Critical issues presentations/Universities embrace Wikipedia

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Submission no. 206
Title of the submission

Universities embrace Wikipedia

Author of the submission
  • Marek Blahuš
Country of origin

Czech Republic


Outreach, Projects

  • universities
  • Wikipedian in Residence
  • education
  • GLAM

This presentation invites Wikimedians across the world to replicate what has been achieved at Masaryk University and create a worldwide network of universities that have embraced Wikipedia – i.e. openly declare their favor for the encyclopedia, encourage students, faculty and staff to get involved in it, and foster the feeling of self-identification with the project and co-responsibility for its content throughout the institution.

Universities, and particularly those which have been around for a considerable time and have helped form the character of a city or a nation, are a strange kind of beast from the Wikimedia point of view. They do not only fall into the scope of the Wikipedia Education Program (with teachers, students, scientists and ambassadors all working together on contributing academic knowledge). They frequently resemble GLAM institutions as well – in that they usually encompass numerous encyclopedically notable topics in their own structures (such as departments, buildings, researchers, alumni, works of art, journals, projects, schools of thought) and possess the resources useful for documenting them (university's own archives and libraries host unique documents and photography and the traditionally dense network of contacts in the academia gives high chances of acquiring additional materials upon request). Well-established universities also share a good part of history with their home cities and local populations, so that their participation in the general Wikimedia movement benefits also the local community. And universities are also usually much more likely to become our movement partners due to the above-average understanding of open access already present in the scientific community and the higher degree of autonomy exercised by universities in contrast to other governmental institutions. At last but not at least, many Wikimedians are affiliated with a university and this can sometimes open doors.

Masaryk University, Czech Republic's second largest university based in Brno, has been employing a Wikipedian in Residence since February 2015 and established a formal partnership with Wikimedia Czech Republic in November 2015. The collaboration between the university and Wikimedia has since been growing in all directions, making Masaryk University one of the very first "wiki universities" in the world. The university has given a budget to a group of local Wikipedians to improve articles about its history and notable alumni, putting relevant resources from its archives and libraries at their disposal for the purpose. Legal consultations with the university's lawyers have helped free thousands of images documenting the university's past and present, as well as turn its monthly newspaper into a mostly open-licensed periodical and direct virtually all of the university's press communication on the path of free licenses. Famous researchers come and give talks in support of Wikipedia. Teachers and students (including "third-age senior citizens") discover innovative methods of contributing to Wikipedia (writing, translating, analyzing, programming...) within the curriculum (classes, theses, community service...). A Wikipedia club meets regularly to aid in person to anyone from the community in need of help and serves like an edit-a-thon when no questions are around. Students' theses are accessible in an on-line archive, with ready-made Wikipedia citation templates available to source claims in articles. Wikipedia is being presented to the public as part of the university's self-dedications and such it often gets attention of the media.

This presentation is an open call for Wikimedians to establish similar broad partnerships with universities in their countries, using the presented successes and pitfalls of the Masaryk University project as aid in the process. An international network of "wiki universities" would greatly contribute to the reputation of the Wikimedia movement in society and help Wikipedia further fulfill its role as a driver for change.


Accepted as reserve