I am no great fan of Wikipedia. I have yet to check a page and not find it to be riddled with errors. And it is not as claimed self-correcting. I have corrected pages, only to find edited and the errors re-introduced. The problem is what is claimed as its success, anyone can edit a page, no knowledge required, thus not an authoritative source.
We are seeing the spontaneous rise of collaborative production: goods, services and organisations are appearing that no longer respond to the dictates of the market and the managerial hierarchy. The biggest information product in the world — Wikipedia — is made by 27,000 volunteers, for free, abolishing the encyclopaedia business and depriving the advertising industry of an estimated $3 billion a year in revenue.
With that I have no argument. The figures cited by Paul Mason speak for themselves.
26 million pages, 24 million registered to contribute and edit, 12,000 regularly participating, 140,000 occasionally. No one forces them to, they do not get paid, and the content is distributed for free.
If a corporation chose to produce, it would need a management hierarchy, sweatshop outsourced workers numbering 12,000, targets, bonuses, deadlines. And how much would it cost? And how does it compete with a free competitor? On the other hand we could rely upon the market, where we rely upon price as a mechanism, maybe pay contributors micro-payments each time an article accessed, only once again, we have a problem, when the alternative is free.
In the sharing economy, we freely give and we freely draw upon the collaborative commons. We all benefit.
Why do we not have Open Publishing for academic papers? The research has been paid for by public funds, the information that results from that research should therefore be freely available in the Open Commons for all to draw upon.
Some academic research is made freely available, for example Anthropokaluptein (also as Rampant Rainbows and the Blackened Sun in Dark Mountain Vol 6) is published by Academia, where papers are published.
This is not true of most research published by academic journals.
To make matters worse, scientific publisher Elsevier has linked up with Wikipedia, whereby a select few favoured editors, will have free access to academic papers to cite, but no one else will be able to see, not unless they are prepared to pay an access fee. This immediately violates the raison d‘être for the very existence of Wikipedia, namely the free access to information.
Scientific publisher Elsevier has donated 45 free ScienceDirect accounts to “top Wikipedia editors” to aid them in their work. Michael Eisen, one of the founders of the open access movement, which seeks to make research publications freely available online, tweeted that he was “shocked to see @wikipedia working hand-in-hand with Elsevier to populate encylopedia w/links people cannot access,” and dubbed it “WikiGate.” Over the last few days, a row has broken out between Eisen and other academics over whether a free and open service such as Wikipedia should be partnering with a closed, non-free company such as Elsevier.
Eisen’s fear is that the free accounts to ScienceDirect will encourage Wikipedia editors to add references to articles that are behind Elsevier’s paywall. When members of the public seek to follow such links, they will be unable to see the article in question unless they have a suitable subscription to Elsevier’s journals, or they make a one-time payment, usually tens of pounds for limited access.
Eisen went on to tweet: “@Wikipedia is providing free advertising for Elsevier and getting nothing in return,” and that, rather than making it easy to access materials behind paywalls, “it SHOULD be difficult for @wikipedia editors to use #paywalled sources as, in long run, it will encourage openness.” He called on Wikipedia’s co-founder, Jimmy Wales, to “reconsider accommodating Elsevier’s cynical use of @Wikipedia to advertise paywalled journals.” His own suggestion was that Wikipedia should provide citations, but not active links to paywalled articles.
Not surprisingly, this has been widely attacked as a retrograde step. Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has been asked to think again.
Last year, Nature made much of its database free to access, albeit with a few caveats.
- “WikiGate” raises questions about Wikipedia’s commitment to open access
- Wikipedia under fire for relationship with academic publisher