“We Cannot Allow a Wikipedia Gap!” in Spontaneous Generations

The new open-access history of science, technology and medicine journal from the University of Toronto, Spontaneous Generations, has its first issue online. I look forward to reading a lot of it; the “focused discussion” on scientific expertise looks very interesting, and both of the peer-reviewed articles look good as well.

Of course, most exciting for me is the publication of my opinion piece, the very first article in the first issue of Spontaneous Generations: “We Cannot Allow a Wikipedia Gap!” (pdf), a call for historians of science, technology and medicine to get involved with Wikipedia.

I’m going to try to work some of this content into Wikipedia (and hopefully others will help), as a way of supporting open content journals. The first one, “An Engineer’s View of an Ideal Society” (pdf), looks like a perfect source for improving Wikipedia’s “C. H. Douglas” and “Social Credit” articles. The second article, “Mothers, Babies, and the Colonial State” (pdf), focuses on health reform in Nigeria from 1925 to 1945 (while it was still a British colony). This is one where it will be tougher to integrate into the existing Wikipedia coverage; there is a short article on “health care in Nigeria“, but no discussion of its history. And that article is one of just two “health care in X” articles for all of Africa (the other is Uganda). There is no article on “health care in Africa”. The history of medicine and public health coverage is also quite slim, making it hard to bridge the gap between the kind of work scholars in those fields do and the kinds of broader coverage that Wikipedia sometimes does well. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any professional historians of medicine or grad students who are active Wikipedians.

Democratic Debate on NPR

Finally, a debate with a little bit of actual substance. The Democratic presidential candidates debated on National Public Radio this afternoon, and not surprisingly it was a far better debate than any of the television (or YouTube) debates so far. (I caught it intermittently as I was going from store to store looking for Wiis to sell on eBay…I got one from Toys’R’Us, which should net me about $150 profit.)

The debate was focused on Iran, China, and immigration. There was nothing exciting about the Iran discussion except Clinton’s dogged defense of her support of the resolution labeling the Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization. Aside from wishful thinking about a Kucinich presidency, I don’t have strong feelings about the Democratic field except that Clinton would be the worst choice; she’s too much of a hawk and wouldn’t be likely to shift the center of American political discourse far enough away from where it is now.

With the China section, I was really disappointed that none of the candidates see trade with China as primarily or significantly an ecological problem. Among other things, the ongoing New York Times series about China’s pollution crisis, Choking on Growth, has convinced me that, more so than human rights, labor standards and the effects on U.S. jobs, the biggest problem with outsourcing manufacturing to China is that China has far looser environmental regulations. Trade with China (or anyone) ought to be dependent on the environmental impact of the traded product’s manufacture. Unfortunately, global warming is pushing so many other acute environmental issues into the background. And even still, “make and use less stuff” isn’t a solution that is a viable political position.