NSPN Wiki Scientists Educate the Public for the 2020 Election During First Edit-a-Thon


Wikipedia, “The Free Encyclopedia,” maintains strict guidelines for its content. Each article must be unbiased and represent a topic of sufficient interest to warrant a full Wikipedia page, and editors must also adhere to these guidelines when they make changes to an existing article.  Although editors can go through formalized training to become Wiki Scientists, the NSPN Wikipedia track came together to help new editors get started and to continue updating Wikipedia with science policy content. “Our Wiki Scientists have worked to improve articles ranging from COVID-19 responses, water policy, nuclear treaties, science policy, and public health,” says Dilara Kiran, one of the Wikipedia track organizers. “Our program is empowering early career scientists to improve open access scientific information available through Wikipedia and allowing them to engage in a non-traditional form of scientific communication. Thousands of people view Wikipedia every day, so this is a relatively simple way for our members to engage with a large audience of non-scientists and have a broad impact.”

Though the program has been running for less than a year, the impact is already impressive. “Since March, our WikiScientists have been hard at work updating and improving content on Wikipedia,” says Daniel Puentes, the other Wikipedia track organizer. “As of today, our edits have been viewed 578,000 times, based off 38 articles that were edited.” 

During our earlier spotlight on the project’s success, Kiran, discussed how much room there was to still grow. Now, after 7 months of prolific contributions, Kiran and Puentes have launched the newest iteration of the program, monthly “Wiki Weekend” edit-a-thons, which kicked off on Oct. 17th. “After our first Wiki Scientist course, several of us wanted to continue our engagement with Wikipedia,” says Kiran. “Our goal was to establish this format as a regular event through NSPN and provide Wikipedia editing tools and strategies to a wider audience. It was also an opportunity to unveil our Wiki Project and begin using it as a jumping off point for future editing sessions.”

Kiran and Puentes see this new format as an easy to recruit and onboard new Wikipedia editors. “The goal of the Edit-a-thon was to provide NSPN members a dedicated time to either learn about Wikipedia or take a shot at editing Wikipedia, with a focus on topics that are directly relevant to the 2020 Election,” says Puentes.  “We recognize that people are busy with everything else going on, so this was meant to be a low-stress, no-pressure level event where people can make a large difference with minimal effort.”

From this edit-a-thon, the participants improved 7 articles with 4,940 words added to articles that have been viewed over 18,000 times.

In addition to these monthly events, the Wikipedia track has grown to include a Science Policy WikiProject. “The Science Policy WikiProject was developed over the course of the last 8 months to establish a science policy community on Wikipedia,” says Puentes. “The WikiProject is open to participation from anyone in Wikipedia interested in science policy. There are currently thirteen active Wikipedia participants in the WikiProject, consisting of a mix of NSPN and non-NSPN members. The WikiProject currently manages and evaluates over 550 science policy-related Wikipedia articles, expanding its reach to other articles in the space.”

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The Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon will return on December 5, 2020. For more information about the NSPN’s Wikipedia Track, contact Dilara Kiran (also Chair of the Graduate Education Committee) and Daniel Puentes (also Co-Chair of the Central Hub).

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