Don't trust Wikipedia when it comes to controversial science topics

That Wikipedia isn't a reliable source isn't exactly news to many of you, but despite its faults it is the most widely used online encyclopedia and the sixth most popular website globally. Yet stories of edit wars, vandalism and admins going rogue to keep their pet topics hostage so others couldn't edit them, are rampant and they should undermine Wiki's credibility. Yet people still trust it to provide them crucial information.

Two scientists went out to examine if the downsides of Wikipedia affected scientific articles as well. They chose a few controversial topics, such as acid rain and evolution, and a few noncontroversial topics, such as general relativity, and scrutinized their edit histories spanning back to years, looking for number of edits per day, word counts and page views.

Overall, controversial topics received far greater amounts of editing in greater frequencies than noncontroversial topics. Coauthors Likens and Wilson explained how they found edits that inserted blatantly  incorrect information to the articles.

It's no secret that Wikipedia is not a reliable source for academics, but students are still advised to use Wikipedia as a starting point for real research. The authors warn of Wiki's extremely dynamic nature, saying that in a very short period, two students looking at the same topic could receive dramatically different information.

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