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Evolution of Wikipedia’s medical content: past, present and future
  1. Thomas Shafee1,
  2. Gwinyai Masukume2,3,4,
  3. Lisa Kipersztok5,
  4. Diptanshu Das6,7,8,9,
  5. Mikael Häggström10,
  6. James Heilman11
  1. 1 Department of Biochemistry and Genetics, La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science, Melbourne, Australia
  2. 2 Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University College Cork, The Irish Centre for Fetal and Neonatal Translational Research, Cork, Ireland
  3. 3 Gravida: National Centre for Growth and Development, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
  4. 4 Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of the Witwatersrand, School of Public Health, Johannesburg, South Africa
  5. 5 Department of Family Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon, USA
  6. 6 Department of Paediatric Neurology, Universita degli Studi di Roma Tor Vergata, Roma, Italy
  7. 7 Department of Paediatrics, Kothari Medical Centre and Research Institute, Kolkata, India
  8. 8 Department of Pediatrics, ICARE Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, Haldia, India
  9. 9 Working Group, Open Access India, India
  10. 10 Department of Radiology, NU Hospital Group, Trollhättan, Sweden
  11. 11 Department of Emergency Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Thomas Shafee, Department of Biochemistry and Genetics, La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Victoria 3086, Australia; thomas.shafee{at}, T.Shafee{at}


As one of the most commonly read online sources of medical information, Wikipedia is an influential public health platform. Its medical content, community, collaborations and challenges have been evolving since its creation in 2001, and engagement by the medical community is vital for ensuring its accuracy and completeness. Both the encyclopaedia’s internal metrics as well as external assessments of its quality indicate that its articles are highly variable, but improving. Although content can be edited by anyone, medical articles are primarily written by a core group of medical professionals. Diverse collaborative ventures have enhanced medical article quality and reach, and opportunities for partnerships are more available than ever. Nevertheless, Wikipedia’s medical content and community still face significant challenges, and a socioecological model is used to structure specific recommendations. We propose that the medical community should prioritise the accuracy of biomedical information in the world’s most consulted encyclopaedia.

  • health promotion
  • health education sa
  • inequalities
  • access to hlth care

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  • Contributors TS gathered and analysed data for the figures. GM contributed to analysis for figure 4. All authors (TS, GM, LK, DD, MH, JH) discussed the material, wrote the manuscript, and approved the final version.

  • Funding The work is not externally funded. The article processing fee was covered by a rapid grant from the Wikimedia Foundation. The Foundation had no involvement in the study design, the collection, analysis and interpretation of the data, writing the report, or in the decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

  • Competing interests All authors have contributed to Wikipedia articles. TS, DD, MH and JH are current participants in WP:MED. JH is a former and current member of the Wikimedia Foundation board of trustees. All authors are on the editorial board of WikiJournal of Medicine. TS is on the editorial board of PLOS Genetics. The authors do not receive financial compensation for their contributions to these projects.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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