Be aware of using reliable sources - and link to website rather than to the pdf file directly

  • muench
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Announcing the new WikiProject Sanitation - inviting all SuSanA members to get involved and donate a little bit of their time

On the occasion of Wikipedia's 15th (!) anniversary on 15 January 2016, Neil Pakenham-Walsh recently posted the following to the HIFA* Dgroup that he moderates, which I fully endorse:

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January 20

Dear HIFA colleagues,

The message below is forwarded from the discussion forum of IFLA, the International Federation of Library Associations. IFLA has done a huge amount in the past few years to promote the importance of access to information.

The message from the IFLA president below celebrates the achievements of Wikipedia and invites everyone to add one citation to a reliable source to a Wikipedia article of your choice. I invite you to do the same.

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"15 years ago a new multilingual, web-based, free-content encyclopaedia project was launched. With the birth of Wikipedia, freedom of access to information reached a different level, enabling millions of users over the past 15 years to not only gather information but also enhance the information provided with their own expertise.

On behalf of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), I would like to take the opportunity to extend our congratulations to the Wikimedia Foundation on the 15th birthday of Wikipedia. Wikipedia is a truly fantastic achievement!

I would also like to encourage librarians worldwide to participate in the #1Lib1Ref (One Librarian, One Reference) campaign, hosted by Wikipedia Library, during this birthday week of Wikipedia. As Wikipedia is often the first stop for researchers world-wide, the campaign asks librarians to improve the quality of references on Wikipedia by adding one citation to a reliable source to a Wikipedia article of your choice. Let’s all help to improve Wikipedia’s sources!

I am looking forward to seeing many more interesting and ground-breaking initiatives from the Wikimedia Foundation and wish you a successful next 15 years and more!"

Sincerely,
Donna Scheeder
IFLA President

--

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The message by Donna mentions "reliable source". You might wonder: What exactly is that in Wikipedia terms?

A reliable source is defined in Wikipedia here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Identifying_reliable_sources

And specifically for all topics in the realm of medicine the reliable sources are very high standard:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Identifying_reliable_sources_(medicine)

Topics that relate to medicine and health on Wikipedia are expected to have very high caliber sources. Topics related to just “normal” sanitation topics can have lower caliber sources if better sources are not available. As a rule of thumb: a blog cannot be used as a source, neither can this forum be. Even PhD and MSc theses are frowned upon as reliable sources; nevertheless, I have used them a few times for sanitation articles. Good sources are journal articles (ideally review articles), publications with ISBN numbers, documents from reputable organizations like WHO, UNICEF, Worldbank and alike. If you have any doubts if a source is sufficiently reputable just ask on the talk page of the article or add the hint {{citation needed}} to alert other editors that a good citation is still needed!

In sanitation we come across the problem that much of the work is practitioner based, and hiqh quality journal articles or books are few and far between (or they lag a few years behind, too).

Also, it is sometimes a fine line between “common knowledge” (= not needing a citation) and a statement that should really have a source…

For sanitation topics, you can usually get away with citing basic reports or "grey literature"; if they don't have a URL yet, but are good, we can place them in the SuSanA library to give them a URL so they can be cited.

Strangely, Wikipedia editors do usually accept newspaper articles as sources (for non-medical content only, of course), which in my opinion is rather odd as we all know how much journalists can bend the facts, on purpose or by mistake!

I think the key is to modify an existing Wikipedia article gently, adding some sentences here and there (using the the best source you can cite), or adding an image or two. Other editors get suspicious if someone inserts a long piece of text without citing any sources and especially if the piece is just copied from e.g. a supplier’s website. This would usually not be regarded as a reputable source.

Regards,
Elisabeth

* What is HFA: Let's build a future where people are no longer dying for lack of healthcare knowledge - Join HIFA: www.hifa2015.org

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
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  • joeturner
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Re: Be aware of using reliable sources - and link to website rather than to the pdf file directly

Just two little observations:

First, please be aware of your sources. The pages that we (ie WikiProject Sanitation) work on are obviously not as well-used as many others on wikipedia - however there is a wikipedia-wide effort to improve the quality of sources used to cite information. In general, we should be looking to cite almost every fact we can with a published and peer-reviewed source. Of course, that's not always possible, but we do need to be careful not to just link to a pdf we've found online of something. For example, someone has linked to a pdf from the US Geological Survey for numbers on en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_phosphorus

I have left it (for now), but I'm not sure it is really what we'd call a "reliable source", because it isn't an official document released by the USGS and so we can't be sure it is preliminary or contains mistakes. A published paper (or official USGS document) may well be older but... well, if it is wrong we can blame someone else. Whereas if we've just accidentally found something that was never intended to be released to the public and contains errors, we're spreading misinformation. There is a whole, horrible discussion on reliable sources on wikipedia if anyone is interested (see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Identifying_reliable_sources ) but my summary is as above. If you use inferior sources, the chances are that your work will be removed at some point, so it is better to take more time to use better ones.

Second, I'm not sure that pages like en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Co-composting will survive. The reason is that "new pages" are aggressively monitored and are often removed if they're not shown to have enough to say outwith of any other page. It isn't usually a great idea to start a one-line page, I'd prefer you wrote a section on another page and then when that got too big expanded it onto another.

This might not be a problem with this particular page if you're planning to come back soon and write a lot more. But possibly something to be aware of.
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  • arno
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Re: WG 7: Take part in SuSanA's Wikipedia Edit-a-thon for World Water Day (19th/20th March)!

Hi Joe
The wikipedia page on peak phosphorus was updated with the all important data on commercial reserves published officially by USGS. minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/phosphate_rock/
Yes it's a PDF that is the source. The wikipedia page had data from 2009. There is no official source that is more authoritative than USGS. There is no UN body that monitors rock phosphate. There are no updated data published on a regular basis by industry either.

One can see that things have changed radically in that the US reserves rate now as 10th. They used to be third.

Regards
--Arno

Arno Rosemarin PhD
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  • muench
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Re: WG 7: Take part in SuSanA's Wikipedia Edit-a-thon for World Water Day (19th/20th March)!

Which reference exactly are we talking about in the Wikipedia article on peak phosphorus?:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_phosphorus

I agree with Joe that it's usually better to provide a link to the website where the pdf file is located, rather than linking to the pdf file directly. The same applies to documents in the SuSanA library: rather link to the HTML page where the document is, rather than directly to the pdf file.

If there is a pdf file that is not yet on the internet, we can also upload it to the SuSanA library to give it a URL.

Another observation I have about the peak phosphorus article is that the lead (the first 4 paragraphs before the table of conent) does not seem to be a good summary of the article? Could you perhaps improve that, Arno?

Regards,
Elisabeth

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
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Community manager of this forum via SEI
(see: www.susana.org/en/resources/projects/details/127 )
Wikipedian, co-founder of WikiProject Sanitation: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Sanitation

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  • joeturner
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Re: WG 7: Take part in SuSanA's Wikipedia Edit-a-thon for World Water Day (19th/20th March)!

OK, that's fair comment. I'd just link to the website where they are storing their estimates rather than the individual pdf for several reasons (including that the name of the pdf might change, but the page containing them is less likely to). The pdf itself (without looking at the website page it comes from) looks dubious, IMO.
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