Friday, August 21, 2009

Scientific citations in Wikipedia

While thinking about measuring the quality of Wikipedia articles by counting the number of times they cite external literature, and conversely measuring the impact of papers by how many times they're cited in Wikipedia, I discovered, as usual, that somebody has already done it. I came across this nice paper by Finn Årup Nielsen (arXiv:0705.2106v1) (originally published in First Monday as a HTML document, I've embedded the PDF from arXiv below).

Nielsen retrieved 30,368 citations from Wikipedia, and summarised how many times each journal is cited within Wikipedia. He then compared this with a measure of citations within the scientific literature by multiplying the journal's impact factor by the total number of citations. In general there's a pretty good correlation.

What is striking to me is that
When individual journals are examined Wikipedia citations to astronomy journals stand out compared to the overall trend (Figure 2). Also Australian botany journals received a considerable number of citations, e.g., Nuytsia (101 [citations]), in part due to concerted effort for the genus Banksia, where several Wikipedia articles for Banksia species have reached "featured article" status.

In the diagram, note also that Australian Systematic Botany (ISSN 1030-1887), which has a impact factor of 1.351, is punching well above its weight in Wikipedia. What I want to find out is whether this is true for other taxonomic journals. Nielsen's study was based on a Wikipedia dump from 2 April 2007, and a lot has been added since then (and the journal Zootaxa has become a major publisher of new taxonomic names).

But what I'm also wondering is whether this is not a great opportunity for the taxonomic community. By responding to {{citation needed}}, we can improve the quality of Wikipedia, and increase the visibility of their work. Given that many Wikipedia taxon pages are in the top 10 Google hits {{citation needed}}, our work is but one click away from the Google results page. Instead of endlessly moaning about the low impact factor of taxonomic journals, we can actively do something that increases the quality and visibility of taxonomic information, and by extension, taxonomy itself.

Scientific citations in Wikipedia