Contributing to Opasnet

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TODO: {{#todo:Lukekaa tämä sivu. Se on toivottavasti hyödyllinen. Please read this page. It is hopfully useful|Minttu, Julia Rintala, Matleena Tuomisto, Iiro Nevalainen, Kimmo Jaakkola, Pauli Ordén, Joona, Aino, Tiinu, Tuukka Hämynen, Imon Rahman|Opasnet}}

We are trying to develop Opasnet into a major website informing decision-making in the society. You can participate in several different ways to help us reach the goal. Join us! This pages gives hints and practical guidance about the most common things newcomers should know when they participate in a project.


How can people contribute to Opasnet? What are the most common things that a newcomer should know when participating in a project? Especially, what are things that are not obvious simply by looking at existing pages and mimicing what others have done?


Object type

When you create a new page, the first question is about page type (we also call it object type as pages are often called objects). Each object type is used for a specific purpose. Most pages are variables, but if you are uncertain about the type, you can make it an encyclopedia page. On the other hand, type can easily be changed, so don't worry too much about the choice. Different types are described in detail on the page Universal object.

The object type is defined on the top of a page by adding a template that contains the name of the object type in double braces, such as {{variable}}.

  • Assessment is a project that aims to answer some practical information needs of a particular decision-making situation. It typically has a deadline and a responsible assessor who organises the work to get it done.
  • Variables describe reality by answering questions typically like "How much is X?", "What is the list of things fulfilling X?", or "How good is X?". Variables are building blocks of assessments, but they can be used in several assessments. Therefore their development does not end even if one assessment ends.
  • Methods describe how to do things in assessments, in Opasnet, or somewhere else. For example, this page is a method.
  • Encyclopedia articles are general descriptions about a topic. They do not attempt to answer a specific research question. They can have a free page structure (unlike other pages that should have the same basic structure question-answer-rationale).
  • There are also other page types that are more rarely needed. Two are mentioned here. A study describes a research study and its results. A lecture contains a piece of information that is written specifically to a defined audience and with a defined learning objective.

Moderator and his/her tasks

Each page should have a moderator. If you create a new page, the default is that you will be the moderator of the page. Moderator's task is to keep eye on the page from time to time to see that it is not attacked by vandalism or some other disruptive editing. Moderating does not bring any legal requirements or responsibility to you. On the other hand, you have no power over other contributors of the page. For example, if you want something to removed but the other contributor disagrees, you cannot use your role as the moderator to force things; you must discuss things through just like everyone.

The moderator is defined within the object type template. For example:


It is a good idea to watch all pages you moderate. Then, they will show on your watchlist and you can see all edits to all your pages at once. You can start watching a page and go to your watchlist by using the buttons on the top of each page.

If you permanently stop watching the pages you have been moderating, you should discuss with someone who could start moderating the pages.

Research question

All pages (except encyclopedia articles) have a specific research question they attempt to answer. It is important to stop for a while to think of a good research question, because everything else on the page simply tries to answer that question convincingly. Consider these things when developing a question:

  • The question is clear and unambiguous. For example, with the question "What are health effects of lead?" it is not clear whether the question is about a complete list of different endpoints caused by lead, the number of people with a disease caused by lead, or the risk of a disease after a certain lead exposure.
  • You can imagine a clear answer to the question. This is also called as the clairvoyant test.
  • Boundaries should be mentioned unless they are obvious. A wider interpretation is taken unless otherwise mentioned. The previous example about lead is apparently about humans so there is no need to mention it (if it is about some other species, that should be mentioned). However, if we are interested in children and not any humans, that should be mentioned. Also, geographical boundaries should be defined, e.g. "What is the number of children with lower intelligence quotient due to lead exposure in Finland?" Questions are about current situation and/or time trends unless otherwise specified.
  • Preferably, the answer is quantitative, i.e. it can be expressed by numbers. Another typical form of an answer is an exhaustive list of things fulfilling the conditions described in the question. On the other hand, many answers cannot be numbers or lists, like the one on this page.
  • Try to get the question approximately right from the beginning. You are allowed to change the question of a page, but typically one page is connected to several others, and these connections are easily broken, if the questions change. It is quite a task to fix the pages back into a coherent whole.

Basic structure: question, answer, rationale

The objective of each page (except encyclopedia articles) is nothing more and nothing less than to answer the question of the page. (The question is sometimes called scope, but that is essentially the same thing.)

It is therefore quite obvious that each page also has a part where the answer is found. This part comes typically after the question and is called either Answer or Result, whichever is more clear in the situation. The answer should be quite short and contain just enough explanation so that the answer can be understood without reading other parts. Preferably, a data table is used to summarise the answer.

Everything that is needed to convince a reader about the answer should not go under Answer but under a third sub-heading, namely Rationale (or Definition, as that name was previously used). Notice that Rationale may be the longest part of the page, but still it is only serving the Answer.

There are also other subheadings that are routinely used on each page. There may be a summary text about the main points of the page (possibly in a summary box) before the actual question. See also contains links to pages within Opasnet or elsewhere; they are related topics or somehow useful for a reader. Keywords are used to help search engines to find the page. References may contain manually added references, but we recommend the use of <ref> tags (see below). Related files may contain reports or other files that have been uploaded to Opasnet File system and are relevant for the topic. The use of these subheadings is recommended on every page, even if there is nothing under them. It will guide new contributors to provide right kind of information.

Using text from other sources

Opasnet has the same copyright as Wikipedia, IEHIAS and some other info sources. You can freely copy text from these sources as long as you properly cite where you got the text from. However, this is usually not the case: only rarely you can directly copy text or images, but you must use your own words to describe the information. So, be careful about copyrights, or your texts may be removed.

References and citing

Always remember to cite your info source, because many people want to see the original content before they believe what you say. Within Opasnet, you can and should simply use internal links, e.g. [[Main Page]]. However, internal links also work to Wikipedia this way: [[:en:Main Page]]. the ":en:" in front tells that the page is in English Wikipedia, not in Opasnet. Links to Wikipedias with other languages work as well: :fi: for Finnish, :de: for German etc. These are the same abbreviations that are used between Wikipedias.

References follow Vancouver style, which is approximately this format:

Scientific and other articles
Authorlastname Firstname, Author2lastname Firstname: Name of the publication. Journal (Year) Issue: Volume: Pagenumbers.
Reports and books
Authorlastname Firstname, Author2lastname Firstname: Name of the publication (page numbers if relevant). Publisher, City, Year.

You should put external links within <ref> tags, so that they automatically appear in the reference list. All links within a ref tag work normally. If one reference appears on a page several times, you should give it a name. Then, they are automatically merged in the reference list. A name is given this way: <ref name="reportname">Author A. A., Writer B. B. Report on an interesting topic. Report Publisher, London, 1999.</ref>

Dependencies between pages

Under the Rationale (or Definition) heading, there may be a sub-heading called Dependencies (which used to be called Causality). Links under this sub-heading go to pages that affect this page. To be precise, the Answer of this page is dependent on the Answer of the other page, and if the latter changes, the former will change also. In addition to the link, the Dependencies should explain, how the result actually changes. In many cases, a thorough explanation may require complex quantitative modelling which is not described here. However, also a rough explanation is usually very helpful, e.g. ("If the Price of oil goes up, the answer of this page will go down.") Even a plain link is often very useful, as it points readers' attention to a new dependency, which might otherwise have been unnoticed.

Data tables as the answer in a nutshell

Data table is a table whose result goes automatically into a database, from where it can be downloaded for modelling and analysis. We hope that more and more Answers pages will be written down as data tables so that they can be easily used by computers. Of course, this requires some learning from the humans who contribute to Opasnet.

A data table is a two-dimensional table which has two kinds of columns: explanations that explain or classify the result by e.g. country, age group, sex, type etc.; and observations that contain the actual answers to the research question. For more detail about the concept, see Opasnet base structure. For technical instructions to use the data table, see Table2Base. Note that one page may only contain a single data table.

All pages under the Dependencies sub-heading potentially affect the structure of the data table and the explanation columns used. Therefore, it is important to check the structure of the Answer in these pages to make sure that they are coherent with your page. If they are not, rethink your page and/or start a discussion with those who are writing those pages you are dependent on.


Based on experience about what things easily cause trouble.

See also


Opasnet, open assessment, collaborative work, mass collaboration, web-workspace


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