Gray's Anatomy (v. 2)
This week, the Signpost went out to meet WikiProject Anatomy, dedicated to improving the articles about all our bones, brains, bladders and biceps, and getting them to the high standard expected of a comprehensive encyclopaedia. Begun back in 2005 by Phyzome, this project has its own Manual of Style, a huge to-do list, and yet only 30 active members helping to achieve anatomical greatness. So, we asked CFCF, Flyer22 and LT910001 for their opinions on this vital corner of the wiki documenting our own bodies.
What motivated you to join WikiProject Anatomy? Do you have a background in medicine or biology, or are you simply interested in the topic?
- CFCF: I found the image content on Wikipedia very useful when studying anatomy, and at the same time I realised there were PD sources out there that hadn't been used. I basically started uploading things from my local library which got me into writing, which got me hooked.
- Flyer22: I originally became interested in Wikipedia simply to document a certain soap opera couple. A lot of people come to Wikipedia to write about a certain thing, and then branch out into other areas they are knowledgeable and/or interested in. I am one of those people. I moved from soap operas, to general fiction, celebrity topics, etc., to sexual topics; and anatomy comes along with sexual topics, so then I got involved with anatomy topics. I have extensive knowledge of female anatomy, and it was easy to move right into that field on Wikipedia. While I am well versed in other topics, such as the science topic the Big Bang, and will pop up at strictly-scientific articles here and there, I decided not to focus on those topics on Wikipedia; there are some things that I am interested in that I'd rather not make into "work for Wikipedia." And it is all work, in my opinion, not so much fun. I also decided long ago that, like some other parts of my life, it's best not to name my profession(s) on Wikipedia; I am interested in a variety of Wikipedia topics and don't want to be pigeonholed as a certain type of editor, interest-wise; despite that, due to my expansive work on Wikipedia mostly focusing on sexual topics for years now, many Wikipedians think of me as a "sexual editor."
- LT910001: I would often use Wikipedia as a broad overview to learn about different parts of the body. It was very frustrating, because many articles were written very technically. Anatomy is the study of the human body, and we all have one, so the knowledge should be accessible to lay users. In addition, articles in general have not received much attention, and many are lacking sources or missing key information (such as information about diseases that affect the structure, common variations in the structure, and development). With some other users, I have set off to set this right.
The kind of kidney you're probably more used to dealing with
Have you contributed to any of the project's four Featured or thirteen Good articles, and are these sort of articles generally easier or harder to promote than other subjects?
- CFCF: Yes, I wrote Cranial nerve. My personal experience is that when it comes to fact checking people are timid about reviewing anything related to medicine. I know it can be hard without prior knowledge of the subject, and there are only so many of us on Wikipedia that have that. One of the benefits in anatomy is that you can pretty much pick up any source from after 1950 and it's going to be decent, so fact-checking is simpler than in pure medical topics.
- Flyer22: Yes, I wrote the vast majority of the Clitoris article, and I'm still tweaking that article and/or adding things to it. I think that articles such as the Human brain or Heart are among the most difficult articles to promote to Good or Featured article status; this is because, unlike a lot of other anatomy topics, there are so many parts to these two organs and so much that has therefore been written about them. Editors have to be careful, especially in the case of the human brain, that they have all of the relevant aspects covered and are not including anything that has been superseded in science unless made clear that it has been superseded in science; there are things about the brain, such as the limbic system, that scientists thought they knew...but scientists of today have discovered or contend are inaccurate or somewhat inaccurate. Some sexual anatomy articles, whether it's one about the male anatomy (the Human penis article, for example, currently needs a lot of work) or one about female anatomy (the Cervix article is currently at WP:Good article status and editors are seeking to take it to Featured article status), are also challenging articles to promote; this is due to the complexity of (some of) these organs, newer research about them, and social aspects (including politics).
- LT910001: Yes, I wrote 7-8 and helped write Cranial nerves and Sebaceous gland. When I came to the project, there were 5 good articles. These were about neurological structures (eg Brain), or structures with social and cultural significance (Clitoris). Because there were no model articles which could demonstrate how what a purely anatomical structure would look like as a GA, I set out to create some as models, to show it could be done. We first had to get the structure right for articles, and that involved discussions at the manual of style for anatomy articles. I outlined this at the time in our first newsletter, which was sort of a manifesto about things we need to get the project going again. Since that newsletter, we've doubled the number of GA, B-class, and C-class articles, as a result of uploading new content, reassessment of articles, and swallowing up a batch of neuroanatomy articles. The articles I bought to GA were Cervix, Foramen spinosum, Parathyroid gland, Recurrent laryngeal nerve, Stapes, Suspensory ligament of the duodenum, and the featured list Anatomical terms of motion. With any luck, there'll be many more to come.
Can you explain your scope: what sort of articles qualify to be tagged under this project and what kind of things you don't cover?
- CFCF: Anything related to physiological (that is to say healthy) human anatomy. At first you think this is a limited number of articles, then you realise all anatomical variations are included. For example all the accessory bones, muscles or other organs that aren't inherently pathological.
The hand normally has 8 carpal bones
, but may have a larger number of accessory ossicles or sesamoid bones. This image shows over 30 different bones.
- LT910001: This is actually quite a troublesome question, and something we've put a lot of thought into recently. We cover articles relating to human anatomy. The rub here lies in whether we should have individual articles about every single substructure, or whether they should be represented as single articles. We did, at one time, have an article Root of spine of scapula. The problem here is that these articles are taken straight from Gray's Anatomy 1918 and are very unloved and untended. By rolling them into bigger articles (such as Spine of scapula or even Scapula), we can draw attention to articles, make editing easier, and perhaps re-expand when the articles are more fully fleshed out.
What is your most popular topic or article, measured by reader page views? Should it be a project aim to improve your highest visibility articles?
- CFCF: On our most popular list there are two main themes: the major organs are one, and sexual content is the other. In the project we aim to focus on improving content that is high visibility and high importance–which doesn't exclude sexual content per say.
We just rather focus on Heart, Liver, Cervix than Low importance topics.
- Flyer22: Our most popular anatomy articles, as shown at Wikipedia:WikiProject Anatomy/Popular pages and as acknowledged by this Slate source, are some of the sexual anatomy articles. This is not surprising, at least to me, given the provocative nature and power of sexuality. A man is much more likely to be interested in the anatomy of the human penis than, for example, the anatomy of his hand or sternum. Given how much misinformation is out there about sexuality, especially female sexuality and female sexual anatomy, it is very important to me that these articles be improved to where they should be on the quality scale; if not a WP:Good or WP:Featured article, these articles should at least be of B-quality. I responded on Wikipedia to the Slate article, as seen in with this link, and have steadily been improving the Vagina article.
- LT910001: I agree with CFCF. We have been working on the corpus of organ-related articles, which includes the articles Breast and Cervix. Sex-related articles in generally get a lot of attention, and I think it is the article about pure anatomy which need work.
What are the primary resources used for writing an anatomy article? Do you solely rely on medical experts or are more mainstream references also fine?
- CFCF: Without insulting all to many people I'll make use of the pun: "Anatomy is a dead science". Apart from smaller advancements–macroscopic anatomy hasn't really moved in the last 100–120 years. New naming conventions have come with the TA, but for the most part–what stood true in 1890 about large scale anatomy is true today. This means certain aspects of WP:MEDRS are very hard to follow: for example we don't bother looking for "reviews from the past 5 years" – because in the case there are any reviews at all they are often from 1970–80 at best. Any college level or more advanced text-book from the past 70 years should be a viable source for us.
Anatomy is also very visual, which means we need to use images, and old images are fine: I recently had a featured image from 1909. As for resources that can be found online, I'm in the middle of compiling a list of free resources, and of course there are the ~4000 images I have (only half of which I've uploaded) which haven't found their appropriate article.
Muscles of the face
, recently a featured image and still relevant 105 years after it was created.
- Flyer22: I'm not sure that I would call anatomy a dead science, but, like CFCF has indicated, it has not advanced as much as many other medical fields. This is primarily because so much of what scientists know about anatomy is the same as it was many years ago. For other topics, such as the human brain or aspects of female sexual anatomy, it's not always going to be the case that anatomy sources from 70 years ago are good to use. For example, for many years, scientists believed that the Bartholin's glands, which are located to the left and right of the vaginal opening, were the primary source of vaginal lubrication. These days, plasma seepage from the vaginal walls (vaginal transudation) are what the vast majority (if not all) of scientists believe to be the primary source of vaginal lubrication. Other aspects of female sexual anatomy, such as the clitoris, have also been misrepresented in anatomical texts (intentionally or unintentionally). We adhere to WP:MEDRS as much as we can. For example, I recently had a discussion on my talk page about the Erogenous zone article and the need to adhere to WP:MEDRS and therefore try to stay away from WP:Primary sources even though the topic of erogenous zones outside of studying the genitals is not well-researched. Primary sources or media sources, unless reporting on social aspects or used as an adjunct to a scholarly source (for example, Template:Citation Style documentation/lay), should generally not be used for anatomy topics. If it's an aspect that's not well studied and has no review articles yet, the primary source might be suitable for use. WP:MEDRS (in this section, for instance) is clear about its exceptions.
- LT910001: There is a view that anatomy is a 'dead' science, however the advent of small cameras and high-quality imaging has completely revolutionised the field. Many doctors and surgeons are super-specialising, and there are an increasing number of very particular resources, such as books entirely about small anatomical structures. Locating these resources is very useful, and often the most useful resources come out in the last 10–15 years. These resources aggregate historical opinions of anatomists with recent epidemiological studies, such as of anatomical variation. Something that is very difficult in editing anatomical articles is understanding that a lot of anatomy teaching derives from a very small group of original authors such as Henry Gray that are quoted and requoted in literature and other textbooks until the opinions and experiences of those authors have become fact. For users interested in contributing, books, textbooks and atlases are very useful, because they are so information dense.
How close are your links with WikiProject Medicine, a related project? Do many members participate in both WikiProjects?
- CFCF: I'd have a hard time coming up with anyone involved in this project who isn't also a member of that project–which is unfortunate as we would hope to attract more general Wikipedians as well. On the other hand we have the benefit of being able to ask for help whenever we have a larger project, as recently on Heart.
- Flyer22: Yes, WikiProject Anatomy's ties to WP:Med are significant since anatomy is a medical aspect. Some of our editors are involved with both WikiProjects, but I think we also have some on our Participants list who are not.
- LT910001: There are indeed a number of users who cover both projects, however there are also a number of members who edit purely anatomy-related articles.
What is the reason you exclusively cover human anatomy and not the body parts of other animals? No project seems to be looking after articles such as Thorax.
- CFCF: We've more or less formed as a group of editors with human anatomical expertise, so knowledge of animal or comparative anatomy is limited. We do strive to have a section on other animals in every article, and for FA or GA it is pretty much required to be sufficient in scope. Previously this has been the field of WikiProject Veterinary Medicine & WikiProject Organismal biomechanics.
That we hadn't tagged Thorax is more of an oversight than anything else. With over 9000 articles we occasionally miss even high-importance ones such as thorax, or until recently Limbic system.
- LT910001: There are a few reasons. It is easier to draw a bright line that delineates what relates to human anatomy and what doesn't. "Animal" anatomy could be very broad and we have the good fortune of not (unlike the related project WikiProject Medicine) being constantly embroiled in discussions about what relates to our scope. Other reasons for focusing on human anatomy include our strong crossover membership with WikiProject Medicine, the existence of a number of other animal-related projects such as WikiProject Animals and WikiProject Mammals, and the interests of our members.
How can a new member help today?
- LT910001: Drop in to our Wikiproject, pick some articles, and improve them! We're always looking for people to collaborate with in the project and am happy to collaborate with whatever interests users who drop by. Something we are in great need of is sourcing articles, and users who can write in plain English. There is so much to improve and always room for more hands. Something very helpful a new member could do is go to their local library, find an anatomy book, and start using it to source.
- CFCF: This completely depends on prior knowledge. Someone who is completely new to anatomy could appropriate text from the CC-BY Openstax Anatomy & Physiology book–something which requires little previous knowledge and could be very educational. If you're into working on images there is so much out there that I could point to, and if you want to write all you need to do is pick up an anatomical textbook and write.
Anything else you'd like to add?
- LT910001: Superficially, anatomy is dry and dull and a dead science. However if you go a little deeper, it's a lively and very active field, with new publications coming out all the time. Anatomy is a fascinating look into how our bodies are structured and develop and I hope more users decide to contribute.
Better get your syntax all fixed in time for next week, when we'll be venturing out of content to spend some time with a project that never misses an error. Until then, why not look for some mistakes in the archive?
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