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Ideas related to science are an important part of any comprehensive encyclopedia. This guideline and its criteria are intended for use in determining whether a topic is notable due to being a part of or related to science. The tests in this guideline are intended to be fairly rigirous so that a topic that is acceptable under this guideline can be considered an appropriate part of Wikipedia. However, the failure of a topic to meet this guideline's criteria does not automatically exclude it, as it may attain notability through WP:N itself or another of its subsidiary guidelines.
The need for this guideline comes from there being a set of topics which do not fail the test of the No original research policy or the Wikipedia:Attribution policy but which none the less are not appropriate to Wikipedia because they do have sufficient notability. Such topics mostly represent new findings and theories, as well as past findings and theories that have failed to gain significant attention in either scientific circles or the public at large (or so far failed to gain said attention).
A key element to understanding this guideline is that Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, not a research publication, and as such Wikipedia does not usurp the usual validation processes of scientific institutions such as peer review, scientific consensus, and academic recognition. Decisions about including or excluding material must always reflect the opinions of outside authorities, not those of Wikipedia editors. Inclusion or exclusion is therefore not a judgement on the validity, importance or accuracy of a scientific contribution, but simply a reflection of the quality and quantity of responses it received inside and outside the scientific community.
This notability guideline derives its relevance from the policies What Wikipedia is not (in particular Not an indiscriminate collection of information and Not a crystal ball), No original research and Neutral point of view (in particular Undue weight and Pseudoscience), as well as the guidelines Conflict of interest and Autobiography. Also of importance are verifiability and reliability policies.
In general, a contribution in the field of science is notable enough to merit inclusion in Wikipedia if it meets at least one of the following criteria:
- Textbook science. There is regular non-incidental mention of the contribution in general or specialized textbooks published by reputable presses.1
- Widely cited. Papers covering the contribution have been widely cited2 in its research field3 relative to other papers in the same area. Self-citations, and citations in journals which are not respected within the relevant research field should be excluded.
- Press and fiction. It is or was well known due to extensive press coverage, or due to being a recurrent theme in notable works of fiction. In this case the article should make note of this status. A single article on the theory, even if from a major media source such as New Scientist or Scientific American, is not a sufficient criterion.
- Historical interest. It has historically met any of the above criteria within the scientific community or the culture at large but has since either been superseded, disregarded, or dismissed by the scientific community or the culture at large. The article should make note of the subject's status in this regard.
- Popular belief. It is or was believed to be true by a significant part of the general population, even if rejected by scientific authorities.
Notable topics which are primarily non-scientific in nature but which contain claims concerning scientific phenomena, should not be handled as scientific. For example, the Book of Genesis itself is primarily covered as a religious scripture rather than as a cosmology. On the other hand, subjects such as creationism or creation science, which involve a direct conflict between scientific and religious doctrine, are properly evaluated both on a scientific and theological basis. Similarly, subjects purporting to have a scientific basis may be noteworthy primarily on cultural or sociological bases, such as UFOs, which can usefully be discussed from several different perspectives.
- See also Wikipedia:Avoid neologisms
A scientific term is considered notable and worthy of inclusion in Wikipedia if the following can be established:
- A commonly agreed-upon formal or informal definition
- A trajectory of use for the term in the scientific literature from reliable and verifiable sources
To determine notability it is important to keep in mind that different fields sometimes use the same term to describe different concepts. On the other hand, especially in the early stages of a field, terminology is often not standardized and different terms are used for the same concept. The policy on naming conventions gives more information on the choice of the proper term when more than one term is used in the scientific literature.
Assessing the reliability and relevance of sources
Journals from which citations and evidence of notability are obtained are expected to be well known and respected within the relevant research field. The previous requirement of citation from a peer-reviewed source is not alone sufficient by this requirement. (Peer review is done just as easily by a fringe science journal as by a leading journal, while Nature magazine, one of the most respected scientific journals in existence, uses editorial as well as peer review for submissions.)
Textbooks should either be well-known and respected or produced by a reputable scientific publisher (which is most likely the same publisher as one or more respected journals).
Journals from scientific societies of developing countries are occasionally not reliable. If a finding in such a journal should prove to be of great scientific interest, that finding is often reprinted and/or reported in reliable scientific sources. In such a case, the original journal article can be cited as a primary source, but its relevance should be backed up by secondary citations in known reliable sources.
For biographical articles and articles on fringe science, there is some loosening of these requirements. Works by the topic of a biographical article are relevant to the article whether their writing was published in a reliable journal/publisher or not. Also, the contents of a journal devoted to a fringe science can provide evidence as to the past or current thinking within that fringe field. However, the fringe science journals cannot provide evidence for the outright notability of the topic.
^Note 1 : The scientific contribution must have a major entry in the work. A passing mention of the concept is not sufficient.
^Note 2 : Citation counts and peer review mechanisms differ vastly between sciences, fields, and subfields, and editors are urged to inform the relevant WikiProject about ongoing debates to get expert input. It should also be noted that quantity of citations is often only a poor approximation of quality.
^Note 3 : A "research field" indicates an established area of study for which the topic in question is only a part. A topic cannot be its own research field, nor can it gain notability from being part of a field which is non-notable.