President Obama may not have a health care bill to sign just yet, but change is coming to America’s health information access system. Beginning Thursday, the National Institutes of Health and Wikimedia will team up to get more health info online, the groups announced Tuesday:
The United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit organization that operates Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, are joining forces to make health and science information more accessible and reliable. This collaboration is the first of its kind for both organizations.
“NIH works to ensure that the information it provides on science and health is of the highest quality and reaches the widest audience,” said John Burklow, NIH associate director for communications and public liaison. “We look forward to this opportunity to collaborate with the Wikimedia Foundation and participate in a resource that is used by millions of people around the world.”
On July 16, NIH will host Wikimedia staff and volunteers working in the sciences for an all-day event on its Bethesda campus in Maryland, USA. Participants will learn about the philosophy and mechanics of Wikipedia and will begin what is hoped to be a long-term dialogue aimed at improving public knowledge about health, science, and medicine. The international foundation has never before worked with a federal agency or a health sciences institution.
“Wikipedia Academies are public outreach events, usually lasting one or two days, aimed at engaging academics and other subject-matter experts who are not familiar with wiki culture or online communities,” said Frank Schulenburg, head of public outreach for the Wikimedia Foundation. “In presentations and workshops, experienced Wikipedia authors teach the participants how to contribute to Wikipedia and orient the audience to Wikipedia’s structures and community policies.”
“We’re incredibly excited about our first official Wikipedia Academy in the United States,” said Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation. “With the broad range of experts from the National Institutes of Health, we see a great opportunity for increasing the quality of all health-related information on Wikipedia, benefitting users of Wikipedia from all over the world.” Wikipedia contains nearly 13.5 million articles written in over 250 languages. In May, it served over 315 million unique visitors. The site manages, on average, more than 14 million page views per hour.
To satisfy the public’s growing need for reliable health information, NIH and the Wikimedia Foundation want to increase the availability of accurate medical and health information available to the public. At the same time, they hope to establish strategies to interlace the distinct cultures of Wikipedia and the research community.
After the Wikipedia Academy, NIH subject matter experts will be able to contribute to Wikipedia and also help develop best practices for future sessions. Instructions about how to contribute, including video of the Wikipedia Academy at NIH, will be available on the NIH and the Wikipedia websites for scientists across the country.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation’s Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visitwww.nih.gov.
The “Wiki” in “Wikimedia” and “Wikipedia” stands for “What I Know Is …” and it should be interesting to see how this translates into making more information accessible to more people. It will certainly compete with WebMD, a commercial online service which offers a lot of free info, and possibly District-based Revolution Health, founded by Steve Case, he of AOL fame.