Note: This page contains some suggestions for the review board system detailed at beta.
The role of "experts" as Wikipedia editors has always been controversial. Often, the people who know the most about a topic are advised not to edit articles about that topic because of the danger of introducing personal biases. Well-documented and objectively-verifiable facts are given preference over expert opinion. While Wikiversity encourages the recognition of biases, Wikiversity also wants to encourage the participation of experienced educators who will share their expertise within the Wikiversity community. In order to facilitate the constructive utilization of expert knowledge that exists within the Wikiversity community, Wikiversity can develop a new type of wiki functionary, the "referee". Wikiversity referees can be particularly useful in several roles:
- trusted advisors for students
- trusted editors for guiding the community towards satisfactory outcomes of content disputes
- facilitators of a formal peer review process for original research
- liaisons for facilitating interactions between Wikiversity and professional educators and researchers outside of Wikiversity
In order for Wikiversity to function efficiently as a meeting place for learners and experienced teachers, it is important that Wikiversity have a system that will allow participants to know something about the backgrounds of people they interact with at Wikiversity. As "functionaries" with special responsibilities, Wikiversity referees need to be subjected to a special level of scrutiny in order to generate and sustain trust within the Wikiversity community. Wikiversity referees need to have a public record of constructive activity within Wikiversity. This public record depends on the record of page edits that exists in the "history" of each wiki page. If a Wikiversity participant makes useful edits and has constructive interactions with other members of the community, their edit history will reflect their service to the community. However, it is cumbersome to review the edit history of a wiki editor. Wikiversity needs a systematic way to convert edit histories into evaluations of potential referees. How does a wiki deal with this sort of problem?
Wikipedia has developed a special subset of wiki editors: administrators. A Wikipedia administrator is a "trusted member of the community" who has undergone an explicit peer-review by the community. Administrators are experienced wiki editors and are expected to have knowledge of the community policies that regulate how the wiki works. Wikiversity, like all WikiMedia projects, needs administrators (here we call them "custodians"). However, when it comes to questions about article content, custodians are no different from any other Wikiversity editor. Being a custodian/administrator for a wiki indicates a certain amount of expertise about that wiki, but says nothing about expertise in any other area.
Peer review of referees
In addition to custodians/administrators, Wikipedia has other "functionaries" who perform special tasks (for Wikiversity functionaries, see Support staff). A Wikiversity referee is a member of the community who makes a special commitment to share their education-related expertise with the Wikiversity community. The special commitment includes submitting to a peer-review process by which the community openly documents the past history of the referee in such a way that it becomes relatively easy for all members of the community to know if the referee has expertise in particular subject areas that are of interest to the Wikiversity community. As for other Wikiversity functionaries, being a Wikiversity referee is not an "honor", it is a commitment to perform special tasks for the community. In particular, Wikiversity referees will be called upon for help with those tasks that require expert knowledge about a subject area within Wikiversity.
Expert opinion about wiki content
Wikipedia has always had to deal with simple vandalism and more sophisticated "jokes" and falsifications. Persistent problems are met by blocking users from editing and protecting pages from being edited. Sometimes "spoof" articles are added to Wikipedia that pass the casual inspection of vandalism patrollers. It takes an expert to spot a good spoof. Wikiversity needs experts in all topic areas who can provide informed opinion when there are disputes or uncertainty about Wikiversity content. Wikiversity referees have the special obligation of recognizing spoofs and frauds and explaining to non-experts how to understand that specific Wikiversity content is bogus.
Wikiversity is devoted to exploration of how to use the wiki user interface to promote learning. While exploring new ways of learning, Wikiversity seeks to have constructive relations with the "outside world" of more conventional educational institutions. Wikiversity tries to provide educational resources to the world and also provides a platform by which educators and researchers from all around the world can interact. Many working professionals cannot commit their time to projects unless they trust the people they are working with. Wikiversity does not use a standard system of academic credentials, so outside professionals face a problem in knowing if they can have a professional interaction with members of the Wikiversity community. The process by which Wikiversity openly evaluates the performance of Wikiversity referees provides a system for designating trusted members of the Wikiversity community with expert knowledge in certain topic areas. Wikiversity referees can function as ambassadorial contacts for outside professionals seeking to build collaborative projects with Wikiversity.
Peer review of original research
Conducting original research is not the main mission of Wikiversity, but unlike the long-standing policy of Wikipedia, original research is not excluded from Wikiversity. Any original research that arises within Wikiversity must be clearly identified as such and subjected to formal peer review. The Wikiversity peer review process must be entirely transparent and openly conducted in wiki format. Wikiversity referees can act to facilitate and guide the Wikiversity community as it reviews original research results within Wikiversity.