The distorted mirror of Wikipedia: a quantitative analysis of Wikipedia coverage of academics
Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, 1 St Giles’, Oxford, OX1 3JS, UK
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Accepted: 10 December 2013
Published online: 22 January 2014
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. We also did not find any evidence that the scientists with better WP representation are necessarily more prominent in their fields. In addition, we inspected the Wikipedia coverage of notable scientists sampled from Thomson Reuters list of ‘highly cited researchers’. In each of the examined fields, Wikipedia failed in covering notable scholars properly. Both findings imply that Wikipedia might be producing an inaccurate image of academics on the front end of science. By shedding light on how public perception of academic progress is formed, this study alerts that a subjective element might have been introduced into the hitherto structured system of academic evaluation.
Key words: Wikipedia / online reputation / altmetrics / scientometrics / peer-production / crowd-scouring / bibliometrics / h-index
© The Author(s), 2014