In a fascinating and forward-thinking policy change, the journal RNA Biology recently began requiring authors to submit a Wikipedia-ready page after acceptance, so that new findings can be published in Wikipedia after journal publication:
Anyone submitting to a section of the journal RNA Biology will, in the future, be required to also submit a Wikipedia page that summarizes the work. The journal will then peer review the page before publishing it in Wikipedia.
The first Wikipedia entry resulting from this policy can be found in Wikipedia already.
Despite the fact that the page submitted to Wikipedia will have been peer-reviewed, debates about the quality of Wikipedia continue, mostly along the lines that the entries will degenerate in the Wikipedia environment into unrecognizable lay-person nonsense. These debates are rife in the comments around the Nature news article about the policy change. One comment hints at a study about the very topic:
Our data, being written up for publication, do not support Mr. Kohs’ hypothesis that the RNA articles will degenerate into vandalism-riddled nonsense. On the contrary, we found that the developed articles (the so-called Featured, A-level and Good Articles) are stable and of reliably good quality.
While Wikipedia isn’t to be used to publish original research, it can be used to publish reference work based on peer-reviewed research. New findings — discoveries — certainly qualify.
In thinking this through, I believe this is a great move. Journals are struggling to remain relevant. What better way than to align themselves with what is arguably the world’s most significant, accessible reference work? It also answers some of the concerns about access to findings, which have dogged the scholarly publishing community for the past decade.
Is this a great idea? I believe it is.