Early last year I looked at a recent paper that explored just where doctors tend to get their information from. Perhaps surprisingly, Wikipedia came out very highly, with over half of all physicians regularly citing the site.
I say it’s a surprise, because there remains a sense that the site is not one of the more trustworthy sources of information on the web.
Indeed, this is a topic I touched upon in a recent blog that looked at how university students get their information. The study was a staunch defender of Wikipedia, suggesting that not only is it a great source of information, but that professors should be using the site more to ensure the information is as accurate as possible.
Of course, this demand for accurate information has led to various offshoots in healthcare that have used the Wiki platform but have attempted to curate knowledge from more ‘trusted’ sources.
A recent paper explores a collection of these projects.
The analysis utilized the Health On the Net (HONcode) principles for collaborative websites to judge how accurate and useful the various Wikis were. The content was judged on things like readability as well as editorial quality and transparency.
In total, 25 wikis were explored, with 16 of these focusing on a particular theme. The owners of each wiki represent a diverse pool, with ten run by specific organizations, six by individuals, four by private companies, two by universities and two by scientific societies.
Interestingly, ten of the communities required users to supply their credentials before being given editing rights, with just one wiki using any kind of standardized peer review system.
In terms of participation, the results revealed that physicians were regular contributors to 22 of the 25 wikis. There was much less participation from medical students, who contributed to just nine, with the lay person contributing to just four.
The average number of articles per wiki was found to be just 620, with each article receiving on average 17 revisions. In terms of activity, only five were found to be particularly robust, with many struggling for activity, and two ceasing to exist after the study was completed.
It seems inevitable that there will be a large amount of churn in the sector, with only the strongest wikis surviving. Whether we are likely to see a sizeable shift away from Wikipedia however remains to be seen.