Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Wikipedia is not for highly specialized content – the Illustrated lecture on Tropical Medicine of ITM

Okay so the group is always right and knowledge should be free for all. BUT what if the content you want to deliver for free through TELearning (technology enabled learning) kind of site is so specialized that only a couple of people know about the latest scientific developments? You could not put it onto a freely editable wikipedia? Or could you? Lets look at the Illustrated Lecture on Tropical Medicine that is published on a website by ITM.

It would look like interesting content to share in wikipedia, the only problem is that Tropical Medicine is discussed by many for many reasons (think about the imagined solutions for AIDS that are promoted by some African politicians for dubious reasons). So at ITM we are discussing whether or not content that is so specialised can be shared with an editor’s community like wikipedia. At this point the verdict is still no, but we do put the content out there for people to see because we feel it could help physicians in the field with extra diagnostic material. Would you deliver highly specialized content in an open environment where others could change it and risk the scientific data being disrupted or being pointed in another direction?

A bit of background on the Tropical Medicine content: at ITM we have a lot of renowned professors in Tropical Medicine and one of the really amazing ones is Dr Erwin Van den Enden who is renowned for his insightful diagnosis and knowledge. The knowledge in Tropical Diseases is really specific and its research is constantly changing so a book would soon be redundant. At ITM Dr Erwin Van den Enden and San-Ho Correwyn have been working on a website that features an encyclopedia on Tropical Diseases which can be updated by them daily if necessary. This encyclopedia was build with content-e (a Dutch software) that enables single source manipulation (changes only have to be made in one location, like a wiki, but it does not keep an online history of the changes made). The content is updated as soon as new research has conclusive evidence to change earlier findings. It is a huge job that has helped health workers throughout the globe, so that is worthwhile on its own.


  1. I'm also a fan of Wikipedia and an occasional contributor / translator (in Turkish) however Wikipedia has its own problems, too. Just to give a few examples:

    - Corruption of Wikipedia [PDF]

    - Wikipedia Watch

    -Why Does Wikipedia Suck on Science?

    And in terms of knowledge depth it is good to have strong alternatives such as Scholarpedia:

    "Scholarpedia is the peer-reviewed open-access encyclopedia written by scholars from all around the world.

    Scholarpedia feels and looks like Wikipedia - the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Indeed, both are powered by the same program - MediaWiki. Both allow visitors to review and modify articles simply by clicking on the edit this article link.

    However, Scholarpedia differs from Wikipedia in some very important ways:

    * Each article is written by an expert (invited or elected by the public).
    * Each article is anonymously peer reviewed to ensure accurate and reliable information.
    * Each article has a curator - typically its author -- who is responsible for its content.
    * Any modification of the article needs to be approved by the curator before it appears in the final, approved version."

  2. emre your knowledge is amazing! I will immediately get cracking with this jewel of information.
    Thank you very much!

  3. Scholarpedia, now that's a find. That's something to be added to the open education resources. No question about it.