Wikipedia and Wikidata. Massive Open resources for Science.

I think Wikipedia is a wonderful creation of the XXIst Century, the Digital Enlightenment. It has arisen out of the massive cultural change enabled by digital freedom – the technical ability for over half the world (and hopefully soon almost all) to read and write what they want.

I was invited to give the plenary lecture at Wikipedia Science – a new venture, and one which was wonderfully successful. Here’s me, promoting “The Right to Read is The Right to Mine“.


I’m not sure whether there is a recording or transcript – I’d certainly value them as I don’t read prepared speeches.

My theme was that Wikidata – one of the dozen major sections of Wikimedia – should be the first stopping place for people who want to find and re-use scientific data. It doesn’t mean that WD necessarily contains all the data itself, but it will have structured validated link to where it can be found.

Here’s my slides which contain praise for Wikim/pedia, the problems of closed information, and the technology of liberating it through ContentMining.  In ContentMine we are mining the daily literature for science and Wikidata will be one of the places that we shall look to for recording the results .

One of the great aspects of Wikipedia is that it has an Open approach to governance. Last year at Wikimania I was impressed by the self-analysis of Wikipedia – how can we run a distributed, vibrant, multicultural, multidisciplinary organisation? If anyone can find the answer it’ Wikimedia.

But running societies has neve been and never will be easy. People will always disagree about what is right and what is wrong; what will work and what won’t.

And that’s what the next post is about. Wikipedia has embarked on a collaboration with Elsevier to read the closed literature. Many people think it’s a good way forward. Others like Michael Eisen and I think it’s a dereliction of our fundamental values.

It’s healthy that we debate this loudly in public. During that process we may lose friends and make new ones, but we advance our communal processes.

What’s supremely unhealthy is that larged closed monopolistic capitalist organisations make decisions in private, colluding with governments and constrain and control the Digital Enlightenment.