Tuesday, July 28, 2009

NIH and Wikipedia To Collaborate on Health Information

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Wikimedia Foundation have entered into a collaboration to improve the quality of health and scientific information in Wikipedia, the heavily-used online encyclopedia. On July 16, 2009, a Wikipedia Academy was held at the NIH's Bethesda campus to begin a dialogue about how to improve public knowledge about health and science. As Frank Schulenburg, head of public outreach for the Wikimedia Foundation, noted in the press releases of both NIH and the Wikipedia Foundation:
Wikipedia Academies are public outreach events, usually lasting one or two days, aimed at engaging academics and other subject-matter experts who are not familiar with wiki culture or online communities. In presentations and workshops, experienced Wikipedia authors teach the participants how to contribute to Wikipedia and orient the audience to Wikipedia’s structures and community policies.
John Burklow, NIH director for communications and public liaison, also observed:
NIH works to ensure that the information it provides on science and health is of the highest quality and reaches the widest audience. We look forward to this opportunity to collaborate with the Wikimedia Foundation and participate in a resource that is used by millions of people around the world.
Wikipedia is a rapidly growing free resource that presently contains over 13 million articles in over 250 languages. Average page views per hour total more than 14 million. One recent example of the tremendous popularity of Wikipedia for health information is the Wikipedia article on the 2009 flu pandemic. It originated on April 24, 2009 as a brief article of about 200 words, but has subsequently grown to over 20 printed pages of information and data. Flu-related articles garnered about 16,000 hits on April 23 but a week later approached 3 million hits (see the Wikimedia blog for further information).

The use of Wikipedia as an source of online health information was examined in an article entitled "Seeking Health Information Online: Does Wikipedia Matter?" published by the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. The authors, both Wikipedia contributors, concluded that "Wikipedia ranked among the first ten results in 71–85% of search engines and keywords tested," and that "Wikipedia surpassed MedlinePlus and NHS Direct Online (except for queries from the latter on Google UK), and ranked higher with quality articles."

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