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Wikipedia is already the world’s web doctor – so doctors and researchers need to make it better

Medical entries on Wikipedia are widely consulted across the world.

Health professionals have a duty to improve the accuracy of medical entries in Wikipedia, according to a letter published today in Lancet Global Health, because it’s the first port of call for people all over the world seeking medical information.

In our correspondence, a group of international colleagues and I call on medical journals to do more to help experts make Wikipedia more accurate, and for the medical community to make improving its content a top priority.

Use around the world

Ranked the fifth most-visited website in the world, Wikipedia is one of the most-read sources of medical information by the general public. It’s also frequently the first port of call for doctors, medical students, lawmakers, and educators.

Access is provided free of charge on mobile phones in many countries, under the Wikipedia Zero scheme. In developing nations, this has helped the site become the main source of information on medical topics. During the 2014 Ebola outbreak, for instance, page views of the Ebola virus disease peaked at more than 2.5 million per day.

Earlier this year, the site launched the free Medical Wikipedia Offline app in seven languages. The Android app has had nearly 1,00,000 downloads in its first few months of release. It’s particularly useful in low and middle-income countries, where internet access is typically slow and expensive.

All this makes Wikipedia’s accuracy vital because every medical entry on the collaborative online encyclopedia has the potential for immediate real-world health consequences.

A question of priorities

Given its model of allowing anyone to edit entries, Wikipedia is already surprisingly accurate, famously rivalling Encyclopedia Britannica. But even as the online encyclopedia matures, the accuracy of its medical content remains inconsistent.

The platform has historically struggled to attract expert contributions from researchers. Improving Wikipedia entries tends to be low on the list of priorities for doctors and other health professionals.

Finding time to write unpaid content in an unfamiliar format can easily lose out to more immediate career concerns. Doctors consistently work long hours with patients, and researchers tend to be busy applying for grants and publishing in academic journals.

The entry on stillbirth illustrates well why Wikipedia needs to attract more expert contributors. Every day, there are 7,000 stillbirths worldwide, but before my colleagues and I updated the Wikipedia page, it was was missing crucial information.

It didn’t mention key causes, such as malaria, and common complications, such as depression. Having the full picture of a medical condition is extremely important for effective health care. And it’s vital for patients as well. Knowing that depression is a normal side effect of stillbirth, for instance, can help women cope with the emotional fallout.

Similarly, accurate information on medication affects what doctors prescribe, what patients request, and what students learn.

Such important topics quite simply demand accuracy.

Possible solutions

While spotting the shortfall is easy, solving it will require the concerted efforts of multiple communities with unique strengths.

Wikipedia has historically struggled to attract expert contributions from time-poor researchers and doctors.  Garnet/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND
Wikipedia has historically struggled to attract expert contributions from time-poor researchers and doctors. Garnet/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Doctors and researchers can provide expert knowledge about complex topics; medical journals can leverage their infrastructure for robust peer review and indexing; Wikipedians can provide their experience in encyclopedic writing and technical expertise; and medical schools can encourage student involvement.

Simultaneously publishing peer-reviewed work in academic journals and in Wikipedia could benefit all participants. This would include both putting existing entries through academic peer review, and converting suitable journal articles into Wikipedia entries. Official recognition of authors’ efforts through their citeable publications by scholarly journals is an important reward for time-pressed contributors.

Peer review would ensure the quality of content, and for journals wanting to have an impact on public health, Wikipedia is the among the best outreach tools available.

Several scholarly journals have been exploring academic peer review of Wikipedia entries and more look to soon join them. Examples of joint-publishing include the Wikipedia articles for Dengue fever and the cerebellum, which have been reviewed and published by the medical journals Open Medicine and the WikiJournal of Medicine respectively.

PLOS Computational Biology similarly joint-publishes review articles in its journal and in Wikipedia for maximum impact. And, the journal RNA Biology requires researchers describing a new RNA family to also write a Wikipedia entry for it.

Embedding the new approach

Progress has been slow, but several independent ventures show how the attitudes of major players in the biomedical ecosystem are beginning to shift further, and take Wikipedia more seriously.

Cochrane, which creates medical guidelines after reviewing research data, now finds Wikipedian partners for its Review Groups to help disseminate their information through Wikipedia.

Medical schools are also getting involved in improving Wikipedia entries. Medical students at University of California, San Francisco, can gain course credit for supervised editing of Wikipedia articles in need of attention.

These and similar schemes can hopefully normalise Wikipedia editing within future medical community. And patients will ultimately be the winners. When it comes to health content, the deadline is now.

Thomas Shafee, Research Fellow in Biochemistry and Evolution, La Trobe University.

This article first appeared on The Conversation.

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Top picks, best deals and all that you need to know for the Amazon Great Indian Festival

We’ve done the hard work so you can get right to what you want amongst the 40,000+ offers across 4 days.

The Great Indian Festival (21st-24th September) by Amazon is back and it’s more tempting than ever. This edition will cater to everyone, with offers on a range of products from electronics, home appliances, apparel for men and women, personal care, toys, pet products, gourmet foods, gardening accessories and more. With such overwhelming choice of products and a dozen types of offers, it’s not the easiest to find the best deals in time to buy before your find gets sold out. You need a strategy to make sure you avail the best deals. Here’s your guide on how to make the most out of the Great Indian Festival:

Make use of the Amazon trio – Amazon Prime, Amazon Pay and Amazon app

Though the festival officially starts on 21st, Amazon Prime members will have early access starting at 12 noon on 20th September itself, enabling them to grab the best deals first. Sign up for an Amazon Prime account to not miss out on exclusive deals and products. Throughout the festival, Prime members will 30-minute early access to top deals before non-Prime members. At Rs 499/- a year, the Prime membership also brings unlimited Amazon Prime video streaming and quick delivery benefits.

Load your Amazon pay wallet; there’s assured 10% cashback (up to Rs 500). Amazon will also offer incremental cashbacks over and above bank cashbacks on select brands as a part of its Amazon Pay Offers. Shopping from the app would bring to you a whole world of benefits not available to non-app shoppers. App-only deals include flat Rs 1,250 off on hotels on shopping for more than Rs 500, and flat Rs 1,000 off on flights on a roundtrip booking of Rs 5,000 booking from Yatra. Ten lucky shoppers can also win one year of free travel worth Rs 1.5 lakhs.

Plan your shopping

The Great Indian Sale has a wide range of products, offers, flash sales and lightning deals. To make sure you don’t miss out on the best deals, or lose your mind, plan first. Make a list of things you really need or have been putting off buying. If you plan to buy electronics or appliances, do your research on the specs and shortlist the models or features you prefer. Even better, add them to your wishlist so you’re better able to track your preferred products.

Track the deals

There will be lightning deals and golden hour deals throughout the festival period. Keep track to avail the best of them. Golden-hour deals will be active on the Amazon app from 9.00pm-12.00am, while Prime users will have access to exclusive lightning deals. For example, Prime-only flash sales for Redmi 4 will start at 2.00pm and Redmi 4A at 6.00pm on 20th, while Nokia 6 will be available at Rs 1,000 off. There will be BOGO Offers (Buy One Get One free) and Bundle Offers (helping customers convert their TVs to Smart TVs at a fraction of the cost by using Fire TV Stick). Expect exclusive product launches from brands like Xiaomi (Mi Band 2 HRX 32 GB), HP (HP Sprocket Printer) and other launches from Samsung and Apple. The Half-Price Electronics Store (minimum 50% off) and stores offering minimum Rs 15,000 off will allow deal seekers to discover the top discounts.

Big discounts and top picks

The Great Indian Festival is especially a bonanza for those looking to buy electronics and home appliances. Consumers can enjoy a minimum of 25% off on washing machines, 20% off on refrigerators and 20% off on microwaves, besides deals on other appliances. Expect up to 40% off on TVs, along with No-Cost EMI and up to Rs 20,000 off on exchange.

Home Appliances

Our top picks for washing machines are Haier 5.8 Kg Fully Automatic Top Loading at 32% off, and Bosch Fully Automatic Front Loading 6 Kg and 7 Kg, both available at 27% discount. Morphy Richards 20 L Microwave Oven will be available at a discount of 38%.

Our favorite pick on refrigerators is the large-sized Samsung 545 L at 26% off so you can save Rs 22,710.

There are big savings to be made on UV water purifiers as well (up to 35% off), while several 5-star ACs from big brands will be available at greater than 30% discount. Our top pick is the Carrier 1.5 Ton 5-star split AC at 32% off.

Personal Electronics

There’s good news for Apple fans. The Apple MacBook Air 13.3-inch Laptop 2017 will be available at Rs 55,990, while the iPad will be available at 20% off. Laptops from Lenovo, Dell and HP will be available in the discount range of 20% to 26%. Top deals are Lenovo Tab3 and Yoga Tab at 41% to 38% off. Apple fans wishing to upgrade to the latest in wearable technology can enjoy Rs 8,000 off on the Apple Watch series 2 smartwatch.

If you’re looking for mobile phones, our top deal pick is the LG V20 at Rs 24,999, more than Rs 5000 off from its pre-sale price.

Power banks always come in handy. Check out the Lenovo 13000 mAh power bank at 30% off.

Home printers are a good investment for frequent flyers and those with kids at home. The discounted prices of home printers at the festival means you will never worry about boarding passes and ID documents again. The HP Deskjet basic printer will be available for Rs 1,579 at 40% off and multi-function (printer/ scanner/ Wi-Fi enabled) printers from HP Deskjet and Canon will also available at 33% off.

The sale is a great time to buy Amazon’s native products. Kindle E-readers and Fire TV Stick will be on sale with offers worth Rs 5,000 and Rs 1,000 respectively.

The Amazon Fire Stick
The Amazon Fire Stick

For those of you who have a bottomless collection of movies, music and photos, there is up to 60% off on hard drives and other storage devices. Our top picks are Rs 15,000 and Rs 12,000 off on Seagate Slim 5TB and 4TB hard drives respectively, available from 8.00am to 4.00pm on 21st September.

The sale will see great discounts of up to 60% off on headphones and speakers from the top brands. The 40% off on Bose QC 25 Headphones is our favourite. Top deals are on Logitech speakers with Logitech Z506 Surround Sound 5.1 multimedia Speakers at 60% off and Logitech X300 Bluetooth Speaker at 58% off!

Other noteworthy deals

Cameras (up to 55% off) and camera accessories such as tripods, flash lights etc. are available at a good discount. Home surveillance cameras too will be cheaper. These include bullet cameras, dome cameras, simulated cameras, spy cameras and trail and game cameras.

For home medical supplies and equipment, keep an eye on the grooming and personal care section. Weighing scales, blood pressure monitors, glucometers, body fat monitors etc. will be available at a cheaper price.

The sale is also a good time to invest in home and kitchen supplies. Mixer-grinders and juicers could see lightning deals. Don’t ignore essentials like floor mops with wheels, rotating mop replacements, utensils, crockery etc. Tupperware sets, for example, will be more affordable. There are attractive discounts on bags, especially laptop bags, backpacks, diaper bags and luggage carriers.

Interesting finds

While Amazon is extremely convenient for need-based shopping and daily essentials, it is also full of hidden treasures. During the festival, you can find deals on telescopes, polaroid cameras, smoothie makers, gym equipment, gaming consoles and more. So you’ll be able to allow yourself some indulgences!

Small shopping

If you have children, the festival is good time to stock up on gifts for Diwali, Christmas, return gifts etc. On offer are gaming gadgets such as Xbox, dough sets, Touching Tom Cat, Barbies, classic board games such as Life and more. There are also some products that you don’t really need, but kind of do too, such as smartphone and tablet holders, magnetic car mounts for smartphones and mobile charging station wall stands. If you’re looking for enhanced functionality in daily life, do take a look at the Amazon Basics page. On it you’ll find USB cables, kitchen shears, HDMI cables, notebooks, travel cases and other useful things you don’t realise you need.

Check-out process and payment options

Amazon is also offering an entire ecosystem to make shopping more convenient and hassle-free. For the festival duration, Amazon is offering No-Cost EMIs (zero interest EMIs) on consumer durables, appliances and smartphones, plus exchange schemes and easy installation services in 65 cities. HDFC card holders can avail additional 10% cashback on HDFC credit and debit cards. Customers will also get to “Buy Now and Pay in 2018” with HDFC Credit Cards, as the bank offers a 3 Month EMI Holiday during the days of the sale. Use Amazon Pay balance for fast and easy checkouts, quicker refunds and a secured shopping experience.

Sales are fun and with The Great Indian Festival offering big deals on big brands, it definitely calls for at least window shopping. There’s so much more than the above categories, like minimum 50% off on American Tourister luggage! To start the treasure hunt, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Amazon.in and not by the Scroll editorial team.