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Saturday, September 10, 2022

Wikipedia articles: Quality and importance rankings

Wikipedia has a way of assessing the quality of articles that have been posted and edited. The rankings are somewhat confusing and it’s hard to find the complete list of quality categories so I’m putting a link to Wikipedia: Content assessment here.

There are six categories ranging from FA (featured article) to C.

Monday, September 05, 2022

The 10th anniversary of the ENCODE publicity campaign fiasco

On Sept. 5, 2012 ENCODE researchers, in collaboration with the science journal Nature, launched a massive publicity campaign to convince the world that junk DNA was dead. We are still dealing with the fallout from that disaster.

The Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) was originally set up to discover all of the functional elements in the human genome. They carried out a massive number of experiments involving a huge group of researchers from many different countries. The results of this work were published in a series of papers in the September 6th, 2012 issue of Nature. (The papers appeared on Sept. 5th.)

Sunday, September 04, 2022

Wikipedia: the ENCODE article

The ENCODE article on Wikipedia is a pretty good example of how to write a science article. Unfortunately, there are a few issues that will be very difficult to fix.

When Wikipedia was formed twenty years ago, there were many people who were skeptical about the concept of a free crowdsourced encyclopedia. Most people understood that a reliable source of information was needed for the internet because the traditional encyclopedias were too expensive, but could it be done by relying on volunteers to write articles that could be trusted?

The answer is mostly “yes” although that comes with some qualifications. Many science articles are not good; they contain inaccurate and misleading information and often don’t represent the scientific consensus. They also tend to be disjointed and unreadable. On the other hand, many non-science articles are at least as good, and often better, than anything in the traditional encyclopedias (eg. Battle of Waterloo; Toronto, Ontario; The Beach Boys).

By 2008, Wikipedia had expanded enormously and the quality of articles was being compared favorably to those of Encyclopedia Britannica, which had been forced to go online to compete. However, this comparison is a bit unfair since it downplays science articles.