Research talk:FAQ

Active discussions

Is approval required?Edit

Is there anything here which implies that Research Committee approval is required for asking questions of those who have agreed to accept emails? James Salsman 02:35, 14 February 2012 (UTC)

James, RCom approval on subject recruitment was precisely introduced to review who runs surveys and what for, to make sure that every project is fully documented and reviewed, to avoid the risk that editors may send personal information to scammers pretending to be legitimate researchers, to review the data retention/data sharing policy of who collects this data and finally to put a brake on recruitment burnout for community members. I appreciate that it may not be clear that a review/approval is needed, but that's the standard process that has been introduced since the creation of the RCom, which supersedes the previous attempts at regulating subject recruitment. We're trying to work closely with the community and the Foundation to make sure that all researchers or community members interested in recruiting participants are redirected to this page. --DarTar 22:50, 14 February 2012 (UTC)
Would you please answer the yes/no question that I asked above? I note that if you click through to Research:Subject recruitment, the "Requirements" section says, "Projects supported by the Wikimedia Research Committee for subject recruitment are expected to meet the following requirements." That second linked page says nothing about mandatory committee approval; in fact, the last line of the table makes it clear that Foundation support is not required to conduct research. It does say, "the Foundation is currently designing policies," without any links to even a draft. The email that I sent stated clearly that I was administering the inactive admins survey as a volunteer. I did not request Foundation assistance after I decided to go ahead after 2.5+ years of delay from the time that the survey had been approved. I asked only for a point of contact to send the data. That point of contact was explicitly specified during an open Office Hours forum. Moreover, the Foundation's privacy policy explicitly excludes email and data collected by non-Foundation personell. There are very serious ethics problems in trying to suppress research by misrepresenting policy. James Salsman 23:40, 14 February 2012 (UTC)
That's correct, it's not sufficiently clear that this is a policy that we're enforcing and not just a service we provide, but the answer is yes: approval is required. As you may have realized SR-related discussions are everywhere on Meta and it's hard to point all researchers to this page, we're working on that: we usually catch all attempts at recruiting participants without a review in a timely way, but sometime we miss them. So it's ok, we don't blame anyone for not being able to find out this documentation and comply with this procedure. But once you are told that this is the procedure to follow, we expect you to comply with it if you want to go ahead with your research. Nobody is misrepresenting policy: any data collected by third parties (which includes an editor like you) does not fall under Wikimedia's privacy policy, that's precisely the reason why we've introduced a stricter review process to avoid potential misuse of data collected from our volunteers. --DarTar 00:10, 15 February 2012 (UTC)
Where is it stated that approval is required? James Salsman 02:53, 15 February 2012 (UTC)
Only at Research:Subject recruitment currently, but I doubt this is a community-accepted policy - see my comment there. --Piotrus (talk) 11:17, 28 March 2014 (UTC)

Indigenous knowledgeEdit

Hi all, I'll be giving a talk at Wikimania 2013 about the possible inclusion of indigenous knowledge (IK) on Wikipedia. This talk is the summary of a book chapter on IK that will appear mid 2014. The book will be under copyright but the editor has given approval for a pre-release of our particular chapter under CC-BY-SA. I would like to share it here on meta.

For now, I have the following questions:

  1. The editor has agreed to the pre-release under the condition that a few opening paragraphs describe intention and scope of the book, is that okay?
  2. I thought of collecting a few things that we do in relation to that project, linking to meta blog posts (now linked on my user page) and Commons files (research report, pictures, Wikimania slides), is that the way to go?
  3. Conceptually the project is an alternative approach to Research:Oral Citations. Is there a common way to categorise both as belonging to the same subject area?

All suggestions much appreciated. --Pgallert (talk) 18:35, 26 July 2013 (UTC)

Two questionsEdit

There are two things I think it would be good to see in the FAQ. I'm curious to what extent they've been discussed, and if RCom sees merit in including them:

  • While the FAQ does now include a recommendation to seek input prior to advertising a study on a specific project, I see no guidance on what considerations should be in play before advertising for subjects on one of the mailing lists, such as this.
  • Also, I think it's a widely held value (though not a requirement) in the movement that studies are considered more valuable if they publish the data they generate for all to use (in addition to their conclusions).

Can anything be expressed on either or both of these points in the FAQ? -Pete F (talk) 20:10, 16 July 2014 (UTC)

I think the FAQ should strongly recommend that research results be published openly and linked to through the Research Index. I'm not sure if it's really necessary at this point to try to impose a policy on how people can publicize research efforts on mailing lists - its a rare occurrence and its pretty benign. RCOM should work to facilitate research as much as possible and otherwise avoid erecting unnecessary barriers. The attempt to require pre-approval for research has clearly failed, and attempts to impose policies of other kinds on all research efforts across Wikimedia projects will fail for similar reasons. So let's not go down that road.Nathan T 20:31, 16 July 2014 (UTC)
Thanks Nathan. On my first point, I really didn't have in mind a policy or requirement -- I was thinking more about helpful suggestions for those researchers wanting to know the lay of the land. I don't know exactly what those suggestions should be, but it seems there could be some. I think if we were to ask the present researcher, we might learn that some of the response she got was unexpected, and she might have preferred to have a better sense of what to expect before going in. Not all researchers will find this FAQ, but some will, and I think it's worthwhile to provide useful information to those who do.
On the second point, you're addressing a slightly different issue than me -- but I think both are worthy of mention:
  • Will the results be published under a free license?
  • Will the underlying data be published in a way that permits other researchers to benefit from using it? -Pete F (talk) 20:40, 16 July 2014 (UTC)
I'm not as concerned about a free license. I'm not sure what typical license practices are for research product, in any case. I was thinking more along the lines of open access journals. As for the data... I think it's fine to express a preference that the data be made available, but I wouldn't word this particularly strongly or make it a conditional requirement for anything. I'm sure people more involved in Wikimedia research will have more fully formed opinions. My concern here is that we were confusing researchers with defunct processes and confusing documentation, and it's disappointing to me that this was obviously something the WMF (via Dario and Aaron, at a minimum) was aware of and took no steps to resolve. Nathan T 20:50, 16 July 2014 (UTC)
I'm not sure why you keep bringing up strong wording -- I'm not suggesting strong wording on either of these points. I'm suggesting that the FAQ be made more useful to researchers, not more strongly prescriptive.
The concept of an open access journal is not easily separated from the concept of a free license. I don't think you'd find many people in the OA world who think free licensing is optional for OA status. (Personally, I actually think you and I are in agreement -- the "A" in "OA" seems, on a semantic level, to clearly refer to consumption, rather than reuse. But I digress.)
Your concern (which you expressed more fully on the Wikimedia-L email list) is a valid one, but is totally separate from the ones I'm bringing up -- maybe you could start a new section here for that? I'm happy to discuss it, but I think things are getting muddy if we try to talk about them all in the same thread. -Pete F (talk) 21:20, 16 July 2014 (UTC)

Fair enough - my caution about strong wording was just that, a suggestion that any language that gets into documentation (whether the FAQ or elsewhere) be an expression of ideal practice, not a rule. I understand you were not proposing a rule. As for OA... I'm not familiar with OA journals being synonymous with freely licensing the work contained within. There's a substantive difference between making something available for free through an online journal, and permitting free reuse of that work by others (e.g. I can permit you to read something without granting a specific license of any kind, "all rights reserved.") A bit of a tangent, perhaps, but important when it comes to guidance. I'd like to recommend that researchers publish their work online in free journals; I think asking them to freely license that work might be a bridge too far. Nathan T 21:29, 16 July 2014 (UTC)

I think the Wikipedia article on Open Access gets into the licensing issues a bit more effectively than the article you cited. Since we're not talking about establishing rules, though, I suggest text along these lines:
  • "The Wikipedia community is united around a shared vision of a world in which knowledge is shared freely. Researchers who publicly make any or all of the following commitments may find stronger support for their work in the Wikimedia community: (1) publishing your conclusions in a medium that is accessible to all; (2) publishing the data you generate in a way that is accessible to all; (3) applying a free license to what you publish."
How's that strike you? -Pete F (talk) 20:32, 17 July 2014 (UTC)
That sounds great to me, actually. Nice. Nathan T 20:45, 17 July 2014 (UTC)
Great, thanks. Tweaking a little, hopefully uncontroversial improvements...and it would probably be good to have some input from committee members before posting it live, yes? -Pete F (talk) 21:09, 17 July 2014 (UTC)


The Wikipedia community's uniting vision is for a world in which knowledge is shared freely. Researchers who publicly make any or all of the following commitments may find stronger support for their work in the Wikimedia community: (1) publishing your conclusions in a medium that is accessible to all; (2) publishing the data you generate in a way that is accessible to all; (3) applying a free license to what you publish. (The Wikipedia articles on free licenses and open access publishing provide useful background information.)

Can WMF financially support my research?Edit

It may be a Frequently Asked Question, but it has remained unanswered for four years. I conclude that the answer is in fact No. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 07:03, 27 June 2015 (UTC)

Can WMF host me as a research fellow/research intern?Edit

Presumably the answer is No since the linked-to page Research:Wikimedia Foundation hosting has been empty since its creation just four years ago. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 10:47, 27 June 2015 (UTC)

Can I get access to WMF non-public data?Edit

The answer refers to the access to nonpublic data policy which was replaced by the Board a year ago. Presumably the answer will need to be rewritten in the light of its replacement, the access to nonpublic information policy which will come into effect as soon as the WMF staff can manage to implement it. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 10:50, 27 June 2015 (UTC)

New version of this documentEdit

I just published a new version of Research:FAQ, significantly expanded and updated, to make our processes at WMF more transparent and to meet an explicit FDC request to clarify the role and responsibilities of individual teams involved in research across the organization. The previous version, written from the perspective of the (now inactive) Research:Committee, can be found here. Comments and edits to this new version of the document are welcome. For any question or concern about this new version, please ping my username --Dario (WMF) (talk) 17:26, 20 June 2016 (UTC)

Subjects' questionsEdit

This FAQ is mostly for researchers. Can you add here questions for research subjects?

I am sometimes contacted by people who introduce themselves as researchers and want to ask me about my activities as a Wikimedia contributor. They find me by contributions to wikis or code on GitHub.

I usually use my judgment: if they look uninteresting, I ignore them. If they look fishy, I report them. If they look interesting and legitimate, I respond.

But is there a better policy for this? Thousands of Wikimedians are probably contacted like this, and it would be useful to have clear guidelines.

If, for example, someone introduces themselves as a researcher from a university, and the topic is relevant, should I respond? Or should I check whether this was explicitly approved by the WMF?

And what if it's another non-university NGO? Or a recognized Wikimedia affiliate (chapter, user group, etc.)? Or a commercial company? Or a news organization?

It would be great to add these to the FAQ. --Amir E. Aharoni (talk) 07:42, 22 October 2020 (UTC)

@Amire80: There are no answers to these questions. If we had organizational labor and someone would organize meetings, then I think people would join a committee, and the committee could answer questions like this.
The two issues I check are 1) will this research disrupt the Wiki community more than zero and 2) do these researchers require data which is reasonable to access. In my experience most researchers who come to view of the wiki community do so either because they want permission to do something disruptive or they want data which does not exist.
There has never been designated WMF support for research and so far as I know, there has never been any specific WMF staff labor allocation to support researcher questions. Supporting research depends on the personal decisions of volunteers who wish to get involved.
There are lots of great past proposals for encouraging more research but all of them would take labor. In my view the easiest way to quickly encourage more research would be for the WMF to sponsor some wiki chapter or enthusiastic volunteer to administer online meetings, note taking, and drafting of guidelines. I advocate for that as a response to many wiki movement challenges. I do not know who would want that role but if there were funding, then I think someone would do it. Blue Rasberry (talk) 19:53, 22 October 2020 (UTC)
Return to "FAQ" page.