Britannica Slams Nature's Wikipedia Comparison - InformationWeek

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Britannica Slams Nature's Wikipedia Comparison

In an industry known more for gentility, Encyclopedia Britannica came out swinging like a street fighter, calling on Nature to retract a study that was published in the magazine in December. In comparing online scientific articles from both publications, Nature had said Wikipedia "comes close" to Britannica in its coverage of scientific topics.

To Pappas, Britannica and Wikipedia cannot be compared because of the differences in the publications.

"Wikipedia is fun for many people because it offers self publishing, it's free and free of rules -- and who doesn't like things that are free of rules," Pappas said. "It also offers almost immediate gratification.

"In the end, we don't confuse fun, instant gratification and a constantly changing free-form environment with the hard work associated with the commitment to scholarship, prudent publishing and rigorous editorial standards," Pappas said.

Wales acknowledged that Wikipedia does not have the same level of accuracy as Britannica in all subjects. The online encyclopedia is particularly strong in science and technology, but weak in many other areas.

"We're always very realistic," Wales said. "We consider ourselves a work in progress, and we don't see any reason to overstate things."

Nevertheless, Wales believed Britannica's criticism of the study was "overblown" and blamed news reports for saying the two publications were equal in accuracy, even though Wikipedia had 25 percent more mistakes in the study than Britannica.

"I think the study was good," Wales said.

For its part, Wikipedia has no beef with Britannica, which it sees as among the top in the industry.

"We're encyclopedia geeks, so we love Britannica," Wales said.

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