, it can be confusing.  Yes, it isn't probably what your used to in academia.  But it is important and it needs to be done.

I have been involved in the skeptical community since 2000.  The argument I keep hearing as to why our population is so scientifically illiterate is because scientists do not come out of their labs (and towers) long enough to explain to the rest of us what they are doing, in easy to understand words.  Science is awesome!  But non-scientists like myself don't always get that.  Yes, some scientists are not "people persons" and probably are best not lecturing in our children's classrooms.  We all have our skills.

I don't know how prevalent it is to respond to the above statement that scientists don't edit Wikipedia?  I'm hoping that isn't true.  Wikipedia readers are going to go to these scientific sites for information.  That is a fact.  What they find when they get there is probably all they are going to look at, if it is not correct (or incomplete) this is all the knowledge they are going to get.  Is that really in the best interest for our population?

I can spent two minutes on any psychic Wikipedia page and find the woo.  No problem.  I can spend two days looking over a page like Acetylcholine and not discover one problem.  We need our academics.  Please don't be frustrated with Wikipedia rules.  Ask someone for help.

Let me try one last appeal to our scientists... 

Acetylcholine - 63,750 hits in one month
Glutamic acid - 34,564 hits in one month
neuroscience - 36,151 hits in one month
stem cell -  89,676 hits in one month

Makes you really think doesn't it?  Usually when someone wants to make a difference they write a blog or a paper for publishing, that article is normally read only by like-minded people who are already on the bandwagon.  How often do we get to really speak to fence-sitters?  Think about it, 90K a month are going to the stem cell page hoping to understand what it is that their co-worker is going on and on about.  They aren't going to read an academic paper, they want to understand "does it work?" "can it harm me?" and they want to know quickly.  If they want further information THEN with some knowledge they can follow the links at the bottom of the page to the academic papers and blogs and so on.  That is how we change minds and make a difference in the world.

Do you really want non-academics editing these pages?  Please consider sharing your knowledge on Wikipedia.

One more thing... here is a blog written by female scientists who got together for a science editing session.  "... we discussed the experience of being a graduate student and how writing for Wikipedia compares to teaching undergraduates."


No comments:

Post a Comment