Wikipedia, the online encylopedia that lets any Internet user draft and edit entries, has taken some heat recently for publishing inaccurate information. But the science journal Nature conducted an investigation and found that Wikipedia is just about as accurate as Encyclopedia Britannica, at least when it comes to science articles.
The magazine had subject-matter experts review 42 pairs of entries from both encyclopedias, without letting the experts know which was which. Wikipedia averaged four mistakes per entry, and Britannica averaged three. Most of the errors were insignificant, the magazine states in an article released today, such as whether someone was the 13th or 14th child in his family. Experts found eight serious errors—four in Wikipedia and four in Britannica—including misinterpretations of important concepts. The article did not spell out the errors in detail.
Wikipedia has undergone public scrutiny since John Seigenthaler Sr., a one-time administrative assistant to Robert F. Kennedy, complained in a USA Today column that the online reference said he may have played a role in the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy. The Wikipedia entry has since been changed, and the online encyclopedia has tightened its rules, requiring users to register before they can create an article.
Other than errors, Nature’s experts found that the Wikipedia entries were often poorly worded and confusing. While the information was generally reliable, the Nature article states, the structure often lacked the nuance that a subject-matter expert could provide, as well as a good editing. (Nature)