[Taxacom] The strain between Wikipedia and Science

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Fri Mar 4 16:02:49 CST 2011

there is a lot of complete bollocks being posted in this thread!

Firstly, Wikispecies can be considered a specialised part of Wikipedia that is 
better set up for taxonomic information, and can easily be linked to via 
internal interwiki links from Wikipedia pages

Secondly, Wikipedia (or Wikispecies for that matter) is no different to any 
scientific journal with content/format rules/restrictions set by the editors ... 
if you don't follow those, then you can't expect your paper to be accepted

I agree that the wikis can be a bit frustrating sometimes, particularly when 
dealing with people on them who really don't understand taxonomy, but the 
challenge is to find ways to overcome the difficulties (and there are many such 
ways), rather than this endless slagging off of something that can be used very 

to answer one of Peter's specific questions:
>Is there some standard way that pages should be marked up so it is clear that 
>the article is about a species or a genus or a family etc?

on Wikipedia, I don't know, but on Wikispecies (=the part of Wikipedia best 
suited for taxonomic information), it is clear ...


From: Peter DeVries <pete.devries at gmail.com>
To: Doug Yanega <dyanega at ucr.edu>
Cc: TAXACOM at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Sent: Sat, 5 March, 2011 8:23:29 AM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] The strain between Wikipedia and Science

Hi Doug,

Thank you for your Wikipedia efforts.

I had some questions that I thought you might be able to offer some insight
for us.

What is the Wikipedia policy on taxonomic hierarchies? They seem to be
somewhat inconsistent.

Also I keep running into pages where the binomial is not a binomial but a
trinomial or something else.

I have also notices at least 300 pages where the binomial does not match the
page title or text.

Is there some standard way that pages should be marked up so it is clear
that the article is about a species or a genus or a family etc?


- Pete

On Fri, Feb 11, 2011 at 12:32 PM, Doug Yanega <dyanega at ucr.edu> wrote:

> Given that, after something on the order of 6000 edits, I have
> possibly done more editing of Wikipedia than any other contributor to
> this list (the top-ranked biologist on WP has done over 118000 edits,
> the second-ranked 68000, but I don't think they're on this list), I
> can address some of the issues here, though my experience is with the
> English WP, and perhaps there is a less civilized culture on the
> German WP, from Francisco's description.
> Francisco wrote:
> >It is impossible to correct errors in Wikipedia, if these errors are
> >repeatedly published in scientific publications, mainly in the
> >secondary literature. It is extremely difficult to get an error
> >corrected in Wikipedia even if this error was published only once in
> >one single scientific publication - and the amateurs do not know that
> >this publication is not significant, at least in what concerns this
> >special statement.
> One of the core WP policies - "Neutral Point of View" (NPOV) - is
> being misapplied in such cases. Yes, an erroneous statement, once
> published, cannot simply be removed by someone who knows that it is
> incorrect; that is one of the side-effects of true neutrality.
> HOWEVER, if something erroneous has been published and someone ELSE
> has published a statement declaring the work to be erroneous, then
> NPOV means that this criticism can be included, and cited. The actual
> policy: "All articles must adhere to the Neutral point of view policy
> (NPOV), fairly representing all majority and significant-minority
> viewpoints published by reliable sources, in rough proportion to the
> prominence of each view. Except in articles devoted to them,
> tiny-minority views need not be included. Where there is disagreement
> between sources, use in-text attribution: "John Smith argues that X,
> while Paul Jones maintains that Y," followed by an inline citation.
> Sources themselves are not required to maintain a neutral point of
> view; indeed most reliable sources are not neutral. Our job as
> editors is simply to present what the reliable sources say. "
> Any editor who removes a citation to a critical reference (e.g.,
> "Paul Jones maintains that Y") in order to preserve a discredited one
> (e.g., "John Smith argues that X") is guilty of an NPOV violation. If
> you revert their removal of the critical citation, and explain that
> their removal was inappropriate, and they remove it *again*, that can
> be drawn to the attention of administrators, who generally take a
> VERY dim view of "revert wars".
> >Some proportion of scientific knowledge has not been published at
> >all, for example very simple and basic facts - it is occasionally
> >impossible to mention such knowledge in Wikipedia.
> If one reads the rules carefully, the policy is that common,
> easily-verified facts do NOT need to have citations given. Here is
> the quote: "To show that it is not original research, all material in
> Wikipedia articles must be attributable to a reliable published
> source. But in practice not everything need actually be attributed.
> This policy requires that all quotations and any material challenged
> or likely to be challenged be attributed to a reliable, published
> source in the form of an inline citation, and that the source
> directly support the material in question." and it gives the example:
> "Paris is the capital of France" needs no source because no one is
> likely to object to it, but we know that sources for that sentence
> exist."
> Of course, there are jerks who challenge everything, even statements
> like "Paris is the capital of France" just to make themselves feel
> more important. If they are persistent, however, admins can rein them
> in, and even block their access or protect the articles they are
> screwing with.
> >Inconsistent application of different rules applied for WP
> >contributors is also a problem - well-known members of the inner
> >circles of the Wikipedia community feel allowed to publish anything
> >they like, but a scientific expert who likes to contribute is forced
> >to provide published references for every single statement. In cases
> >of divergent opinions concerning a special question, the amateur who
> >knows the rules and how to win such a case, will always win,
> >regardless of the expert providing published references to support a
> >view or statement.
> >
> >They also feel free to delete every contribution they like. This has
> >been addressed in the survey. The rule is that you can delete
> >anything you like, just by saying "not encyclopedia relevant",
> >without any consequences.
> This is generally NOT true, because administrators are generally NOT
> tolerant of bad behavior. If you can solicit administrative
> intervention, even the most devious editors can be sanctioned. That
> being said, it can be difficult to persuade admins that someone is
> acting in "bad faith", and one must often know and be able to cite
> the core WP policies that are being violated in a particular case. In
> other words, admins do not generally care about the academic nature
> of a dispute, but - like a lawyer - if you tell them that NPOV, 3RR,
> and WP:OWN violations are taking place, then this will get their
> attention. You can even call for arbitration, and bad editors always
> lose when this happens.
> >I have been forced outside the biological section of the German WP
> >community and today I contribute mainly to the English WP where such
> >behaviour is less strongly developed, and I experienced more
> >tolerance. I also learned that other German bioscientists were
> >equally chased away, and they also started contributing to the
> >English section. I would have wondered if this would have been my
> >single personal problem.
> This, again, makes it sound like the German WP is not populated by
> administrators who are genuinely interested in promoting and
> protecting WP's core policies. In every contentious case I have been
> involved in with the English WP, one way or another administrative
> intervention resolved the problem, and either sent the fools on their
> way, or forced them to actually play by the rules, instead of hiding
> behind them. Of course, for someone who is unable or unwilling to
> spend the time necessary to deal with administrators, this may not
> seem like such a great system ("Sure, I can eventually win this
> battle, but if it takes 2 months, is it worth my time?"). For me, the
> number of times I've had to go to such extremes has been very minimal
> - maybe a half dozen genuine problems in almost 10 years of editing -
> so maybe I've been fortunate in that regard, and you've been
> unfortunate.
> Sincerely,
> --
> Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology        Entomology Research Museum
> Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314        skype: dyanega
> phone: (951) 827-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
>              http://cache.ucr.edu/~heraty/yanega.html
>  "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
>        is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82
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Pete DeVries
Department of Entomology
University of Wisconsin - Madison
445 Russell Laboratories
1630 Linden Drive
Madison, WI 53706
TaxonConcept Knowledge Base <http://www.taxonconcept.org/> / GeoSpecies
Knowledge Base <http://lod.geospecies.org/>
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