The following research paper (preprint, submitted for peer review) was posted to arXiv yesterday (October 31, 2013).
Oxford Internet Institute
Activity of modern scholarship creates online footprints galore. Along with traditional metrics of research quality, such as citation counts, online images of researchers and institutions increasingly matter in evaluating academic impact, decisions about grant allocation, and promotion. We examined 400 biographical Wikipedia articles on academics from four scientific fields to test if being featured in the world’s largest online encyclopedia is correlated with higher academic notability (assessed through citation counts). We found no statistically significant correlation between Wikipedia articles metrics (length, number of edits, number of incoming links from other articles, etc.) and academic notability of the mentioned researchers and also we did not find any evidence that these scientists are necessarily more prolific than the averages in each field. We also examined the coverage of notable scientist sampled from Thomson Reuters list of “highly cited researchers” in Wikipedia.
In each of the examined fields, Wikipedia failed in covering notable scholars properly. Both findings imply that Wikipedia might produce an inaccurate image of academics on the front end of science and by shedding light on how public perception of academic progress is formed, alert that a subjective element might have been introduced into the hitherto structured system of academic evaluation.