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Wiki(pedia) and the Principles of Science[edit source]

A presentation by Professor Henry S. Rzepa, Department of Chemistry, Imperial College London, September 8th, 2011, The Royal Society, London[1]

Quoting Samuel Butler, 1863:[edit source]

*I venture to suggest that ... the general development of the human race to be well and effectually completed when all men, in all places, without any loss of time, at a low rate of charge, are cognizant through their senses, of all that they desire to be cognizant of in all other places. ... This is the grand annihilation of time and place which we are all striving for, and which in one small part we have been permitted to see actually realised [2] <jmol>
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  • Wikipedia encapsulates this (Open) vision perfectly!

How does a (molecular) Scientist adopt this vision? [3][edit source]

Through Teaching activities[edit source]

* I teach organic chemistry and molecular modelling at Imperial College London.

  • All my teaching (and a fair few research) lectures are expressed as (Open) Podcasts, which take the form of
    • An audio recording of a 50 minute presentation
    • the timeline of which is annotated with 25-40 slides
    • accompanying the timeline are hyperlinks to online information:
      • which can be a relevant Wikipedia page, where the students find context
      • 3D models, where the students find interactivity
      • DOI citations,[4] where the students find the original articles: doi:10.1098/rspa.1954.0101
      • Each lecture can have about 80 such links, of which ~30 may be to Wikipedia

The issue of provenance and trust[edit source]


* As a teacher, do I feel confident sending my students to a Wikipedia link?

    • I tell them the golden rubric: cite your sources
    • which many (but not all) Wikipedia articles do
    • the students are encouraged to explore these citations
  • BUT: these sources may not be open
    • One needs a journal subscription to access them!
    • The case for Open Journals

Giving students practical Wikipedia-like experience[edit source]

  • A number of our laboratory courses are presented in Wiki(pedia) form
    • which they can edit themselves (courseware = read many/write many!)
  • And the students treat the Wiki as an electronic laboratory notebook

Through Research Activities[edit source]

  • My research involvement with Wikipedia is bi-directional (contributor/consumer)
    • I edit Wikipedia pages on molecular themes (~15)
    • by adding provenance and citations in support of the article
      • Which may take the form of original journal articles
      • Or, increasingly of posts to blogs (First class citizens-in-scholarly-publishing)
        • The Wikipedia article on Lapis Lazuli contained no explanation at the molecular level for the vivid blue colour. I have the (trusted) expertise to provide such, and did so on my blog, which the Wikipedia article now points to.
  • As a consumer, Wikipedia is a frequent first port of call for relevant citations (convention bibliographic searches may be overwhelming).

How can one increase (molecular) trust and provenance in Wikipedia?[edit source]

  1. The ChemBox, the elementElementBox, DrugBox (and DOI) templates allow molecular information to be structured within a Wikpedia page.
    1. Example of a drugbox for Aspirin
    2. Example of a chembox for ethanol
    3. Example of a Infobox element for carbon
  2. Structured information allows external trusted agencies to then curate the content
    1. ChemSpider, part of the Royal Society of Chemistry outreach activities
    2. ChemAxon, a provider of cheminformatics toolkits to the chemical industries.
    3. CommonChemistry, ~8000 molecules, operated by the Chemical Abstracts organisation, one curator the World's chemical information, in conjunction with the Wikipedia Chemical Project
  3. CheMoBot This bot is used to monitor changes to infoboxes in mainspace. This has the effect of maintaining a trusted core of molecular information, and where changes/additions to this information are carefully monitored by these trusted agencies.

The Scientific future of Wikipedia[edit source]

  • Meandrina meandrites (Maze Coral)
    This talk contains several examples of transcluding items in Wikipedia, whereby content (of ~10 million files) from Wikimedia Commons can be absorbed into a different document. Whenever the Wikicommons document is updated, so to is the local document. This of course raises interesting issues about exactly who has authored any resulting document, not to mention pedagogic implications.
  • In the spirit of the InterNet, one can also set up an InterWiki, which means local (e.g. Scientific) Wiki's can incorporate Wikipedia documents.

Semantic Wiki[edit source]

This is an extension to the conventional concept, whereby data is stored with associated semantic meanings, which allows extraordinarily rich queries to be constructed and logical semantic (holistic) connections to be discovered.[5] Entire documents can be created (and automatically updated) by logical transclusion. It is (IMHO) the most powerful implementation yet of the Semantic Web.

Robert Hooke[edit source]

I venture to suggest that Robert Hooke[6] (and Samuel Butler) would have approved of the evolution of the Scientific Journal towards a Semantic Wikipedia!

References and citations[edit source]

  1. Henry Rzepa. URL of talk, URL of Podcast URL of Wikipedia society talk
  2. Quoted in George Dyson, "Darwin amongst the Machines, The Evolution of Global Intelligence", Addison-Wesley, N.Y., 1997. ISBN 0-201-400649-7
  3. M. Walker, Enhancing Learning with Online Resources, Social Networking, and Digital Libraries, Chapter 5, pp 79–92, ACS Symposium Series, 2010, Vol. 1060, ISBN13: 9780841226005, eISBN: 9780841226012. doi:10.1021/bk-2010-1060.ch005
  4. N. Paskin, Data Science J., 2005, 44, 12-20. doi:10.2481/dsj.4.12
  5. H. S. Rzepa, "Achieving a Holistic Web in the chemistry curriculum", Ann. Rep. Comp. Chem., 2007, 3, 99-133. doi:10.1016/S1574-1400(07)03007-1
  6. H. Oldenburg, Phil. Trans., 1665-1666, 1. doi:10.1098/rstl.1665.0001