Is Wikipedia the Public Face of Mass Spectrometry?

Presented at the 57th ASMS Conference on Mass Spectrometry, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, May 31th to June 4th 2009

Is Wikipedia the Public Face of Mass Spectrometry? 57th ASMS Conference on Mass Spectrometry, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, May 31th to June 4th 2009


Wikipedia is a web resource that is described as “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.” The low barrier for participation is both one of the best and worst features of the site. The drawbacks of easy participation are the sometimes opinionated, uninformed or simply malicious editors whereas the advantages are fast content creation that is easily accessible and often self-correcting.

Hypothesis: Wikipedia is the most popular source of on-line mass spectrometry information and has the potential to be a source of good information if a sufficiently large number of mass spectromerists become editors.

What is Wikipedia?

Founded less than a decade ago, Wikipedia is now one of the most popular websites and the most popular reference site.

Founded in 20011
2.9 M English language articles (13 M total)2
7th most popular website (#1 Reference)3
Used by 9% of global Internet users3
684 M visits annually4

Wikipedia Growth Plot

The growth of the English Wikipedia was exponential between 2003 and 2006 with a doubling time of one year. Growth is now linear.

Mass Spectrometry on Wikipedia

~ 200 pages in the category “Mass Spectrometry”
WikiProject Mass spectrometry
Wikimedia Commons category “Mass Spectrometry”

Top 10 Google Hits for the term Mass Spectrometry:

Michigan State University
American Society for Mass Spectrometry
University of Arizona
Scripps Research Institute
Colby College
Wikimedia Commons
Virginia Tech

The Wikipedia entry is hit #1 and Wikimedia Commons (diagrams and photographs) is hit #7. ASMS is hit #3 with university courses filling most of the other top spots.

The Wikipedia page Mass Spectrometry had 517,000 views in 2008, more than 1400 hits per day. The dip in the summer and peaks at mid-semester suggests educational use.

Becoming a Wikipedia Editor

Because Wikipedia is such an important source of mass spectrometry information, participation by the mass spectrometry community should by encouraged both in an organized and ad hoc manner. It should be noted that there are significant barriers to scientists desiring to become Wikipedia editors, but there are also many useful resources.

Wiki document markup
Wikipedia protocols
Article layout
Interacting with non-science editors
Reconciling scientific and Wikipedia review

Tutorials and documentation on Wikipedia
WikiProject Mass Spectrometry
WIkiProject Chemistry
WikiProject Physics
WikiProject Molecular and Cellular Biology
Chemistry Portal
Physics Portal
Molecular and Cellular Biology Portal
Reference markup tools
Current Wikipedia Editors


Develop a formal policy on Wikipedia content
National organizations (ASMS, BSMS, ANZSMS, etc.)
International Mass Spectrometry Foundation
Coordinate with relevant committees
Education, History, Standards, etc.
Encourage participation
Evaluate content