Using Wikidata to Improve the Medical Content on Wikipedia

Lydia Pintscher

18. May 2015

German summary: Vor einigen Tagen wurde eine wissenschaftliche Veröffentlichung publiziert die sich damit beschäftigt wie Wikipediaartikel zu medizinischen Themen durch Wikidata verbessert werden können. Hier stellen sie die Veröffentlichung und ihre Ergebnisse vor.


This is a guest post by Alexander Pfundner, Tobias Schönberg, John Horn, Richard D. Boyce and Matthias Samwald. They have published a paper about how medical articles on Wikipedia can be improved using Wikidata.

An example of an infobox that shows drug-drug-interactions from Wikidata. Including this information could be of significant benefit to patients around the world.

The week before last a study was published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research that investigates how Wikidata can help to improve medical information on Wikipedia. The researchers from the Medical University of Vienna, the University of Washington and the University of Pittsburgh that carried out the study are active members of the Wikidata community.

The study focuses on how potential drug-drug interactions are represented on Wikipedia entries for pharmaceutical drugs. Exposure to these potential interactions can severely diminish the safety and effectiveness of therapies. Given the fact that many patients and professionals often rely on Wikipedia to read up on a medical subject, the quality, completeness and relevance of these interactions can significantly improve the situation of patients around the world.

In the course of the study, a set of high-priority potential drug-drug-interactions were added to Wikidata items of common pharmaceutical drugs (e.g. Ramelteon). The data was then compared to the existing information on the English Wikipedia, revealing that many critical interactions were not explicitly mentioned. It can be expected that the situation is probably worse for many other languages. Wikidata could play a major role in alleviating this situation: Not only does a single edit benefit all 288 languages of Wikipedia, but the tools for adding and checking data are much easier to handle. In addition, adding qualifiers (property-value pairs that further describe the statement, e.g. the severity of the interaction) and sources to each statement puts the data in context and makes cross-checking easier . In the study Wikidata was found to be capable to act as a repository for this data.

The next part of the study investigated how potential drug-drug interaction information in Wikipedia could be automatically written and maintained (i.e. in the form of infoboxes or within a paragraph). Working with the current API and modules, investigators found that the interface between Wikidata and Wikipedia is already quite capable, but that large datasets still require better mechanisms to intelligently filter and format the data. If the data is displayed in an infobox, further constraints come from the different conventions on how much information can be displayed in an infobox, and whether large datasets can be in tabs or collapsible cells.

Overall the study comes to the conclusion that, the current technical limitations aside, Wikidata is capable to improve the reliability and quality of medical information on all languages of Wikipedia.

The authors of the study would like to thank the Wikidata and Wikipedia community for all their help. And additionally the Austrian Science Fund and the United States National Library of Medicine for funding the study.

  • Hallo MBq!

    Meine Email ist: tobias47n9e gmail com


    Comment by Tobias Schönberg on 30. June 2015 at 19:47

  • Aus der Community war wohl Tobias Schönenberg beteiligt. Leider ist sein Nick nicht angegeben. Vielleicht liest er hier mit, ich würde gerne mal Kontakt zu ihm aufnehmen, WP:ANON garantiere ich. –MBq

    Comment by MBq on 30. June 2015 at 19:28

  • Nice to have a study on Wikidata, especially as it’s one based on actual practice rather than abstract theory!

    Comment by Nemo on 18. May 2015 at 17:23

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