Academic Researchers in Wikimedia Communities: Ethics, Methods, and Policies


Panelist at Wikimania 2010, Gdansk, Poland

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In the past few years, there has been an explosion of academic researchers who are turning their attention towards Wikimedia projects. Hundreds of scholars representing virtually every discipline in the humanities, the social sciences, and the computational sciences have entered various Wikimedia communities to answer a broad range of questions using an equally diverse set of methods. As both researchers and editors have learned, actively studying wiki communities raises a number of problems and concerns, from the practical and logistical to the ethical and legal. Despite years of informal dialog and negotiation between individual researchers and editors, multiple WikiProjects dedicated to wiki research, and an ongoing attempt to craft a formal research policy, many issues are still unresolved.\n\nThe purpose of this panel is to foster a dialog between wiki researchers and the Wikimedia community on many of these issues, which include: Are talk pages, listservs, and IRC channels public spaces, and should researchers have to identify themselves when they enter? What kinds of privacy issues exist with reporting an editor’s actions in an academic article? Under what conditions should social scientists be allowed to send unsolicited requests to random samples of users, a process which has been sometimes been considered spam and resulted in the banning of researchers’ accounts? Are controversial 'breaching experiments' (such as vandalism response tests) of value, and is there a way they can be performed in a satisfactory manner? Should there be a group or committee that would review and approve certain kinds of academic research activities, similar to the Bot Approval Group? These are some of the many questions that will be asked, and audience members will be encouraged to participate in this discussion.