Making your database available through Wikipedia: the pros and cons

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Citation: Robert D Finn, Paul P Gardner, Alex Bateman (2011) Making your database available through Wikipedia: the pros and cons. Nucleic acids research (RSS)

doi: 10.1093/nar/gkr1195


Tagged: Chemistry (RSS) Wikipedia (RSS), databases (RSS), biology (RSS), life sciences (RSS)


With 11 different BioWikis published in the 2012 database issue of the Nucleic Acids Research journal, this commentary discusses how biological databases can be integrated with Wikipedia. It presents a set of guidelines that will be useful for scientists of all disciplines, motivated by the promise of using Wikipedia as a simple tool for leveraging a large community of contributors.

Scientists approaching Wikipedia may be unaware of the low rates of vandalism, forming ~1% of all edits, and the efficiency with which it is removed. The authors touch on the issue of provenance, central to traditional models of scientific publishing, but relatively opaque within Wikipedia, especially for non-Wikipedians.

The authors conclude that wiki-based solutions will never fully replace biological databases, with their need for complex data types and extensive quality control mechanisms. However, these issues have already been overcome, at least in part, in by groups adopting the Semantic MediaWiki platform to develop true 'wiki-databases' in the biological domain.

In future, I expect that technological developments will lead to the continued decentralisation of biological knowledge bases.