Project Details Updating Wikipedia: Synchronizing Polymer Definitions and Terminology

Project No.:
Start Date:
01 January 2012
End Date:
01 August 2015
Division Name:


Wikipedia has become a de facto tool for learning information about many technical fields. Yet no effort to date has been made to bring polymer terminology published there in accordance with IUPAC recommendations, and many terms defined by IUPAC are even missing. The project will involve identifying and assessing polymer terminology in Wikipedia, updating and correcting terminology as needed and linking it to IUPAC resources such as the Gold Book or other resources through prominent links.

A goal of this project will also be to establish best practices for: 1) long term assessment of Wikipedia and 2) best methods to provide new information and corrections to Wikipedia in close cooperation with active chemistry groups in Wikipedia.

There is not an active polymer chemistry group within Wikipedia, so this topic is poorly served at present, a situation that should be changed. In particular in a time where Wikipedia is looking for more authors and supporters, the chances for a fruitful cooperation that improves the impact of IUPAC documents are growing.


The project entails the incorporation into Wikipedia of IUPAC approved terminology related to polymer chemistry. This is a very timely project because of the growing importance of sources like Wikipedia in everyday use as a replacement for glossaries, reference books and dictionaries. The update will include linkage to IUPAC source material, and addition of a list of approved Wikipedia terms to the Polymer Education website. Finally, this project will develop best practices for the Polymer Division (and other divisions by example).

We plan on first assessing Wikipedia and identifying terminology found in the Div. IV publications that has been independently added to Wikipedia. Starting with the most important recommendations, e.g. The Glossary of Basic Terms in Polymer Science, PAC 68(12)(1996) 2287-2311, The Glossary of Terms Related to Kinetics, Thermodynamics and Mechanisms of Polymerization, PAC 80(10)(2008) 2163-2193 or Terminology for Reversible-Deactivation Radical Polymerization Previously Called “Controlled” or “Living” Radical Polymerization, PAC 82(2)(2010) 483-491 and determine how we can link them to the Gold or Purple book or other recent recommendations of Division IV. This implies several hundred terms to be checked.

Once this is established, we will prepare a report describing our best strategies for a Wikipedia update to be published in PAC, make the changes to Wikipedia and update the polymer education website with links to the appropriate Wikipedia page. Wikipedia also raises the interesting question of graphics and even videos. We will work to establish recommendations for such new media as both material for addition to Wikipedia and for IUPAC in general to consider as part of its own website(s).
Languages other than English will be considered but it appears to be too early to incorporate these in this first approach to the problem. There is an already existing Division IV project on a Multilingual Glossary (2007-008-1-400 dos Santos) that might be suited for cooperation at a later stage of progress.


Feb 2014 update – The TG has streamed line to following three cases:

a) there is a definition in Wikipedia and in IUPAC

b) there is a definition only in IUPAC

c) there is a definition only in Wikipedia

Case a) – Wikipedia is already a major source of information on many topics, and our goal is to enhance the quality of existing articles rather than simply to impose a IUPAC viewpoint. To that end, the TG first consults the Wikipedia chemistry community and then introduce a text box in the corresponding Wikipedia pages that just contains the original text of the IUPAC definition, clearly labelled, with a link to the relevant publication in Pure and Applied Chemistry. The IUPAC-labelled text of the definition supplements the Wikipedia text, and so that the reader can quickly find the information required.

A few examples include: biomaterial, copolymer, dispersion, elastomer, gel, macrocycle, nanoparticle, opsonin, plastic, polymerization, suspension, tacticity, and vesicle.

Case b) – When there is no Wikipedia entry, then the TG starts to provide a new entry based on the IUPAC definition using the same text box as above. Since Wikipedia articles require more than just the pure, formal definition, a more detailed explanation, often including historical background, has to be provided. This must be written at several levels, to satisfy the demands of the wide spectrum of readers from high-school students to journalists, patent lawyers, to experienced scientists.

Case c) – In cases where there is a Wikipedia article with no relevant IUPAC definitions, the TG shall consider developing suitable IUPAC documents or writing an extension (supplement) to existing documents during the next revision. In any case, such a situation gives the opportunity to react to the evolution of science and fill gaps in a timely manner.

At present the TG has a list of more than 200 terms to be checked, and so far has placed 21 definition boxes and 3 new entries. The plan is to continue working through these and, where appropriate, add links to the IUPAC Polymer Education website and to the IUPAC Brief Guide to Polymer Nomenclature. (

See update report in Chem Int March-April 2014 issue;

Last update 27 March 2014