Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Britannica strikes back

Encylopaedia Britannica has hit back at claims that its articles are only slightly more accurate that Wikipedia's. In December 2005, the science journal Nature , published an article in which they compared the reference sources, concluding that in some subjects there wasn't much to distinguish the two. Obviously this caused much rejoicing amongst the Wiki community as it seemed to validate all those claims that the database was just a gimmick. Not surprisingly, Britannica was furious and they commissioned a study of the Nature investigation, the findings of which have just been published. According to them,

"Dozens of inaccuracies attributed to the Britannica were not inaccuracies at all, and a number of the articles Nature examined were not even in the Encyclopædia Britannica. The study was so poorly carried out and its findings so error-laden that it was completely without merit... Their numerous errors and spurious procedures included the following:

- Rearranging, reediting, and excerpting Britannica articles.
- Several of the "articles" Nature sent its outside reviewers were only sections of,
or excerpts from Britannica entries. Some were cut and pasted together from more
than one Britannica article. As a result, Britannica's coverage of certain
subjects was represented in the study by texts that our editors never created,
approved or even saw.
- Mistakenly identifying inaccuracies. The journal claimed to have found dozens of
inaccuracies in Britannica that didn't exist.
- Reviewing the wrong texts. They reviewed a number of texts that were not even in
the encyclopedia.
- Failing to check facts. Nature falsely attributed inaccuracies to Britannica based
on statements from its reviewers that were themselves inaccurate and which
Nature's editors failed to verify.
- Misrepresenting its findings. Even according to Nature's own figures, (which
grossly exaggerated the number of inaccuracies in Britannica) Wikipedia had a
third more inaccuracies than Britannica. Yet the headline of the journal's
report concealed this fact and implied something very different. "

I can't wait to hear Nature's reply or what Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia head honcho, has to say. There again, there's probably an entry in Wikipedia already."

13 comments:

Tim 'avatar' Bartel said...

Well, there is an article :-)

http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Communications_subcommittees/Press/2006/03/22_Britanica_PR

Jim Giles said...

Nature's response can be found here

http://www.nature.com/press_releases/Britannica_response.pdf

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