Why Ocean Conservationists Should Pay More Attention to Wikipedia

When the average internet user seeks out information on a scientific topic, the first place she turns to isn’t the latest scientific literature or even a mainstream news publication, it’s Wikipedia. Google any scientific topic and the online encyclopedia will turn up as the first or second search result. Though many within the science community regard Wikipedia with a certain level of wariness, there’s no denying that for millions of people across the globe, it’s the first exposure many people have to issues they know little about. As such, it wields tremendous influence in shaping the way the general public understands and views a particular topic.

As Mr. Ted Waitt, Founder and Chairman of the Waitt Institute, says, the first step in building a constituency for ocean issues is raising awareness. Making sure the public has access to great information is key to our science-based, community-driven work. So we’re excited to be collaborating with the Smithsonian Ocean Portal and Wikipedia to improve the quality and quantity of ocean information people can easily access.

Queen parrotfish eating algae off a relatively healthy reef in Curaçao. The edit-a-thon will include a focus on updating Wikipedia pages about coral reef topics. (Photo: Stanley Bysshe)

Several studies have shown Wikipedia to be fairly accurate, but there’s a wide range in quality found across the site, with some articles having received careful attention while others have suffered from neglect. It’s not the fault of the community for this range in quality; the depth of an article is at least somewhat dependent on the expertise of its editors.

Healthy mangroves and seagrasses in Barbuda's Codrington Lagoon. Wikipedia pages for these ecosystems are on the list for updating during the edit-a-thon.
Wikipedia pages for mangroves and seagrasses are on the list —> Read More