Britannica Rips Nature Magazine on Accuracy Study

Encyclopedia Publisher Says Journal's Research was Invalid,

Demands Retraction

Mar 24, 2006, 00:00 ET from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.

    CHICAGO, March 24 /PRNewswire/ -- Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. said
 today that a recent study on the accuracy of online encyclopedias by the
 science journal Nature was "so error-laden that it was completely without
 merit" and called on the journal to retract the study.
     Published in Nature's December 15, 2005, issue, the study claimed to have
 found that the science coverage in the Encyclopaedia Britannica was only
 slightly more accurate than that in Wikipedia.  But in a 7,000-word,
 article-by-article analysis of the Nature study posted today on the company's
 Web site ( ), Britannica said that "almost
 everything about the journal's investigation ... was wrong and misleading."
     Britannica's analysis took six weeks to complete and involved, in addition
 to its editorial staff, many of its outside advisers and contributors.
     The company said it found in Nature's work "flagrant errors so numerous
 they completely invalidated the results."  The editors of Nature rearranged
 and reedited Britannica articles before sending them out to reviewers, said
 Britannica.  Nature claimed to have found dozens of inaccuracies in the
 Encyclopaedia Britannica that didn't exist and reviewed texts that were not
 from the encyclopedia, according to Britannica.
     Britannica also said it was rebuffed in its repeated attempts to obtain
 from Nature the original data on which the study's conclusions were based.
     "This study has been cited all over the world, and it's invalid," said
 Dale Hoiberg, Britannica's editor-in-chief.
     "We have never claimed that Britannica is error-free," he added, "but
 Nature attributed to us dozens of inaccuracies that simply were not
 inaccuracies at all.  We practice strong scholarship, reasoned judgment, and
 continuous editorial review, and we publish a reliable, high-quality
 encyclopedia.  By its flawed analysis and false accusations, Nature did us a
 great disservice."
     The errors by Nature cited in Britannica's analysis included:
     --  Rearranging, reediting, and excerpting Britannica articles.  Several
         of the "articles" Nature sent its outside reviewers were only sections
         of or excerpts from Britannica entries.  Some were cut and pasted
         together from more than one Britannica article.
     --  Failing to check facts.  Nature falsely attributed inaccuracies to
         Britannica based on statements from reviewers that were themselves
         inaccurate and which Nature's editors failed to verify.
     --  Misrepresenting its findings.  Even according to Nature's own figures,
         which grossly exaggerated the number of inaccuracies in Britannica,
         Wikipedia had a third more inaccuracies than Britannica, yet the
         headline of Nature's report misleadingly implied otherwise.
     Taken together, Britannica said, these and many other errors by Nature
 invalidated the results of the study.
     "The thing for Nature to do now is to issue a full, public retraction of
 the study and the article in which it was reported," said Hoiberg.  "They
 should do it immediately and correct the misleading impression they've
     Britannica's full report is available at .
     About Encyclopaedia Britannica
     Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. has been a leader in reference and
 education publishing since 1768.  The company is known for the 32-volume
 Encyclopaedia Britannica and its pioneering work in electronic publishing.
 Its products include Britannica Online School Edition and other digital
 products; and printed products such as the new Britannica Discovery Library.
 Britannica's editorial operation is overseen by some of the world's most
 distinguished scholars, several of them Nobel laureates.  Britannica makes its
 headquarters in Chicago.

SOURCE Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.