Consumer Reports on the value of a Wikipedian in Residence

Last year, Wiki Strategies helped the respected non-profit Consumer Reports (CR) explore working with Wikipedia to advance the shared goal of providing factual, verifiable information to the public. As a result, CR launched a “Wikipedian in Residence” program in conjunction with the Choosing Wisely initiative. (See announcement, April 2012CR chose longtime Wikipedian Lane Rasberry for the role, seeking his advice on how to effectively and ethically improve Wikipedia articles. Lane proved so valuable that his position was extended twice, from three months to a full year. I asked Programs Director Chuck Bell of CR to recap Lane’s work, and reflect on the value of hosting a Wikipedian in Residence.         —Pete Forsyth, Wiki Strategies

Lane Rasberry at Wikimania 2012 • photo: Sage Ross/CC BY-SA

Lane Rasberry • photo: Sage Ross/CC BY-SA

Lane Rasberry worked closely with Consumer Reports staff and the Wikipedia community to expand access to evidence-based consumer health information, including information produced through Choosing Wisely, a health education campaign led by the ABIM Foundation and Consumer Reports, and rooted in non-controversial information backed by broad support from health professionals.

Lane advised Consumer Reports and partner medical associations about how patients use Wikipedia to inform decisions about the risks and benefits of health procedures. He also presented the Choosing Wisely concept to Wikipedia volunteers who edit health care articles, including WikiProject Medicine, with favorable results. Specific resources he created include:

Through the efforts Lane led, Choosing Wisely content was used to improve into 58 Wikipedia articles, which were accessed 11 million times in a three month period. We also plan to add at least as much new content to Wikipedia beginning next month.

Lane also worked throughout Consumer Reports to foster an understanding of Wikipedia and the benefits of improving it. He hosted regular lunchtime presentations, offering staff informal opportunities to learn about Wikipedia; typically about seven people would attend, with half returning for more than one session. Lane also provided one-on-one training to 20 staff members throughout the organization. These explorations resulted in Wikipedia projects within two other divisions (Best Buy Drugs and the Safe Patient Project), and ongoing discussions within the organization about future improvements to Wikipedia content related to public policy, consumer protection law, and the history of the consumer movement.

—Chuck Bell, Programs Director, Consumer Reports

About Pete Forsyth

Pete Forsyth is the principal of Wiki Strategies, and a Wikipedia expert. Full bio here:
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