Readers of this blog could easily guess my program for this Thursday evening after reading the news “Brussels university welcomes Wikipedia founder“. I have immediately registered for “Open Science. The key to more scientific integrity?” event at Vrije Universiteit Brussel, because I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to listen to Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia, as well as the other notable speakers, namely Prof. Em. André Van Steirteghem and Michel Bauwens.
It was nice to see be a part of an enthusiastic audience and all of the speakers delivered interesting talks full of insights. For example, thanks to this event, I learned that emeritus Prof. André Van Steirteghem is co-secretary of COPE (Committee on Publication Ethics) and once again was disappointed to hear about the rise of fraudulent research in Belgium, as well as in other European countries. Next speaker, Michel Bauwens talked about his perspectives on post-capitalistic social structures and peer-to-peer production mechanisms, using interesting terminology such as metarchical capitalism. At the end of his talk, he also drew attention to Wikipedia, and voiced his concerns about some of the rules such as notability: Apparently he was not found notable enough for Wikipedia. He claimed that since this ‘notability’ rule was established, the curve of contributions to Wikipedia became almost flat, indicating a particularly problematic situation, as well as the power struggles in Wikipedia.
Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia and keynote speaker of the event was the final speaker and he definitely had a great, enthusiastic presence on the stage. His presentation not only gave a brief and good summary of the history of Wikipedia, its structure, its operating principles and philosophies, but also interesting statistical facts about one of the most popular and valuable sites on the Internet regarding languages and countries. Probably one piece of fact that everyone will easily remember was the following:
- French is the 5th most popular language in Wikipedia in terms of number of articles (1.438.191 articles).
- Dutch is the 2nd most popular language in Wikipedia in terms of number of articles (1.701.723 articles).
On the other hand, when it comes to the depth of languages, in other words, the number of lengthy and very detailed articles, the situation is very different:
- French ranks as #3 with a depth score of 168, whereas
- Dutch ranks as #9 with a depth score of 9.
Wales said that this indicated there were many short articles in Dutch, but French had more in-depth, longer articles. He also shared his observation that the highest number and quality of articles came from countries such as Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, etc. not because people there had a very special interest towards Wikipedia but probably because in such cold climates it was better sitting at home, and with a good broadband Internet connections contributing to human knowledge turned out to be a very good hobby :-)
I have been very satisfied with the organization of VUB university and I found the speakers, especially keynote speaker Jimmy Wales very well prepared, addressing many of the questions on my mind. I still have concerns about how open access, open science and projects such as Wikipedia will alleviate the recent rise of unethical research publication problems, but I hope this topic will garner more interest in the upcoming events.
PS: You can view a few more photos from the event by visiting my Flickr gallery.