Controversy goes online: Schizophrenia genetics on Wikipedia

  • Sally Wyatt
  • Anna Harris
  • Susan E. Kelly

Abstract

Scientific controversy is increasingly played out via the internet, a technology that is simultaneously content, medium and research infrastructure. Here we analyse material from Wikipedia, focusing on schizophrenia genetics. We find that citation and curation of scientific resources follow a negotiated, ad hoc adherence to Wikipedia rules, are based on limited access to scientific literature, and thus lead to a partially constructed ‘review’ of the science that excludes non-professionals. Given its policies and systems for developing neutral, evidence-based articles, one would not expect to find controversy on Wikipedia, yet we find traces. Scientific ambiguity about schizophrenia genetics lends itself to multiple ways of curating resources, and the infrastructure of online spaces enables the practices behind curation work to become visible in new ways. We argue that not only does Wikipedia make scientific controversy visible to a wider range of people, it is also involved in the production of knowledge.