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Launching MedPedia: From the perspective of a Wikipedia administrator

MedPedia, the medical online encyclopaedia was launched this week and I’m quite interested to see how it works. I’m an administrator in the English Wikipedia and I always think people should focus on one project instead of giving attention to several less important projects. When we have a Wikipedia, why do we need a Medpedia? A few words about how their system works:

The Medpedia Project is a long-term, worldwide project to evolve a new model for sharing and advancing knowledge about health, medicine and the body among medical professionals and the general public. This model is founded on providing a free online technology platform that is collaborative, interdisciplinary and transparent.

Anyone can contribute, and there are multiple ways of contributing. If you are a physician or Ph.D. in the biomedical field, you can create a profile and, if you are approved to become an Editor, you will gain editing privileges and will be able to make changes directly to the Medpedia wiki (see more below).

If you are anyone else, you can use the “Suggest Changes” link at the top of any page to make a suggestion for that page. An approved Editor will review and potentially add your suggestion.

medpedia

We need Medpedia to provide reliable medical content? That’s what we are working on in Wikipedia.

I believe elitism kills content. Only the power of masses controlled by well-designed editing guidelines can lead to a comprehensive encyclopaedia.

  • Moreover, Medpedia publishes content under the GFDL license. Correct me if I’m wrong, but anything they come up with can be transferred to Wikipedia as it will be published under the same license. It means the medical editors of Medpedia practically work for Wikipedia.
  • They have nice images, but what about the sources? We have strict guidelines for uploading images to Wikipedia.

Anyway, I truly wish them luck with this project because if they manage to create a useful database of medical information, I will be more than happy to promote it.

What do you think about Medpedia?

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20 Comments Post a comment
  1. “What do you think about Medpedia?”

    Too early to say. The viability of social media projects depends on the activity of its users/contributors.

    February 20, 2009
  2. Shamsha Damani #

    Having worked in a patient library in a cancer center in the past, I can see Medpedia’s appeal. Patients want reliable and authoritative information and Medpedia claims to offer just that. However, as mentioned in the previous comment, it is still too early to know how/if it will be received by patients in the long term.

    February 20, 2009
  3. Tones #

    I think you are raising a really important debate in this post.

    To support your argument there is an example of a Medpedia which has been running since 2005 which adopts a very similar approach to screening editors http://www.ganfyd.org. It obviously has not had the backing that Medpedia has, but it does appear to have a community of contributors which continue to develop the content. However, not wishing to belittle what this project has achieved, this website has failed to become the default source of trustworthy medical information on the internet. So the question is whether Medpedia with a similar model for content authoring can succeed where this other website appears to have fallen short.

    But from the other side, given your argument that Wikipedia should be the focus for the development of reliable medical content which I think is a valid one, it is interesting that you use the Honcode standard to verify the trustworthy nature of the health information contained in your blog.

    I think this contrast defines an important part of the issue here. On the one hand an “open” wiki such as Wikipedia offers the potential for the greatest amount of content development, most rapid and frequent updating and the potential for this to be of the highest quality. But the content on an open wiki such as Wikipedia will never fulfill the requirements set out by a standard such as Honcode.

    So ultimately the medical profession needs to have an opinion on what it wants the general public and its patients to do when searching for health information on the internet. How does it want them to evaluate the validity of the information that they find. Will the medical profession be comfortable with the possibility that patients are relying on information that could have been amended inappropriately moments before their viewing. How does the medical profession feel about those with vested interests (e.g. drug companies) being able to edit this information freely and at any time.

    So I guess what I am saying is I hope Medpedia works out because ultimately this is what I would personally prefer to use as a reference. However I am also aware that it may not…

    February 20, 2009
  4. Thanks for raising this issue Berci, I was looking at Asthma in Medpedia and was surprised to see the article was written by someone with a Bachelor of Science. Do I trust his ability to write an article like this-No, not without further disclosure! So I really have to ask myself what is the purpose of this site.

    On the other hand, I think there is a place for patients/parents/medical workers voices. My daughter has severe viral asthma, it doesn’t act like allergy induced asthma and I’ve had to explain that to nurses in emergency rooms on numerous occasions. Assuming that patients are unable to conduct extensive research is elitist.

    So in the end I am ambivalent and willing to wait and see.

    February 20, 2009
  5. Not directly recognizing the valuable contributions of other health care professionals: nurses, speech and language therapists, psychologists, occupational therapists, midwives etc is dangerous. It could be considered as quite divisive. Hmmm, will have to see how they react to the edits I have suggested for me to have a more formed opinion.

    February 20, 2009
  6. Great blog, thank you for posting this, and please keep it on :)

    February 21, 2009
  7. No, they do not “work for wikipedia”.

    Wikipedia is transfering over to the CC-BY-SA license, which is not GFDL compatable.

    February 22, 2009
  8. Elitism kills content?

    Can you trust the medical knowledge coming from masses?

    Even people who undergo medical training for years together needs to monitored for their exactness and relevance.

    Excuse me! But masses have no expertise to deal with lives.

    I am not eltist or something like that. All I want that when I read an information somewhere I should know who is saying it.

    It does matter.

    February 23, 2009
  9. Berci, you might be interested in the discussion happening over at e-patients.net:

    Medpedia: Who gets to say what info is reliable?
    by e-Patient Dave
    http://e-patients.net/archives/2009/02/medpedia-who-gets-to-say-what-info-is-reliable.html

    February 24, 2009
  10. Arun, such wikis cannot and mustn’t deal with lives. These are only meant to help medical professionals. Do you think doctors should rely on medical wikis?

    February 28, 2009
  11. “When we have a Wikipedia, why do we need a Medpedia?” That was my first impression of Medpedia too. My personal view is that patients and laypeople have a lot of valuable information to share in addition to medical professionals.

    As stated in Jeff Howe’s post on crowdsourcing medical expertise (http://crowdsourcing.typepad.com/cs/2008/09/crowdsourcing-m.html), “It’s not about credentials – it’s about accuracy.”

    “I believe elitism kills content.” An interesting point, and one I may quote you on as the expert vs. user-generated care/content discussion continues. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Berci!

    March 7, 2009
  12. Alexandra, I’m very glad you liked the post and of course, feel free to quote me anywhere you talk.

    March 7, 2009

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. In defence of Wikipedia « Inky Binary
  2. Medical Community Unites Behind New Model for Sharing and Advancing Medical Knowledge | Educationload.com
  3. Seeking health information online: does Wikipedia matter? « ScienceRoll
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  6. Medpedia, the Medical Wikipedia, is Dead. And we Missed its Funeral… | Laika's MedLibLog
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