User:Jimbo Wales/Credential Verification

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This essay outlines a process to improve Wikipedia by encouraging editors to be open and transparent.

Subject matter expertise can help editors shape articles appropriately. It is generally agreed that an expert in a field can be particularly helpful in integrating related articles and identifying attributable, but inaccurate, information in articles related to that field. In recognition of this, editors are free to declare credentials, affiliations and other expertise on their own user page. Such declarations make it possible for other editors to seek their assistance with articles related to their area of expertise. Editors will not be required to verify their claims. The suggested verification approach is not mandated and no sanctions can be taken against an editor who chooses, for any reason, not to participate.

It should be noted that this essay is not in any way intended to weaken the content policies, Attribution and Neutral Point of View. Those policies continue to be the guiding force regarding the rules that editors are expected to adhere to when editing articles.

Purpose of the process[edit]

The purpose of the credential verification process is to:

  1. Strengthen the culture of mutual trust within the editing community embodied in the principle of Assumption of good faith.
  2. Discourage claims of false credentials.
  3. Provide readers with information about the relevant background of article authors.
  4. Standardize validation of credentials within Wikipedia.

Assumptions[edit]

  1. As a result of the content policies any appeal to authority is firmly rejected. Editing is a collaborative activity and a culture of mutual respect and equality is strongly encouraged. Reliance on credentials is never an acceptable approach to content decisions.
  2. Credential verifiability must be scalable, not predicated on the involvement of a core credential authority, particularly the Wikimedia office.
  3. Credential verification is voluntary and is not mandated. Privacy and personal security concerns are to be respected.
  4. Credential verifiability must be socially non-disruptive; users cannot be compelled to verify claimed credentials. Unverified credentials should not be removed from user pages without consent, merely because of a lack of validation.

Process of credential verification[edit]

Activation[edit]

The verification process can only be activated voluntarily and only if the degree holder requests verification of his/her own credentials.

Implementation[edit]

Users can undertake the verification process of their own credentials at any time, but are not required to do so. Any credentials claimed which can reasonably be verified can be submitted to the process.

A set of verified credentials userboxes will be available, providing links to subpages where supporting evidence may be placed.

Evidence used to support credentials may include, but not be limited to, scanned certificates, links to corporate or academic websites, registration lists or other form of transparent information. Pseudonymous users wishing to maintain privacy may reveal personal details to a third-party of their choice. The verifying party is to record this on the evidence page. Any third-party can serve this function.

No system is immune to intentional deception so any evidence should be judged by reviewers and may be challenged. Challenges are not to be used as a disruptive mechanism and editors assessed as doing so will be subject to sanction.

Examples[edit]

As an example user, chosen randomly from the "what links here" for a claim to have a PhD, User:DrNixon has a PhD in Biology and is a graduate of Michigan State University.

Dr. Nixon's credential userbox would provide a link to the subpage /credentials. On the page he or other users would list, and sign, the evidence examined. Multiple entries can be given, with different sorts of testimony depending on the context. User:Jimbo Wales verified Dr. Nixon, and provides the following attestation on the credentials subpage.

  • I have searched the web and found confirmation of this:
Michigan State University lists Joshua Nixon as a graduate in the fields this user has listed.
I have emailed his email address given on that page, to confirm that our DrNixon is that same Joshua Nixon. I have not yet gotten a response but will post here when I do.--Jimbo Wales 03:19, 8 March 2007 (UTC)
I now have a response from Dr. Nixon, and by email he has verified that he is the same Joshua Nixon.

See the userbox and linked attestation on User:Metamagician3000 for another real example.

Other totally hypothetical entries might look like this:

  • I have known this user in real life for 10 years, and can certify that he was a professor at Las Vegas State University for 7 of those 10 years. As he is now no longer in academia, his status is not provable via the web. I give therefore my personal testimony.
  • I have confirmed the real life identity of this user by contacting that person (whom the user claimed to be in a private email to me). That person has written back from an official e-mail address, giving me confirmation that she is, in fact, this user. She has also established her credentials, including the LLB and PhD listed on her userpage, by referring me to the official web site of The University of Foo, where she currently works as a post-doctoral fellow.