Not so long ago if one wanted to find information on say, lipids, the Encyclopedia Britannica was a first stop to learn more about triglycerides and cholesterol. These days, however, we're more likely to key in "define: lipids" in Google or check out the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Ever wonder which source would be more accurate?
When the scientific journal Nature compared Wikipedia to Britannica in a Dec. 15 report, it found that: "Wikipedia comes close to Britannica in terms of the accuracy of it science entries." When it compared the two sources' entry on lipids, Nature railed Britannica for its "outdated nomenclature."
This week, as the Wall Street Journal reported, Britannica is firing back and planning to run ads saying the Nature findings lack validity. The venerable Britannica versus an online upstart? It shouldn't be a surprise. Afterall, the Internet has transformed the way we perform research and consume information. It also calls into question issues of trust and accountability. Wikipedia suggests people are more likely to trust information built on a model of collaboration, while Britannica banks on what media theorists term the "gatekeeping" approach. At least for now, it would be worthwhile to read both sources. Eastwikkers are keeping a close eye on Wikipedia. As the "33 Wikis" series progresses, stay tuned for more insight.