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The accuracy and completness of Wikipedia has been debated for years now and compared to Encyclopedia Britannica and other traditional reference works, often with the conclusion that Wikipedia is accurate but incomplete.

In this context, a recent article in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy on this topic caught my eye.

The Annals article provides a nice variant — instead of the general quality of the resource, this study evaluated a specific quality of Wikipedia. The topic? Drug information.

The authors compared Wikipedia to the Medscape Drug Reference (MDR). In general, they found that Wikipedia was not inaccurate, but it was woefully incomplete, both on a macro level and within articles. It was unable to answer questions about dosages, a major flaw.

One interesting twist is that Wikipedia improved significantly in just 90 days of observation. As the authors state it:

There was marked improvement in the quality of drug
information in Wikipedia over time, as current entries were
superior in scope to those 90 days prior (p = 0.024).

And this improvement trajectory — both its existence and its pace — is what other reference works should notice. It’s what first made Wikipedia indispensable for general reference. And in 90 days, the improvement in the area of drug reference was signficant.

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Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson is the CEO of RedLink and RedLink Network, a past-President of SSP, and the founder of the Scholarly Kitchen. He has worked as Publisher at AAAS/Science, CEO/Publisher of JBJS, Inc., a publishing executive at the Massachusetts Medical Society, Publishing Director of the New England Journal of Medicine, and Director of Medical Journals at the American Academy of Pediatrics. Opinions on social media or blogs are his own.