Encyclopaedia Britannica accuses Nature of being sloppy
In a statement, the Encyclopaedia Britannica is very critical of the British journal Nature. The Lexikon editors attest to the journal's poor research methods and numerous negligence in a publication from December last year, which de alt with a random comparison between articles in the Encyclopaedia Britannica and the online knowledge database Wikipedia.
In the summary three months ago, Nature concluded that the reliability of the freely accessible Wikipedia, which is free on the Internet, and the encyclopedia were roughly on the same level.
The Encyclopaedia statement now reads, "Nearly everything in the journal's investigation - from the criteria used to identify inaccuracies to the factual discrepancy between the study results and the publication title - is false and misleading."
In the appendix to the statement, the encyclopedia makers give 29 examples of articles in which experts commissioned by Nature had criticized errors, inaccuracies or omissions. The Encyclopaedia now claims that the differing scientific opinions of the experts have always been interpreted to the detriment of the encyclopedia. However, the encyclopedia contributions were also written by experts, which is why at most different expert opinions stand against each other.
In some cases, the reviewers would also have received articles for review that did not come from the main volumes of Encyclopaedia Britannica at all, some of which were shortened by the Nature editors or even subsequently changed. Errors were nevertheless rated at the expense of the encyclopedia.
The encyclopedia makers are asking Nature to recall the paper. Nature itself has since denied this in a response to the statement. After the first criticism of the research method, the science magazine had already published background information about the lexicon comparison test on its website in December. However, the editors of the encyclopedia were not satisfied with this material, according to the authors of the statement. According to them, access to the original unmodified reviewers' comments was requested from Nature, but the British journal refused.
The Encyclopaedia statement only de alt with alleged errors that it was accused of, but not with those of the compared Wikipedia product. Whether the reliability of the free knowledge database was portrayed more negatively than justified due to deficiencies in the conduct of the study - such as those assumed by the Encyclopaedia Britannica - remains unclear.