A background of collaboration
Cochrane Collaboration is an independent medical nonprofit organization consisting of a group of over 28,000 volunteers in more than 100 countries. The collaboration was formed to organize medical scholarships in a systematic way in the interests of evidence-based research. The group conducts systematic reviews of randomized controlled trials of health-care interventions, which is then published by Wiley-Blackwell in The Cochrane Library.
In April 2013, Cochrane generously agreed to give free, full-access to 100 medical editors. Individual access to The Cochrane Library would have cost between $300 and $800 per single license subscription.
In September 2013 Wiki Project Med Foundation board members Doc James (User:Jmh649) and Jake Orlowitz (User:Ocaasi) flew to the annual Cochrane Colloquium in Quebec to give talks and editing sessions about Wikipedia to doctors and researchers.
Following the library donation and the colloquium, Cochrane expressed interest in investing more deeply in a Wikipedia partnership. They teamed up with Wiki Project Med Foundation to find a dedicated editor to work with them.
WPMEDF recruited 18 diverse and experienced applicants for Cochrane’s editorial team to interview. In consultation with Doc James and Ocaasi, Cochrane combed through the stellar applicants, zeroing in on the top two who had extensive experience in both Wikipedia and Medicine. Their choice, Sydney Poore, is a phenomenally talented and capable editor.
Hearing from the people involved
We talked to Cochrane editorial staffer Nancy Owens to find out more about the position and why Sydney was such a great addition to the team.
Why was Sydney a good fit for the WIR position? What are her best strengths and qualities? What does she bring to the table that’s a real asset?
For me, Sydney was the outstanding choice to be the inaugural Cochrane WIR because of the particular combination of skills and knowledge that she brings to the project: medical knowledge, expertise in using Wikipedia, a background in providing training and support and demonstrated understanding of and focus on establishing the project’s structure and processes as its first six months get under way.
What will the WIR do to help Cochrane? What are your goals for the partnership? Who will help ensure it is successful and how?
I hope that the WiR will support getting lots more Cochrane contributors involved in getting Cochrane evidence into Wikipedia. I hope that she will do this by fostering communication and collaboration between the Cochrane and Wikipedia communities and support the growth of strong, productive, transparent relationships. The WIR will be a key person in ensuring that the Cochrane/Wikipedia collaboration is a successful one and the participation of energetic Cochrane contributors and knowledgeable Wikipedia contributors will play a key role to getting the right information into the right places.
What role did Wiki Project Med Foundation play in the WIR position? How was the application process?
I really enjoyed the application process as an opportunity to collaborate and share information with colleagues working on the Wiki Project Med Foundation side. Both James and Jake have been engaged, enthusiastic and responsive throughout the project and have made me feel that people on the Wikipedia side are as fully invested in the success of this collaboration as we are – on the Cochrane side. I’ve already learned an enormous amount about how Wikipedia works through the interview processes – the ways in which it is similar to and different from Cochrane – and I look forward to learning more as the collaboration moves forward under the WIR’s leadership.
John Wilson, also in Cochrane’s editorial unit, added his perspective as well.
Why is Wikipedia important to Cochrane Collaboration? How does it fit into your mission?
Cochrane’s mission is to promote evidence-informed health decision-making by producing high-quality, relevant, accessible systematic reviews and other synthesized research evidence. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews is widely used by health professionals, researchers and policy makers with specific questions, but Cochrane Reviews can also provide a reliable, independent reference source to support any information about healthcare treatments and tests. Wikipedia is unrivaled as a global general healthcare information resource, so by helping to ensure that information is supported by Cochrane evidence is a clear fit with Cochrane’s mission to promote evidence-informed health decision-making.
Spotlight on Sydney
We also talked to Sydney of course, to learn about her experience and excitement about the partnership.
What is your background, especially in relation to medicine?
My background in health care is that of a Registered Nurse who specialized in OB/GYN. (I’ve retired from nursing and do not currently have an active license.) I was reading a revisionist history of Florence Nightingale back in 2005 when I created my account, so that was the reason I selected FloNight as my user name. For her time, Nightingale was very scientific minded individual and so I feel quite good about adopting her name for my work on Wikipedia and in particular my work with Cochrane.
Why do you think Wikipedia is important for medical subjects?
Globally, Wikipedia is one of the most popular places for individuals to get information because it is quick and easy to access Wikipedia content. Because Internet search engines frequently include Wikipedia articles as a top search result, today Wikipedia is one of the top sources of health information. Whether the person seeking the information is a student, consumer, or health professional, it is important for the medical articles on Wikipedia to have complete and up-to-date well referenced content.
How is Cochrane a good fit as a partner organization for Wikipedia’s mission?
Both Cochrane and Wikipedia are global not-for-profit organizations that share the goal of disseminating high quality health information. Additionally, the guiding visions and processes of Cochrane and Wikipedia overlap to the point that people who are attracted to working in one of the organizations would see merit for working with the other.
What are you planning on doing with Cochrane as WIR?
Like most WiR, my primary work will be to act as a liaison between Cochrane and the Wikimedia community. Because like WMF, Cochrane is a large and complex organization, initially, I anticipate spending time identifying the folks at Cochrane who are interested in contributing to Wikipedia and doing training sessions about Wikipedia.
What are you excited about or looking forward to?
Because Cochrane is a global network of people, I look forward to working with people from all around the world. In particular, I’m thrilled to be attending the Cochrane Colloquium in Hyderabad, India in September where I can meet some of the people who I will be working with over the next six months. At the Colloquium, we plan to have several sessions about Wikipedia including a training session/edit-a-thon.
Are there any interesting challenges you plan to tackle?
I’m particularly interested in exploring the way that Wikipedia(s) can collaborate with Cochrane medical experts to evaluate the quality of medical articles and identify gaps in coverage that can be filled from Cochrane’s evidence based reviews. How can Wikipedia editors learn that high quality evidence based Cochrane Summaries are available to be added to medical articles? I plan to use the learning from the Teahouse project, the Education program, editor training projects, Editor Engagement projects to find ways to best orientate and engage Cochrane folks with Wikipedia(s).
What’s your strategy for having (and measuring) your impact?
Part of my work will be helping Cochrane to figure out if there is a good fit for Cochrane to partner with WMF. So I will be measuring the number of people who are affiliated with Cochrane who begin contributing to WMF projects. I’ll track the people who participate in the training sessions to see if they become active editors. Additionally, we will measure the improvement in quality of content. We will explore the best ways to measure the quality of medical articles with some possible ways of improvement being the inclusion of more up to date evidence based references and a decrease in the amount of unsourced content on the set of articles that we focus on (such as the 100 most popular articles). For smaller language Wikipedias with few medical articles now, an increase in the overall number of referenced medical articles can be a measure.
Jake Orlowitz (User Ocaasi), Wiki Project Med Foundation
Note: Cochrane’s other final applicant choice, User:CFCF, has taken up a proposal for a medical translation community organizing project in the Individual Engagement Grants program, which was a great way to keep the pool of talented Cochrane applicants involved in more areas of Wikipedia and medicine.