Publication: Who edits Wikipedia on health, and what motivates them to do it?

9 December 2014

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Wikipedia has become one of the most accessed online sources of health information, with over 25,000 articles pertaining to health in English alone. Wikipedia’s health content is used by the public, but also by medical students, physicians and other health care professionals - around 5 billion page views in 2013. But if Wikipedia is the encyclopaedia that anyone can edit, who is actually creating this material, and why?

A project by Nuša Farič, completed as part of her MSc in Health Psychology at UCL, with Dr Henry Potts of UCL’s Centre for Health Informatics & Multiprofessional Education (CHIME), set out to answer these questions. The findings have now been published in Farič N, Potts HWW Motivations for Contributing to Health-Related Articles on Wikipedia: An Interview Study J Med Internet Res 2014;16(12):e260

The authors randomly selected a set of health-related articles on Wikipedia and invited people contributing to those pages to complete a questionnaire (32 respondents from 11 countries) and a follow-up interview (16 respondents) about their experiences and motivations.

Editors of health-related articles were predominantly men (31 out of 32) and ranged in age from 12 to 59. Reassuringly, 15 were currently working in a health-related field, mainly as doctors. A smaller number had specific health problems themselves that motivated their editing.

Individuals edited health-related content on Wikipedia because they wanted to improve content; they find editing Wikipedia is a good way to learn about topics themselves; they feel a sense of responsibility – often a professional responsibility – to provide good quality health information; they enjoy editing Wikipedia; and they think highly of the value of Wikipedia. However, some editors also reported being put off editing by hostility from others on the site.

Page last modified on 02 dec 14 17:06