October 28, 2007

 

The 1st Russian Wikiconference has been held in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on October27—28, 2007. The key topics included the current state of science entries in Wikipedia, their reliability and usability, and the role that the scientific community might play in the Wikipedia development. Ilya Martchenko was among the speakers.

Wikipedia is an online information repository that anyone can edit and improve. According to the Nature's empiric study [1], English Wikipedia «goes head to head» with professionally checked Encyclopaedia Britannica in terms of science articles' quality. Wikipedia quickly expands and gains popularity, but is still criticized for possible mistakes and inaccuracies.

However, a growing interest in Wikipedia from the scientific communities indicates that the project is possibly developing towards a confident and rapid reference tool, and an information organizer in general.

Russian Wikipedia now has over 2∙106 articles. English Wikipedia, the largest language edition, has over 2∙107 articles.

Talk on the «Verification» project

V. K., a researcher in nuclear physics at the Institute for Experimental and Theoretical Physics (Moscow), and Vladimir Medeyko, one of the earliest Russian wikipedians (Saint Petersburg), have co-authoreda report «Reliability of Information in Wikipedia: Trusted Sources and the „Verification of Articles“ Project».

According to their talk, Wikipedia requires more trusted and cross-checked sources than a typical research article. However, despite all efforts, it is still possible that a random user adds false or flawed information. A launched «Verification of Articles» project aims to remove obviously mistaken pseudoscientific contributions and to prepare bibliographical lists of sources that would be mostly useful for those who search for certain information, want to contribute to Wikipedia with an article, or want to cross-check an existing entry.

«While readers consider Wikipedia as the direct source of correct information, participants of the project believe that the Wikipedia is primarily a well-structured catalogue of relevant links», V. K. and Vladimir Medeyko said.

The reporters have discussed the recent proposal of German wikipedians to mark scrupulously verified articles with a proper template. As in the software development, each article may exist in a «current» version and in an «older but well-verified»or «stable» version.

«An interesting coincidence, or tendency, is that both participants of the „Verification“ project are experimental physicists. With such a poor statistics we can not make serious conclusions. However, arises an assumption that that the working style of experimental physicists, when writing scientific papers, mostly corresponds to the procedure of articles verification„, V. K. noted.

“It is easier to prevent the desease than to cure it, thus the best would be if proper references are added to the articles since the very beginning», authors concluded.

Talk on the finding and learning scientific terminology

Ilya Martchenko (Saint Petersburg State University) has presented a talk «Multilingual Wikipedia: a Language Aid for a Physicist and a Scientific/Technical Translator», focusing on how Wikipedia may be useful in finding and checking scientific terminology.

According to this study, the mechanism of interlanguage links is largely analogical to a terminological dictionary and has good chances of becoming more convenient and reliable. Thus, adding scrupulous interwikis is very important. An example of possible inaccuracies has been discussed: speed/velocity (English) — vitesse/vecteur-vitesse/célérité (French) — szybkość/prędkość (Polish) — скорость (Russian).

«From the point of view of a reader who searches for a brief reference, such as a correct translation, Wikipedia doesn't only provide him with a word (like a dictionary does), but gives a rapid access to relevant articles, external links, formulas and illustrations. That is what a specialist needs», Ilya Martchenko emphasized.

Round tables

The «Wikipedia and scientific community» round table, held on October 28, was among the most motivated. The discussed topics included:


[1] Giles, J. Internet encyclopaedias go head to head. Nature 438, 900—901 (2005).