Research:FAQ

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A hiking fingerpost in Corsica.

There is a vibrant, distributed community of researchers from academia and industry, students, and volunteers producing research about, and informing, Wikimedia projects.

This guide is intended to help you understand more about the research community: what it does, how it functions, how it can help you, and how you can join it.

Still unsure? If your question is not answered in the FAQ below, feel free to ask on the community's mailing list, wiki-research-l@lists.wikimedia.org.

I want to understand the Wikimedia research communityEdit

Who manages the research community?Edit

No single person or entity manages or directs the Wikimedia research community. Much like the Wikipedia community, the research community is composed of many different, self-directed entities with a common interest in better understanding the Wikimedia movement and its projects.

Even within the Wikimedia Foundation, the largest organization in the Wikimedia movement, no single person or team has primary responsibility for all research.

Who is involved in the research community?Edit

Participants in the research community include:

How do I communicate with the research community?Edit

The best way to communicate with the research community as a whole is to use the wiki-research-l lists wikimedia org mailing list. You can also use the #wikimedia-researchconnect IRC channel, but you may not get an answer to a general question because IRC is meant for live conversations.

Where can I meet members of the research community?Edit

The Wikimedia Foundation Research team hosts a monthly office hour using video chat.

Wikimania, the yearly Wikimedia movement conference, is attended by many members of the research community and usually has many sessions related to research. Many other Wikimedia conferences exists; some may include members of the research community or research-related session.

There are several scholarly conferences with dedicated tracks on Wikimedia research or a long record of publications in the field. The best research on Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects today happens at conferences such as CSCW, ICWSM, OpenSym, WWW.

What does the Wikimedia Foundation Research team do? Can it support my team’s data analysis needs?Edit

The Wikimedia Research's mandate is to help design and test technology informed by qualitative and quantitative research methods and produce scientifically rigorous knowledge about Wikimedia's users and projects. Examples of projects led by the Research team include:

The team can provide guidance on metric definitions, experimental design, statistical and methodological support on an ad hoc basis. Individual Audiences teams are responsible for data analysis and metric definition for their corresponding audiences. You can contact the R&D team via our (internal) department mailing list research-wmf lists wikimedia org.

What does the Wikimedia Foundation Design Research team do?Edit

The Design Research team (DR) supports iteration of concepts and functionality toward a usable and intuitive experience for users. It also provides guidance to other WMF teams via a range of qualitative methods including, but not limited to, usability testing. Requests for the team can be submitted via phabricator. The team also conducts generative research and collaborates with Research and Data and other teams in order to help define what products and user experiences at a high level should be built (and why) for specific types of users, based on their needs. You can contact the DR team via our (internal) department mailing list research-wmf lists wikimedia org.

I have a question about Wikimedia projects that I want answeredEdit

Where do I find Wikimedia statistics and metrics?Edit

Wikistats is the best location for learning about high-level statistics like the number of active editors or unique devices. The numbers in Wikistats are the most vetted and "official" ones available.

Many other dashboards and reports are also available. For a list, see Statistics. Note that these dashboards may not be closely vetted as Wikistats and should be used with care in high-profile situations.

A journalist has asked me for some data. Who can I talk to?Edit

If you need help handling a question from a journalist, please contact the Wikimedia Foundation's Communications team at talktocomms wikimedia org. If necessary, the team knows how request support from the various researchers at the Foundation.

How can I recruit a researcher to investigate my question?Edit

Realistically, there are far more questions than there is time to answer them, so it's likely that you will not be able to find anyone willing to take up your question.

If you would still like to try, you can email the wiki-research-l lists wikimedia org mailing list. You can also add your idea to the research ideas Phabricator board; students and volunteers looking for projects to work on sometimes look there for ideas.

If you want to try investigating the question yourself, check out the section of this page on help with your own research.

I want to pitch a new project to Research and Data, what should I do?Edit

The Research and Data team partners with other teams in the organization, community members and academic researchers to design and run projects that typically span multiple months of work. In order to engage with the team, your project will likely be:

  • a minimum of one or two quarters in projected time frame
  • ahead of specific products or interventions being designed or tested

If you think your project meets these requirements, you can contact the team via this mailing list: research-wmf lists wikimedia org or by creating a Phabricator task in the backlog of the Research and Data board. If you are looking for audience-specific metrics and statistics, please get in touch with the respective team's product owner.

I want to conduct my own research on Wikimedia projectsEdit

What data is available for my research?Edit

There is a vast array of publicly-available data about the Wikimedia projects. A detailed list can be found at Research:Data.

Additionally, the Wikimedia Foundation collects some data for private use by highly-trusted researchers who have signed non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). In general, this category only includes staff of the Wikimedia Foundation, staff of other approved organizations such as Wikimedia Deutschland, and formal collaborators of the Wikimedia Foundation Research team. For more details on this private data, see Analytics data access policy. For details on how to propose a collaboration with the Wikimedia Foundation Research team, see their page on formal collaborations.

Does my project need approval?Edit

Most research is conducted independently, without knowledge by or approval from the Wikimedia Foundation. Rarely, the Wikimedia Foundation will provide practical support for certain research projects, such as projects that require access to non-public data. Researchers may not claim any support, approval, or special privileges from the Wikimedia Foundation unless they have a signed, written agreement with the Wikimedia Foundation that says they do.

Observational research generally does not require approval from anyone. Interventional research projects may require cooperation from the affected communities. Before beginning an interventional research project, we recommend disclosing it at a community forum, such as the local community's village pump. You should be prepared to engage in discussion with community members and, if necessary, to modify your research plan based on their feedback. Some communities require such disclosure and discussion.

Can the Wikimedia Foundation financially support my research?Edit

The Wikimedia Foundation sponsors research projects of strategic importance in the form of grants. Grants can be issued to individuals and organizations alike and can be awarded via calls for participation or directly allocated in the case of research commissioned by the Foundation. More information on different types of grant, and the corresponding requirements, can be found on this page. Research sponsored by a grant from the Wikimedia Foundation is subject to the terms of our open access policy.

Can the Wikimedia Foundation write a letter of support for my grant proposal?Edit

The Wikimedia Foundation does not directly participate, unless in exceptional circumstances, in grant applications or research consortia as a partner institution, due to legal and financial constraints that come with restricted funding. However, we are happy to support individual research projects of particular strategic importance by providing formal endorsements. Letters of endorsement are signed by a C-level or by their delegate, they form part of a formal collaboration and are subject to the terms of the Wikimedia Foundation's open access policy.

Can the Wikimedia Foundation help me collect data for my study?Edit

As a general rule, researchers at the Wikimedia Foundation have little bandwidth to provide data collection / data analysis as a service, outside of the scope of formal collaborations. We are always happy to provide guidance and recommend the appropriate tools, data sources and libraries for a given study on an informal basis. The best way to get support is to post a request to wiki-research-l (for anything related to research design, methods, state of the art on a specific research topic) or to analytics-l (for data sources and APIs maintained by the Wikimedia Analytics Engineering team). You can also get support via the corresponding IRC channels, irc:wikimedia-research and irc:wikimedia-analytics. If your request is about recruiting participants for a survey or study, see the corresponding question.

How do I get special API privileges for my research?Edit

You can access the MediaWiki API to retrieve data from Wikimedia projects with the standard permissions that are granted to your registered username. For most types of data you will not need any kind of special privilege. In some cases the Wikimedia Foundation can grant special permissions (such as high API request limits) on a temporary basis to individual users for research purposes. When these privileges are granted by WMF staff, they form part of a formal collaboration and are subject to the terms of the Wikimedia Foundation's open access policy.

How do I release a dataset?Edit

Releasing open data about Wikimedia projects for research purposes, while respecting our privacy and data retention policies, is in line with Wikimedia's values and mission to disseminate open knowledge. The Wikimedia Research team maintains an open data repository via the DataHub that anyone can contribute to. We also register and host open datasets for research purposes on Figshare, for citability and discoverability. If you are in a team at WMF dealing with sensitive data, before releasing a new dataset, particularly data obtained from private sources and/or containing personally identifiable information, it is mandatory to consult with the Legal and Security teams. The Research and Data team can provide best practices on how to publish and document the dataset, once its publication has been cleared by these two teams. The release of data from Fundraising is subject to additional restrictions due to our donor policies: before publishing any reports including anonymized or aggregate data from Online Fundraising, please review these guidelines and obtain explicit approval from the team.

I want to run a survey, how do I get started?Edit

The Learning and Evaluation team maintains the Survey Support Desk - a one-stop shop for anything related to surveys in the Wikimedia context for Wikimedia Foundation staff, Wikimedia affiliates, and volunteers. The team also maintains and provides access to survey platforms used by WMF. The Design Research team can provide overall guidance and support to other teams at WMF on survey design. The Research and Data team can provide guidance on best practices on strategies for participant recruitment on-wiki. All WMF-run surveys must be reviewed by the Legal team -- see this internal page for more information.

Surveys run by academic researchers need to meet community expectations before participant recruitment can begin. Creating a research project and discussing the proposed recruitment strategy on wiki-research-l are good, preliminary steps towards successful recruitment of participants for a study. There aren't any global policies regulating third-party research or mechanisms for large-scale subject recruitment, but best practices have been discussed in a number of contexts. en:WP:Research and en:WP:SRAG are the product of the joint efforts of the research community and the English Wikipedia community to try and satisfy two goals:

  • Create a mechanism for mass subject recruitment
  • Protect the community (and individuals) from the disruption that mass recruitment could cause

Along with these two documents, a few essays are available as tools for educating Wikipedians about research:

I want to learn about current research findings related to Wikimedia projectsEdit

Where can I learn about current research projects at WMF?Edit

We run a weekly, cross-departmental research group every Thursday at 9:30am PT to discuss research in progress, present early results or get feedback on the design of new projects. The meeting is regularly attended by members of the Research and Data and Design Research teams, analysts with various Product teams and from Learning and Evaluation but it's open to anyone in the organization interested in participating. We also host more formal, public presentations on a monthly basis via our Research Showcase and at Monthly Metrics meetings, which you can attend in person if you're in the SF office or watch online via YouTube.

Where can I learn about existing research on a specific topic?Edit

There are several places where you can learn about previous and current research. The most comprehensive resource covering research on Wikimedia projects is the Research Newsletter. The newsletter is a collaboratively maintained monthly overview of new research, edited by Tilman Bayer and Dario Taraborelli with contributions by several volunteer reviewers. It has been published monthly since 2011 and has a fully searchable archive. You can also follow the latest research updates hot off the press via the @WikiResearch handle on Twitter, by subscribing to wiki-research-l or by attending the Wikimedia Research monthly newscase (also available on YouTube). The Wikimedia Research Codex is a complementary effort to summarize past research by organizing it by topic instead of by date; it in currently in progress, and topics are prioritized depending on team needs.

I want a job researching Wikimedia projectsEdit

Are there any research and analytics jobs at the Wikimedia Foundation?Edit

Current openings for part-time and full-time positions in Research, Analytics Engineering and Product are listed on the Wikimedia Foundation's jobs website.