There was an interesting essay in the most recent CACM titled "Why You Can’t Cite Wikpedia in My Class" (http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1284621.1284635). The author, Neil L. Waters, is a professor
of history and the Kawashima Professor of Japanese Studies in the
Department of History at Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT. He recounts how several students submitted essays to him with incorrect information on several topics in Japanese history, and how he traced the incorrect information to several Wikipedia articles.
I’ll skip the part about how he had his department formulate the "you can’t cite Wikipedia" policy and the large amount of attention this received. (You shouldn’t: it’s quite interesting.) What I was struck by was the last paragraph:
I suppose I should now go fix the Wikipedia entry for Ogyu
Sorai (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ogyu_ Sorai). I have been waiting
since January to see how long it might take for the system to
correct it, which has indeed been altered slightly and is rather
good overall. But the statement that Ogyu opposed the Tokugawa
order is still there and still highly misleading
. Somehow the statement that equates the
samurai with the lower class in Tokugawa Japan has escaped the
editors’ attention, though anyone with the slightest contact with
Japanese history knows it is wrong.
Hmmm…. so …. why didn’t he go fix the article? One can imagine lots of answers, but I’d guess the right explanation is that he doesn’t have any incentive to do so. Probably this is true for most experts in topics like Japanese history (what are "topics like Japanese history" anyway?).
So, I think a great research question is: is there any way to create incentives for experts to edit Wikipedia?