Consumer Reports to support Wikipedia article improvement

Dr. James Fasules discusses the American College of Cardiology’s participation in Choosing Wisely as part of a panel including Dr. Glen Stream, Dr. Steven Weinberger, and Dr. Christine Cassel (President of the ABIM Foundation). Photo by Pete Forsyth, CC-BY 3.0.

A Wikipedian in Residence, in a six month engagement at the offices of Consumer Reports magazine, will guide collaboration between experts on consumer issues, experts in medical science, and experts in Wikipedia publishing.

Using a model and practices established by Wikipedians at world-class museums and archives, the Wikipedian in Residence’s central role will be to create opportunities for mutual learning. As they produce content according to Wikipedia’s policies and editorial standards, Wikipedians will have opportunities to consult with the network of experts convened in the Choosing Wisely initiative. They will also have be invited to guide and advise those same experts in becoming Wikipedians themselves.

Choosing Wisely participants stressed the importance of informed communication between doctors and patients. Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Jorgejesus4, licensed CC BY-SA.

Yesterday Consumer Reports, a non-profit magazine committed to evidence-based reporting and independence from corporate influence, announced 11 organizations that will work together to publish evidenced-based information about medical procedures as part of the Choosing Wisely initiative. Aided by the Wikipedian in Residence, Wikipedia volunteers will have the opportunity to participate in the initiative.

The American College of Cardiology was one of nine medical societies to release carefully researched and cited lists of recommendations yesterday. Wikipedia does not publish lists like this, but the research conducted to produce them could be used to improve Wikipedia articles.

Choosing Wisely, launched by the ABIM Foundation, brings together 17 non-profit medical societies to promote wise choices by clinicians in order to improve health care outcomes, provide patient-centered care that avoids unnecessary and even harmful interventions, and reduce the rapidly-expanding costs of the health care system. This partnership represents a rare opportunity for Wikipedians: to engage with 27 mission-driven, non-profit organizations as they take aim at one of the great ethical challenges of our time.

In the last decade, Wikipedians have produced 23,000 articles (in English alone) relating to health and medicine; these articles reach a tremendous audience. The article on influenza, for instance, which was awarded the site’s highest internal quality ranking in 2006, was accessed 155,000 times in January 2012.

The ethical issues faced in science are inextricably linked with the ethics of publication and journalism. In the last decade, many of the authors and editors of Wikipedia have established themselves as experts in the way information travels and evolves in the online world. Wiki Strategies is proud to partner with Consumer Reports, and with the medical societies and consumer organizations involved, in bridging our various communities. We are eager to discover what can be done to more clearly expose accurate and useful medical information to the public through our various publications, and to bring more medical and consumer experts into the Wikipedia family.

Wiki Strategies designed this Wikipedian in Residence program as a consultant to Consumer Reports. A grant from the Wikimedia Foundation will fund a portion of the Wikipedian in Residence’s stipend, and will support continuing work exploring opportunities to build bridges between Consumer Reports and Wikipedia.

About Pete Forsyth

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