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 ( http://www.britannica.com ), 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
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 http://www.britannica.com .
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.