Public outreach/Academy/RfC/The central paradox

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Recruiting subject expertsEdit

The central paradox of Wikipedia for subject experts (such as professors, postdocs and senior graduate students) is that, no matter how much they value it and how much they'd like to contribute (both likely to be heterogeneous), it is well-nigh professional suicide for most to devote significant time to it. Very well-established professors and those no longer pursuing a research career can afford to do so, but others do so at their peril. Many of the normal ways that people contribute to Wikipedia in small modular ways (such as vandal fighting, recent changes patrolling, minor copyediting and tagging, etc.) don't seem advisable, since they waste the researchers' expertise.

Potential solutions:

  • Targeted recruitment of researchers wishing to pursue a teaching or permadoc career
  • Recruit large numbers of researchers, so that each one needs to devote only a small time
  • Have researchers play an advisory role
  • Grants to teaching faculty (from NIH and other organizations)
  • Requirements on NIH research grants for public outreach
  • Encourage donations of images and other media

Fostering collaborations between experts and othersEdit

Wikipedia articles do not require the same level of exactness and technical expertise that scientific research articles and review papers do. Therefore, top-level scientists need not write the articles themselves. Undergraduate students and even devoted amateurs can do most of the work developing articles, with experts giving occasional advice. That would seem to be a good solution for everyone.

If this argument is accepted, the question becomes how to foster that.

Random ideas
  • Student contests, at the level of scientific societies and Institutes
  • Fostering classes in which students contribute to Wikipedia