Wikipedia talk:Conflict of interest

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Sources on conflict of interest[edit]

Template:Connected contributor[edit]

Please see discussion at WT:COIN about whether it's appropriate to use Template:Connected contributor on an article talk page in a specific situation. Link to discussion. --Middle 8 (contribsCOI)

Less clear[edit]

See Special:Diff/661606832. QuackGuru (talk) 22:31, 10 May 2015 (UTC)

I restored " where those external relationships could reasonably be said to undermine your ability to remain neutral." and it was reverted. I'll look as to when it was originally added. --Ronz (talk) 00:39, 11 May 2015 (UTC)
03:39, 26 October 2012. Given that, I think we need to have a strong case for its removal. --Ronz (talk) 00:42, 11 May 2015 (UTC)
Given how it ties this guideline to a pillar policy, npov, and that ultimately the problems with conflicts of interest are npov problems, I think it should remain. Is it too redundant maybe? I don't understand the edit summary on removal: it wasn't a change and I don't understand how it makes this guideline less objective in a way that matters. --Ronz (talk) 00:46, 11 May 2015 (UTC)
My problem is that the language that you added (reinstated?) made COI a subjective condition and not an objective state, which was evident from the much clearer language that User:SlimVirgin utilized a few days ago. I haven't checked to ascertain whose is the the more settled version, but if hers is then it needs to be reinstated. Otherwise we need to get that changed, as it is clearly superior. Every person who edits in violation of COI feels that he is working to improve the NPOV of an article. We don't leave it up to the editor. Simple. If you have a COI, don't edit. Coretheapple (talk) 14:49, 11 May 2015 (UTC)
While I agree that it is a problem, I don't believe we have wide consensus for the change. I'm looking at COIN and ArbCom. If an editor has a coi but edits neutrally, it's not much of a problem. We'll still be concerned about the direct editing, but as long as the editing meets our content policies it should be fine. The blocks, bans, and sanctions happen when the editing is not neutral. --Ronz (talk) 23:45, 11 May 2015 (UTC)
Well User:SlimVirgin made this change, and if she feels strongly about it she can weigh in here. Given that this is a content guideline and is widely ignored, even by administrators and checkusers, I don't see much point in expending perspiration over it. Coretheapple (talk) 14:17, 12 May 2015 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── As I recall, I added the phrase "where those external relationships could reasonably be said to undermine your ability to remain neutral" as a paraphase of other text during a copy edit where I was trying to fix the writing but not change the meaning. But it's a distraction.

We have the objective part – if you have this and that kind of financial connection, you are very strongly discouraged from editing affected articles. Then we add a subjective test: "in areas where those external relationships could reasonably be said to undermine your ability to remain neutral." The only function the phrase has is to undermine the first part. This is a problem throughout the guideline. One bit contradicts the next. Sarah (SV) (talk) 17:32, 12 May 2015 (UTC)

Thanks for the explanation. Good points.
How about keep (and strengthen) the connection to NPOV, and remove some of the ambiguity at the same time? --Ronz (talk) 17:54, 12 May 2015 (UTC)
Hi Ronz, not sure what you mean about strengthening the connection to NPOV. COI has to do with external relationships, so it's a question of whether someone has those relationships. Sarah (SV) (talk) 17:57, 12 May 2015 (UTC)
As I wrote earlier [1], NPOV is the content-related problem. --Ronz (talk) 18:17, 12 May 2015 (UTC)
I see the "one part is contradicted by the next" problem throughout the guideline. I'll suggest Sarah may (IMHO should) copyedit this to her heart's content, eliminating subjective tests wherever necessary to help clarify the guideline. Smallbones(smalltalk) 18:07, 12 May 2015 (UTC)
I agree, and the diff cited begs the question. Coretheapple (talk) 18:52, 12 May 2015 (UTC)
Ronz, this diff is your personal opinion. It's not what the guideline says, and that's particularly true of financial COI, which is what the section is about. It says: "If you have a financial connection to a topic – including as an owner, employee, contractor or other stakeholder – you are advised to refrain from editing affected articles." There's no point in saying that then saying the opposite. Sarah (SV) (talk) 18:59, 12 May 2015 (UTC)
It's my analysis of what little has come out of ArbCom. We don't sanction editors just because they have a coi. We instead look to whether or not they can edit neutrally. --Ronz (talk) 01:09, 13 May 2015 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Ronz' point has to do with dealing with COI on the ground. There are two levels to that. First, if an editor edits neutrally, we will never know if they have a COI, as there will be no reason to ever ask them or to challenge their edits. Second, I am unaware of any case where a block or ban or sanction has happened purely on the basis of COI, without violations of behavior or content policies. With regard to arbcom, Wifione was banned for socking and long-term POV pushing. On the flipside, Will BeBack was banned for aggressively pursuing a claim of paid editing, with paid editing being the leading edge of the claim. To the extent the COI guideline reflects that reality, it is only stronger and more use-able, more enforceable, safely.

I will also say, that clear language about "should not directly edit if you have a COI" is very helpful. I cite that all the time in respectful discussions with editors whose conflict is emerging, explaining how we manage COI in WP (first through disclosure, second through a form of "peer review" by asking conflicted editors to post proposals on the talk page for review, instead of directly editing). People seem to understand that two step process very well. Most people who have a conflict that I have explained that to, have "gotten" it, and have agreed to do it. Jytdog (talk) 19:09, 12 May 2015 (UTC)

Jytdog, I've been wondering why you posted this RfC, especially in two stages. The first is unlikely to gain consensus, but if it does, and if the second decides that, despite a COI the alt-meds can edit anyway (and that's likely to happen, because all the opposes from the first RfC would comment that way, as would some of the supports), the COI guideline will be significantly weakened. Sarah (SV) (talk) 19:16, 12 May 2015 (UTC)
The RfC proposes no changes to the COI guideline and the question is out of place - please feel free to move it and my response above. Jytdog (talk) 19:21, 12 May 2015 (UTC)
If the intention is not to change the guideline, why did you post the RfC here? Sarah (SV) (talk) 20:26, 12 May 2015 (UTC)
it is a reasonable place to post a question about the interpretation of the guideline that covers several articles. why are you asking? Jytdog (talk) 20:32, 12 May 2015 (UTC)
Don't move my posts, please. Sarah (SV) (talk) 21:04, 12 May 2015 (UTC)
As I said, it has the potential to damage the guideline; whether you intend a change or not, you know that one could occur as a result of it. Sarah (SV) (talk) 21:26, 12 May 2015 (UTC)
@SlimVirgin: I'm confused. Are you referring to the alt medicine practitioner RfC? Why do you feel it would weaken the guideline? I !voted in favor, but I am open to a reasonable argument against. Coretheapple (talk) 23:45, 12 May 2015 (UTC)
Coretheapple, I don't think this RfC will gain consensus, so what I'm concerned about is unlikely to happen. But if it were to gain consensus – that is, if people agreed that alt-meds have COIs – then the plan is that we should move to a second RfC to ask what should happen next, e.g. whether the alt-meds should be confined to talk, or allowed to edit anyway.
The result of that second RfC could well be that they should be allowed to edit anyway (after being advised about the importance of NPOV, etc), because all the opposes in the first RfC would vote that way, and a minority of the supports would too.
So we could end up with a result that alt-meds were judged by consensus to have a COI, but the community decided this need not preclude them from editing affected articles. Someone would add it to the guideline, because the RfCs were held on this page. That would undermine "very strongly discouraged," and "if you have a financial connection, refrain from editing affected articles," because the principle would hold true of everyone, not only alt-meds. Sarah (SV) (talk) 00:28, 13 May 2015 (UTC)
Oh boy, that's beautiful. Thanks. Coretheapple (talk) 13:27, 13 May 2015 (UTC) And in light of your explanation I have struck out my support !vote and now oppose, as I believe that to be the less damaging course of action. What a mess. Coretheapple (talk) 19:05, 18 May 2015 (UTC)
SV that is a quadruple speculation: 1 that this will come out with a clear "yes"; 2 that if there is a "yes" the subsequent restriction would be flexible; 3 that the speculated restriction would be broadened beyond alt med; and 4 that there would be consensus to add the broadened flexibility to the guideline. while i appreciate considering consequences, that is putting a lot of weight on things that are unknown and in my view, unlikely, given the community's lack of consensus on just about anything concerning COI. Jytdog (talk) 13:51, 13 May 2015 (UTC)
It's not that speculative. If the answer is yes, I think the above is likely to happen. But I agree that the answer will probably be no. No is also undermining. The applicable part of the guideline, and something that needs to be defended, is NOPAY: "If you have a financial connection to a topic ... you are advised to refrain from editing affected articles." That provides grounds to topic ban an alt med who earns a living from a treatment she's writing about, or who's involved with an institution that relies financially on that treatment. The issue will then boil down to how helpful that editor has been. The community will probably topic ban an unhelpful editor based on NOPAY. But what will happen to that if the result of this first RfC is that alt-meds don't have a COI? Whether it's yes or no, I don't see good things coming out of the RfC. Sarah (SV) (talk) 17:22, 13 May 2015 (UTC)

In the Timid Guy case arbcom all but gave its blessing to undisclosed COI editing. Individual arbs have explicitly stated that what should matter is the edits themselves rather than any COI. We're at an utterly bizarre juncture where disclosed COI is subject to limitations, while we are prohibited from doing anything about undisclosed COI. We should just delete the policy. Short Brigade Harvester Boris (talk) 01:27, 13 May 2015 (UTC)

I've never understood why people see a conflict of interests as being something applies to actions, rather than the position. It's like they want to use the words to mean something completely unrelated to the concept. The most wonderful of editors that keeps every edit scrupulously neutral still has a COI if his income is influenced by the contents of the article.—Kww(talk) 13:09, 13 May 2015 (UTC)
The ubiquitous definition of the term is one reason. Another is the ambiguity of the guideline, particularly the statement: COI editing involves contributing to Wikipedia to promote your own interests, including your business or financial interests, or those of your external relationships, such as with family, friends or employers. Perhaps it should be changed to read "COI editing is the act of contributing to Wikipedia to promote one's financial interests in business and investments, including those of family, friends and/or employers." Atsme☎️📧 13:32, 13 May 2015 (UTC)
Kww, I don't understand. like everything in Wikipedia, issues about COI arise in the course of editing - editors with an undisclosed COI (often new) reveal a likely COI by their edits, and the concern about COI is a concern to protect the integrity of content (NPOV) - about intentional or unconscious warping of content. So yes it is about position, but we care, and we become aware of it, because of editing behavior. right? Jytdog (talk) 17:08, 13 May 2015 (UTC)
It's not all about behaviour. COI editing undermines the public's confidence in our articles, gives Wikipedia and the Foundation a bad reputation, and may make readers think twice before signing up as editors. Why volunteer when the place is full of paid and COI editors? COI also undermines relationships between editors, making people suspicious of each other. As the guideline says, it's what one writer called "dirt in a sensitive gauge." Sarah (SV) (talk) 17:30, 13 May 2015 (UTC)
because of how it could effect content. which is created by editing. Jytdog (talk) 17:39, 13 May 2015 (UTC)
Uh no. COI edits can be pearls of wisdom, but the public has a right to expect that Wikipedia is written by people other than the subjects and their paid reps. Coretheapple (talk) 21:05, 13 May 2015 (UTC)
Disagree. If we can get more paid editors here working within our content policies, cooperating with other editors in the process, we'd be much better off. --Ronz (talk) 22:14, 13 May 2015 (UTC)
(edit conflict) i am sorry to say this, but when COI comes up, the two of you (core and SV) sometimes (not always) seem to live in some alternative universe where OUTING doesn't exist and is not highly valued by the WP-en community, the WMF doesn't sue the NSA over privacy, and Jimbo doesn't write editorials in the NY Times about the absolute value he and WP places on anonymity of editors.
In the actual WP universe, all those things are true.
Which means that the only way that we ever know for sure that COI editing is happening, is by self-disclosure by conflicted editors.
They can volunteer that up front, or - if EditorA sees a pattern of edits by EditorB that are promotional for X and/or that denigrate anti-X, EditorA can approach EditorB in a human way and try to show them the importance of disclosing and of abiding by the COI guideline, and cajole a self disclosure.
If that fails, the only other thing we can do is bring a case about policy-violating editing to ANI. That's it. We cannot force a disclosure, and we cannot make claims about RW identities of wikipedia editors.
In the WP that actually exists, dealing with undisclosed COI means paying attention to edits, working with the people who make them, and being able to frame effective cases at ANI about specific NPOV/edit warring/NOTHERE etc violations, when civil discussion doesn't work.
And really importantly, without a self-disclosure, and without someone noticing a pattern of policy-violating edits, we probably won't even notice the editor. And neither will the public (because content actually wasn't corrupted) (which is not to say that ugly stuff doesn't build up that we eventually find out about and then have to clean up. but that is the nature of this place) So again, what Ronz said. Jytdog (talk) 22:27, 13 May 2015 (UTC)
It's not all that. You just seem to have a white-black view of it all (or should I say COI---OUTING, sitting at two opposite ends of a pole view). But they are not opposite, and have no need to be even on the same pole. We always deal with tension in policy. Users regularly say things, which reveal themselves to others (no not who they are - but that is rather irrelevant to COI, which is about relationship not identity). So, the world is 'flatter' than you think (to allude to Tom Friedman's idea of a level(er) field.) Alanscottwalker (talk) 19:11, 14 May 2015 (UTC)
Alanscottwalker yes for sure, it is the relationship that matters - the relationship between the RW editor and some other RW entity (which may be him or her-self). We get self-disclosures all the time along the lines of "(Article subject) asked me to change the article" - clear disclosure of relationship with revealing identity. And they do things like upload images that are direct from a company, that show a relationship. Or editing from a company's IP address. But outside of those kinds of self-disclosures, there is no way I know of to get past OUTING to determine a relationship. What ways do you know? Jytdog (talk) 22:49, 15 May 2015 (UTC)
Short Brigade Harvester Boris the tension is between the very high value placed on anonymity here (heck WMF is suing the NSA over that) and the very strong concern we all have, to protect the integrity of WP. And clearly, privacy is the more important value to the community (OUTING is policy, strictly enforced; COI is just a guideline). Until that changes, we have to work COI issues diplomatically and indirectly. Working at COIN, it is amazing to me how far just speaking nicely and directly with people goes, and how willing many people are to disclose COI and not edit directly. The guideline is very very helpful in that work.
With regard to a) long term paid editors who create throw-away sock accounts and solicit business at elance and the like; and b) long-term COI editors like Wifione... things are much harder - I agree. but the wifione case shows that we can take editors like that down by bringing long-term POV pushing cases (Wifione's socking also brought him down, as did abuse of admin trust which made the longterm POV pushing and socking more egregious). i am hopeful that we as a community can better make long-term POV pushing cases at ANI or AE, and that such cases can be better handled by the community. (they take a lot of work to bring and they take care and time to analyze and at ANI you get all kinds of random bullshit). We still have a ways to go with that. The elance/socking thing is much harder but is being worked on. While i understand that the TimidGuy case must have been very hard to live through and many editors are still bitter about that, I am not very sympathetic to the hopelessness you describe; the primacy of privacy is part of the fabric of which this place is made, and not taking that into account is just beating your head against the wall. We really can deal with long-term POV pushers; their bad editing will out.Jytdog (talk) 17:08, 13 May 2015 (UTC)

Jesse Cutler[edit]


Re: tendency toward bias, I removed this because explaining bias v tendency is quite complex, and Davis doesn't do it well, or least not in a way that's easy to paraphrase. I'd like to do more reading about that, then perhaps try to explain the difference clearly, if it can be done without causing confusion. Sarah (SV) (talk) 23:13, 14 May 2015 (UTC)

I thank you for reverting dog´s cherrypicking and diluting of the quote i inserted explaining bias in teh context of COI, but you cant completely delete sourced content just because you dont like it ("Davis doesn't do it well"). I am respecting the page and work with the source thats been here all along and i inserted the url. I dont know who introduced Davis and i have read it and have my issues with it too. plse bring your alternative but dont remove sourced content. FYI: reverting my every little edit, looks like WP:OWN to someone who hasnt edited here for years.--Wuerzele (talk) 23:47, 14 May 2015 (UTC)
Davis is regularly cited by academics discussing COI. You have to bear in mind that we're writing for editors with no knowledge of these issues. The guideline already contradicts itself at several points, so to introduce another (apparent) contradiction would not be good. I'd therefore like to take time to re-read the sources and find a way to express this very clearly. Sarah (SV) (talk) 18:06, 15 May 2015 (UTC)

Citing yourself[edit]

Does anyone mind if I remove this, and replace it with something about not citing oneself? As I recall, the section was in NOR a long time ago, and was moved here because no one was sure what to do with it. But it really isn't good practice nowadays for editors to cite themselves, and this may make new editors think it's okay.

Using material you have written or published is allowed within reason, but only if it is relevant, conforms to the content policies, including WP:SELFPUB, and is not excessive. Citations should be in the third person and should not place undue emphasis on your work. When in doubt, defer to the community's opinion.

Sarah (SV) (talk) 20:53, 15 May 2015 (UTC)

It needs to stay, just updated to current consensus. It is a type of coi, and it is a reoccurring problem. --Ronz (talk) 21:07, 15 May 2015 (UTC)
(edit conflict) This one is really hard. We have had more than a little trouble at COIN with academics citing their own work and really not wanting to hear that using Wikipedia for self-promotion is not OK. Like this one, where a new editor's sole interest was adding content about his own work, cited to his own work. Simply prohibiting it would make instances like that easier to handle. But there are other examples where academic editors cited others ~pretty~ liberally, along with citing themselves plenty... and in my view improved the articles they worked on. I think the current language is a pretty reasonable balance. The sentence on " When in doubt, defer to the community's opinion" could be made stronger, perhaps made to say "If objections are raised" instead of "When in doubt". In general, nice edits btw. Jytdog (talk) 21:09, 15 May 2015 (UTC)
Thanks. We could strengthen it, but really it shouldn't happen. It's a clear COI (would anyone else have cited them?), not to mention a bit cheesy. Ronz, when you say it needs to stay because it's a type of COI, do you mean we should discourage it, or say it's okay as we do now? Sarah (SV) (talk) 21:59, 15 May 2015 (UTC)
I mind. Selfcitation is not a conflict of interest in any normal sense of the word, and it is standard academic practice and not cheesy. We should encourage experts to share their knowledge on wikipedia not discourage it. When some people selfcite in problematic ways we should handle that as we handle other POV editors. I prefer a selfciting expert to your standard pov pusher digging up fringe scholars to cite any day of the year, and the former is only a problem when they also happen to be the latter.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 17:30, 18 May 2015 (UTC)
I can certainly think of cases where it might be necessary to cite oneself, especially for experts on obscure or esoteric topics. Granted such "experts" often fall afoul of WP:FRINGE/PS, but genuine experts oughtn't have their hands tied. I wouldn't like to see the practice prohibited outright, but perhaps the language could be strengthened a little, particularly by clarifying the "undue emphasis" clause to state that you shouldn't primarily rely on citing your own work, and should include citations to other authors where possible. Most importantly, it should probably mention that a separate article about a subject from your own work is not appropriate unless multiple scholars have also published on that subject independently of you. (I know there's a guideline like that somewhere.) --Sammy1339 (talk) 23:08, 15 May 2015 (UTC)

How about this for an alternative? It doesn't change much, except the tone.

Using material you have written or published is discouraged. It is good practice to cite other authors instead whenever possible. If necessary, you may use your own work as a reference, but only if it is relevant, conforms to the content policies including WP:RS and WP:SELFPUB, and is not used excessively. Citations should be in the third person and should not place undue emphasis on your work. If objections are raised, defer to the community's opinion.

(Changed according to Jytdog's recommendation above.) --Sammy1339 (talk) 23:29, 15 May 2015 (UTC)

that language is ok with me. btw here is an example of a discussion i had with an expert who was citing himself a lot, but also others, and, i think, improving articles - very technical stuff, however. (I checked and his work is highly cited). the conversation didn't go very well. it is hard when experts get all defensive. :( Jytdog (talk) 23:42, 15 May 2015 (UTC)
That's very similar to what I had in mind as well. I'm not sure about the citing others' bit though, as it would be highly dependent on the situation. --Ronz (talk) 01:26, 16 May 2015 (UTC)
Why not handle this in a manner parallel to what we recommend for more obvious COI? Propose the citation on the article's talk page, and let others without a personal stake decide whether it should be included. Short Brigade Harvester Boris (talk) 02:46, 16 May 2015 (UTC)
Jytdog provided a good example of an expert who made valuable contributions in part using his own work. It seems unlikely that he would have followed this procedure. Moreover in the cases where it is appropriate to apply it it may be unlikely that there will be anyone else on the talk page to comment, or even anyone else immediately available with the necessary expertise to represent the sources accurately. --Sammy1339 (talk) 03:35, 16 May 2015 (UTC)
  • I agree with Boris that the citation should be proposed on talk. Sarah (SV) (talk) 19:09, 16 May 2015 (UTC)
  • I really oppose this idea. The people who legitimately use their own works, as in Jytdog's two examples, are usually new editors who are unfamiliar with procedure, but tend to bring in a lot of value. Their first interaction with Wikipedia should not be someone reverting their edits on technical grounds, cautioning them about a policy violation they've never heard of, and potentially outing them. I'm also thinking of cases like Talk:Clebsch–Gordan coefficients for SU(3) where even other technically sophisticated people might not be able to judge the validity of the references - in this case, the reviewer, who has a Ph.D. in physics, didn't completely understand what the article was about (and it is extremely well-written.) The cases when references are limited enough that one has to cite oneself will often fall in this category of extreme esoterica. It's time-consuming enough to write such expositions without having to wait for the opinions of people who might not understand the topic immediately, and who might not show up at all. --Sammy1339 (talk) 20:06, 16 May 2015 (UTC)
  • Sammy, can you give some examples of people adding good content based on self-citing? In most cases I've seen it has involved inappropriate and extensive self-promotion (not just one or two articles, but lots). In a few cases, you would have to be a subject-matter expert to judge, because it was a question not only of whether that cite was okay, but also whether an independent person would have cited someone else. Sarah (SV) (talk) 20:17, 16 May 2015 (UTC)
please see the two examples i provided above. Jytdog (talk) 20:31, 16 May 2015 (UTC)
I did look, but I can't see anything. Can you post a few links to something that's an obvious improvement? Sarah (SV) (talk) 20:33, 16 May 2015 (UTC)
need to run to a dinner. there are examples in the contribs i linked to if you spend a few minutes. in any case I will turn this around and ask you to provide difs showing that most editors who self-cite do not cite others and harm the encyclopedia. That is what you need to bring, to back up your original claims and in order to change the guideline. you have brought no diffs at all - just hand-wavy claims. Jytdog (talk) 20:52, 16 May 2015 (UTC)
@Jytdog: I don't think we need to fight over that point. Nobody can reasonably dispute that in most cases, self-citations are motivated by narcissism. However, @SlimVirgin: Jytdog's 1st example is of a bioinformatician (this guy) correctly citing work in which he was involved, e.g. here. Now, as for the usual suspects, the self-promoters who push things like this, there is another guideline whose name escapes my mind, and maybe you remember - it says that for scholarly topics, multiple independent research groups must cover the topic before it becomes notable. Perhaps that's the most relevant thing to threaten them with, not COI. I think perhaps that policy deserves to be mentioned in this guideline. --Sammy1339 (talk) 21:14, 16 May 2015 (UTC)
  • back from dinner. At one of the difs linked to above ( this one, you find the following, where i actually analyzed diff by diff, the editors contributions. In my view all of these but the last three added value to WP:

You can see that the last three diffs there add some pretty raw promotion. The ones before that tend strongly to citing the editors own work (but as I mentioned above, the guy's software and work appears to be valuable - I found it cited by other editors that are not connected to him (as far as i can see) in other articles. And he did cite other people some. It is hard to argue that edits outside the last three were actually bad for WP. And his username clearly reflects his real name, so he is not hiding anything

Bringing yet another actual example... the diffs above are a contrast to this editor: Special:Contributions/Jensen-Jarolim, (which seems to be a group account, now blocked) that added the lab's preclinical findings that antacids may cause allergies (!) to a bunch of actual drug articles as actual side effects (!!), citing the lab's work. I found no reviews discussing that work with regard to actual side effects of actual drugs. This is not only self-cite but it is POV-pushing. That is to me a good example of self-citing that harms the encyclopedia. Jytdog (talk) 23:40, 16 May 2015 (UTC)

In my view all the edits above, including the ones you marked "pretty promotional," were good, constructive edits, which did not place undue emphasis on this editor's work. Neither he nor his group is mentioned by name, and the papers he cited are significant and absolutely should be in the article. When your first interaction with someone is to have them casually cautioning you about your "self-promotion" it's likely to leave a bad taste in your mouth, and I can completely understand why the guy got upset. A similar thing happened at European Sleep Apnea Database - this article was actually nominated for deletion because people were saying that the peer-reviewed journal articles it was mostly based on were "primary," since all the authors were connected with the database in virtue of having written about it in their research. (Doh!) Fortunately the AfD closer had more sense.
I disagree with this whole attitude conflating writing about one's research with writing about oneself or one's organization. Basically we have two conflicting interests here: to prevent self-promotion, and to encourage people to make contributions about their areas of expertise. I think it's clear that the second goal is much more important - it's what keeps the whole project going. We shouldn't then turn around and caution people to avoid mention of their own research, which is probably what they are experts in, or tell them to be careful because they might be under suspicion. This kind of interaction runs contrary to the spirit of WP:AGF. --Sammy1339 (talk) 03:13, 17 May 2015 (UTC)
sammy i deal with more editors than i like at COIN who are WP:NOTHERE other than to promote their own work... it is a problem. this editor Special:Contributions/Kasmith was really bad, and was settling RW grudges here in WP by citing his own work and adding content about himself, and getting rid of references to his competitor-for-credit-for-discoveries. the other guy asked someone to fight back. goofy. The current language is a pretty decent balance - it warns people to be careful with overdoing it (it would be even better with a reference to WP:PROMO in there), and gives us tools to take it out. People who are really WP:HERE and are conscientious about COI are usually gracious about it but some people do get prickly. It is not like i pound on their heads. Jytdog (talk) 03:26, 17 May 2015 (UTC)
@Sammy1339: you say "We shouldn't then turn around and caution people to avoid mention of their own research" but surely we should be especially wary of this since research (i.e. primary content) needs to be covered by secondary sources particularly for scientific/medical claims. Inviting editors to insert their own research without the validating weight of secondary coverage would be problematic on many fronts. Alexbrn (talk) 03:35, 17 May 2015 (UTC)
@Alexbrn: This is mostly an OR issue, not a COI issue. But actually most scientific papers can be used as both primary and secondary sources, because they usually have summaries and analysis of old information in addition to new experimental results or whatnot. We also can use primary sources, per WP:PRIMARY. WP:MEDRS establishes appropriately high standards for objective medical claims in light of the unreliability of individual medical studies and the high frequency with which meta-analyses are conducted, but we oughtn't generalize such standards to all of science. In some fields review articles are hardly ever written. --Sammy1339 (talk) 14:45, 18 May 2015 (UTC)
Moreover we might also be talking about authors citing their own secondary sources. --Sammy1339 (talk) 14:48, 18 May 2015 (UTC)
Yes, but that wouldn't be "[mentioning] their own research" but leaning on the secondary for the mention (much better). "In general, scientific information in Wikipedia articles should be based on published, reliable secondary sources, or on widely cited tertiary and primary sources" (WP:SCIRS). The problem with somebody citing their own primary work is that they are subject to bias in assessing its worth. I've come across problems on WP of editors trying to work citations of large quantities of their published primary work into articles. While one such reference may be no big deal, this kind of thing becomes more undue with each additional reference and warps the neutrality of the encyclopedia. The root of this kind of editing problem in failure to realise the COI in effect on the part of the editor. Alexbrn (talk) 14:59, 18 May 2015 (UTC)
  • At the very least we should follow the "non-controversial edits" section, which says: "If another editor objects for any reason, then it's a controversial edit. Such edits should be discussed on the article's talk page." Sarah (SV) (talk) 17:55, 17 May 2015 (UTC)
yes that is exactly what i had in mind with the change to " If objections are raised, defer to the community's opinion" - referring instead to that part of the guideline would be even better. Jytdog (talk) 18:18, 17 May 2015 (UTC)
So, developing this from your and Sammy's suggestion, would the following work?

Citing material you have written or published is discouraged. It is good practice to cite other authors instead whenever possible. If necessary, you may use your own work as a reference, but only if it is relevant, conforms to the content policies and guidelines, including WP:SELFPUB, and is not used excessively. Citations should be in the third person and should not place undue emphasis on your work. If another editor objects for any reason, it counts as a controversial edit, and should be discussed on the article's talk page before the material is added or restored.

Sarah (SV) (talk) 18:30, 17 May 2015 (UTC)
I am ok with that. thanks for talking. Jytdog (talk) 18:35, 17 May 2015 (UTC)
@SlimVirgin: I'm also fine with this language. I agree with your comments above, and think that generally most of the problem cases of self-citation violate other policies such as WP:RS, WP:UNDUE, etc. I suggest it might be better practice to refer to those guidelines when they apply. --Sammy1339 (talk) 14:26, 18 May 2015 (UTC)


I am not fine with that language. It should not be "discouraged", but simply a caution about not placing undue emphasis on one's own work, only citingoneself when the material is directly relevant to the topic of the article, and making sure relevant work by others are duly represented.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 15:02, 18 May 2015 (UTC)
Support wording. We need to state outright that self-citing is "discouraged" or else the really determined will steer existing articles over a period of years, and/or go around creating new articles to cover obscure topics that only they and five other people in the world care about (which is hard to weight and not appropriate for a general reference). This is an issue whether Wikipedia coverage confers any real-world professional benefit or not. At the same time a ban on it isn't practical. I hope that a plurality of uninvolved editors will be able to spot the difference when these issues come up. Geogene (talk) 17:58, 18 May 2015 (UTC)
  • Selfcitation is not a problem unless the cited sources are tangentially relevant to the topic, and does not a priori constitute a conflict of interest. In academia selfcitation is exceedingly normal. The wording you are proposing is going to make it very hard to ever get expert editors to become editors. Adding selfcitations is the main way academics and topic experts are going to begin editing wikipedia, and it is indeed the only motivation they have to edit wikipedia, since they will gain no professional recognition for doing so (and in fact often the contrary). Most academics are quite capable of knowing when citing oneself is and isn't appropriate. The few who are blatantly selfpromoting, simply fall under the standard rules for due weight and on topic sources without having to make it out as if being a topic expert is a conflict of interest. ·maunus · snunɐɯ· 15:02, 18 May 2015 (UTC)
If an expert's only motivation to edit Wikipedia is to cite themselves for promotional purposes, we don't want them. Geogene (talk) 16:55, 18 May 2015 (UTC)
Then you are a fool, and your encyclopedia is doomed to die the slow death of amateurism. Experts dont cite themselves because of self promotion, but because they know about a topic, and because they want the public to have access to what they know. Just like most editors first edits are to their particular topics of interest correcting errors that they happen to know about, we can expect experts to approach wikipedia in the same way. If experts are then met with a horde of amateurs crying COI and crucifixion for something that is standard academic practice, then that expert is definitely not going to keep editing wikipedia, and wikipedia looses. Selfcitation is NOT a problem, only some particular kinds of selfcitatoin are and they are the ones that should be targeted. What you are targeting with this proposal is specifically the interest and ability of experts to become wikipedians. Experts SHOULD selfcite (because they are EXPERTS) and we should encourage them to use wikipedia to disseminate their specialized knowledge to a wider public. Then if some experts abuse this we can deal with this under the standard editing policies on weight and NPOV.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 17:25, 18 May 2015 (UTC)
If they don't edit Wikipedia for the only purpose of citing themselves, then they're useful and should be welcome. Geogene (talk) 17:40, 18 May 2015 (UTC)
  • Any restrictive changes to the wording of selfcite is going to have a significant impact on Wikipedia's ability to attract, engage and retain expert editors. As such I think that they must necessarily be supported by a broader community involvement. I think SV should make a broadly advertised RfC about her proposed changes. ·maunus · snunɐɯ· 17:34, 18 May 2015 (UTC)
It's true that it's standard practice for academics to refer to their own work in scholarly articles, because they're building on it. But they don't have NPOV. Writing a WP article involves using sources that are representative of the debate, rather than developing an argument, and using them the way someone knowledgeable but uninvolved would.
Perhaps the best approach for an expert would be to write up the material using other sources. Post on talk that they have also written about this, and would like to add themselves as a source. If no one responds after a couple of weeks, they could add it but be prepared to have it removed if someone notices. Sarah (SV) (talk) 17:45, 18 May 2015 (UTC)
It is an unnecessary restriction that has potential very negative consequences in terms of lost motivation and lost knowledge for the encyclopedia. The best approach would be to encourage academics to write in the encyclopedia as they would if they were writing a general literature review of their topic of expertise and represent their own work in the same way they would in such a review. If the author is the main expert in a small field, then selfciting is not only appropriate it is required for the topic to have adequate coverage.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 17:52, 18 May 2015 (UTC)
How would you write that section so that (a) your concerns are satisfied, and (b) we discourage people from using WP for self-promotion (which is what a significant percentage of self-citing is about)? Sarah (SV) (talk) 17:59, 18 May 2015 (UTC)
I think the current wording is very good. If I had to tweak it I would write: "Using material you have written or published is allowed within reason, but only if it is relevant, conforms to the content policies, including WP:SELFPUB, and is not excessive, and is directly relevant for the topic of the article. Citations should be in the third person and should not place undue emphasis on your work relative to the body of literature on the whole - and it should not come across as self-promotional. When in doubt whether self-citing is appropriate, suggest the citation on the talkpage, and defer to the community's opinion."·maunus · snunɐɯ· 19:07, 18 May 2015 (UTC)
@Maunus:, I think the last sentence should be (something like): "If another editor objects for any reason, it counts as a controversial edit, and should be discussed on the article's talk page before the material is added or restored." This ties it in with the non-controversial edits section, and makes sure people don't ignore objections. Sarah (SV) (talk) 19:25, 18 May 2015 (UTC)
But that is basic editing policy that applies to all edits, I dont see why there would be a need to point that out specifically in the COI policy.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 19:34, 18 May 2015 (UTC)
It's already in the guideline in a lower session, namely you can make non-controversial edits, but the definition of controversial is when someone objects. Sarah (SV) (talk) 19:46, 18 May 2015 (UTC)
So why repeat it here?·maunus · snunɐɯ· 19:58, 18 May 2015 (UTC)
So that they don't have to read the lower section to know that it applies here too. Sarah (SV) (talk) 20:48, 18 May 2015 (UTC)
That seems to be an approach to repetition and redundancy that we do not usually follow at wikipedia.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 22:48, 18 May 2015 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Maunus i really disagree, when you write "encourage academics to write in the encyclopedia as they would if they were writing a general literature review of their topic of expertise". Writing an encyclopedia article in Wikipedia is not like writing a literature review. In a review, a named author reads all the research literature, and synthesizes that literature into a coherent story and decription, citing the research literature (primary sources here in WP) as they go. That is not what we do here! Instead, editors in Wikipedia read reviews already written by experts and summarize them here, citing the reviews (secondary sources). I find that one of the biggest problems that experts face, is wrapping their heads around the genre of encyclopedia article. Do you see that? Thanks Jytdog (talk) 18:15, 18 May 2015 (UTC)

Academics on the whole are much more likely than the average internet user to be able to "wrap their heads around the encyclopedic genre". And yes it is an almost exact parallel to the literature review as an academic genre - your quote is certainly how I approach article writing myself.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 19:03, 18 May 2015 (UTC)
We also use primary sources, and in fact they can be the best sources to use. You just have to know how to use them, and know which primary sources the field accepts as authoritative. I agree with Maunus that articles are similiar to literature reviews. I think I disagree with him that academics will be able to judge their place in those reviews (or absence from them) dispassionately. Sarah (SV) (talk) 18:33, 18 May 2015 (UTC)
Sure, they may not be able to do so dispassionately, just like all other editors have problems with being dispassionate about topics that they are invested personally in. That is where the normal editing process comes into the picture, to tone down any undue weight to specific authors, whether by selfciting or citing other favorite authors, or other types of skewed representations of the field of knowledge.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 19:03, 18 May 2015 (UTC)
every policy and guideline says we "should" use secondary sources (just like this guideline says that paid editors "should not" directly edit articles.) we don't want to actually encourage anybody to use primary sources nor to violate WP:OR by building a [{WP:SYN]] from them, as is done in literature reviews. Jytdog (talk) 18:47, 18 May 2015 (UTC)
Primary sources are not discouraged (far from it). The policy (NOR) says: "Wikipedia articles should be based on reliable, published secondary sources and, to a lesser extent, on tertiary sources and primary sources. Secondary or tertiary sources are needed to establish the topic's notability and to avoid novel interpretations of primary sources."
If you want to write that A saw X, the best source is A (e.g. the diary of a member of the Sonderkommando), not some other source who read what A wrote. You just have to make sure there's nothing contentious about it, that A is trusted by the secondary sources (the Holocaust historians in this case), that you're not using A's words for analysis, etc. See WP:PRIMARY. Sarah (SV) (talk) 19:06, 18 May 2015 (UTC)
edit conflict but I will cmt anyway
That's a misread of the policy which says (paraphrase), articles should be based on sources, RS, published secondary sources and to a lesser extent tertiary and primary sources. Primary sources may be used with care, but in some case primary sources are the definitive sources for content. Editor experience and knowledge in a field goes along way to understanding how to use primary sources as authoritative sources. Further, literary papers are not synthesized in the way we think of synthesis here which can often result in a conclusion that does not have a basis in the sources. Such a literary paper would never see publication and in a student paper would result in a poor grade. Believe I know, as a lesson I learned as a young undergraduate student in the literary field, a lesson which stuck at the heart of my grade point average.:O)(Littleolive oil (talk) 19:09, 18 May 2015 (UTC))

How 'bout changing the shoulds in the new wordings to musts, thus (bolded for clarity re. what's changing, not suggesting bolding in the guideline)): Citations must be in the third person and should not place undue emphasis on your work relative to the body of literature on the whole - and it must not come across as self-promotional. Note: I just made this change without noticing that this sentence was being discussed. It was reverted (along with two other relatively uncontroversial looking should-> must changes) as no consensus; let's discuss.--Elvey(tc) 00:21, 27 May 2015 (UTC)

Reverts on basis of non-existent COI[edit]

An editor keeps on reverting my edits here.

On the basis (in part) that "appear to reflect COI" and "someone with COI". I have no COI here.

He may have a COI. He is "Philosophy Junkie", editing "Philosophy Gourmet Report". A publication by Brian Leiter, with whom he says he has been in email contact. Some of my concerns of his potential COI are reflected here.

But a primary question is what do I do about an editor who is reverting me continually, on the basis of an alleged COI that is non-existent? --Epeefleche (talk) 12:55, 28 May 2015 (UTC)

I would suggest opening a case at COIN. I started moving this there, and stopped. But that is what I think you should do, to de-personalize the dispute and let the community help resolve things. Jytdog (talk) 13:25, 28 May 2015 (UTC)

Industry funding and ghostwriting of medical sources[edit]

In case anyone here would like to comment, I've opened a discussion about the above at Wikipedia talk:Identifying reliable sources (medicine)#Industry funding and ghostwriting of sources, with a view to adding something to the MEDRS guideline. Sarah (SV) (talk) 22:41, 30 May 2015 (UTC)


There's an editor whom I suspected was connected to a company that an extensive history of sockpuppetry, but the editor denied the allegation and I've let it go. Another editor contact me a few days ago with links to an Elance profile that appears to show that the editor in question was indeed paid by the company in question. Now, I realize that paid editing isn't necessarily problematic, but the editor is claiming to not be connected and participating in discussions as a neutral observer. I know outing editors is frowned upon here, but what's the best course of action? It seems problematic but I'm not sure how the policies would apply here. Mosmof (talk) 04:46, 31 May 2015 (UTC)

I recommend that you open a case at COIN laying out the case for why you thought the editor had a COI before you received the email. Please do not discuss any evidence from outside WP in that filing per WP:OUTING, You don't know if that user is connected to the elance profile, and we will not know if that specific COIN filing is connected with your question above. Thanks. Jytdog (talk) 13:24, 31 May 2015 (UTC)
Thanks. The discussion is at Wikipedia:Conflict of interest/Noticeboard#Ronn Torossian. I've kept any offsite evidence out of the discussion. Mosmof (talk) 15:08, 1 June 2015 (UTC)