Several weeks ago I wrote Why Wikipedia: The Questions that Parents Keep Asking, published over at the Platform for Good blog. I wrote about the challenges that adults face when children use the giant online encyclopedia, the activities that are occurring to make Wikipedia better, and the concerns that adults have with sourcing. Now I share a situation that illustrates Wikipedia at its best — an example that the parents of digital kids may want to point out to their children.
The New York Time recently published Wikipedia Emerges as Trusted Internet Source for Ebola Information, an October 26, 2014 article which describes the steps that medical professional are taking to edit and vet Ebola information on Wikipedia. Written by Noam Cohen, the Times’s piece says that Wikipedia’s Ebola article had more than 17 millions views last month and profiles some of the medical professionals who are writing and editing the information about this terrible epidemic.
One physician, Dr. James Heilman, leads a project called Wikiproject Medicine, a group that keeps an eye on medical information that appears on Wikipedia. In the case of Ebola, only a limited number of people can edit the page, and reliable resources are required (Not even newspaper articles count). Cohen points out that the sourcing and editing requirements for the Ebola area are much more stringent than for many other Wikipedia articles.
The article also describes a new editing endeavor by fourth-year medical students at the University of California San Francisco Medical School (UCSF). Dr. Amin Azzam, who teaches the course, offers the best Wikipedia quote that I’ve seen in a long time. He says:
I now believe it should be our professional duty to contribute to Wikipedia — one of the fastest ways we can improve the health of our entire planet!