Friday, March 02, 2012

The medical condition known as glucojasinogen

Here is the lovely example, possibly the best yet, of what I have called Wikipedia faction.  This is where some nonsense information gets added to Wikipedia and stays there long enough for 'reliable sources' to pick it up, so that Wikipedia can then cite the reliable sources for the nonsense.

In 2007 an anonymous IP adds this entry to the Wikipedia article on diabetic neuropathy.
It is important to note that people with diabetes are more likely to develop symptoms relating to peripheral neuropathy as the excess glucose in the blood results in a condition known as Glucojasinogen. This condition is affiliated with erectile dysfunction and epigastric tenderness which in turn results in lack of blood flow to the peripheral intrapectine nerves which govern the movement of the arms and legs.
It's nonsense of course (we spent some time going through a medical dictionary to check).  The nonsense then got picked up by two journals: "Influence of Murraya koenigii on experimental model of diabetes and progression of neuropathic pain" by S.V. Tembhurne and D.M. Sakarkar, Journal of Research in Pharmaceutical Sciences, 2010, and African Journals Online (which cites the same paper).  It is now visible in Google scholar.

It would have been more amusing if the sources actually had been added, to complete the circle.  But then it's not amusing at all, is it.  It's one thing to get most of the key facts about medieval philosophers completely wrong.  That just damages learning.  It's another to slander someone in public, under the umbrella of a supposedly comprehensive and reliable reference work.  That merely damages someone's reputation or even destroys their career.  But getting important medical information wrong can damage someone's health or life.  That's not amusing.  In fact none of it is amusing. 

The Wikipedians, by contrast, are having a bit of a laugh about it.  Another Wikipedia hoax. The IP editor even got a special 'barnstar'.  This is part of the frustration of the place.  If something goes desperately wrong, it's a bit of a giggle.  Challenge any of this from the outside, however, and you are immediately pointed in the direction of the famous 'Nature' article in 2005. "Wikipedia articles come close to the level of accuracy in Encyclopedia Britannica".


William M. Connolley said...

I guess I'm expected to defend Wiki so I will: the real villains here, which you don't even appear to have noticed, are the journals which picked this up.

What we're seeing is clear plagiarism of Wiki; we can tell its plagiarism, of course, since (a) the text can't have come from anywhere else and (b) wikipedia isn't cited.

These are supposed to be real academic journals with real review; people are paying real money for them. And yet they are publishing recycled crap. And you don't care, you'd rather take a poke at wiki.

Well, as of now, this error has gone from wiki - wanna bet how long it will take the journals to retract their crap plagiarised papers?

Edward Ockham said...

>>the real villains here, which you don't even appear to have noticed

I expected someone to say that. Likewise, when the 'Essjay' controversy erupted, Andrew Lih and others blamed the fact-checking of the New Yorker.

>>Well, as of now, this error has gone from wiki

How many remain? I am no longer publishing the ones I am finding.

Edward Ockham said...

On 'real villains', if I turn on the gas so the whole house is full of it, and someone comes in and fails to notice the smell of the gas and lights a match, and the whole street blows up, who is to blame? I am blaming the person who turned on the gas. You are blaming the one who lit the match.

Perhaps both are to blame?

Yufan Lou said...

Wikipedia has clearly stated that it is not a reliable source to be used in research papers. So in your metaphor, the one who turns on the gas has explicitly warned everyone not to light anything and keep a distance, the appropriateness of the metaphor aside. Additionally, Wikipedia explicitly refuses to be based on by medical decisions.

Unknown said...

On "Wikipedia has clearly stated" -- in other words, "read the f**ng fine print". Because I didn't see this "clearly stated" in the glucojasinogen-poisoned page. In the gas metaphor, one turns on the gas and leaves the huge warning poster in the basment.

Yufan Lou said...

The poster need not to be in the basement. Even if it is just besides the switch, with lights off it cannot be read. Even if it’s right on the door, it might be neglected in a hurry. Fine print and nuances are inevitably lost in the flurry of information rush, and I think Wikipedia has done its fair bit. It’s an open document, so you are welcome to volunteer your work to help warn people of such dangerous pages, like this blog did by bringing their attention to one of them. I don’t think blaming Wikipedia further would improve the situation much.