Journal: Wikipedia as accurate as
study covered side-by-side comparison of scientific topics
10:28 a.m. EST (15:28
SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) --
Wikipedia, the encyclopedia that relies on
volunteers to pen nearly 4 million articles, is about as accurate in
covering scientific topics as Encyclopedia Britannica, the journal Nature
wrote in an online article published Wednesday.
finding, based on a side-by-side comparison of articles covering a broad
swath of the scientific spectrum, comes as Wikipedia
faces criticism over the accuracy of some of its entries.
ago prominent journalist John Seigenthaler,
the former publisher of the Tennessean newspaper and founding editorial
director of USA Today, revealed that a Wikipedia
entry that ran for four months had incorrectly named him as a longtime
suspect in the assassinations of president John F. Kennedy and his brother
appear to be the exception rather than the rule, Nature said in
Wednesday's article, which the scientific journal said was the first to
use peer review to compare Wikipedia to
Britannica. Based on 42 articles reviewed by experts, the average
scientific entry in Wikipedia contained four
errors or omissions, while Britannica had three.
"serious errors" the reviewers found -- including misinterpretations of
important concepts -- four came from each source, the journal reported.
pleased with the results and we're hoping it will focus people's attention
on the overall level of our work, which is pretty good," said Jimmy Wales,
who founded St. Petersburg, Florida-based Wikipedia
said the accuracy of his project varies by topic, with strong suits
including pop culture and contemporary technology.
That's because Wikipedia's stable of dedicated
volunteers tend to have more collective expertise in such areas, he
tends to lag when it comes to topics touching on the humanities, such as
the winner of the Nobel Prize for literature for a particular year, Wales
Wikipedia plans to begin testing a new
mechanism for reviewing the accuracy of its articles. The group also is
working on ways to make its review process easier to use by people who
have less familiarity with computers and the Internet.
Encyclopedia Britannica officials declined to comment on the findings
because they haven't seen the data. But spokesman Tom
Panelas said such comparisons, assuming they're conducted
correctly, are valuable "because they tell us things you wouldn't know
Britannica officials have publicly criticized
Wikipedia's quality in the past, Panelas
praised the free service for having the speed and breadth to keep up on
topics such as "extreme ironing." The sport, in which competitors iron
clothing in remote locations, is not covered in Britannica.
researchers plan to review the Nature study and correct any errors
discovered, Panelas said.
Britannica, which charges for its content and pays a staff of experts to
research and write its articles, Wikipedia
gives away its content for free and allows anyone -- amateur or
professional, expert or novice -- to submit and edit entries.
Wikipedia, which boasts 3.7 million articles in 200 languages, is
the 37th most visited Web site on the Internet, according to the research
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