Wikipedia editors are always searching for reliable sources. Unfortunately, that quest often leads to dead ends: out-of-print news articles, paywalled magazines, or books and journals locked in a company’s database.
We’re happy to announce that the process just got a little easier with the donation of 1000 full-access, one-year accounts from HighBeam Research to active Wikipedia editors. HighBeam is an online search engine that archives tens of millions of newspaper, magazine, and journal articles dating back over a quarter century, from outlets like The Economist, The Washington Post, The Independent, The Chicago Sun-Times, and 6500 others. A regular one-year subscription would cost more than $200.
The collaboration was initiated by English Wikipedia editor User:Ocaasi after he signed up for a seven-day HighBeam trial to research a prominent natural health practitioner.
“I didn’t want to be doing incomplete research when the trial ran out,” said Ocaasi. “I wondered if they would give me a free account. And if I was going to ask for me, maybe I should ask for others.”
HighBeam liked the idea and agreed to offer the accounts the day of their first conference call. They left the application process up to the discretion of the community; the only criteria for an account are a one-year history on any of the Wikimedia projects and a minimum of 1000 edits. To date, more than 450 Wikipedia editors have signed up.
Applicants include a number of highly active Wikipedia editors, many with tens of thousands of contributions. In their applications, editors listed a variety of ways in which a HighBeam account would help them better contribute to the free encyclopedia.
User:Orlady has been an editor on English Wikipedia since 2004 and an administrator since 2009, and she has more than 60,000 edits under her belt.”Most of my work is in creation and improvement of content in a diverse variety of topical areas…roughly corresponding to the period covered by HighBeam archives,” she wrote in her application. “I have found archived articles from newspapers and magazines published in the last two centuries to be valuable resources for research, particularly in the subject areas of history, politics, biography, and business.”
Sarah Stierch (User:SarahStierch), Community Fellow with the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikipedian in Residence at the Smithsonian Institution, is an active contributor to articles on feminism, visual arts, and women’s history. “I often run into HighBeam articles, especially about women artists,” she wrote, “and I’d love to help improve coverage about those artists and other women with HighBeam.”
User:GorillaWarfare, an editor on English Wikipedia with approximately 20,000 edits over the course of 2 years, wrote in her application, “I do a lot of maintenance work, but I find paid databases to be extremely useful when I do content work. I don’t have access to HighBeam through my uni[versity], so [an account] would be quite nice!”
Donating the HighBeam accounts was “definitely an easy decision, especially when you think about how the products do complement each other,” said HighBeam Vice President Joe Miller, who feels that both HighBeam and Wikipedia aspire to be reliable, trustworthy tools for conducting research better and faster.
“Although HighBeam’s business model is primarily based on selling premium subscriptions,” said Miller, “in this situation, I felt it would be a much bigger win long-term to endear HighBeam to arguably the world’s most influential organization of editors while building goodwill throughout the Wikipedia community, than to cash in on a handful of subscriptions that editors may have purchased later on their own.”
HighBeam has expressed an interest in continuing the collaboration in future years, giving out the remaining 550 accounts and possibly more if demand keeps up.
This is not the first time a company has donated access to its services. In 2010 and 2011, Credo Reference gave 400 free accounts to Wikipedia editors, and a project is currently underway to gain access to JSTOR‘s database of academic journals.
The free accounts have been promoted on community forums including Jimmy Wales’s talk page, the Village Pump, Featured Articles, Good Articles, Did You Know, and The Signpost. Several non-English Wikipedias were also informed, leading to signups from German, Italian, and Hebrew Wikipedia editors.
Active editors who meet the criteria are encouraged to sign up for a free HighBeam account.
Special thanks to Ocaasi for this report and for facilitating the collaboration.
Matthew Roth, Global Communications Manager