A poster presented at the 11th Annual Scientific Meeting for the European Association for Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry (EACLPP) in Saragossa, Spain looks set to have wide ranging implications for the way knowledge is organised on the Internet.
The recent work carried out by Dr Marley, a psychiatrist from Rotherham, England has shown a way forward that is likely to prove especially significant for the knowledge based website Wikipedia.
Wikipedia is a great resource and a model for how information can be freely shared on the Internet and has become the seventh most popular site with over 57,000,000 visitors every month.
Its great advantage is that anyone can place information with Wikipedia on any subject and so the knowledge base is vast. This however can also be a problem.
People with no expertise can place articles just as can those with real knowledge, while companies and vested interests are often tempted to place information favourable to themselves in order to 'misinform' the public's perceptions.
Working in the field of psychiatry within a hospital environment Dr Marley investigated the way Consultation-Liason Psychiatry was portrayed on Wikipedia.
Noting that the article on hospital psychiatry contained incorrect information and lacked other important points, Dr Marley set about compiling a set of standards based on information written by experts in the field.
These criteria are known as the Saragossa Criteria - after the conference on Consultation-Liason Psychiatry in which they were presented.
Dr Marley then audited Wikipedia content against these standards which highlighted significant improvements that could be made.
The implications of the work however are far reaching. All aspects of Wikipedia knowledge could benefit from this approach and this research comes ahead of the Wikipedia conference in the library of Alexandria, Egypt in July 2008.
To produce verifiable information communities and organisations will first need to assemble a set of standards about themselves.
They will then be required to publish these standards in a verifiable source such as an online newsletter, or via an external source such as a journal, article or community newspaper. This information can then be used in the construction of a Wikipedia profile.
This auditing of Wikipedia comes as a real breakthrough. Information appearing on the site must be verifiable.
By conducting and publishing research about their profile, Communities and organisations will not only produce useful information about themselves but by going through the proper process that information will be verified and so be of much greater value to Wikipedia users as whole.
The image of different organisations can only benefit from raising their profile in this way. These standards can also be used give a numerical marker for the accuracy of an article on Wikipedia as well as providing a tool for measuring the neutrality of the article.