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It has been proposed that Wikipedia develop a system for verifying editors' credentials, so as to encourage greater accountability for users who claim expertise in certain fields. Such a system would hopefully build Wikipedia's credibility, and encourage greater confidence from the reading public, in addition to fostering greater trust between fellow editors.
This page briefly outlines the "gist" or "vibe" of the proposal. All users are invited to help develop the details of the proposal by engaging in discussion on the talk page. What sorts of credentials should be included? How should verification take place? All these questions and more are waiting to be answered.
Some key points
A credential verification system would be similar in principle, objective and operation to the systems of disclosing real names that are currently employed by various websites.
It is important to note that any such system would be completely optional. Users would in no way be obliged to participate in a verification system. As a corollary, users who participate in a verification system in no way gain any sort of editorial advantage simply for participating. At the same time, however, it would be important to gently/firmly disapprove of people who make claims to credentials without verifying them.
Of course, any verification system would in no way displace the fundamental proposition that Wikipedia is an encyclopaedia that anyone can edit. It is intended to be an extra feature, to inspire confidence in readers and trust in fellow editors.
What credentials would be included?
Many different credentials could be included in a verification system. The following are some broad examples:
- academic degrees, or other formal higher education qualifications;
- licenses to practice a certain profession or trade;
- awards or prizes for achievement in a particular field;
- relevant positions of employment, for example as a professor in a particular field, or as an employee in a particular industry;
- published works.
- professional references from recognised experts
- any verifiable claim an editor felt the need to label as "WikiVerified"
How would verification work?
Verification could take any number of forms, depending on the type of credential to be verified. Some possibilities include:
- verification via a confirmed email address, similar to the way that image licencing verification is currently handled;
- confirming via an OTRS system;
- faxing a copy of a credential to the Foundation Office.
- requesting a copy of the credential from an authoritative source, preferably the credential-issuing authority
Verification would not necessarily need to be as strict as, say, the verification of credentials that a prospective employer might engage in. It wouldn't necessarily be based around the worst case scenario, but around a reasonable scenario involving reasonable people.
Some possible downsides of a credential verification system include:
- The administrative burden of verifying credentials.
- uncertainty as to which credentials to care about;
- confirming credentials is sometimes difficult even for organisations that do it regularly, such as universities or large employers;
- the risk of discouraging users who are uncomfortable about putting their real name and email address (both pieces of information which can be used for identity fraud) on a public website;
- An editor can have credentials and still have an axe to grind. An editor's contribution should be treated on the basis of what it says, and whether reliable sources support it, not on the basis of the editor's academic credentials or expertise.
- the risk of increasing systemic bias by discouraging editors from developing countries, editors without identification, and editors too poor to get an education. UNICEF estimates that one third of the world's population do not even have birth certificates.  There are many intelligent people, especially in developing countries, who are unable to get a good education, if any education at all, due to economic reasons.
- the risk of discouraging editors who are too young to hold any formal credentials;
- Related pages in this wikipedia
- Essjay controversy (2007)
- Wikipedia:Administrators accountability - a proposal for power at Wikipedia to be accompanied by accountability
- Wikipedia talk:Biographies of living persons - a suggestion to extend the BLP policy of sourcing contested claims to user pages
- User:Jimbo Wales/Credential Verification
- Wikipedia:Arbitration policy a suggestion that "Arbcom will establish and maintain and over time improve: a policy on transparency that will provide for accountability of Arbcom members through public knowledge, that increases over time, of the identities of Arbcom members."
- Wiki of Trust - A proposal that would enhance the security how personal ID would be verified.
- meta:Talk:CheckUser policy#Real name policy
- Wikipedia:Credentials are irrelevant - essay focusing on credentials in regard to attribution.
- Wikipedia:Credentials matter - another essay, considering credentials from a different angle
- Wikipedia:Ignore all credentials - policy proposal
- Wikipedia:Credential ban
- Related programs in other Wikipedias
- Wikipedianen naar expertise (on the Dutch Wikipedia)
- Wikipédiens par domaine de compétence (on the French Wikipédia)
- Mailing list archives where this idea has been previously discussed