Wikipedia Policy (Policies)

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Wikipedia Policy

July 25, 2013, 3:19 pm

Letter from Cutler J. Cleveland, Editor-in-Chief

Dear EoE Colleagues,

I write to inform you of an important editorial policy decision made in regards to the use of Wikipedia content in the Encyclopedia of Earth (EoE). After considerable discussion and debate, we have decided to permit the use of Wikipedia content subject to specific guidelines, which are presented below. Most importantly, Wikipedia content must meet the same quality-control standards and go through the same review process as all other EoE content prior to public release.

This decision comes after considerable discussion among Authors, Topic Editors, the International Advisory Board and the editorial staff of the EoE. That discussion is recorded on the authors’ wiki at

The policy is designed to address the concerns some of you raised in terms of peer review and perception. It is also designed to allow authors to “jump start” articles with good content from Wikipedia.

This policy will be reviewed after a trial period of four months. In December 2008 we will examine the community’s experience with using Wikipedia content, again ask for your feedback, and make any changes that are needed.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this important policy discussion. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.

Best regards,

Cutler J. Cleveland

WIkipedia Policy

Purpose of this Policy on Wikipedia Content

Wikipedia ( may contain content suitable for the Encyclopedia of Earth (EoE) in terms of subject area, level of writing, and accuracy. The copyright associated with Wikipedia allows considerable freedom to re-use its content. There may be, therefore, instances where Wikipedia content—appropriately applied and reviewed—can ease the creation of a quality article. As many teachers, researchers and other experts in the environmental field know, Wikipedia does contain questionable content as well, and it has, therefore earned a reputation as an unreliable reference when in the hands of the uninformed.

The purpose of this policy is to set forth the guidelines for capitalizing on the positives offered—free use of select quality content—while ensuring that Wikipedia's principal weakness—lack of quality control—is offset by the EoE’s author vetting and peer review processes.

It is up to individuals to determine whether use of Wikipedia content, including the associated need for content verification, will expedite content creation in the EoE.

The decision to allow use of Wikipedia was made after careful deliberation by the EoE’s editorial staff, the International Advisory Board, the Stewardship Committee of the Environmental Information Coalition, and, most importantly after an open forum with Authors and Topic Editors. You can view that discussion Here (Wikipedia Policy).

Steps for using Wikipedia Content:

  1. You can either:
    1. Copy material from a Wikipedia article(s) and incorporate it into an existing EoE article; or
    2. Copy some or all of a Wikipedia article(s) as the basis for starting a new article in the EoE.
  2. Then you will:
    1. Edit the Wikipedia content, and the article as a whole, as you would any other article, ensuring accuracy and objectivity;
    2. Enter “Wikipedia” in the “Content Source” field in the article metadata; and
    3. Enter the following at the end of your article:

Note: This article uses material from the Wikipedia article <>


Note: Authors should anchor their link to the version corresponding to the date it was accessed. To do so, go to the Wikipedia article, click on “History,” and then click on the time/date link of the article that corresponds to the access date. The URL for that page provides a permanent link to the article you used.

It is the responsibility of individual authors to determine what use of Wikipedia content triggers attribution. A few sentences that have been substantially edited and re-worded may not require attribution. Copying and pasting multiple sentences or paragraphs with minor editing clearly triggers the attribution described above.

Guidelines for Using Wikipedia Content

Authors and Topic Editors must acknowledge the potential pitfalls associated with Wikipedia’s lack of quality control. Authors should limit their use of Wikipedia content to articles in their core areas of expertise. Authors and Topic Editors are expected to review and judge content from Wikipedia with a high level of scrutiny that is consistent with the guidelines given in the authors’ wiki under “For Topic Editors: Guide for Topic Editors.” This includes vetting content carefully for accuracy, clarity, objectivity, completeness and balance.

Guidelines for Using Wikipedia Images

Wikipedia image description pages are tagged with the license and the source of the image. This makes as easy see what users can and can't do with the images in Wikipedia. If you use an image from Wikipedia, make sure that you follow the guidelines posted on its description page.


Cleveland, C. (2013). Wikipedia Policy. Retrieved from