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Validation on Wikipedia: How do I know this article is accurate?

Author Martin Walker
Track Projects and Content
License GNU Free Documentation License (details)
About the author
Martin Walker grew up in the North East of England. He worked as an industrial chemist for over ten years before moving to New England, where he earned a PhD in organic chemistry at Brandeis University. He now teaches organic chemistry at the State University of New York in Potsdam. He is married with two young children.

Martin began editing on Wikipedia late in 2004, writing and then assessing chemistry articles. In September 2005 he joined the Wikipedia 1.0 project for offline releases; there he has been involved in article assessment, WikiProject contacts and the Version 0.5 test release.

Joint session with: ‘Just the facts, ma’am (or sir)’: Accuracy and impartiality in crafting an encyclopedia article.

Factual accuracy is vital to the credibility of Wikipedia, but at this point the issue has only been dealt with in rather informal ways. This discussion will focus on the validation of articles, i.e., 'How can I be sure that this article is factually correct?' The term validation is sometimes used more loosely to mean general assessment, but only the stricter meaning is intended here.

Current systems of assessment (as used at Wikipedia 1.0) and article review fail to address this issue; by using reviewers who are not subject experts, they tend to focus on aesthetics and general breadth of coverage. If an article has (say) the wrong bond angle in a chemical structure, this would not typically be noticed by any existing systems of review, and it would not prevent the article from achieving 'Featured Article' status. Even if the article is correct at some point in time, there is no guarantee that it will always be correct in the future. These are serious flaws that undermine the reliability of Wikipedia.

The aim of the discussion will be to develop a workable method for article validation on Wikipedia. The discussion leader will initiate the discussion by briefly outlining the problem and describing some possible solutions. These will include review by subject experts (an elected panel, respected WikiProject members and/or outside reviewers), and the creation of validated versions (or 'blessed editions') of articles, possibly in their own 'validated article' namespace. After the discussion a proposal will be placed on Wikipedia representing the consensus reached, and participants will be encouraged to refine the proposal further.

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