Wikimedia Foundation and UNU-MERIT announce first survey of Wikipedians

January 24, 2008

The Wikimedia Foundation and the Collaborative Creativity Group at UNU-MERIT -- a joint research and training centre of United Nations University (UNU) and Maastricht University -- are pleased to announce a collaboration to conduct the first-ever, comprehensive Wikipedia survey.

Wikipedia is the 9th most visited website in the world, receiving up to 65,000 hits per second.

"I am thrilled we are doing this, and UNU-MERIT, which has a track record of intelligent research into global volunteer communities, is our perfect partner," said Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation. "For the first time, Wikimedia will have solid information about who our readers and contributors are, why they come to us, and what they do here. This will help us figure out how to persuade new people to start contributing, and how to keep existing contributors engaged."

"This is a very exciting participatory space to explore," said Rishab Aiyer Ghosh, who heads the Collaborative Creativity Group (CCG) at UNU-MERIT.

"Surprisingly little data exists so far on why, how and how much Wikipedians contribute, or indeed even who they are. Wikipedia is the world's largest and most successful collaborative reference project: its success is worth examining."

UNU-MERIT has pioneered the use of surveys and other tools to understand the behaviour of Free/Open Source Software such as Linux and Firefox, which also depend on voluntary contributors from individuals around the world. With this survey, which will be conducted worldwide in several languages, the Wikimedia Foundation hopes to build a similar understanding of Wikipedia.

"Wikipedia is an invaluable resource for diffusion of and access to knowledge, especially in developing countries where commercially available resources are scarce. Understanding how Wikipedia functions is very much part of our mission at UNU-MERIT," said Prof Luc Soete, Director of UNU-MERIT.

The survey will be conducted over the course of the next several months. Early results are scheduled for presentation at Wikimania, the Wikimedia Foundation's annual conference, which will be held this year at the Library of Alexandria, Egypt.
About Wikipedia

The goal of the Wikipedia project is to create free encyclopedias in all languages of the world. Anyone with Internet access is free to contribute by writing new articles and editing existing articles.

Wikipedia started in January 2001, and currently offers more than eight million articles in 250 languages. The largest Wikipedia is in English, with more than two million articles; it's followed by the German and French editions, each of which contain more than half a million articles. Nine other language editions contain 100,000+ articles, and more than 100 other languages contain 1,000+ articles. Every month, new language editions launch.

Wikipedia is entirely created and maintained by a community of active volunteers. In 2004, Wikipedia won the Webby Award for "Community" and the Prix Ars Electronica's Golden Nica for "Digital Communities." Since the start of the project, more than 100,000 registered users have made at least ten edits each, and more than 3.4 million people have created accounts on the English Wikipedia alone.

About the Wikimedia Foundation

The Wikimedia Foundation Inc. is a nonprofit charitable organization dedicated to encouraging the growth, development and distribution of free, multilingual content, and to providing the full content of these wiki-based projects to the public free of charge. It operates some of the largest collaboratively-edited reference projects in the world, including Wikipedia, one of the world's 10 most-visited websites. The Foundation was created in 2003 by Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia.

Today, the Wikimedia Foundation operates the following projects:All projects of the Wikimedia Foundation are collaboratively developed by volunteers using the MediaWiki software. All contributions are licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License (except in Wikinews, which is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5). This means their content may be freely used, freely edited, freely copied and freely redistributed subject to the restrictions of that license.


UNU-MERIT (the United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and social Research and training Centre on Innovation and Technology) provides insights into the social, political and economic contexts within which innovation and technological change is created, adapted, selected, diffused, and improved upon. The Institute's research and training programmes address a broad range of relevant policy questions dealing with the national and international governance of innovation, intellectual property protection, and knowledge creation and diffusion.

The Collaborative Creativity Group at UNU-MERIT is a leading research group on open source software, open content, and collaborative creativity and innovation.

For more information:

Rishab Aiyer Ghosh, UNU-MERIT
Maastricht, Netherlands,
+31 629 07 44 87 (GMT + 1)

Wikimedia Foundation
St. Petersburg, FL

United Nations University

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