The Wikipedia Initiative: An effort by the Association for Psychological Science to promote science education by Michael D Anestis

New M.Anestis Photo Compressed   by Michael D. Anestis, M.S., Ph.D.

I have been meaning to write about this for a while and today seemed like as good a time as any.  The Association for Psychological Science (APS) is making a valient [sic] effort to expand the reach of science by encouraging scientifically-minded psychologists and students to develop Wikipedia articles that promote an accurate understanding of science in psychology.  In my opinion, this is an absolutely fantastic initiative with the potential to promote significant public health gains.

I’ve stated this before, but let me quickly summarize what I believe to be one of if not the greatest shortcoming in the mental health field: failure to effectively market science.  As doctoral students, we are trained – and rightfully so – to develop our clinical and research skills and to promote our work through peer-reviewed articles.  This is the single most important mechanism of dissemination within the scientific community.  The problem is, the vast majority of people who are in need of the services we develop through scientific research are not members of that community, do not have years of training in interpreting statistical data and experimental designs, and do not have subscriptions for peer-reviewed journals.  As such, most potential consumers of this knowledge are unaware of its existence and lack access to it anyway.  Making the problem worse is that, in the absense of efforts on the part of scientifically-minded psychologists and students to disseminate this information to a broader audience, others have swooped in – some opportunistic and mean-spirited, but most bringing with them misguided but truly good intentions – and filled the void with compelling promotions of pseudoscientific and oftentimes ineffective (or worse) treatments.

Enter the Wikipedia Initiative.  Wikipedia is one of the most highly viewed sites on the net.  As such, it is a way to reach people who might not otherwise come across accurate mental health information and to thus increase the odds that they will find appropriate help.  By encouraging people to infuse Wikipedia with accurate, balanced articles about science in clinical psychology (with links to support claims), APS is taking an important step towards shifting the tide in this struggle and increasing the regularity of interactions between people in need and providers of evidence-based treatments.

I suspect some will see this intiative [sic] as an effort to push an agenda on readers.  To be fair, if the articles do not link to independent sources that provide detailed descriptions of the nature of the evidence supporting claims made in articles and if articles are written in a way that mislead readers, the initiative would deserve such negative views; however, that is not the intention of the effort.

I highly encourage interested readers to take part in this project.  To read more about it, click here.

What do you think about this project?  Are there ways to improve it?  Do you have other ideas for promoting science to a broader audience?

If you would like to learn more about the topics discussed on PBB, we recommend that you consult our online store for scientifically-based psychological resources.

Mike Anestis received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Florida State University. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Southern Mississippi. Mike’s research focuses on emotion dysregulation and suicide.

Reprinted by permission.

Updated 11-25-14.

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