The world uses Wikipedia to learn about every subject, and medical content is no exception. Medical content is accessed on Wikipedia more than the websites of the NIH, WebMD, Mayo Clinic, NHS, WHO, and UpToDate. And we know from research that people make real behavioral decisions from what they read on Wikipedia. Wikipedia’s wide readership, instant availability, and source verifiability makes it one of the most powerful vehicles for reaching patients, practitioners, and caregivers with medical research. That’s why the Eugene Washington PCORI Engagement Awards program, an initiative of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), has offered Wiki Education funding support for our project disseminating PCORI-funded Systematic Reviews through Wikipedia.
PCORI is an independent, nonprofit organization authorized by Congress in 2010 to fund research that will provide patients, their caregivers, and clinicians with the evidence-based information needed to make better-informed healthcare decisions. They have a successful history of funding projects that help develop a community of patients and other stakeholders equipped to participate as partners in comparative clinical effectiveness research (CER) and disseminate PCORI-funded study results. Through the Engagement Award Program, PCORI is creating an expansive network of individuals, communities and organizations interested in and able to participate in, share, and use patient-centered CER.
Wiki Education is the only organization that has demonstrated an ability to improve medical and science content on Wikipedia in a systematic and scalable way. We have perfected programmatic work to engage subject matter experts to improve Wikipedia content over the last 12 years. We are a trusted partner for university instructors, academic associations, and the medical editing community on Wikipedia.
For this project, Wiki Education aims to improve the quality of health information available on Wikipedia about historically underrepresented topics, such as maternal and mental health. To accomplish our goal, we will train medical students in graduate-level classes to edit Wikipedia as a class assignment through our Wikipedia Student Program and partner with subject matter expert organizations to run Wiki Scientists courses that train medical experts on how to edit Wikipedia. Our existing network of medical faculty and partner organizations, including associations like the Society of Family Planning and Association for Psychological Science, will use PCORI-funded Systematic Reviews as key citations for these Wikipedia articles. In collaboration with the University of California San Francisco’s Dr. Amin Azzam, we will champion Wikipedia editing as a class assignment among medical school faculty. We will recruit new participants for both programs to cite more PCORI-funded Systematic Reviews. Wikipedia articles edited through this project are expected to receive millions of page views annually.
According to Greg Martin, PCORI’s Acting Chief Engagement and Dissemination Officer, “This project was selected for Engagement Award funding because it will involve stakeholders in actively disseminating PCORI-funded research results to those who can use this information to inform healthcare decisions. We look forward to working with Wiki Education throughout the course of their 2 year project.”
In the age of disinformation and misinformation, Wikipedia has shone as a beacon of fact-based, neutral information. Even YouTube, Facebook, and other social media sites use it for their consumer-facing fact-checking links. The public trusts Wikipedia to provide them accurate information. With this project, we can ensure that important medical topics have information from and links to high-quality PCORI-funded Systematic Reviews.
For more information about PCORI’s funding to support engagement efforts, visit their website.