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Science and Medicine

Science and medicine are areas where accuracy is of high importance and peer review is the norm. While some of Wikipedia's content has passed a form of peer review, most has not.

A 2008 study examined 80 Wikipedia drug entries. The researchers found few factual errors in this set of articles, but determined that these articles were often missing important information, like contraindications and drug interactions. One of the researchers noted that "If people went and used this as a sole or authoritative source without contacting a health professional...those are the types of negative impacts that can occur." The researchers also compared Wikipedia to Medscape Drug Reference (MDR), by looking for answers to 80 different questions covering eight categories of drug information, including adverse drug events, dosages, and mechanism of action. They have determined that MDR provided answers to 82.5 percent of the questions, while Wikipedia could only answer 40 percent, and that answers were less likely to be complete for Wikipedia as well. None of the answers from Wikipedia were determined factually inaccurate, while they found four inaccurate answers in MDR. But the researchers found 48 errors of omission in the Wikipedia entries, compared to 14 for MDR. The lead investigator concluded: "I think that these errors of omission can be just as dangerous ", and he pointed out that drug company representatives have been caught deleting information from Wikipedia entries that make their drugs look unsafe.

A 2009 survey asked US toxicologists how accurately they rated the portrayal of health risks of chemicals in different media sources. It was based on the answers of 937 members of the Society of Toxicology and found that these experts regarded Wikipedia's reliability in this area as far higher than that of all traditional news media:

In perhaps the most surprising finding in the entire study, all these national media outlets are easily eclipsed by two representatives of "new media": WebMD and Wikipedia. WebMD is the only news source whose coverage of chemical risk is regarded as accurate by a majority (56 percent) of toxicologists, closely followed by Wikipedia's 45 percent accuracy rating. By contrast, only 15 percent describe as accurate the portrayals of chemical risk found in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal.

In 2010 researchers compared 10 types of cancer to data from the National Cancer Institute's Physician Data Query and concluded "the Wiki resource had similar accuracy and depth to the professionally edited database" and that "sub-analysis comparing common to uncommon cancers demonstrated no difference between the two", but that ease of readability was an issue.

A study in 2011 came to the result that categories most frequently absent in Wikipedia's drug articles are those of drug interactions and medication use in breastfeeding. Other categories with incomplete coverage were descriptions of off-label indications, contraindications and precautions, adverse drug events and dosing. Information most frequently deviating from other sources used in the study were that of contraindications and precautions, drug absorption and adverse drug events.

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Famous quotes containing the words medicine and/or science:

    Authority, though it err like others,
    Hath yet a kind of medicine in itself,
    That skins the vice o’ the top.
    William Shakespeare (1564–1616)

    It is clear that everybody interested in science must be interested in world 3 objects. A physical scientist, to start with, may be interested mainly in world 1 objects—say crystals and X-rays. But very soon he must realize how much depends on our interpretation of the facts, that is, on our theories, and so on world 3 objects. Similarly, a historian of science, or a philosopher interested in science must be largely a student of world 3 objects.
    Karl Popper (1902–1994)