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CZ:Should we confirm stated credentials or check bios cursorily?

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Policy argument summary started March 27, 2007

The issue explained neutrally

See CZ Talk:Application Review Procedure for background to this debate.

Affirmative: check, and require evidence of, any credentials stated in a bio

I would say yes-but make it clear that credentials do not have to be submitted in a bio upon application to be accepted as a citizen, only proof of identity. In other words, if you don't say you are a Ph D on your bio, you don't have to give credible evidence of it in your application. Here's why, in my opinion: our first duty is to the reader of the Citizendium and that reader should be able to be educated by the articles here. A basic part of reading any information in an educated manner is evaluating sources, meaning, at least in part, authors. So, even if authors do not ask to be editors, placing bogus credentials on a user page should be prevented if possible. Let's say XY writes in an article on cancer therapy, look at the XY user page, oh, it's XY MD, and the School of Alternative Medicine in Calcutta is listed. I (who am an MD) can google the website of the School of Alternative Medicine in Calcutta and recognize that it meets the qualifications of a diploma mill - but not everybody will recognize that right off the bat. Further, XY might not even list the actual school on his or her user page, just that an MD has been obtained. I believe that citizens should have some assurance that if a user claims to have an MD on his or her user page, that somebody at Citizendium has checked that out. Same with any major credential in any other field. That would mean that we might have to institute yet another rule (oh, no! :-)) but a simple one- degrees and credentials cannot be listed on a user page unless they were listed either in the application or a subsequent e-mail to the constables. Yeah- that's all a lot of work, but actually- not so very much more than we do now, since we do check user bios after account creation. Although the application would have to give full name and location of a degree granting institution, and the date granted, the user bio could be general in order to protect privacy. And speaking of privacy, we need an upfront assurance to users and applicants that our database of users will not be sold or shared with third parties. One of the 500 things on the urgent list, for us poor mice and our volunteer efforts on a shoestring budget. But whether we can do it now or not-we should put it on the"to-do" list. Nancy Sculerati 16:03, 27 March 2007 (CDT)

Negative: take people at their word; rely on "soft security" for accuracy of details

For a background on "soft security", see here.


Actually more just food for thought until I have time to post something of my own:

A small knowledge of human nature will convince us, that, with far the greatest part of mankind, interest is the governing principle; and that almost every man is more or less, under its influence. Motives of public virtue may for a time, or in particular instances, actuate men to the observance of a conduct purely disinterested; but they are not of themselves sufficient to produce persevering conformity to the refined dictates and obligations of social duty. Few men are capable of making a continual sacrifice of all views of private interest, or advantage, to the common good. It is vain to exclaim against the depravity of human nature on this account; the fact is so, the experience of every age and nation has proved it and we must in a great measure, change the constitution of man, before we can make it otherwise. No institution, not built on the presumptive truth of these maxims can succeed. - George Washington

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