Building the Wikipedia for academic research
One of my occasional frustrations with the academy is the walled garden within which it operates. Too often, the theoretical and empirical work that academics do is shared only among a small group of similarly focused, educated, and interested peers within research groups and at peer institutions.
We are great at discovery, but not so at dissemination. We learn a lot, but don’t teach nearly enough.
Some of my colleagues, when describing members of their workgroups as “popular” — for focusing their attention on translating academic jargon in articles aimed the general population, or for explaining the themes and implications of studies that are tucked away in elite academic and research journals that cost thousands of dollars to even access — use it as a pejorative term.
I think we should treat the “mass market” as a collection of students, that we should use the popular press as an alternative classroom, and that technology should help us liberate and share knowledge.
The academy, however and unfortunately, has not yet embraced or harnessed the potential of the Internet to bridge the powerful, important, and interesting work being done in the labs and libraries within its ivory towers with the equally powerful, important, and interesting work being done in “the real world.”
All of this makes me excited about the potential and promise of AcaWiki.org, an ambitious and awesome project to make public and accessible the results of publicly-funded research. Its aim is to be the “Wikipedia for academic research.”
Below is a recent email I received on a graduate school list-serve about AcaWiki.org. Check it out, contribute or edit an entry (or two!), and let’s build something together.
Hello Friends and Colleagues,
I’ve included you on this list because I’ve probably bent your ear about AcaWiki.org before, and/or you are an academic and can help. Please read and forward along!
AcaWiki.org is one solution to this problem.
AcaWiki is a “Wikipedia for academic research” and hosts user-contributed summaries of peer-reviewed papers. While AcaWiki facilitates access to academic papers to the public, it also helps researchers by offering easily digestible summaries of papers, commentary, and discussion.
AcaWiki is a nonprofit organization and all content is contributed under the CC Attribution license.
Here is Where you Come in
We just finished building the BETA version of the AcaWiki site and need your help in two ways:
1. Test Drive the Site
Before AcaWiki makes a big announcement to the public we want your feedback! Does the site work well? Is it confusing? How can it be improved?
2. Contribute a Summary
We certainly don’t want to launch the site with nothing on it! Write up a summary of your favorite peer-reviewed academic paper, or one of your own! As a special thank you, we’d like to offer a $20 gift certificate to Amazon.com to anyone on this list who contributes one full summary (or more) by January 31st, 2009. We have limited gift certificates so if you receive this via forward please email firstname.lastname@example.org before acting on this offer.
Here are a few examples of summaries:
AcaWiki will likely officially launch in February.
Thanks for all your help and please forward!
Also of great interest, if you are intrigued by the AcaWiki project, is debatepedia, a “global wiki encyclopedia of public debates, pro and con arguments, and supporting quotations.”
This site was created by a college buddy of mine and is best understood as “the Wikipedia of debates” with the aim of engaging “citizen-editors in centralizing original arguments – as well as arguments and quotations found in millions articles, essays, and books – into a single encyclopedia.” Cool factor of this site: debatepedia is endorsed by the United States National Forensic League.
Entry filed under: etc, think. Tags: academic research, AcaWiki, acawiki.org, build something, citizen-editors, debatepedia, debates, debatus, education, encyclopedia, forensics, Internet, learning, National Forensic League, NFL, pro/con, research, share research, university research, user generated, wiki, wikipedia.