A Clockwork Wikipedia: From a Broad Perspective to a Case Study

Omer Benjakob, Rona Aviram

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


While research has shown that scientists use Wikipedia and that scientific content on Wikipedia ramifies back into scientific literature, many questions remain on how the two sides interact and through what paradigm this dynamic may be best understood. Using the circadian clock field as a case study, we discuss this scientific field’s representation on Wikipedia. We traced the changes made to the articles for “Circadian clock” and “Circadian rhythm” and reviewed the debates that informed them over a span of a decade, using Wikipedia’s native and third-party tools. Specifically, we focused on how groundbreaking research pertaining to the function of biological oscillators was integrated into the articles to reflect a wider paradigmatic shift within the field. We also identified the articles’ main editors to detail the dynamic collective editorial process that took place during a time that saw the field undergo a fundamental change. We discuss the different concerns the academic community has with Wikipedia—specifically regarding its content and its contributors—to ask whether the online encyclopedia’s open model is inherently at odds with scientific culture or whether the model could reflect science or even expand on its core values and practices such as peer review and the idea of communicating science.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-244
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Biological Rhythms
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, © 2018 The Author(s).


The authors thank Gad Asher and members of his research group, notably Gal Manella, and others at the Weizmann Institute of Science, namely Julie Laffy. We also thank Prof. Yossi Schwartz and Dr. Moshe Elhanati from Tel Aviv University’s Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas. We thank all the brilliant researchers whose involvement with Wikipedia and whose professional insight were invaluable to this project, as well as the scientists, clock enthusiasts, and citizen encyclopedists who edited the Wikipedia articles, with a special acknowledgment to Beth MacDonald, who died in 2017. Rona Aviram received funding from the Azrieli Foundation.

FundersFunder number
Azrieli Foundation


    • Wikipedia
    • circadian clocks
    • citizen science
    • open science
    • sociology of science


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