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CZ:Proposals/Citing CZ article by authors

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Complete explanation

As those of you have been hanging around here for a while know, there has been some considerable discussion around whether or not to allow authors to take “credit” in some form for their contributions to CZ. The discussion arose largely from academics such as myself who feel that if an academic or graduate student were able to cite their contributions on CZ as an authored, refereed encyclopaedia article, then it would boost the number of contributors to CZ as they would be able to take some credit for this contribution and add it to their CV – probably under “additional contributions to the field” or “other academic contributions” or some such heading. Without going through the long discussions that occurred on the forums, the “camps” of opinions seem to fall into three broad categories:

1) Those that feel citation or recognition is completely unnecessary or they simply don’t care. 2) Those that strongly feel that a method of citation is necessary but may not know how to do it effectively and fairly. 3) Those that are worried that citation or recognition of authorship would create a sense of “ownership” over articles and thus reduce the effectiveness of the “wiki” experience in reducing collaboration. (This last group was largely led by Larry).

After much discussion, it was clear that no one in any of these three groups were really against the concept of “taking credit”, the concerns were largely around how to do this in a wiki environment, how should authorship be awarded, how should citations occur and how do we prevent a negative sense of “ownership” and corresponding negative wiki behaviour.


In discussions with Larry over the past month, I would like to put forward a possible proposal for a solution that might solve this issue. In order to do this, I would like to briefly discuss the way in which normal citation occurs in the academic world.

Basically, when a paper is authored, authors will typically appear in the order of the significance of their contribution (with some exceptions to this rule). Thus, if Larry wrote an article on CZ that was intended to appear in an academic journal the citation in his CV might appear as:

Sanger, L. (2008) Citizendium – the way forward. Modern Encyclopedias 5, 12-21.

If there happened to be co-authors on this article then they would logically follow in the order of the significance of their contribution to the research. Thus if there were four authors the citation would appear as:

Sanger, L., Berger, L.R., Quick, J. and Smith, B.D. (2008) Citizendium – the way forward. Modern Encyclopedias 5, 12-21.

When such an article is cited, it is very often cited as:

Sanger et al. (2008) Citizendium – the way forward. Modern Encyclopedias 5, 12-21.

“et al.” is simply an abbreviation of “et alii”, Latin for “and others”.

So, here is the proposal. With CZ being a driving force in creating a new way of looking at information exchange and with us introducing new concepts and ideas into the now established wiki model, what if we turn the way in which citations are done on their head? Quite simply, what if we put the collaborative process first (as it is the most important aspect of a wiki) and the author second?


How do we do this? I propose that simply by turning the way in which we cite articles on the wiki around.

Here is an example. Lets take a large multi authored article like “Life” and lets say I had contributed to it significantly as an author and wanted to put it in my CV or cite it in a journal article I was writing because I wanted to quote content from this article. Here is how I would do it under this proposal:

Authors and Berger, L.R. (2008) Life. In Citizendium the Online Encyclopedia. 05.03.08

The last numbers reflect the date of citation of the article. Now, following convention, we could translate “Authors and Berger, L.R.” into Latin and it would appear as:

“Scriptor et Berger, L.R.” or “Auctor et Berger, L.R.” or even “Civitas et Berger, L.R.” - (if we wanted to express the concept of Citizens contributing to CZ).

In this way of citing, we put the collaborative efforts first, followed by the contribution of the author wishing to cite the work.

Now, how to solve the problem of what level of contribution is required to use such a citation in ones CV? I would propose two concepts:

1) We don’t monitor it and leave it up to the ethics of the individual. If you feel that you have contributed substantively to an article then you are free to cite it in your CV as above – remember – anyone can simply check the history of an article on a specific date to see if its true and if an individual is “taking a chance” by adding their name to something that they in fact have not contributed significantly too. In other words, we let the academic world self-regulate this. 2) We come up with a automated scheme that list people who have contributed above a certain level and this appears somewhere in the history page and is simply there to be checked on any specific date to verify the level of contribution.

Now, if you broadly accept the above, how does someone else who is not an author cite an article on a given date? Simply as the following: Scriptor et Civitas (2008) Life. In Citizendium the Online Encyclopedia. 05.03.08 or just "Scri.ptor" or "Civitas"

How would we implement such a scheme? I think quite simply by putting a small link on the front page that says “How to cite a CZ article” which simply links to a page that explains our convention for citation.


A discussion section, to which anyone may contribute.

Nah. There has to be an authoritative depiction about an article's history - a synopsis of the facts that are otherwise deliberately obscured by design in the history tab via the MediaWiki software with pseudonyms in mind - for it to have authority and thus meaning.

I've listened to all of Larry's arguments against this and appreciate them and also have some concern about it going against collaboration. But the hard fact is that we just won't know if there will really be ownership issues unless the idea of writing a synopsis of the facts of an approved article's history is tested (citing the E of E, more or less a Univ of Boston clique, is a weak argument and poor analogy to CZ). We should not be afraid to run a liberal pilot, I think.

In the long run, I suspect that Knol will push CZ into a pilot of synopsizing the facts of an approved article's history as a service to readers - particularly as authoring students (and others for whom resume-building is important) are given choice of where they write.

In any regards, given the real names policy and the practical need to credibly publish to advance careers (coupled with the limited time people have to write), I personally don't see this issue as going away, for better or worse. This issue may ultimately boil down to a choice between having contributions chiefly from those for whom traditionally attributed publishing is important and those for whom it is not.

Me, I worry that being cited as "an entry [ Stravenue ] on a user-generated online encyclopedia, Citizendium",[1] just will not lend the project to the sort of trustworthiness that will come from, say with that article's case, naming a geography editor from the Univ of Arizona first and then, again say in this case (as is the actual fact), Hayford Peirce. Of course, that information is already independently discernible if one is inclined to mine the history tab, but that is just not a reasonable (lest even a fair) expectation.

If an "attribution line" were simply viewed as a synopsis of the facts of an approved article's history as a service to readers, it may serve as attribution and at the same time assuage the, I think, over-concern about "ownership". All an attribution line does is reveal the facts of authorship that are otherwise technically obscured !

The only approved article I have in this race is Butler - and yes, writing things I can cite on my CV is supremely important to me at this point in my life, and my limited authoring time will be largely limited to that since I do have options. A few comments about this.

I realize Butler could be improved - who besides a crank lacks this realization concerning their own work, pray tell? For example, to mention just a minor thing, the lede could certainly be tightened. But I am not inclined at this time to make changes. I'd be very appreciative for knowledge's sake, in fact, if someone took up improvements.

Moreover - and this is supremely important - a later edition of an approved article says nothing about an earlier edition of that approved article - an approved article is a matter of history, not the future. If someone comes along and writes a better version of Butler, I am very happy - in fact, my future collaboration, if any, will certainly consist of encouragement. Like with Encyclopedia Britannica articles that go through "editions", a later version of an approved CZ article says absolutely nothing about an earlier edition of an approved CZ article, except that time has passed and that another perspective, a later perspective, has been brought to bear upon the article.

Do I feel ownership over that subsequent version? Not at all!

No, I am instead happy I played my part to provide what I did when I did - a foundation for others to build upon. And I can still cite and link to Version 1.0 of Butler, since my work was important for its own time and in its own way and served its purpose for its time. My response to myself on the most primitive level to later improvements and revisions is "So what? What else did you, or could you, have expected? That knowledge would possibly become stagnant over something you helped write? You're kidding, right?" My rational response - and we must assume we are either rational actors here or do not belong - is nothing short of joy over the fact that knowledge marches on. That needs to be the assumed basis here.

Stephen Ewen 04:08, 5 March 2008 (CST)

Not sure about everything, but opinions on a few things. First, definitely no to the concept of having an automated system to generate credit lists. Go with the honour system - any serious academic who takes credit for something the history will plainly show they didn't do anything to except copyedit is going to take a major hit to their reputaton (as they should).
I like the idea of "Authors and Luser, J. Random" for the credit line on article where one merely made a significant contribution, and wasn't the primary author. In fact, why don't we extend the honour system there too - if you're the primary author, cite it as "Luser, J. Random et al" in the normal mode; if you only contributed, list it as "Authors and Luser". (Although we need a better word than "authors" - and the Latin translation, although clever, is problematic because ordinary people who aren't familiar with Citizendium might not understand what that means.)
And as to the new version issue, if I wrote an article for Britannica 19xx, and they got someone else to do a new one for Britannica 20yy, I think I'd still be entitled to claim the 19xx one on my CV. So just add the date of the version of the article your worked on to your listing. Oh, which brings up a good point; if we say you should only claim approved articles, that kills many birds; first, it gives you a definitive date to cite (the date it was approved), plus to which it provides a great incentive to work with Editors and get articles approved! J. Noel Chiappa 08:45, 5 March 2008 (CST)
Why not have authors cite the articles on their CZ the same way that third parties do? It would be really confusing if Citizendium citations had a different author list depending on who was doing the citing. Warren Schudy 09:04, 5 March 2008 (CST)
Hmmm, good point. So I guess the thing to do is decide (at the time the article is approved seems a good 'definite' place to do so) if the article has one (or a small number, I'd say 3 or so at most) of principle authors. Then you'd cite it as "X, Y, Z et al". Otherwise it's just "Various authors". J. Noel Chiappa 12:16, 5 March 2008 (CST)
Academics almost never lie about whether or not they got a degree or authored a paper because the truth of those matters is verifiable and unambiguous, so it's obvious if you lie. The system that you propose is analog and therefore vulnerable to a slippery slope of chronic exaggeration similar to the way marketing is these days. To prevent exaggeration while retaining the benefits of cooperation, I proposed a "weird variant" in another proposal discussion. The key idea there is to have an official author list for approved articles, but only display what pages a given user authored, not who authored a given article. That should prevent rational actors from competing; if your tenure committee relies on the official authorship rather than looking in the history themselves, you get the same credit whether you wrote the article yourself or with half a dozen others, so why not encourage other people to join you so you get the same credit for less work? Warren Schudy 09:27, 5 March 2008 (CST)

I'm glad to see this issue finally materialize into a definite proposal. Thank you, Lee. In general, I like the scheme that is suggested here; I'll just give you all a brief overview of where my own mind has wandered on this. I think Noel has anticipated some of my thoughts above.

I feel that it is important to include the approving editors in the citation. This might take the shape of Editor et civitas or it could be Ego et civitas. Article. Editor, ed. or any number of other forms, but I think it should be included somewhere. My reason is that if I list something in a CV or even just cite it somewhere, I want people to know that it has some authority.

This might mean giving citations for approved articles only. (If so, the date would clearly be the date of approval.) That could be a problem or an advantage; I'm not sure which way it would go. On the one hand, it limits the number of articles one could list (although a second citation scheme could easily be formulated for unapproved articles). On the other hand, it gives the citations a bit more weight when they appear and it should encourage people to move articles toward approval. Back on the first hand, there's noone around yet to approve any of my best work.

I like the idea of highlighting the collaborative aspect of our work in the citations. It would be annoying, though, to have the same article cited twenty different ways, depending on who's doing the citing. Putting the approving editor's name out front solves this problem, but maybe there is another solution too? --Joe Quick 09:56, 5 March 2008 (CST)

Some comments:
  • A major point of doing this in my mind is to increase participation (including giving incentive about joining and contributing under real names) and the number of approved articles; thus, I see no rationale to even think about this for anything other than approved articles
  • The problem with self-nomination of authorship is that it is inconsistent and it thus cheapens it. To avoid that there needs to be just one definitive synopsis of the info in the history tab made at the time of approval and a citation made and placed at the bottom of the article
  • A cut-off of around 250 words (with some common sense exercised in lessening that for short articles) would avoid another cheapening, of authorship itself. The phrase "and other contributors" would cover minor contributions
  • Note how this sample citation mentions (1) the version of the approved article and the date of approval; (2) mentions the reviewing editors; (3) links to the specific version of the approved article in the history, in keeping with the idea that this is not at all about laying a stake of article ownership and its subsequent versions but about depicting an approved article's authorship and approval history as a service to readers and as an incentive to contributors
To cite this article:
Author, A. A., Author, B. B., & Author, C. C., and other contributors. "Gladysvale Cave" (version 1.0, 12 Jan 2008). Reviewed by E. E. Editor, F. F. Editor, & G. G. Editor (Eds.). Citizendium. Available at
Stephen Ewen 22:21, 5 March 2008 (CST)

Ok - all good points - just a couple of comments - Stephen - in your citation above would you have a problem with the "and others" or whatever comes before the alphabatized names? I'll tell you why I am trying to hang on to that point, there is going to be real resistance (I think) to having a "first" author (even if it is in alphabetical order. By creating a non-traditional way of starting the reference, then we find that we are setting the mark for ackowledging the strongly collaborative and important contribution of "others" to an article. Then we could list the article contributors in alphabetical order. Otherwise why would we change convention? We could just put et al. and have it link to the listed page of other contributors? Furthermore, I agree with the idea that editors should be acknowledged - this is standard and would simply appear as E. E. Editor, F. F. Editor, & G. G. Editor (Eds.) as above in standard citation format (we can, through convention, drop the "REviewed by". Finally, there needs to be a way to cite and reference approved AND unnaproved articles (I will bet that most of the cateorties searched in the first many years are unnaproved and we certainly want people to use them). Why not be bold? Why not call approved "refereed Encyclopedia articles" and unnparoved "online encyclopedia articles" - I'm thinking someting like this:

Al. et Author, A.A. Author, B. B., & Author, C. C., (2008)"Gladysvale Cave". Editor, F. F. Editor, G. G.(Eds.).Citizendium, online encyclopedia article., version 1.0, 12 01.

Al. et Author, A.A. Author, B. B., & Author, C. C., (2008)"Gladysvale Cave". Editor, F. F. Editor, G. G.(Eds.).Citizendium, refereed encyclopedia article., version 1.0, 12 01.

The reason for the shifting around of things is I'm trying to get this to look as much like a conventional encyclopedia or book citation as possible.

Lee R. Berger 22:58, 5 March 2008 (CST)

Comments to Lee's post:
  • In my mind, people have no business whatsoever citing any instance of our material unless it has have been reviewed by expert editors. Moreover, the idea of creating citations for unapproved articles is simply untenable because such articles by their very nature are in a state of collaborative flux. Adding citations to such would, in mind, inhibit collaboration. In addition, such citations would become false as soon as someone dug into the article to develop it. The only material on the whole wiki (beyond things like photo permission pages) that is not in collaborative flux is specific versions of approved articles, so it is only for these that citations (i.e., accurate snapshots of the article's history at the time of locking) are tenable and valuable
  • I did not mean to imply in my sample citation that author names should be alphabetized in every case. They should be listed by amount of contribution, as is the tradition; otherwise, the citation is false and the form of it provides constant disincentive for people whose names are on the latter end of the alphabet. Caveat: when contributing amounts are roughly equal, they should be alphabetized. The point in my mind is to capture within the citation the facts about the article's history as revealed in the article's history tab where they are otherwise technologically obscured to most people by very design of the MediaWiki software (which is deliberately designed for anonymous/pseudonymous contributors) . The citation ought be a true snapshot of the facts contained in the article history tab at the time of approval
  • Your placement of the date (2008) in parentheses after author names and the version version 1.0, 12 01 at the end is superior to my sample citation, I think
Stephen Ewen 23:33, 5 March 2008 (CST)

If there is an article about Berlin which contain alot information about Berlin's history I might think that a separate article named Berlin, history might be more appropriate for the content. I would copy paste the content from Berlin over to Berlin, history. If someone would look at the Berlin, history that would associate my name with a lot of content that I didn't necessarly write. Just changing the order of the content on page could also lead to huge word counts that a simply software measures. If an editor gets a job to deterime the authorship of an article that will cost valuable editor time and make the process of reviewing articles a lot more complicated. It will probably also lead to discussions because some people feel treated unfairly from time to time. Having a honor system like the one proposed in this proposel would revent those problems from taking form and giving people something to cite for their CVs. Christian Kleineidam 11:29, 8 March 2008 (CST)


Lee, your "implementation" section is actually what you should put in "complete explanation," and your current "complete explanation" section looks more like "reasoning." The implementation section should discussion specific actions that people will have to take in order to get your proposal, once approved, made into a reality. E.g., if it requires programming, say so. (The requirements would probably go under "complete explanation.")

My understanding is that Lee's proposal amounts to asking for a standard method, preferably automated, for listing (and making publicly available, if desired) the articles on which one has worked, on a special page quite apart from each individual article. This seems to be perfectly consistent with and independent of this proposal of mine. (I am still waiting to engage in a really serious, meaty dialectic on that--one in which someone shows that he has really taken the time to understand my arguments, and directly attacks them. Maybe this will take time and energy, but something this important is worth that time and energy; that's why I spent so long developing the arguments in the first place.) It should, therefore, be evaluated separately--well, unless some reason can be given for thinking that we should choose one over the other, or some third proposal over both of these. All of the discussion above, reiterating yet again how you believe we should or shouldn't cite authors on the articles themselves, is largely irrelevant to Lee's proposal.

Lee's proposal seems perfectly harmless and excellent to me; there's no good reason to oppose it as far as I can see, and it might well serve some good purpose for people who need to take credit for their work on CZ. The difficulty will be getting programming support, which is something I've asked for (for a similar feature set--and if we ever do get a coder to get behind that proposal, I'll make the proposal properly here on CZ:Proposals). --Larry Sanger 23:25, 5 March 2008 (CST)

Larry, you say your proposal has been unassailed but that is not true. Here is a synopsis of my own earlier arguments against it. The bulk of your proposal ultimately boils down to the proposition that citations ought be a contrived and false version of the facts of an article's true history rather than an as true-as-possible snapshot of the facts contained in an article's history at a given time (such as upon approval). This you do out of utilitarian considerations, ones that result in injustices against contributors and misrepresentations to readers, surrounding your unproven fears concerning collaborative inhibitions. Although those concerns are respectable on a certain level, they are simply unproven so you lack adequate basis to assert them (you might reference my thoughts about version 1.0 of Butler, above, for a recent reason why I think your fears about collaborative inhibitions are misguided). On its face this means your proposal is a non-starter, at least in my mind. This current proposal shares the same issues as yours to a considerable degree, and since the matter under discussion here is how things are cited, any discussion on that topic would certainly be relevant. Stephen Ewen 23:56, 5 March 2008 (CST)

Steve, if you'll move this comment over to the appropriate page for it, I'll respond there. --Larry Sanger 14:30, 6 March 2008 (CST)

See CZ:Proposals/Pilot_to_allow_Citizens_to_take_credit_for_pages#Getting_ready_to_submit Stephen Ewen 18:34, 8 March 2008 (CST)

Citation style

Just a comment: Lee's preferred style is

Authors and Berger, L.R. (2008) Life. In Citizendium the Online Encyclopedia. 05.03.08

I'd suggest

Berger, L.R. among others (2008) Life. In Citizendium the Online Encyclopedia. 05.03.08

I think that gets round the problem you raise, and the form of words implies no priority, just participation.Gareth Leng 11:23, 10 March 2008 (CDT)

As I point out elsewhere on CZ, citing authors in alphabetical order goes against common academic practice, as, for example, a quick look at the bibliography at Gareth Leng's userpage demonstrates.Jeffrey Scott Bernstein 11:31, 10 March 2008 (CDT)

I think we do need to have something other than Latin abbreviations first. Having Latin out front makes citations, especially in-text citations, really weird. I would suggest for a CV listing:
Citizendium authors and Ewen, S., (2008). "Pollywog". L.R. Berger, ed. Citizendium, online encyclopedia article., version 1.0, 12 01.
And for a regular citation in a paper or article:
Citizendium authors (2008). "Pollywog". L.R. Berger, ed. Citizendium, online encyclopedia article., version 1.0, 12 01.
So if someone is just citing an article, they would cite it as "Citizendium authors" but it could be listed in Steve's CV as "Citizendium authors and Ewen, S." I still don't like that this means it will/could be cited many different ways, but the standard for normal citation wouldn't include authors at all so it would be standardized (and not give preference to any one author). Putting it in your CV means you can append your name to it, but that happens on the honor system.
I really like Lee's idea for distinguishing approved from unapproved articles. That would make me support citations for unapproved articles. --Joe Quick 11:38, 10 March 2008 (CDT)

Whatever citation style we decide upon for CVs, one could include a link to one's contributions for the article cited. For example, if I gave the link in my CV item for the article Hippocrates, anyone can see how many edits I've made, see the summary comments about the edit, and randomly click on the edits to see their nature. Perhaps we could redesign the 'log' to facilitate such documentation of one's contribution. --Anthony.Sebastian 23:09, 17 September 2008 (CDT)
This isn't exactly what you're saying, but, as someone brought up a long time ago, there are very compelling reasons for overhauling the history function. As it is now, you can catch vandalism and see the progress of edit wars, but it's actually very difficult to see who originally wrote what parts of text (especially as the number of edits gets higher). I think one of our long-term goals should be commissioning a coder to revamp history. As I envision it, it would highlight the contributions of different people in different colors, and you would also be able to toggle minor edits. This would also make citations more meaningful, I think. Brian P. Long 08:36, 18 September 2008 (CDT)

Another idea

Suppose the top two workgroups categorizing an article (e.g., Electricity) selected two "Custodian Editors" for the article (e.g., Jitse Niesen, Paul Wormer), listing their names & user page links at the top of the article as Custodian Editors.

Warren Schudy, who has made substantive contributions to the article, then lists the article on his CV as follows:

  • Schudy W. (contributing author) (2009) "Electricity". In: Nieson J, Wormer P, article custodian editors. Citizendium Online Encyclopedia. Full-Text: Last accessed: xxx

Other authors do similar:

  • Nieson J. (contributing author) (2009) "Electricity". In: Nieson J, Wormer P, article custodian editors. Citizendium Online Encyclopedia. Full-Text: Last accessed: xxx
  • Wormer P. (contributing author) (2009) "Electricity". In: Nieson J, Wormer P, article custodian editors. Citizendium Online Encyclopedia. Full-Text: Last accessed: xxx

If "Custodian Editors" undesirable, consider "Elected Editors". Or "Appointed Editors" --Anthony.Sebastian 20:12, 27 February 2009 (UTC)

What is current recommendation?

I am writing a paper for a medical journal and need to cite Preoperative care/Beta-blocker evidence table (version Any final verdict on how I should do this? - Robert Badgett 18:15, 29 August 2009 (UTC)

This was recently discussed in a forum thread mixed with several other topics. Peter Schmitt 01:01, 30 August 2009 (UTC)

Another citation style suggestion

  • For one´s CV:
    • Sebastian A (Contributing Author). (2009) William Harvey. Citizendium, online encyclopedia article: Citizendium Sponsoring Workgroups: Health Sciences; Biology; History. Log of Anthony Sebastian's contributions: (click r-number to view a specific contribution).
NB: To obtain URL OF "Log of Anthony Sebastian's contributions:" Go to article´s History page, click on ´View logs for this page´, type User name in box labeled ´User´, copy URL, optionally shorten URL using or
NB: To obtain URL of "Log of contributions:", go to article´s History page, copy that page´s URL, optionally shorten URL using or
NB: For approved articles, specify editors. Anthony.Sebastian 00:17, 30 August 2009 (UTC)

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