CZ:Managing Editor/2013/001 – Modifying the Functionality and Policy of Signed Articles

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Statement of problem

Signed articles have not flourished in Citizendium, or contributed substantially to its knowledge base. Approximately 4% of Citizendium’s total articles have a Signed Article subpage. A smaller percent of Approved Articles have Signed Article subpages.

This Managing Editor Decision will modify the existing policy of the functionality of Signed Article articles, with the intention of

  • advancing Signed Articles to Main Article status as part of its own cluster, thereby potentially expanding its scope and enhancing its quality
  • increasing the number of Signed Articles in Citizendium, and therefore their contribution to Citizendium’s knowledge base
  • inviting non-member knowledgeable persons to submit, without fee, Signed Articles of eligible types that will remain exclusively in their ambit to update or otherwise edit, thereby attracting more registered members as well as numbers of Signed Articles
  • allowing the Citizendium community to comment on the Signed Article via its Talk page, thereby enabling the Signed Article's author(s) to benefit from community input, potentially increasing the quality of the article
  • integrating an article-type-specific open access 'journal' into Citizendium
  • contributing to the growth and development of Citizendium, hopefully helping to continuing to secure its viability

Existing pertinent policy


The Charter does not specifically discuss policy regarding Signed Articles, and, in particular, does not restrict them to a subpage of a Main Article.

Pre-Charter policy

CZ:Signed Articles, written predominantly by Citizendium’s former Editor-In-Chief, Larry Sanger, unapproved and still open for editing, states the purpose of Signed Articles:

The central purpose of signed articles is simply to increase the store of expert-created, credible content available to readers for free.

My Decision will keep that central purpose.

CZ:Signed Articles also states an ancillary purpose:

An ancillary purpose is to give the Citizendium community a solid basis on which to enter into relationships with existing organizations. There are many professional organizations and other credible groups who might wish to use the resources of our wiki and community, while still allowing their members to take exclusive credit for a piece of work.

My Decision will accord with that ancillary purpose, but will consider it not so much ancillary as a major purpose, and will add that the Decision also allows members of the Citizendium community to enter into relations with knowledgeable individuals outside the community who might wish to use the resources of our wiki and community, while still allowing them to take exclusive credit for a piece of work.

CZ:Signed Articles also states:

Moreover, there are often people who are willing to contribute content to our cause, but who—perhaps not understanding, or simply not agreeing with, the collaborative nature of our central endeavor—simply send us articles, or post articles to the wiki without realizing that others actually can edit them. When we come into ownership of such content, we would like a place to put it where others can benefit from it.

My decision will accord with that objective.

CZ:Signed Articles also states:

The main namespace is reserved for collaboratively written, unsigned articles only. Articles signed by individuals and managed by partner organizations must be placed on subpages…

My decision would eliminate the injunction that ”The main namespace is reserved for collaboratively written, unsigned articles only“. The text of the Decision will clarify the new policy and describe its benefits. Although excluding Signed Articles as Main Articles has prevailed since Citizendium’s inception, no post-charter official confirmation has appeared.

CZ:Signed Articles also states:

For articles submitted directly to the Citizendium, the most relevant workgroup will locate an appropriately expert reviewer, either from among its own editors or from an outside expert, and submit the article for a traditional double blind review.

My decision will continue that practice.

CZ:Signed Articles also states:

While signed articles may contain some recognizable bias and opinion-stating on the part of an author, the Citizendium will not publish anything that rises to the level of polemic, much less propaganda. Furthermore, in the interest of maintaining a solid reputation for ideological, political, religious, and other sorts of neutrality, we may refuse further articles on a topic from a certain point of view until there are more articles from alternative points of view. Both workgroups and the editor-in-chief may raise objections on this ground.

My decision will continue that policy.

Decisions by the governing bodies

No motions passed relating Signed Articles by either Management or Editorial Council.

Draft decision

The text below is what I plan to decide in this case. Feel free to edit the text if you think this improves it. If your edits require discussion, please use the dedicated section below. Editing and discussion in this "Draft decision" section shall stop following my last edit in response to comments, as indicated by a statement at the end of Draft Decision that editing is closed.
  • Knowledgeable members of the Citizendium community and knowledgeable persons not members of the Citizendium community may submit signed articles for consideration of publication as a Main Article in Citizendium’s basic unit, a cluster of subpages.
  • Articles submitted must qualify as one of the following types:
    • Literature Review
    • Book Review
    • Essay
    • Primer
    • Historical Perspective
    • Philosophical Perspective
    • Synopsis
    • How-To Tutorial
    • Hypothesis

A section below provides definitions, descriptions, explanations, and examples of those types.

  • Except for the Talk subpage (Discussion tab), the Main Article and the other subpages will accept editing only by the signed author or authors, or persons designated by the senior author of the article.
    • If that cannot be established for technical reasons, a notice will be placed before the lede declaring that this article is a signed article that does not qualify as an encyclopedia-type entry and therefore is not open to editing except by its author(s). Use the Talk page for comments, suggested edits, etc. DO NOT EDIT THIS ARTICLE UNLESS YOU ARE ONE OF ITS DESIGNATED AUTHORS.
  • Non-members of the Citizendium community whose submissions for publication are approved must register with Citizendium as author or Editor under their real name.
  • Citizendium members will submit potentially acceptable articles as subpages of their User Page, using subsections corresponding to what will become subpages if the article is accepted for publication as a Main Article.
  • Non-members of the Citizendium community will submit their articles in word processor format, using subsections corresponding to what will become subpages if the article is accepted for publication as a Main Article.

Information regarding eligible types of Signed Articles

Literature Reviews: to review the literature relating to a specific issue, question, topic. Narrow in focus. See: (Literature Reviews. The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A Handout. 2010-2012.) Example:

Gardner MJ, Hubbard KE, Hotta CT, Dodd AN, Webb AA. 2006) How plants tell the time. Biochem J 2006;397:15-24.
Abstract: Plants, like all eukaryotes and most prokaryotes, have evolved sophisticated mechanisms for anticipating predictable environmental changes that arise due to the rotation of the Earth on its axis. These mechanisms are collectively termed the circadian clock. Many aspects of plant physiology, metabolism and development are under circadian control and a large proportion of the transcriptome exhibits circadian regulation. In the present review, we describe the advances in determining the molecular nature of the circadian oscillator and propose an architecture of several interlocking negative-feedback loops. The adaptive advantages of circadian control, with particular reference to the regulation of metabolism, are also considered. We review the evidence for the presence of multiple circadian oscillator types located in within individual cells and in different tissues.

Controversies: to discuss a current or historical controversy.

How did John Dalton discover his atomic theory?
The mechanisms of aging.

Book reviews: to inform readers about the contents of a book, the argument developed or story outline, reception by critics and readers, etc.

For examples, see book reviews in journals, magazines, and newspapers.

Essays: to narrate a particular perspective on a topic pertinent to any Workgroup, whether not related a Main Article in that Workgroup.

For examples, see The Best American Essays 2012 at

Historical Perspectives: to narrate the history of a topic, whether or not related to a Main Article in the Workgroup; If related to a Main Article, to provide a historical perspective if the Main Article does not have such a perspective, or, if the Main Article has a historical perspective, to elaborate and expand on it.

Philosophical Perspectives: to narrate a philosophical perspective on a topic, whether or not related to a Main Article in the Workgroup; If related to a Main Article, to provide a philosophical perspective if the Main Article does not have such a perspective, or, if the Main Article has a philosophical perspective, to elaborate and expand on it.

Primers: to provide an introduction on the basic elements of an aspect of the Main Article, or if no related Main Article, to provide the basic elements of a topic that might inspire users to start a Main Article inspired by the Primer.

Synopses: to provide a summary of a Main Article for a more general audience than the audience targeted by the Main Article; to provide a synopsis of a book or scholarly article.

Hypotheses: to present a plausible and testable hypothesis, the background for it, its implications, how to test it.

How-to Tutorials: to narrate, with or without PowerPoint slides, on how to perform certain procedures or activities.

Discussion of draft decision

Suggestions for improvement will be greatly appreciated.

Discussion I

Couple of thoughts:

  1. how about original research?
  2. if the objective is to encourage people not happy with the collaborative model, maybe those who've been kicked out for being too quarrelsome might take part (of course they might not want to)

Peter Jackson 11:19, 1 February 2013 (UTC)

Original Research, I think, should be perfectly acceptable as a signed article. I think that the signed article function of CZ has been one of the more innovative aspects of the project. It allows us to move towards an alternative (i.e., open source) publishing model (as the proposed decision suggests) and differentiates CZ from other knowledge-building projects on the web. It also gives, as both Peter and the policy suggests, alternatives to authors not comfortable with the collaborative model. The signed article route should use our expert editors as much as possible to improve the rigor of the submissions.

Regarding publishing signed articles in main-space, I would recommend that a new template be developed for them so that the author's name appears at the top of the article after the title. Such a main-space article needs to be clearly identified as work of an individual. Individual authors, I hope, will also understand that they are releasing their work under the CC-by-SA license.

Is it the intention of the policy that signed articles are developed in user-space then moved to main-space when approved for publication?

Russell D. Jones 14:34, 1 February 2013 (UTC)

"I think that the signed article function of CZ ... differentiates CZ from other knowledge-building projects on the web." Not really. Both Wikinfo and WikiSage have this facility. And Google Knol did (now closed down, I heard). There may be others I don't know of. (Presumably RationalWiki doesn't count as a "knowledge-building project".) Peter Jackson 11:04, 2 February 2013 (UTC)


Peter, I gave some thought to the idea of inviting original research in formulating the proposed Signed Articles initiative. For rigorous quality control of CZ articles, we'd need solid peer-review for original research. At this time we have too few active Editors to shoulder implementation of that. We could require submitters of original research to give us a list of names and contact info of people they consider qualified to peer-review their article, but then we'd also need a group of motivated active volunteers to oversee and implement the peer-review process—no walk in the park.

As the proposed initiative now reads for the article-types specified, we'd still need peer-review to have quality open-access publishing, but that needn't have the same level of rigor as for original-research-type articles, in particular experimental research. And as it is, we'd have a lot of original research, if only of the analytic/synthetic-type, as in the Essays, Historical Perspectives, etc.

I'd suggest holding off on original research based on new/replicated experiments/observations pertinent to our workgroup categories. I believe the experience of dealing with the current list of article types will hold us in good stead for fully integrating open-access publishing of new-found knowledge. I don't regard the proposed iniiative as a baby-step.

Re your thought about the 'banned ones', we need to consider that they'd have all the usual author rights in respect of the wiki-based encyclopedia. A 'quarellsome' nature does not disappear as easily as dyspepsia from a bit of bad meat.

Thanks for engaging. More, please. Other article-types? Anthony.Sebastian 21:59, 1 February 2013 (UTC)


Russell, I agree with you about the innovative nature of CZ's Signed Articles feature, in particular how it enables us to integate open-access author-restricted publishing into CZ. My response to Peter Jackson explains my reasons for not including original research at the start of the project. I'm happy discuss that issue further.

Yes, I agree we need some way that Signed Articles in main namespace are identified as written by an individual, open to comment but not to editing by the community.

And, yes, if authors wish to compose their Signed Article within CZ, they must do it in their userspace. I will make that more explicit. Anthony.Sebastian 05:22, 4 February 2013 (UTC)


Discussion II

A valid expert may write the most interesting and relevant article about a given subject (i.e. a book review). Still, other Citizens may have also very clever and relevant things to write about it. If a signed article is a main article (not a subpage), does it mean that no collective work can be done after that on the same topic? Of course, Citizens could go to the Talk page. But then only the Expert will be able to edit his/her article, if he wishes. Will he/she be required to take into account Citizens' remarks on the Talk page? How can we enforce that?

Would it be acceptable that on a given subject we have two pages: one signed article and one regular article, collectively written? Jérôme Delacroix 21:28, 17 February 2013 (CET)

Good questions, Jérôme. If another Citizen wishes to express herself on the same topic as that of a Signed Article, she may do so, for the record, by starting her own topic heading on the Talk page. Alternately, she may write a Signed Article of her own or a regular wiki collaborative article on the topic. In the latter cases she will want to have a slightly different title, to not have two articles with identical titles.
Say someone has had accepted a Signed Article, "How Literature Saved My Life (book review)". A Citizen might start a new Signed Article or wiki collaborative article, "How Literature Saved My Life (book review-02)".
We would not want the authors of Signed Articles obligated to respond to comments/suggestions on the Talk page, but we would encourage them to do so in our acceptance notice, as well as encourage them to edit their article if important issues arise, a factual error, say, in a Historical Perspective Signed Article.
I believe my comments respond to your last question. Thanks, Jérôme, for your input. Anthony.Sebastian 22:00, 17 February 2013 (UTC)

I'm obviously still missing something. A book review, for example. It's perfectly valid that this should be a 'signed article', in my opinion. But why wouldn't this be at the subject cluster as a signed article?
What body will take on the responsibility of reviewing the submitted articles to determine their suitability for publication?
As I understand Anthony's explanation, this decision is within the purview of the ME. But it's important. Could we please hear from the members of the EC on this?
Aleta Curry 23:49, 20 February 2013 (UTC)