Two weeks ago I presented the story of our Women in Science and Scottish History editathon at the Wikipedia Science conference in London at the Wellcome Trust*.
This week Surgeon’s Hall unveiled a plaque to commemorate the Edinburgh Seven and the Surgeon’s Hall riot. I am very pleased to be able to draw a direct line from the fun we had on the web at our wikipedia editahon to the fixing of a permanent plaque. it’s nice when the physical and the virtual keep up with each other.
The Wikipedia Science conference was a good place to discuss the contribution of women to the telling of science stories and disseminating research. Peter Murray-Rust described Wikipedia as our greatest achievement in the 21st Century. I reminded the audience that less that 15% of the people who edit Wikipedia are women and we discussed whether or not this was a problem. One delegate suggested that women aren’t interested in facts and another that women have ‘other’ things to do. We wondered how Wikipedia would be different, and Wikipedia science would be different, if more women contributed. We wondered what might be done to find out.
The Edinburgh Seven had a tough time when they tried to break into the male world of university medicine, but they were working within historical, established structures. Surely Wikipedia is designed from the start to be more open, more democratic, more participatory? Wikipedia is only 15 years old. It seems like it is work worth doing to try to recruit more editors and a good place to start would be amongst information professionals and women in tech.
It seems to me that the kinds of initiative we may need to get more women using wikipedia for science, are very much in the same vein as those more generally for women in STEM workplaces. We need women to want to join, and want to stay.
The presentation I gave described the research I am involved in with the Open University to identify the workplace learning outcomes for university staff and students in developing digital skills, information literacy skills and understanding of copyright in an open knowledge environment. The research team have surveyed and interviewed. Interviewees describe rich learning experiences, learning a range of skills and knowledge, for example:
- technical knowledge (how to create a Wikipedia page, how to edit, how to cite other sources etc),
- factual knowledge around the topic (names, dates, locations of historical events),
- relational knowledge (how to interact with archivists and materials, how and where to source information, how to plan work with others),
- socio-cultural knowledge (how to operate within a network of people with a common purpose).
Which all seem like good skills worth investing in. I am particularly interested in how editathons, if run well, can develop not just tech knowledge but also workplace cultural capital and networks. These are the things women need in STEM workplaces.
Watch this space for further research results, and for the next Edinburgh editathon.
The hashtag for the conference was #wikisci . I recommend the conference as a top value for money event. Less than 30 quid for access to the most up to date thinking in wikiscience.