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OS, Interrupted

March 27, 2006, 12:50 PM ET

'Don't Compare Us to Wikipedia!'

Wikipedia has been stung in recent months by a number of miniature scandals—each of which seemed to show the site’s propensity for letting contributors post inaccurate information. But the open-source encyclopedia got a piece of good news in December: An investigation by the science journal Nature concluded that, when it comes to articles on science, Wikipedia is about as accurate as the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Britannica has finally stepped forward to dispute the study, and what the encyclopedia’s rebuttal loses in timeliness, it more than makes up for in scathing language. "Almost everything about the journal’s investigation, from the criteria for identifying inaccuracies to the discrepancy between the article text and its headline, was wrong and misleading," argue Britannica officials. (CNET News)

Nature’s investigation actually proved that Britannica is more accurate than Wikipedia, but the journal misrepresented the results of its study, according to Britannica. (A complete version of the rebuttal is available online as a .pdf.)

Britannica, of course, has considerable incentive to preserve its reputation and discredit an upstart competitor. But the challenge to Nature’s study might provide more grist for critics of Wikipedia, who have recently called attention to a new batch of less-than-scholarly contributions to the online encyclopedia. (United Press International)

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