Research Article: “Citation Needed? Wikipedia Bibliometrics During the First Wave of the COVID-19 Pandemic”
The article linked below was recently published by GigaScience.
Université de Paris, INSERM
Université de Paris, INSERM
Jonathan Aryeh Sobel
Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
Volume 11, 2022, giab095
With the COVID-19 pandemic’s outbreak, millions flocked to Wikipedia for updated information. Amid growing concerns regarding an “infodemic,” ensuring the quality of information is a crucial vector of public health. Investigating whether and how Wikipedia remained up to date and in line with science is key to formulating strategies to counter misinformation. Using citation analyses, we asked which sources informed Wikipedia’s COVID-19–related articles before and during the pandemic’s first wave (January–May 2020).
We found that coronavirus-related articles referenced trusted media outlets and high-quality academic sources. Regarding academic sources, Wikipedia was found to be highly selective in terms of what science was cited. Moreover, despite a surge in COVID-19 preprints, Wikipedia had a clear preference for open-access studies published in respected journals and made little use of preprints. Building a timeline of English-language COVID-19 articles from 2001–2020 revealed a nuanced trade-off between quality and timeliness. It further showed how pre-existing articles on key topics related to the virus created a framework for integrating new knowledge. Supported by a rigid sourcing policy, this “scientific infrastructure” facilitated contextualization and regulated the influx of new information. Last, we constructed a network of DOI-Wikipedia articles, which showed the landscape of pandemic-related knowledge on Wikipedia and how academic citations create a web of shared knowledge supporting topics like COVID-19 drug development.
Understanding how scientific research interacts with the digital knowledge-sphere during the pandemic provides insight into how Wikipedia can facilitate access to science. It also reveals how, aided by what we term its “citizen encyclopedists,” it successfully fended off COVID-19 disinformation and how this unique model may be deployed in other contexts.
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About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com. Gary is also the co-founder of infoDJ an innovation research consultancy supporting corporate product and business model teams with just-in-time fact and insight finding.