Journal Watch Online reports on a recent TREE paper Callis et al Improving Wikipedia: educational opportunity and professional responsibility (DOI:10.1016/j.tree.2009.01.003 ) in Open Source Ecology
A University of Florida professor directed those energies towards a more noble cause: surveying and improving Wikipedia entries on ecological topics. The graduate students, enrolled in a seminar on plant-animal interactions, found the entries on frugivory, herbivory, pollination, granivory and seed dispersal to be lacking in breadth, and sometimes sidetracked by irrelevant topics (they were especially piqued by a long discourse about fruitarians – humans who choose a fruit diet — in the frugivory entry).
In Trends in Ecology and Evolution, the class reports that, although occasionally frustrated by other authors determined to repeatedly delete their changes, improving the entries was a valuable educational experience not too much different than writing a term paper.
They argue that updating Wikipedia, an increasingly influential public information source, is among the civic duties of scientists and should be an activity incorporated into student coursework, professional meetings, and even the peer-review publication process