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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Meet the Scientists Behind PLoS Computational Biology Meets Wikipedia and Contribute Your Ideas

Meet the Scientists Behind PLoS Computational Biology Meets Wikipedia and Contribute Your Ideas

For the first time, an article published in PLoS Computational Biology, an official journal of ISCB, is also posted on Wikipedia.

During ISMB 2011 last summer, Robert Russell, Professor of Protein Evolution at the University of Heidelberg, discussed the the idea with Philip Bourne, Editor-in-Chief of PLoS Computational Biology and Professor of Pharmacology at UC San Diego. Eight months later, the debut Topic Page was published in the March 2012 issue, "Circular Permuations in Proteins" by ISCB members Spencer Bliven and Andreas Prlić. Topic Pages follow both the journal's and Wikipedia's guidelines and are indexed in PubMed while leading a dual life as evolving documents of record in the wiki community.

"PLoS and Wikipedia are an excellent match," stated Robert Russell. "Open access makes the transfer to Wikipedia relatively simple. We all use Wikipedia, and it will be better as it becomes a reliable starting point by accurately reflecting the technical side of science. This will make it easier to get on with new discoveries if we do not have to linger on scientific facts."

Since Wikipedia's launch in 2001, many have doubted its accuracy. This view is changing as Wikipedia grows to include over 21 million articles in 284 languages. Wikidata, a new project announced by the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia Deutschland, is expected to enhance consistency and quality within Wikipedia articles. Wikidata will be a collaboratively edited database of the world's knowledge. The project is funded by donations from the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and Google.

"I check Wikipedia for all kinds of things, it has good headings and citations, and the information is easy to find," said Spencer Bliven, co-author of the first PLoS Computational Biology Topic Page and a UC San Diego bioinformatics graduate student in Philip Bourne's lab. This is precisely what Spencer and co-author Andreas Prlić, Senior Scientist at the UC San Diego Protein Data Bank, had in mind while writing a computational biology Topic Page. Their goal is to increase public awareness of the field and benefit the scientific community by providing a new reference. They have seen a number of edits to their Topic Page from the nonscientific community. Andreas remarked, "I was surprised by how active Wikipedia members are. They have strong safeguards for accuracy, including both content and form standards."

Before the pair could create their Wikipedia entry, they had to solve the licensing issue. Wikipedia is more restrictive than PLoS. One can transfer an article from PLoS to Wikipedia, but not from Wikipedia to PLoS. By publishing the Topic Page in PLoS, they were then able to move their article to Wikipedia.

Andreas and Spencer noted that there have been few scientists that contribute to Wikipedia. They believe that the PLoS Computational Biology Topic Pages will help change this by rewarding scientists and rewarding Wikipedia. A Topic Page offers important career benefits. Wikipedia's open editing offers the ability to reflect rapid scientific advances and the article is exposed to more readers. The author may add publication in both PLoS Computational Biology and Wikipedia to their curriculum vitae, demonstrating scientific rigor and a commitment to educating the public, which are key to obtaining grant support. In turn, Wikipedia's knowledge base grows, attracting more readers and participants by adding authoritative reference resources in computational biology, one of science's most dynamic fields.

Ensure that computational biology is appropriately represented on Wikipedia, the world's most widely used knowledge source. Please send your ideas for Topic Pages to ploscompbiol@plos.org. The editors of PLoS Computational Biology are looking for topics in computational biology that are of interest to the readership, the broader scientific community, and the public at large, and that are not yet covered, or only poorly so (i.e., exists as a "stub"), in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Computational_Biology. The guidelines for Topic Pages are available here: http://www.ploscompbiol.org/attachments/topicpages.pdf.

For more information read the full article at PLoS or take a look at the latest version of the article at Wikipedia. Also read the PLoS Computational Biology editorial announcing the Topic Pages, and check out blog posts by Spencer and Andreas. Come and meet Andreas and Spencer, and engage in more exciting discussions at the 13th Annual Bioinformatics Open Source Conference (BOSC 2012), a Special Interest Group (SIG) of ISMB 2012.

ISMB 2012 Dates:
July 13-14, 2012 BOSC 2012/Special Interest Groups & Tutorials

July 15-17, 2012 Conference

Location: Long Beach, California
Web sites:

URL: http://www.ploscompbiol.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pcbi.1002446

Contact Person: Stacy Slagor (stacy.slagor@iscb.org)