Wikipedia:Press releases/Nature compares Wikipedia and Britannica

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TAMPA, FLA.—December 15, 2005—The Wikimedia Foundation, an international non-profit organization dedicated to encouraging the growth, development and distribution of free, multilingual content, announced today the results of an independent investigation by Nature magazine of its free online encyclopedia, Wikipedia. Wikipedia is the fastest-growing encyclopedia worldwide, built on the premise that anyone in the world can add or edit entries.

The article in Nature's December 15 issue, "Internet Encyclopedias Go Head to Head," revealed the results of expert comparisons between Wikipedia and its major peer, Encyclopaedia Britannica. The study found that "Wikipedia comes close to Britannica in terms of the accuracy of its science entries."

Nature asked expert reviewers from varied disciplines to review 50 articles in each encyclopedia and evaluate them based solely on accuracy. Articles chosen for comparison involved identical subject matter and were of similar length. The result: 2.9 errors per article for Encyclopaedia Britannica versus 3.9 errors per article in Wikipedia.

"Our goal is Britannica-or-better quality, but we're not completely there yet," said Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. "We've been working on Wikipedia for less than five years, and it's a testament to the strength of our community that we should come so close to them at this point. As we get more people to contribute their expertise, I know that the clarity, readability, and accuracy of Wikipedia content will continue to improve."

The study bolsters Wikipedia's credibility after it was recently criticized by retired journalist John Seigenthaler over false statements in an article about him. That entry is already corrected and, with their usual speed, volunteer Wikipedia authors are already working to correct mistakes in the articles studied by Nature.

As well as comparing the two encyclopedias, Nature surveyed more than 1,000 of its own authors about their use of encyclopedias. More than 70 percent of respondents said they consult Wikipedia on scientific topics, and more than 80 percent found Wikipedia’s coverage of a topic, relevance of information, accuracy and timeliness to be "Satisfactory" or "Excellent." Nature also encouraged its readers to help improve Wikipedia entries on topics where they have expertise.

Related links
Nature article: "Internet encyclopaedias go head to head" -
Project to correct mistakes based on the study:
The Wikimedia Foundation