The Mix

Encyclopaedia Britannica to the masses:

You can't possibly be as smart as us.
Remember that recent Nature study that showed Wikipedia was roughly as accurate as the Encyclopaedia Britannica on science? Well, it appears as though the folks over at EB have their pince nez on a little too tight. They have called for a retraction of the article. The EB response is a 20-page PDF (which you can get to by heading over to entitled "Fatally Flawed."

The disdain begins right from the start:
In its December 15, 2005, issue, the science journal Nature published an article that claimed to compare the accuracy of the online Encyclopædia Britannica with Wikipedia, the Internet database that allows anyone, regardless of knowledge or qualifications, to write and edit articles on any subject.
And it goes on….
Arriving amid the revelations of vandalism and errors in Wikipedia, such a finding was, not surpris- ingly, big news. Within hours of the article's appearance on Nature's Web site, media organizations worldwide proclaimed that Wikipedia was almost as accurate as the oldest continuously published reference work in the English language.
The beauty of Wikipedia is that it uses open-source software which enables the information possessed by over one million registered users to inform a topic. The original Nature study had scientists look at 50 articles from the two sources and assess the accuracy of both. The study found eight "serious" errors -- four in each pedia. After the study was conducted, the errors were corrected.

Here's the major difference: To read the corrected, full-text version of EB, you'll have to shell out twelve bucks for a month's worth of access. Wiki is free. If EB was really concerned about the advancement of knowledge, perhaps they would be less inclined to malign Wikipedia, and more interested in how they could contribute to the accuracy of public information. But then, with roughly the same number of errors as Wikipedia, it's questionable whether EB could really be all that helpful…
Onnesha Roychoudhuri is an assistant editor at AlterNet.
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