Wikipedia: an important dissemination tool for Cochrane

Wikipedia: an important dissemination tool for Cochrane

Sylvia de Haan is Cochrane's Partnerships Coordinator. She focuses on building and maintaining Cochrane’s external partnerships, including with Wikipedia. This blog tells about the experience of a small pilot project aimed at engaging volunteers in editing Wikipedia articles using Cochrane (and other) content.

Wikipedia's health content was made up of more than 155,000 articles at the end of 2013, and was viewed more than 4.88 billion times in the same year.  Wikipedia thus is a major source of health information for people across the world.

The Cochrane-Wikipedia partnership, formalized in 2014, supports the inclusion of relevant evidence within all Wikipedia articles on health, as well as processes to help ensure that health information included in Wikipedia is of the highest quality and accuracy.

In October 2016, we initiated a pilot with Cochrane Global Ageing to work with volunteers specifically recruited to help improve Wikipedia content in the area of ageing. The volunteers contributed during four months, at approximately four hours a week, to this project. They received four hours of online training from Wikipedia to ensure they were comfortable editing Wikipedia content. Cochrane, through Cochrane Global Ageing, provided content guidance and project management support. A project page shared results within the Wikipedia community, and a dashboard kept track of the edits made and the number of reads of the articles edited.


The dashboard shows that during the four-month period from October 2016 to January 2017, the volunteers edited 106 articles, and added more than 16,000 words to these articles. The articles were viewed 9,35 million times by the end of the project period (January 2017). One month later, the number of views are close to 11 million.

Many people use Wikipedia as the place to go when looking for health information; the statistics from this project confirm this. If Cochrane wants its health evidence be used by the general public, investing in Wikipedia makes sense. The volunteer model worked well: after a short training, the volunteers were capable of editing articles. In addition to the guidance provided by Cochrane Global Ageing, the volunteers also used the Cochrane bot (which lists Cochrane Reviews currently referenced in Wikipedia for which a newer version is available) to find articles they could edit. 

Cochrane will continue promoting the use of Wikipedia for disseminating Cochrane evidence, thus improving the quality of the health information available. Ways to get involved are described on the partnership Wiki page. In addition, Task Exchange is posting tasks for the Wiki updates needed. The training materials used for this pilot project are open access and can be used by anyone interested in learning about Wikipedia editing and on including Cochrane evidence in Wikipedia.

Please get in touch with Sylvia de Haan if you would like to get involved in Wikipedia editing or if you have any other suggestions for the way in which Cochrane can contribute to Wikipedia.  

Heilman JM, West AG (2015), Wikipedia and medicine: quantifying readership, editors, and the significance of natural language. J Med Internet Res. 2015 Mar 4;17(3):e62. doi: 10.2196/jmir.4069.

March 1, 2017

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