What motivated you to join WikiProject Neuroscience? Do you have an academic or professional background in neuroscience? Have you contributed to any of the project's Good or Featured Articles?
Looie496: I have a Ph.D. in Neuroscience, and have been maintaining WPNEURO since 2008. My first motivation was the poor condition of the article on the hippocampus, the brain area that I worked on. I started editing it very tentatively, and then when nothing bad happened, I ended up doing more and more, until eventually the article was completely rewritten. I've contributed to most of the articles in this project -- brain, nervous system, consciousness, hippocampus, and cerebellum are primarily my work.
Mark viking: I have a Ph.D. in theoretical physics and have worked in computational neuroscience for some years. I joined WP Neuroscience due to interest in the field, but am not a core member driving the project. I have only contributed to neuroscience GAs and FAs in minor ways.
Tryptofish: Like Looie496, I'm a Ph.D. with a lot of experience as a professional neuroscientist in academia. Looie has always been the biggest contributor to the project, but I'd like to think I've added a lot, as a sort of "second-fiddle". In the real world, the field of neuroscience is, I think, one of the most exciting areas of human investigation. A couple of years ago, the Society for Neuroscience started an initiative to get more of its members to become editors here. A couple of us spoke at their convention, and I created Template:User Soc Neurosci (a userbox and category). I wish we could get more editors in that way, but most academics either don't have the time to edit, or only want to make edits about themselves.
Has the interdisciplinary nature of the neuroscience field benefited or complicated your efforts? What other disciplines could benefit from collaborating with WikiProject Neuroscience?
Looie496: I would say a benefit, primarily because of the overlap with medicine. Our medicine-related articles (Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia, etc.) tend to see a lot more activity than the more academic-related articles. We also have some beneficial overlap with Psychology.
Mark viking: I'll second that collaborations with editors active in WikiProject Medicine have benefited this project. A complication with WP Medicine is that they have different standards for articles, in the form of WP:MEDMOS, and sometimes discussions need to happen to determine which articles need to be held to a MEDMOS standard and which do not. Many of the articles on molecular neuroscience have benefited from keen pharmacology editors. It is a bit presumptuous to declare that other disciplines could benefit from our input. Historically, there have been significant collaborations among computer scientists, neuroscientists, physicists and statisticians at conferences like NIPS; I suspect that collaborations on articles of common interest among the respective WikiProjects could be of mutual benefit.
Tryptofish: Yes, absolutely a benefit. Unlike most academic fields, it's really in neuroscience's blood to be interdisciplinary. I can add that we get a lot of editing help from editors who are psychiatrists. For that matter, some of my most interesting editing experiences have come from working with editors who have schizophrenia.
The discipline of neuroscience has a wide variety of branches. Are all of these subdisciplines covered equally by Wikipedia? Why has WikiProject Neuroscience refrained from dividing responsibility for these fields with task forces? What can be done to improve neglected neuroscience topics?
Looie496: We don't have enough participation to think of dividing responsibility. Our strongest coverage is in (a) core neuroscience topics, and (b) pharmacology, i.e., drugs and the mechanisms that make them work. There are many articles that could benefit from contributions. Really the only way to improve neglected topics is to increase the number of contributors. We have made several efforts to do that, but with limited success. Several university neuroscience classes have done Wikipedia-editing projects, with valuable results for a number of topics, but our experience has been that they have limited value for the broad topics that are most important.
Mark viking: It is true that we don't have enough active editors, but dividing into reductive task forces also seems against the culture of the field. The nature of neuroscience is such that one needs knowledge across many branches to understand the context of a particular topic. For instance, a molecular neurotransmitter like dopamine might seem the province of molecular neuroscience, but to understand why it is important, one would want to understand behavior of the neural circuits in which it acts and to understand its impact, one would need to take an integrative neuroscience approach to look at where it acts in the brain, how it affects behaviors such as the reward system, and how it figures in diseases such as Parkinson's disease. Little in neuroscience can truly be studied in isolation.
How detailed are Wikipedia's articles about neuroscience? Has it been challenging to write articles that are substantive yet accessible to the layperson?
Looie496: Some of our articles are detailed and comprehensive, many are not. A few, such as action potential, are actually too detailed and would benefit from trimming. On the whole, the medicine-related articles are in the best shape. Other areas are hit-and-miss -- for example, hippocampus and cerebellum are pretty good, but basal ganglia is not good at all. Brain is pretty good, but human brain needs a lot of work. And so it goes.
Tryptofish: It's easy to fall into the trap of writing as though one were writing for other scientists, rather than for the general public. I try, where I can, to make content more accessible.
Is it difficult to find images suitable for neuroscience articles? What sorts of figures and photographs would be appropriate for articles about neurological concepts and conditions?
Looie496: Finding images is probably the greatest challenge for article-writing and has generally been my greatest frustration. The copyright rules make it difficult to find things that are usable, and Wikipedia's special rules are so baroque that you practically have to be a lawyer to know whether an image will survive, or will just abruptly vanish at some point. Anyway, we are still lacking some very basic things, such as a good electron micrograph of a chemical synapse.
What are the project's most urgent needs? How can a new contributor help today?
Looie496: That's easy. We need contributors with enough knowledge of neuroscience topics to work on article-writing, and an interest in doing so. New contributors can help by working on whatever interests them. There is no difficulty in finding articles that need work.
Tryptofish: That's exactly right. We periodically get an influx of student editors through the Education Program, and some of my happiest editing experiences have been interactions with student editors who decided that editing was fun. Too few students stick around after a class is over, and I wish that more of them would.
Next week, we'll throw a life preserver to some floundering articles. Until then, save the world by reading our old reports in the archive.