Is Crowdsourced Science Suspect?
What do you get when you cross the founder of Wikipedia with Cambridge biologist Michael Ashburner and about a million other people? An article in Genome Biology, that's what. It's WikiProteins, the first WikiProfessional project. Most of the project has been importing papers from PubMed and other locations. Then, with all that data, they are counting on a large group of participants to make sense of it all. Jimmy Wales is all about the power of crowds. And anonymity. That works about 60% of the time with encyclopedia information - maybe Wikipedia is better than that and maybe I have a bias because beyond ancillary information I disregard anyone who uses it as a source - but can it be science? There's no question some scientists believe in community outreach - no one here is getting rich writing for the general public - but writers get a direct reward here, like a comment or a thank you or getting their name out to a wide audience. But in an 'everyone is equal' Wiki community there's community service and then being lumped in with people who may not be very good. We're an open community but we won't let people write about flying saucers, for example, because it drags legitimate people down. Likewise in any field - be it mechanics, doctors or biologists - there are any number of employed people that, education or not, you wouldn't let mow your lawn. So can you trust the data? We'll see. I am always excited about this sort of thing but a site like this is doing it on a small scale. A group of admins can easily have some quality control. On a site with millions of annotations sifting through 14,000,000 articles to eliminate spurious connections? It's a big task. Genome Biology 2008, 9:R89 doi:10.1186/gb-2008-9-5-r89