Critical issues presentations/Mind the Gaps: ‘Year of Science’ as a model for expert engagement on Wikipedia

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Submission no. 115
Title of the submission

Mind the Gaps: ‘Year of Science’ as a model for expert engagement on Wikipedia

Author of the submission
  • John Tracey
  • Greg Boustead
Country of origin

United States of America; United States of America


Outreach, Projects

  • expert engagement
  • science communication
  • open education
  • gender disparity

The Simons Foundation proposes an approximately 18-minute presentation on the 2016 Wikipedia Year of Science. This is an unprecedented initiative designed to improve Wikipedia’s potential for communicating science to the public. The multi-faceted effort is a program conceived and run by the Wiki Education Foundation (Wiki Ed), with support from the Simons Foundation.

The presentation will include: (1) data on impact; (2) explanations of how this program is filling critical content gaps on Wikipedia; and (3) ways the community can get involved and build upon the effort.

By connecting higher education classrooms to the publishing power of Wikipedia, the project aims to help researchers and science students develop better science communication skills. In the process, they make meaningful, lasting contributions that expand the public’s understanding of science.

The Year of Science will deliver well-sourced articles on important scientific topics to Wikipedia, written by students studying the topic and overseen by faculty members, while engaging expert communities and raising the overall awareness of Wikipedia as a valuable source for accurate scientific content.

The initiative has four essential components:

● Wikipedia in the classroom: Building on a proven model in which students write Wikipedia articles as part of their coursework, the project will support hundreds of instructors to use Wikipedia as a tool for science education and communication. Throughout 2016, using curriculum tools developed by Wiki Ed, thousands of college and university students will create and revise Wikipedia articles. For instance, instead of assigning term papers or other assignments bound to the class, instructors will ‘assign' Wikipedia entries in order to increase the accuracy of scientific information and fill content gaps on Wikipedia.

● Women in Science: Through these assignments, the project will also focus on courses that will improve Wikipedia’s biographies of women scientists. Students in many fields will create new Wikipedia articles to increase the understanding of women’s contributions to science.

● Expert engagement: Additionally, throughout the year, the Year of Science

will facilitate expert community participation. The focus will be on connecting with academic societies via Year of Science ‘edit-a-thons' and other live events at major science conferences throughout 2016. These events will teach conference attendees the basics of wiki editing and recruit ongoing participation for the classroom model discussed above.

● Media campaign: The Year in Science will include a media campaign promoting the importance and awareness of the project. A key feature of this campaign is a new digital tool (built by Wiki Ed developers) that allows anyone to quickly share a ‘playlist’ of Wikipedia entries via social media or other online outlets. These playlists can be used to broadcast one’s favorite Wikipedia science pages, or to quickly flag content gaps on Wikipedia for attention from the Year of Science community.

The presentation will briefly cover each of these focus areas, including in-progress impact measures from active coursework and related Year of Science editing events at major scientific conferences throughout the year.

While the initial phases of this initiative involved significant resources, we hope to convey the scalability and cost-effective potential of these projects for a wide range of stakeholders. Our intention is to present ways to ensure substantive, long-lasting impact through the components outlined above.

Although educators, science enthusiasts, and open education proponents may find this presentation of particular interest, we are confident that the broader Wikipedia community will find relevance and value in the various Year of Science efforts.

Note: A senior staff member from the Simons Foundation will be on-site to present at Wikimania 2016, with the final contents of the presentation approved by both organizations.


Not accepted