Academics and Wikipedia

Henk Eijkman (Australian Defence Force Academy Campus, University of New South Wales, Canberra, Australia)

Campus-Wide Information Systems

ISSN: 1065-0741

Publication date: 29 June 2010



There is much hype about academics' attitude to Wikipedia. This paper seeks to go beyond anecdotal evidence by drawing on empirical research to ascertain how academics respond to Wikipedia and the implications these responses have for the take‐up of Web 2.0+. It aims to test the hypothesis that Web 2.0+, as a platform built around the socially constructed nature of knowledge, is inimical to conventional power‐knowledge arrangements in which academics are traditionally positioned as the key gatekeepers to knowledge.


The research relies on quantitative and qualitative data to provide an evidence‐based analysis of the attitudes of academics towards the student use of Wikipedia and towards Web 2.0+. These data were provided via an online survey made available to a number of universities in Australia and abroad. As well as the statistical analysis of quantitative data, qualitative data were subjected to thematic analysis using relational coding.


The data by and large demonstrate that Wikipedia continues to be a divisive issue among academics, particularly within the “soft sciences”. However, Wikipedia is not as controversial as popular publicity would lead one to believe. Many academics use it extensively though cautiously themselves, and therefore tend to support a cautious approach to its use by students. However, evidence supports the assertion that there is an implicit if not explicit awareness among academics that Wikipedia, and possibly by extension Web 2.0+, are disruptors of conventional academic power‐knowledge arrangements.

Practical implications

It is clear that academics respond differently to the disruptive effects that Web 2.0+has on the political economy of academic knowledge construction. Contrary to popular reports, responses to Wikipedia are not overwhelmingly focused on resistance but encompass both cautious and creative acceptance. It is becoming equally clear that the increasing uptake of Web 2.0+in higher education makes it inevitable that academics will have to address the “political” consequences of this reframing of the ownership and control of academic knowledge production.


The paper demonstrates originality and value by providing a unique, evidence‐based insight into the different ways in which academics respond to Wikipedia as an archetypal Web 2.0+application and by positioning Web 2.0+within the political economy of academic knowledge construction.



Henk Eijkman (2010) "Academics and Wikipedia", Campus-Wide Information Systems, Vol. 27 No. 3, pp. 173-185

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