Writing for Physiopedia contributes to our profession and your professional development

This morning I was alerted to a post on The Impact Blog that highlighted the scholarly benefits of writing for Wikipedia (thanks @AJonesone!).  In it the author, Martin Poulter, discusses how writing for Wikipedia has forced him into good scholarly habits and accessible writing. Reading the article I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride for all that our community has achieved in Physiopedia.  Everything said in this article echoes the outcomes that we have seen in Physiopedia, albeit on a smaller but more professionally specific scale.

With nearly 2000 articles and reaching around half a million readers from over 200 countries a month it is likely that Physiopedia is the largest physiotherapy/physical therapy specific website in the world.  This free and openly accessible knowledge resource has been built by our professional community, by physiotherapists and physical therapists from all over the world.  Many contribute independently as part of their own self directed personal learning others take part in one of the many projects that play a big part of the overall Physiopedia project.

Academic educational projects have been running in Physiopedia since 2009.  Students, under the guidance of their tutors, contribute content and are assessed on their work through assignments that they are tasked with as part of their education.   Feedback from these projects consistently demonstrates great student satisfaction as a result of contributing to a public resource where their work will be seen by others instead of filed away to gather dust with all their other assignments.  These projects also often demonstrate a higher level of achievement when compared to the previous year’s paper based assignment, such is the power of being accountable to a global audience!

Our volunteer program adds an element of guidance to personal learning and professional development.  Having completed the orientation process volunteers are given a role that is specifically suited to their interests and experience which guides the contributions that they make to the site.  This is an excellent continuing education opportunity which is appraised, evidenced with certification, rewarded with ‘badges‘ and can be recorded in continuing professional development (CPD) or continuing education (CE) portfolios.

More recently professional organisations, such as the Physiotherapy Pain Association (a subgroup of the CSP), have been creating projects encouraging their members to update and create content in certain areas of Physiopedia specific to the groups clinical interests. These projects introduce a peer review process, assessment and certification to prove CPD and CE on completion.

All these approaches to contribution have common elements that are key skills for the modern day health care professional.  The common elements of contributing to Physiopedia or Wikipedia, aside from the learning that takes place as a result of researching the topic that is being contributed to, are consistently reported:

  • improved digital skills
  • encouraging professional behaviour online
  • teaching good scholarly habits and academic writing skills
  • promoting critiquing skills

In the same way that Wikipedia has poor quality articles, so does Physiopedia.  But as, Martin Poulter argues, “we should regard it as a great opportunity. Researchers and educators should get involved in improving the site both for its educational value and to promote their areas of study to a truly global audience”.  I would argue that all physiotherapists and physical therapists should get involved in contributing to Physiopedia.  Why Physiopedia and not Wikipedia? It’s true that contributing to either will benefit your own (and others) education and professional development, however by building Physiopedia we are creating a focused knowledge resource that can also be used to advocate for our profession.  So join us in building one big free and open resource for our profession!

If you’d like to find out more about tingget involved as an educator, volunteer or professional organisation please contact [email protected]