Wiki of the Month July 2011
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AcaWiki is like "Wikipedia for academic research" - it is designed to collect summaries and literature reviews of peer-reviewed academic research, and make them available to the general public. There are currently some 600 summaries of academic papers on AcaWiki, covering economics, psychology, sociology, business and computer science, among other fields.
AcaWiki is run by an organization, also called AcaWiki, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit registered in California, founded in 2009 with seed funding from the Hewlett Foundation.
AcaWiki is the Semantic MediaWiki wiki of the month for July 2011.
There are several problems with the current dissemination of academic research:
- Cutting-edge research is occurring at breakneck speeds; however dissemination of this research is stunted. Though much of this research is publicly funded, the contents are not made accessible to the general public. Even many universities, especially those in developing countries, cannot afford the subscription fees to access standard journals.
- Most academic papers are written for other academics and often contain jargon that most people from outside a discipline may not easily understand.
AcaWiki presents a workable solution to both of these problems by making use of social software combined with a community of graduate students, academics, and citizens, to collect summaries and long abstracts of academic papers. In short, contributors write two-to-three paragraph summaries of academic papers and contribute them to the AcaWiki pool. Because there is no copyright in ideas, this is permissible. Entries on the site are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license so they are free for international distribution via the internet or hard copy. Other contributors can annotate, comment, or append information to the original entry, adding greater nuance or clarity.
AcaWiki's contributors are volunteers—graduate students, researchers, and members of the general public. Contributions are objective summaries of the main findings from important academic papers, including theoretical background, methods, and results, as well as the theoretical and practical relevance of the research. Contributions can likewise take the form of literature reviews which survey a number of related papers.
Over 250 peer-reviewed journals are represented in the list of summaries. The best-represented fields are Computer Science, Sociology, and Business; followed by Economics, Biology, Psychology, Medicine, Education, Anthropology, Mathematics, Philosophy, Geosciences, Physics, Neuroscience, Health, and Chemistry.
AcaWiki maintains mailing lists for announcements and discussions and runs the #acawiki channel on freenode.
AcaWiki leverages Semantic MediaWiki in order to facilitate the creation, organization and cataloging of bibliographic data for research papers. The form (powered by Extension "Page Forms") for editing summaries makes it easy to type in publication information for each paper, including title, authors, publication date, and DOI, in addition to tags and subject matter.
AcaWiki also integrates the Bibtex Import extension, which makes it trivial for users to import data from BibTex files. This extension was created specifically for AcaWiki.
In addition, the Semantic Drilldown extension is used to deliver an interface for browsing summaries by Journal, Subject or Tag. Visitors can, for instance, view all summaries originating from a particular peer-reviewed journal, or belonging to one or more subject areas or a set of tags. The interface makes it easy to discover and read related summaries.