Wikipedia Call to Action (or Not)

Wikipedia Call to Action (or Not)

I don’t know whether Wikipedia is the way of the future, especially in the academic and public policy worlds (hence the tentativeness), but Peter Lattman’s post last week about the evolution of Ken Lay’s entry after his death (very incidentally) got me checking how international law fares in the collective effort. Not very well, it turns out. Although most major subjects have entries, many are “stubs” and most could use some work. Among them: customary international law, pacta sunt servanda, Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, and the entry for the International Law Commission. And, yes, opinio juris. Institutional entries, such as for the WTO, have fared better (but see all the UN-related stubs listed here), as have U.S. constitutional judicial decisions. From a quick glance, some others seem to be in better shape (universal jurisdiction, for example).

As for international legal scholars, Wikipedia’s distortion in favor of the contemporary is well in evidence – Harold Koh and Anne-Marie Slaughter have full entries, where their equivalents in the last generation, including Tom Franck, Abe Chayes, Myres McDougal, and Louis Sohn get little or none. The current Legal Adviser, John Bellinger, has an entry, where such predecessors as Chayes, Monroe Leigh, and Green Hackworth are absent.

So if you have some free time, doing a little adding and editing here or there might amount to a kind of community service (or not!). Although there’s no authorial crediting, if you have a line to push, there may be a first-mover advantage (for what it’s worth). In any case, it’s probably more productive than some of the things most of us do some of the time.

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