For many scientists, the most satisfying part of producing a lengthy article (aside from the hoped-for Nobel prize) is the moment when the page proofs are finally out the door to the publisher and the thought occurs they they will never have to look at the article again. But a new requirement that authors post an article abstract on the Wikipedia online encyclopedia may have them revisiting their work, or at least an abstract of it, a bit sooner than anticipated.
The science journal RNA Biology has announced new guidelines that require authors to prepare and submit an abstract of their article accepted for publication in the new RNA Families section of the Journal for posting on the Wikipedia online encyclopedia. According to an article in Nature magazine, this is the first such requirement ever imposed on authors by a science publication. Once the article is accepted for publication, the guidelines require the author to upload the abstract to Wikipedia.
The Nature article also details the new Wikipedia abstract publication requirement in the larger context of the RNA Wiki project that is aimed at getting researchers who work on RNA to participate in creating and publicly proliferating data on RNA families.
One of the first things that comes to the mind of an experienced Wikipedia user is the fact that once uploaded, the article abstract will be open for editing by anyone, as is generally the case with Wikipedia articles. The project sponsors believe that vandalism will not be a serious problem with the kind of content contained in this particular subset of Wikipedia articles, according to the Nature article. While that is probably true, it would still be wise for those scientists, or indeed any authors who have a professional interest in material they upload to Wikipedia, to make a practice of checking the entry periodically to see if any unwanted changes have been made.
The Journal guidelines also address the recent NIH requirement for open access to funded research by offering the option of open access immediately upon publication of the article with the payment of a fee.