September 26, 2012

Fellows of the Wiki Society? The Royal Society in London experiments with Wikipedia

wiki wiki

The wiki-wiki (quick) shuttle bus in Hawaii by xordroyd. Creative Commons licensed picture from Flickr.

Regular readers of this blog might remember that back in June of this year, I suggested that the Royal Society should employ a wikipedian in residence. After emailing, blogging and other ranting, Paul Nurse got in touch with me to say that the Society was sympathetic to the idea and would investigate. His email is reproduced below:

From: Paul.Nurse ate royalsociety.org
Subject: Re: An Open Letter to the Royal Society: Please employ a wikipedian in residence
To: hulld ate cs.man.ac.uk
cc: Aosaf.Afzal ate royalsociety.org

Dear Duncan

I floated your idea about Wikipedia in the Society and it is being looked at to see what might be possible. Thanks for your suggestion.

Best wishes.


Time passed and the English summer dripped by in it’s typically rainy fashion. Then, earlier this month, Francis Bacon (not that Francis Bacon, but this Francis Bacon) contacted me, to say the Society is organising an edit-a-thon. With help from Uta Frith, the society is going to investigate the possibilities of wikipedia using Women in Science workshop as a pilot project. See Women of Wikipedia edit planned on BBC News.

This is great news and the event was fully booked in less than a day. It’s good to see a venerable society embracing new and disruptive technology in this way.

Compare and contrast the Royal Society with the Wiki Society

It is informative (and entertaining) to compare and contrast the Royal Society with wikipedia as the two organisiastions share some aims but are very different beasts:

wikipedia.org royalsociety.org
Purpose A place where every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. To recognise, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity
Funding The Wikimedia foundation is a non-profit organisation that relies on donations to keep it going A registered charity in the UK, funding comes in the form of gifts and legacies from a range individuals and organisations
How to Join Egalitarian: any idiot one can click on the edit button to become a fellow of the wiki-society (FWS), also known as a wikipedian Elitist: Each year over 700 candidates are proposed by the existing Fellowship. From this pool, 44 Fellows, 8 Foreign Members and up to 1 Honorary Fellow are elected by a rigorous process. You have to do some pretty remarkable science or engineering to become an FRS
Age Only 11 years old in 2012, not even a troublesome teenager (yet). Has wisdom beyond its years. Over 350 years old, some of it’s members invented the modern world and continue to shape it today
Location Virtually the wiki-society is anywhere there is an internet connection. Physically, the head quarters are in San Francisco Based just off The Mall in London, many members cluster in the supposed Golden Triangle of London, Oxford and Cambridge. Other fellows are scattered around the provinces with expats and Foreign Members dispersed around the globe.
Who’s a member 35 million editors, not all of whom are active. About 1500 living fellows including Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, Harry Kroto, Tim Berners-Lee, Paul Nurse, David Attenborough and over 80 Nobel prize winners. Thousands more deceased members including Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Robert Boyle etc
Profile Ordinary: Most wikipedians are ordinary and reasonable people, but internet trolls, spammers, snake oil sellers, lunatics, bigots, pedants, global village idiots, OCD sufferers other interesting characters are quite common on wikipedia Extraordinary: Most Fellows are extraordinary but reasonable people, some may also be Mad Scientists [citation needed]
Praised for Many things, see praise for the wikipedia and wikimedia projects. Funding excellent scientists and their Science. Engaging the public and young people in science through various events.
Criticised for The worlds biggest database of half-truths and white lies, see criticism of Wikipedia. Patrolled by annoying or partial editors and administrators. It can be frustratingly difficult to verify sources and wikipedia often lacks scientific credibility [1]. Being a nepotistic old boy network with an absence of women and very little in the way of youth. Ouch. Too many members have or currently work in, Oxbridge and London, possible geographic bias.
Origin The name wikipedia comes from the Hawai’in word for quick Wiki, see picture top right. The Royal Society is named after the British Monarchy, set up with help from Charles I. The name is a bit of a misnomer as you don’t need to be a royalist to join – republicans are welcome. In Middle English, the word Royal means s-l-o-w, traditional and painfully conservative [citation needed].

So there you have it, the Wiki Society and the Royal Society are unlike each other in many ways but they share a common goal of spreading knowledge. Perhaps the scientific content of wikipedia will be greatly improved through edit-a-thons and other events like this. Hopefully, the days where wikipedia will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about David Beckham but (at the time of writing) has absolutely nothing to say about leading scientists like John Aggleton, Garret FitzGerald and Margaret Robinson are numbered.

Thanks to Paul Nurse, Francis Bacon, Aosaf Afzal and Uta Frith for making it happen. If you can’t attend the edit-a-thon, watch this wiki-space via the twitter hashtag #WomenSciWP: interesting wiki-things might wiki-happen.


  1. Wodak, S.J., Mietchen, D., Collings, A.M., Russell, R.B. & Bourne, P.E. (2012). Topic Pages: PLoS Computational Biology Meets Wikipedia, PLoS Computational Biology, 8 (3) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002446

June 29, 2012

Impact Factor Boxing 2012

Rocky Balboa  Philadelphia, PA

Rocky Balboa, Philadelphia, PA. Creative Commons licensed picture by seng1011 (steve eng) on Flickr.

[This post is part of an ongoing series about impact factors]

In the world of abused performance metrics, the impact factor is the undisputed heavyweight champion of the (publishing) world.

It has been an eventful year in the boxing ring of scientific publishing since the last set of figures were published by Thomson-Reuters. A brand new journal called PeerJ launched with a radical publish ’til you perish business model [1]. There’s another new journal on the way too in the shape of eLifeSciences - with it’s own significant differences from current publishing models. Then there was the Finch report on Open Access. If that wasn’t enough fun, there’s been the Alternative metrics “Altmetrics” movement gathering pace [2], alongside suggestions that the impact factor may be losing its grip on the supposed “title” [3].

The impact factors below are the most recent, published June 28th 2012, covering data from 2011. Love them or loathe them, use them or abuse them, game them or shame them … here is a tiny selection of impact factors for the 10,675 journals that are tracked in Journal Citation Reports (JCR) ordered by increasing punch power.

WARNING: Abusing these figures can seriously damage your Science – you have been warned! Normal caveats apply, see nature.com/metrics.

Journal 2011 data from isiknowledge.com/JCR Eigenfactor™ Metrics
Total Cites Impact Factor 5-Year Impact Factor Immediacy Index Articles Cited Half-life Eigenfactor™ Score Article Influence™ Score
Russian Journal of Cardiology* 3 0.005 0.000 75 0.00000
BMC Bioinformatics 14268 2.751 3.493 0.293 557 4.2 0.07757 1.314
PLoS ONE 75544 4.092 4.537 0.437 13781 2.4 0.50216 1.797
Briefings in Bioinformatics 2859 5.202 7.749 0.692 65 4.3 0.01129 2.857
PLoS Computational Biology 8924 5.215 5.844 0.710 407 3.1 0.06968 2.722
OUP Bioinformatics 43380 5.468 6.051 0.666 707 6.2 0.15922 2.606
Nucleic Acids Research 106520 8.026 7.417 2.016 1230 7.4 0.30497 3.003
Genome Biology 15556 9.036 7.896 1.550 151 5.2 0.08221 4.124
PLoS Biology 20579 11.452 13.630 2.461 180 4.6 0.14975 7.830
Science 480836 31.201 32.452 6.075 871 9.4 1.41282 17.508
Nature 526505 36.280 36.235 9.690 841 9.4 1.65658 20.353
New England Journal of Medicine 232068 53.298 50.075 11.484 349 7.8 0.66466 21.293
CA – A Cancer Journal for Clinicians** 10976 101.780 67.410 21.263 19 3.8 0.04502 24.502

* The Russian Journal of Cardiology is included here for reference as it has the lowest non-zero impact factor of any science journal. A rather dubious honour…

** The Cancer Journal for Clinicians is the highest ranked journal in science, it is included here for reference. Could it be the first journal to have an impact factor of more than 100?


  1. Richard Van Noorden (2012). Journal offers flat fee for ‘all you can publish’, Nature, 486 (7402) 166. DOI: 10.1038/486166a
  2. Jason Priem, Heather Piwowar and Bradley Hemminger (2012).  Altmetrics in the wild: Using social media to explore scholarly impact arxiv.org/abs/1203.4745
  3. George Lozano, Vincent Lariviere and Yves Gingras (2012). The weakening relationship between the Impact Factor and papers’ citations in the digital age arxiv.org/abs/1205.4328

June 28, 2011

Impact Factor Boxing 2011

Khmer Boxing by  lecercle, on Flickr[This post is part of an ongoing series about impact factors. See Impact Factor Boxing 2012 for the latest figures.]

Well it’s that time again. The annual sweaty fist-fight for supremacy between the scientific journals, as measured by impact factors, is upon us. Much ink (virtual and actual) has been spilt on the subject of impact factors, which we won’t add to here, other than to say:

Hey look, the “European” journals might be catching up with the “American” ones. [1]

So, love them, loathe them, use them, abuse them, ignore them or obsess over them… here’s a tiny selection of the 10,196 journals that are tracked in Journal Citation Reports (JCR) ordered by increasing impact.

WARNING: Abusing these figures can seriously damage your Science – you have been warned! (normal caveats apply)

Journal 2010 data from isiknowledge.com/JCR Eigenfactor™ Metrics
Total Cites Impact Factor 5-Year Impact Factor Immediacy Index Articles Cited Half-life Eigenfactor™ Score Article Influence™ Score
The Naval Architect* 16 0.005 0.004 0.005 189 0.00002 0.001
BMC Bioinformatics 12653 3.028 3.786 0.475 690 3.9 0.08086 1.495
PLoS ONE 42795 4.411 4.610 0.515 6714 2.1 0.32121 1.943
OUP Bioinformatics 40659 4.877 6.325 0.707 700 5.7 0.17973 2.649
PLoS Computational Biololgy 6849 5.515 6.251 0.727 406 2.8 0.06075 2.984
Genome Biology 14194 6.885 7.353 1.295 173 4.9 0.07688 3.585
Nucleic Acids Research 100444 7.836 7.314 1.755 1101 7.0 0.32867 3.016
Briefings in Bioinformatics 2886 9.283 7.395 1.204 49 5.8 0.01013 2.737
PLoS Biology 18453 12.469 14.375 2.706 214 4.1 0.16084 8.225
Science 469704 31.364 31.769 6.789 862 9.0 1.46485 16.859
Nature 511145 36.101 35.241 8.791 862 9.1 1.74466 19.334
New England Journal of Medicine 227674 53.484 52.362 10.675 345 7.5 0.69167 21.366
CA – A Cancer Journal for Clinicians ** 9801 94.262 70.216 8.667 18 3.8 0.04923 24.782

* The Naval Architect is included here for reference as it has the lowest non-zero impact factor of any science journal. A rather dubious honour…

** The Cancer Journal for Clinicians is the highest ranked journal in science, is included here for reference.

[Creative Commons licensed picture of Khmer boxing picture by lecercle]


  1. Karageorgopoulos, D., Lamnatou, V., Sardi, T., Gkegkes, I., & Falagas, M. (2011). Temporal Trends in the Impact Factor of European versus USA Biomedical Journals PLoS ONE, 6 (2) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016300

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