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The Wikiversity project proposal included a role for research within the Wikiversity project. Many types of scholarly research activities naturally lead to new knowledge that does not yet exist within previously published sources. By encouraging and hosting such research, Wikiversity faces challenges and potential problems that are met by a set of research guidelines. Wikiversity participants engage in a wide range of scholarly research activities that support the educational mission of Wikiversity. However, not all types of research are suitable for Wikiversity. This page provides examples of types of research activities that are appropriate for Wikiversity and lists types of research that are not welcome.
Scholarly assessment of existing knowledge (secondary research, literature review) is an integral part of many Wikiversity educational activities. Wikiversity promotes and nurtures all such secondary research arising from exploration of the learning goals of Wikiversity participants, even if they result in a "novel narrative or interpretation".
All Wikiversity participants are called upon to cite sources that are reliable and verifiable (example). Secondary research is a fundamental skill for Wikiversity editors. Some literature reviews merge seamlessly into on-going education-oriented research projects that generate new original research results (example).
Several types of original research projects have been started at the English language Wikiversity. Some projects turn inward and explore the dynamics of wiki-based learning communities. Many large public databases are now available online. Some Wikiversity research projects encourage Wikiversity participants to explore online databases and perform research using data that has been collected by others. Other projects call upon Wikiversity participants to collect new data.
Below are some examples of original research being undertaken that are considered to be within the scope of Wikiversity. (Please add others from non-English Wikiversities)
Research on wikis
Some original research activities are directed towards introspective analysis of how wikis can be used as a tool to support learning. Examples:
Developing Wikiversity through action research in its largest sense, the question this project will address is "Why Wikiversity?" In other words: why does Wikiversity exist, and what does its existence mean for the world of education, and for you and me? Wikiversity is a repository of learning materials, a resource for self-study, a space for collaboration, a space in which to learn collaboratively, a space to explore about learning, a space to learn about teaching, etc. So, how does Wikiversity do all this - "how" in the sense of "by what means" - and, crucially, "by what values"..
Learning to learn a wiki way - Using wikis as tools for learning is a new and evolving social practice. If Wikiversity is to succeed, we need to learn how to make the best use of wikis for learning. This project aims to be an exemplar of how a wiki can be used for learning and to refine, develop and expand on the social practice of using wikis for learning.
See also: Wikiversity:action research
Research using public databases
The Observational astronomy learning project has activities for participants that guide them through the same process that an astronomer uses to analyze data. Participants in the Extrasolar planet project explore telescope data to find planets orbiting distant stars. The goal is to create a learning group where participants can compare notes and document the search process and to create an extended learning activity about exoplanets. No prior experience is needed; participants get step by step instructions on how to get started.
Research using data collected by wiki participants
Participants in the Bloom Clock track and report the bloom times of wildflowers and other plants. Bloom clocks are kept by gardeners, ecologists, and others who record the time of year different plants are in bloom. This project attempts to reduce the effects of anomalous data in an attempt to generate maps of geographical "zones" that can eventually be used when describing a plant's expected bloom time in a particular region.
Original research is conducted for many reasons, not all of which are compatible with the mission and format of the Wikiversity project. The following are examples of research activities that are beyond the educational mission and capabilities of Wikiversity:
- Research that as a goal is selective in what products, services, companies, events, people or other things to include or exclude for an intended purpose outside the educational mission of Wikiversity (However research based on specific criteria for inclusion or exclusion for correlation or comparison purposes may be acceptable; e.g., a study to understand the correlation of gender and racial background in human selection of automobile brands and models that attempts to include all available brands and/or models in the research design with the results made available for anyone read at Wikiversity).
- Research that threatens or compromises the reputation or public image of the Wikimedia Foundation or its various projects.
- Research that is illegal or unethical.
- Research that would normally be formally reviewed by an Institutional Review Board. (Exceptions: If a research project that includes research activities conducted within a Wikiversity website was first reviewed and approved by an existing IRB of an accredited research institution, and if the project was openly conducted according to the IRB-approved protocol, then it is likely acceptable for inclusion within Wikiversity.)
Processes for dealing with research
It is up to individual Wikiversity projects to decide the exact nature of their research policies - to define what research is (and what particular types of research are), and what is appropriate for that project. In particular, smaller Wikiversity projects may not feel adequately equipped (with policies and/or people) to deal with research. Therefore, each Wikiversity project must specify (before setup, or as soon thereafter as possible):
- What kind(s) of research it allows, and disallows
- Local processes for dealing with research
These can be copies or slight modifications of the policies on Beta, or of any parts of these policies. Below are a number of guidelines that each project must consider - at a minimum - in order to clarify the inclusion of research in that project. More detailed guidelines dealing with research can be found at Research Guidelines.
In order to allow original research in a Wikiversity project, there must be a system of (peer) review in place. This is essentially a community-led process of flagging, discussing, modifying, and, where appropriate, deleting - see guidelines for details. In cases of significant or technical debate, a review board may be required.
Research of any kind must be tagged as "research" (eg., by adding it to a category like Category:Research). Material that appears to constitute research, and that is not appropriately tagged, may be removed from the site.
Research added to Wikiversity is not automatically "published" (in the traditional sense), and cannot be added as a source for other texts in Wikimedia projects (Wikipedia, Wikibooks, etc.) without the appropriate peer review process.
Role of Wikiversity in supporting research
- Research at Wikiversity is intended to be complementary to existing traditional methods of research. Wikiversity provides an experimental platform for new ways of approaching and collaborating on research projects. Wikiversity explores research activities that promote learning and the goals of the Wikimedia Foundation.
Research that is done on Wikiversity must be properly attributed to the participating researchers. Authorship must be clearly stated. At the English language Wikiversity it has been proposed that all editors working outside of the confines of a neutral point of view (NPOV) policy have a registered username and maintain a verified email address.
Research projects should recognize the limitations of using a Wiki, and should elaborate on how the resources offered on Wikiversity are being used. A research project should address the extent to which Wikiversity is being used as a mechanism for:
- Sharing content
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- Research policies
- Research-related pages