Elsevier access donations help Wikipedia editors improve science articles

With free access to ScienceDirect, top editors can ensure that science read by the public is accurate

A recent article in MIT Technology Review speaks of a “quiet revolution occurring in the way science diffuses into the public consciousness.” According to the authors, increasingly the public is reading about science on Wikipedia, the crowd-sourced online encyclopedia.

Since its launch in 2001, Wikipedia has grown to become the sixth most trafficked website in the world, with 8,000 views per second and 500 million unique visitors each month. For many, it is the first stop in almost any information quest.

These numbers are significant, and as a publisher of scientific information, Elsevier plays a role in ensuring that science reaching large parts of the public is reported accurately. Elsevier has agreed to contribute to The Wikipedia Library’s Access Donation Program by offering top Wikipedia editors free access to ScienceDirect, Elsevier’s flagship full-text database covering almost a quarter of the world's peer-reviewed scientific content.

Wikipedia is supported by the Wikimedia Foundation, a nonprofit charitable organization “dedicated to encouraging the growth, development and distribution of free, multilingual, educational content.” The Wikipedia Library program, also part of the Wikimedia Foundation, seeks to help Wikipedia volunteer editors gain access to high-quality and trusted resources.

To accomplish this, The Wikipedia Library team encourages access partnerships between publishers, libraries and other trusted content and data providers. These access programs empower editors to research the topics of Wikipedia articles in order to make corrections and cite authoritative sources, improving the encyclopedia and bringing the best quality information to the public.

The Wikipedia Library’s current access programs include partnerships with, JSTOR (Journal Storage), Oxford University Press, Royal Society, HighBeam Research, Questia Online Library, British Newspaper Archive, Cochrane Collaboration, BMJ and Newspapers.com, among others.

A selection of The Wikipedia Library’s content partners.

Since being approached by the Wikipedia Library Team at the beginning of 2015, Elsevier has donated 45 free accounts to ScienceDirect for top Wikipedia editors.

Karl BundayInitial reports from the users have been positive, with editors saying that access to ScienceDirect has improved efficiency in their work. Wiki editors also acknowledge the increased benefit to the end users of Wikipedia – students and researchers.

Karl Bunday, Wiki editor in Social & Behavioral Sciences, wrote, "Thanks for making such a useful resource available in a way that will encourage many students and independent researchers around the world to dig deeper into the sources about topics mentioned on Wikipedia." 

Commenting on how ScienceDirect access helps him in his work as a Wiki editor, he said:

The articles I edit on Wikipedia tend to be very controversial, and are mostly sourced to top tier primary journal literature. I'd like to make sure that the journal articles are verified and correctly and completely cited as they are used in Wikipedia text. Having access to many of these journals makes my life as an editor much easier.

Jake Orlowitz (Photo by Christopher Schwarzkopf, WMDE,  <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0">CC BY-SA 3.0</a>, via Wikimedia Commons)Since the first donation round, more Wiki editors have expressed interest and submitted applications. Elsevier and The Wikipedia Library team are reviewing these and have agreed to expand the program in the coming months so more editors can benefit from the service.

Jake Orlowitz, Head of The Wikipedia Library, commented on the importance of quality sources for open knowledge:

Wikipedia is the world's hub for open knowledge, and its reliability depends on the quality of the sources we can read and cite. Elsevier's publications are rich in quality and by donating access to Wikipedia's top editors we aim to dramatically improve the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the Encyclopedia. It's a promising partnership that moves towards openness from publishers and scholars through collaboration with the open knowledge community and movement.

 Alex Stinson (Photo by Slowking4 <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0">CC BY-SA 3.0</a>, via Wikimedia Commons)Alex Stinson, Project Manager of The Wikipedia Library, commented on how important it is for Wiki Editors to have access to high-quality research:

Wikipedia's volunteers are only able to create the best public knowledge  when they have the best research materials. Elsevier publishes some of the best science scholarship in the world, and our globally located volunteers often seek out that access but don't have access to research libraries. Elsevier is helping us bridge that gap! We are excited to have Elsevier among our publisher donation partners at the Wikipedia Library, helping our volunteers create the world’s largest free Encyclopedia.

Alexandra de Lange"It's great to see how this access enables highly contributing Wikipedia editors to dive deeper into the articles they are editing,” said Alexandra de Lange, Head of Third Party Platform Relations at Elsevier. “Wikipedia editors play a valuable role, acting as a bridge between the scientific content we make available through ScienceDirect, which mainly target academic audiences, and Wikipedia articles aimed at the broader public.”

What’s included in the ScienceDirect – Wiki editor deal?

So far, Elsevier has made 45 free accounts available to its published content online on ScienceDirect to help Wikipedia editors write and edit articles for the encyclopedia. These ScienceDirect Wiki editor accounts are divided into three main science disciplines:

According to their area of specialty, Wikipedia editors can apply for one of these ScienceDirect access collections.

How it works

The ScienceDirect Wiki Editor accounts are available for top contributing Wiki Editors. The Wikipedia Library team has outlined the requirements that define “top editors” (see below), and editors who feel they meet the criteria can apply for access. The Wikipedia Library team reviews the applications and determines which editors are eligible and informs Elsevier. These selected editors are then set up with a ScienceDirect access code tailored to include the subject content they applied for. Their access is initially valid for one year, after which editors who have actively used their account can reapply through the Wikipedia Library team.

Main requirements

  1. Editors have a Wikipedia account that is a minimum of 1 year old
  2. Editors have made a minimum of 500 edits to Wikipedia
  3. Editors are active in content generation, research, and/or verification work

If Wiki editors have access to ScienceDirect through their university or alumni program, they are urged to use that account instead, to make sure the limited number of ScienceDirect Wiki Editor accounts are fairly allocated.

Here is the full list of the requirements.

Related Resources

What is ScienceDirect?

ScienceDirect is Elsevier's full-text database covering almost a quarter of the world's peer-reviewed scientific content. It is home to nearly 2,500 journals and over 33,000 book titles used by over 15 million researchers, teachers, students, healthcare professionals and information professionals around the world. Journal titles include among others: The Lancet, Cell, Current Biology, Biomaterials, Biological Psychiatry, Social Science & Medicine, Cognition, and Behavioural Brain Research.

About Wikipedia

Since its creation in 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, Wikipedia has grown rapidly into one of the largest reference websites, attracting 439 million unique visitors monthly as of June 2015. according to the Wikimedia Report Card in June 2015. There are more than 73,000 active contributors working on more than 35,000,000 articles in 290 languages. As of today, there are 4,922,057 articles in English. According to Alexa Internet, Wikipedia is the world's seventh most popular website in terms of overall visitor traffic.

Elsevier Connect Contributor

BoucherieSacha Boucherie works closely with Elsevier's journal publishers, editors and authors at one end and with science journalists and reporters at the other end with the aim of spotlighting and promoting interesting, topical research articles. She is based in Elsevier's Amsterdam headquarters

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