This weekend, I got to partake in one of my favorite parts of being a faculty member — walking as part of the faculty processional for the 2015 Spring Commencement. For the past two years, I’ve been lucky enough to participate in the Spring Commencement at The Ohio State University — and while the weather can be a bit on the warm side, the event always leaves me refreshed and excited to see how the Libraries can find new ways to partner with our faculty, students, and new alumni; and this year was no different (plus, any event where you get to wear robes and funny hats is one I want to be a part of). Under the beating sun and unseasonable humidity, President Drake reminded all in attendance that while OSU is a world-class research and educational institution; our roots are and continue to be strengthened by our commitment as a land grant institution — to be an institution who’s core mission is to educate the sons and daughters of our great state, and beyond. And I believe that. I believe in the land grant mission, and of the special role and bond that land grant institutions have to their states and their citizens. So it was with great joy, that I found myself in Ohio Stadium to celebrate the end of one journey for the ~11,000 OSU graduates, and the beginning of another as these graduates look to make their own way into the future.
In my two years at OSU, one of the things you hear a lot at this institution is a commitment to “Pay it Forward”. I’ve found among the faculty, the staff, the alumni that number close to 1/2 a million — these aren’t just words but a way of life for so many who are a part of Buckeye Nation. Is this unique to Ohio State — no, but with so many alumni, the influence is much easier to see. You see it in the generosity of time, the long-term mentorship, the continued engagement with this institution — when you join Buckeye nation; you are joining one big extended family.
I find that it is sometimes easy to forget the role that you get to play as part of the faculty in helping our students be successful. It’s easy to get bogged down in the committee work, the tenure requirements, your own research, or the job of being faculty member at a research institution. It’s easy to take for granted the unique privilege that we have as faculty to serve and pay it forward to the next generation. Sitting at Ohio Stadium, with so many graduates and their parents and friends…yes, it’s a privilege. Congratulations class of 2015.
Apparently, search engines are loving wikipedia. Nicholas Carr and others have taken notice recently that Wikipedia is quickly becoming the default source of information for a number of search engines. Well, now there is some informal research to confirm this trend. Carr writes today that:
Well, now we have such a sample, thanks to a student in Slovenia by the name of Jure Cuhalev. In a research project, Cuhalev gathered a random sample of about 1,000 of the 1.4 million topics covered by Wikipedia. He then ran the terms through the Google, Yahoo, and MSN search engines. He found that Wikipedia did in fact appear with remarkable consistency in the upper reaches of search results. On average, the online encyclopedia appeared in the top-ten search results 65% of the time – and 26% of the time it actually had two results in the top ten. (Cuhalev has posted a summary of his findings on his blog, and the full report can be downloaded here.)
While I find this interesting, its not terribly surprising. However, what did get me thinking was the following comment from Cuhalev’s web blog:
Interesting stuff! It’s nice to see our beloved encyclopedia in the results from a lot of searches, as it generally has nice concises data about the subject. Also, I won’t see Encyclopedia Britannica equal this feat any time soon
And you know what, it’s true, at least for part of it. It is very unlikely that we’ll see Encyclopedia Britannica showing up on the top of a web search engine result. For academics, this will be a cause for some concern. While wikipedia does generally serve it’s purpose as a good general information source, the fact is that it isn’t a reviewed resource in the traditional sense. What’s more, within most academic circles (including the classroom), it won’t be treated as an authoritative source of information. Will this be problematic…sure. We already know that most students use [insert popular search engine here] while doing their research — so if Wikipedia is showing up in the top 10 results, its very likely that students will start/continue to use it. And this is where we get the rub. For many, wikipedia will become their default source of encyclopedic information — assigning to it a measure of authority that quite possibility, it has yet to earn. How does that affect the academic community? Personally, I think it affects the professional community very little since this group will tend to gravitate towards more traditional research publications — but the students that they teach…that could be very different. I’d be curious to know on OSU’s campus how most faculty currently treat citations pulled from wikipedia.