Wikipedia:Credentials are irrelevant

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In light of the Essjay controversy, a number of editors have become very angry about how User:Essjay misrepresented himself. Yes, he caused a major PR blow to Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation, but don't we have policies that prevent using individual experience? When it comes to editing articles, we must look at the sources which are being used in the article, rather than the credibility of the editor who put it in there. Although an expert in the field is helpful as they have easier access to sources, but should those credentials have any effect in editing articles for an encyclopedia where only 3rd party sources are allowed?

Wikipedia's attribution policy dictates that information should be attributed to a reliable published source. Even someone with verifiable expertise in a subject cannot make edits based on their own opinion or interpretation of a subject, however well-informed that opinion is. Wikipedia is not a publisher of original thought.

This does not imply that someone with expertise shouldn't edit articles within their field; they should be encouraged to do so. They can also cite their own published research as an external source. But no Wikipedian can expect the community to accept their opinion as truth. Attributability, not truth, is the threshold for inclusion.

Inappropriate use of credentials[edit]

When users use their credentials, real or imagined, to win an argument on a talk page, to put an end to an edit war, or to circumvent the need to verify their controversial edits with a reliable source, then they are using them inappropriately. All editors – whether they are world-renowned experts, or teenagers editing from high school – are required to follow Wikipedia policies and guidelines, refrain from adding original research to articles, and contribute only material that can be supported by a reliable source. No Wikipedian's opinion is more valuable than another's.

Why "credential verification" is a bad idea[edit]

Trying to prove your credentials is contrary to the fundamental spirit of Wikipedia. In particular, stating at WP:RFA "I hold a Ph.D, so you should make me an admin" would destroy the concept of anonymity, equality and community that is fundamental to the Wikipedia ethos.

If you have academic credentials, it's up to you whether you note them on your userpage or not. But you should avoid referring to your credentials outside your own userpage. It is acceptable to mention them on article talkpages, but you should not do so to settle a content dispute, nor expect any special treatment as a result of citing your credentials.

See also[edit]