The highly successfull Wikipedia is not the proper place for original research.

Hence the the idea of Wikiresearch, a project to do wikistyle scientific research: collaborative and under a free license.

  1. Existing free text projects

  2. Free information and free software

  3. Scientific institutes and the market

  4. Wikiresearch - practical

  5. Social aspects

Existing free text projects



MediaWiki has quite some advantages over other wiki systems.

Some more free collaborative projects

No original research

Wikipedia is not the place for original research such as "new" theories.

Not a primary source, but a

A Wikipedia entry is a report not an essay.

Free information and free software

Threshold of joining free information projects is much lower.Differences:


Both free software and wiki projects evolve like stone soup. But much more people are capable of adding their flavour to wikis.

Wikipedia: huge soup containing many ingredients, constantly boiling, and people constantly throwing in new ingredients.

Scientific institutes and the market

Neoliberal trend to private financing of science; according to neo-liberal theory this would lead to more useful knowledge and products.

However it leads to:

Free software

In 1970s developers (mostly at scientific institutes) shared software like free software.

In 1980s software became more restricted, which caused RMS to start the GNU project, and to introduce the concepts of "free software" and "copyleft", specifically devised to give users freedom and to restraint the possibilities for privatization.

Scientific institutes make use of free software, however often also of proprietary software: e.g. MATLAB, on a GNU/Linux OS. No urge to move away from proprietary to collaborative model.

Scientists do create free software though, as paid work but more often in spare time.


Often publications discuss results obtained with software that is not freely available, only vaguely sketched in the article. This is problematic for falsificating or repeating the results.

Even inside institutions there is sometimes limited cooperation.

Wikiresearch - practical

First experiment of Wikiresearch has already been started at Wikibooks: Wiki Science, a study of the way wikis grow, change and adapt.

Accompanying source code should definitely not be under the GFDL. It is better to use a copylefted free software license, preferably the GPL.

Maintainership and responsibility

MediaWiki software allows to restore previous versions and see which user (or IP address) changed what.

Until now the various Wikipedia projects have experienced relatively little vandalism.

Regular users with a login often check what has been changed and by whom, where anonymous edits are regarded with a bit more suspicion.

Certain Wikipedia pages are attractive to vandalists, but these pages are also checked very often by regular contributors.

For original research things could be a bit more tricky. Time and a functional system will tell how much of a problem vandalism will be on a research wiki.

Author-itarian vs. anarchistic

Author-itarian --- Anonymous Hierarchical --- Anarchistic

Having only a bunch of main authors, or rather authorities would go against the wiki principle and it probably wouldn't lead to the amount of participation that can be attained with a more anarchistic model.

The license

GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL) is a good choice since it ensures licence compatibility with the existing GFDL text corpus.

In principle it's possible to have pages with different license than the encouraged license.

Attribution of the writers is to be ensured though. This is good for tracing back the original author and is a way to avoid legal plagiarism.

For a Creative Common license this would mean that the Attribution option needs to be picked. Extra options, like ShareAlike or NonCommercial would mean text can't be incorporated in GFDL projects. NonDerivative goes against the entire idea of working in wikistyle.

The Debian project considers both the GFDL as well as the Creative Commons Attribution license to be non-free. Some prefer not to use a copyleft in order to provide the most freedom that is possible.


Mathematics is most adequate for Wikiresearch. Almost entirely based on strict proofs, with little room for opposing viewpoints.

Some biological research has already taken place at Wikipedia, on color blindness.

Experiments with test subjects it can be done on Wikiresearch. Questions, test pictures and test sounds can be placed on the wiki. And there will be enough test persons if there is need for a heterogeneous sample of the general population (which is common for many psychological tests anyway).

History and such are often about defending a specific point of view, which is less adequate. Wikipedia or Wikibooks is a proper place when it is written from a neutral point of view.

Social aspects


Since late 19th century English has become by the most important language for both scientific and political affairs.

Wikipedia is already worked on in over 80 languages. Polyglots translate information from one language into another and even very small language communities can work on extending a knowledge base in their own language.

Research can be translated from English, or any smaller pivotal language, into other languages and research can be undertaken in any other language and translated into a pivotal language later.


Traditionally science and scientific texts state the names of the authors more or less prominently. Wiki projects tend to anonymize texts; on MediaWiki wikis authors are usually only mentioned in the page history.

If a research wiki can attract a sufficient number of qualified people the wiki can probably qualify as a system equal to peer review. The difference is that peers aren't chosen among a small group of highly respected people. This can lead to both more original research as well as more charlatanesque works.


A lot of work can be done on improving Wikipedia articles, that can also be used as a clear definition for general concepts.

Results could take the form of a Wikibook, be used on Wikiversity, or even on Wikipedia.


Oekonux/Conferences/3rdConference/Texts/Wikiresearch (last edited 2006-08-10 19:49:11 by StefanMerten)

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