What Wikipedia is not – or is it?

From time to time researchers compare Wikipedia articles to something that seems to be a different kind of content. Still, these comparisons make sense.

Annette Lorenz in 2009 became a medical doctor by “judging the quality of dental entries in Wikipedia – a comparison to dental reference works”. Out of 261 Wikipedia articles, only 28 of them match the quality of a dental text-book. Her (not so surprising) conclusion: Don’t trust blindly the “Online-Lexikon”.

The case of Zeitschrift für Evidenz, Fortbildung und Qualität im Gesundheitswesen is similar. This medical journal published in 2008 a study by students in Hamburg. They compared Wikipedia to health portals of the medical insurance companies. According to the students Wikipedia suffers from the anonymity of its authors, and it fails to recommend specialists on specific medical fields.

A Wikipedian’s answer is simple: Wikipedia is not a medical advisory portal, it is not a text-book. Its principles even prohibit recommending specialists. It is only an encyclopedia and cannot replace any of those portals or even a M.D.

But – on the other hand, Wikipedia actually is used that way. People do read our articles with purposes we never meant. The more we should feel the responsibility that goes with an enormous circle of readers.


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