Good afternoon, thanks for inviting me along today.
My name is Ewan McAndrew and I have been working at the University of Edinburgh for just over two years now in this rather strange sounding role of Wikimedian in Residence.
My background is in English and Media teaching where I worked closely with school librarian colleagues and I’ve recently finished my Information Management MSc so libraries, literacy and learning is kind of my thing.
But I struggled to think what I could tell you in my ten minute section here today.
The reason being that there is a huge discussion right now. It needs to be. I’ll not dwell on the whole Facebook and Cambridge Analytica issue because that’s not what I’m here to speak to you about today but it does speak to a larger issue on what value we place on information literacy and media literacy, what value we place on the transparency of knowledge sharing, what value we place on our students, our staff and members of the public being conversant with the digital intermediaries that govern our daily lives. Because I take the view that there is a huge & pivotal role for libraries to play in this discussion.
”This challenge is not just for school librarians to prepare the next generation to be informed but for all librarians to assist the whole population.” (Abram, 2016)
So what can I tell you about the residency to date?
I can tell you that it started, and has continued, with information literacy and digital skills at its heart. Our IT director, Melissa Highton, was asked at the time what strategies could be employed to help better meet the information literacy and digital skills needs of our staff and students at the university, and how could we better meet our commitment to share the knowledge we share with the world?
The residency also started with libraries.
Or 1 library in fact. Because we borrowed Ally Crockford, the first Wikimedian in Residence in Scotland, from the National Library of Scotland to help run our first editathon way back in February 2015 focused on Women in Science and Scottish History missing from Wikipedia; and the Edinburgh Seven in particular, the first women ever to matriculate at a British university. Sara Thomas, here today, was also at that event.
An editathon for those who don’t know, is just a Wikipedia editing event with a particular focus on a subject area to help create & improve certain Wikipedia pages. It can be done as in-person event with online resources, physical resources, t-shirts, stickers, cupcakes. But it can also be done as remote online event or can be done as translate-a-thon, image-a-thon, infobox-a-thon or more.
Professor Allison Littlejohn came along to the event and what she discovered was that there was genuine formal and informal learning going on at these events and her research paper has just been published with others to follow.
So there was real merit in universities engaging with Wikipedia editing to surface the knowledge they were creating & curating because of these shared missions. This made the business case once we aligned it with our information literacy and digital skills strategy.
So that’s where I sit in that middle area between Wikimedia and the University of Edinburgh and I’m supported on both sides by people passionate about Open Knowledge.
Since then we have never looked back. While academia and Wikipedia have something of a chequered history, as soon as we started discussing the university taking an informed approach to Wikipedia and knowledge sharing, we found we had a lot to talk about.
And that’s what Wikipedia is about – making connections, wiki-linking from one subject to another, disappearing down the rabbit hole of knowledge. And that’s what the residency has been about, delivering workshops and creating resources which allow colleagues across the whole university to see the connections between their work and the work of the Wikimedia projects. As such we have now created a network of Open Knowledge nodes. We find that when we work with a colleague in one discipline this can often lead to other colleagues being brought in and other disciplines. So far we have worked across all three teaching colleges with an ever-increasing number of disciplines.
Of the in-curriculum work we have done in Reproductive Biology, World Christianity, Translation Studies (case studies) – all of these courses have been repeated year-on-year because of the positive reactions of staff and students (compilation video of staff & student feedback). And we’re adding to these with workshops in Digital Sociology MSc, Global Health MSc, Data Science for Design MSc (adding the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database and 3,219 accused witches to Wikidata) and we’re now discussing which year group we should work with in the Law school because practising research skills and the ability to communicate laws in an accessible way is absolutely something we as a university should be looking to do, and help our students to do.
So we need to talk about Wikipedia and how we engage with it.
Not many people know, for instance, that Wikipedia has a strict conflict of interest policy – you shouldn’t write about anything where you are too close to be impartial. That’s why it was so good to see Glasgow Caledonian University Library recently create the Wikipedia page for Shetland Library.
Libraries should support one another.
Paying it forward for the common good is what Wikipedia is all about.
For instance, a University of Edinburgh Reproductive Biology student, Aine Kavanagh (fantastic video interview with her – well worth watching), scrupulously researched an article on one of the most serious and most deadly forms of ovarian cancer, high grade serous carcinoma, and it has now been viewed over 28,000 times since September 2016, addressing a serious knowledge gap with scholarly research articles. She benefited from the practice academically and she enjoyed doing it personally. Because her scholarship lasted beyond the assignment and did something for the common good. Lots of the students see that as the main benefit of engaging with Wikipedia and are enthusiastic to help because of this.
Now, for the first time, Wikimedia UK is able to produce a booklet of case studies of the Wikipedia in the Classroom work being undertaken in the United Kingdom; which should be available soon and include mention of (among other coursework):
Mia Spiro taking students from her Jewish Studies class at the University of Glasgow to do some research at the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre. Afterwards they were able to create the article on the Garnethill Synagogue and illustrate the page with some pictures from their walking tour of the area.
Telling the story of rural England: Students on the Applied Human Geography course at the University of Portsmouth are tasked with writing articles about a village not currently represented on Wikipedia. So far Scotland has not been touched by their efforts so there is gap there if anyone wants to get their students writing about Scottish towns and villages.
The 21st century skills that a collaboration between the University of Edinburgh and Wikimedia UK help develop include:
A critical Information Literacy
Academic writing & referencing
Writing for different audiences.
Community building / Online citizenship
“Students have said that simply knowing that an audience of editors existed was enough to change how they wrote. They chose words more carefully. They double-checked their work for accuracy and reliability. And they began to think about how best they could communicate their scholarship to readers who were as curious, conscientious, and committed as they were.” https://wikiedu.org/blog/2014/10/14/wikipedia-student-writing/
Wikipedia is not the end point of research. It is where you orientate yourself at the start.
Wikipedia does not want you to cite it either.
It is an encyclopaedia, a tertiary source made of articles which in turn cite from reliable published secondary sources. If you cite anything it should be these references that Wikipedia not Wikipedia itself.
The point is that everything on Wikipedia is out in the open, completely, ruthlessly transparent where every change is recorded in permanent links in the View History of the page so every edit can checked, challenged and corrected if need be.
Whether it is a news article, journal article or Wikipedia article – we should be evaluating what we read and deciding if the information is credible.
School and HEI libraries can help lead the way on this by providing students, staff & members of the public with guidance on taking an informed approach to using Wikipedia and other databases as our Academic Support Librarians do and by sharing the high-quality research and image collections you have in your repositories for the common good.
You have the artefacts and the expertise. Wikipedia has the online audience.
Why is this important?
Well because knowledge builds understanding and there is precious little of that in the world right now. And because search is the way we live now.
Google processed 91% of searches internationally and 97.4% of searches from mobile devices. (2011 figures in Hillis, Petit and Jarret, 2013).
Google has a “funnelling effect” – The sources clicked on are reduced to the 1st page of results 90% of the time. (Beel & Gipp, 2009)
With 42% click through on first choice alone.
So because Wikipedia pages are given a high ranking by Google’s algorithm, there is real agency to Wikipedia editing which our editors find inspiring that they can be a knowledge activist.
And it’s never been easier to contribute because of the Visual Editor – particularly citations which autogenerate (video) from a url, stable DOI codes, Pubmed IDs or ISBN numbers – and it’s never been harder to vandalise because of the increased checks & balances put in place by the Wikipedia community.
We also need to talk about the little fun things you can do to contribute open knowledge.
Contributing to Wikipedia doesn’t have to involve a heavy time component. You can use your phone to upload a pic on the Wikimedia Commons Android App in seconds. You can create timelines, you can nominate pages to be included on Wikipedia’s front page in the In the News section, Did You Know section or On this Day sections as we did when we nominated noted sociologist Mary Susan McIntosh to the front page (from not having a page about her at all – she suddenly had 7000 views in 1 day!)
Internet Archive’s – Fix Dead Links tool. (this has rescued over 2.7 million+ dead links on Wikipedia).
We need to talk about gaps in representation (English Wikipedia is by largest Wikipedia with 5.5. million articles but it has been estimated that it should have 104 million articles plus if it was coming anywhere close to representing the sum of all knowledge) and how incredibly motivating that has been for editors during the residency in helping to address these gaps. And we need to talk about the uneven spread of knowledge between different language Wikipedias and about how Wikipedia’s new Content Translation tool helps proficient bilingual and multilingual students share knowledge easily between languages.
Students on the Translation Studies MSc can achieve meaningful published practice before they enter the world of work. Over four semesters they have translated the best quality articles on Wikipedia (featured articles) into another language including:
Rōjinbi – A demonic flame that supposedly appears deep in the mountains on rainy nights was translated from Japanese to English.
and many many more.
We need to talk diversity and how WikiProject Women in Red is the 2nd most active project on Wikipedia (out of some 2000+ Wikiprojects), creating 1000-2000 new women role models for young and old alike every single month. Hosting Women in Red events – where we turn red-linked articles about notable women which don’t yet exist into blue clickable ones that do – helps meet the university’s commitment to Athena SWAN and there is interest keeping this going in ten disciplines for the next four years to inspire more women to enter STEM fields. (Read about the 19 women petitioners to the Chemical Society or the Eagle House suffragettes – there were hardly any pages on Wikipedia about these fabulous women until Women in Red editors sat down to write them).
We need to talk open access and how Strathclyde and Leeds libraries have identified their top research articles on Wikipedia and ensured they are have the open access link rather than the pay-walled link. And about how Wikipedia signals an article is open access with little coloured Open Access icons in the references to increase visibility and clickthrough.
e.g. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a travel guide, Edinburgh (1914).
This was a text recently uploaded to Wikisource from a djvu scan on the Internet Archive. The text was OCR-ed and proofread by two Wikisource users to ensure it was correct. Now it is 100% searchable HTML and the images have been cropped out so they can be shared individually as openly-licensed images on Wikimedia Commons.
As a result we now have:
The illustrated text described as “to the Scot it ought to be a sort of Bible” in 100% searchable HTML on Wikisource.
A new Wikipedia article created on the book with a link to these images and to the text on Wikisource. 1 click away!
A link to the text on Wikisource added to the Wikipedia page for Edinburgh so that the text is surfaced on a relevant page where people can discover it.
Don’t believe me about the 100% searchable HTML? Type “moist eyebrows” into the search bar on Wikisource and see if it can find where Stevenson uses it in one of his novels. Make sure you use the speech marks so it can find the exact phrase.
We definitelydefinitely need to talk about Wikidata and about creating the date literate workforce of the next ten years. The residency’s next big adventure.
Wikidata is Wikipedia’s exciting new sister project and it may just overtake Wikipedia in years to come as the dominant project – because it has two distinct advantages over Wikipedia in that it is information not just from Wikipedia but from other databases too (like Historic Environment Scotland) stored as machine readable linked open data with multilingual labels.
The implementation of Wikidata in the curriculum therefore presents a massive opportunity for educators, researchers and data scientists alike; not least in honouring the university’s commitment to the creating, curating & dissemination of open knowledge. A Wikidata assignment allows students to develop their understanding of, and engagement with, issues such as: data completeness; data ethics; digital provenance; data analysis; data processing; as well as making practical use of a raft of tools and data visualisations. By structuring the data in Wikidata it helps you to see any anomalies in the data. The fact that Wikidata is also linked open data means that students can help connect to & leverage from a variety of other datasets in multiple languages; helping to fuel discovery through exploring the direct and indirect relationships at play in this semantic web of knowledge. This real-world application of teaching and learning enables insights in a variety of disciplines; be it in open science, digital humanities, cultural heritage, open government and much more besides. Wikidata is also a community-driven project so this allows students to work collaboratively and develop the online citizenship skills necessary in today’s digital economy.
The Survey of Scottish Witchcraft – Wikidata in the Classroom
At the University of Edinburgh, we supported our first Wikidata in the Classroom assignment last semester on the Data Science for Design MSc course. At the course’s Data Fair on 26th October 2017, researchers from across the university presented the 45 masters students in Design Informatics with approximately 13 datasets to choose from to work on in groups of three. Happily, two groups were enthused to import the university’s Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database into Wikidata (the choice of database to propose was suggested by a colleague). This fabulous resource began life in the 1990s before being realised in 2001-2003. It had as its aim to collect, collate and record all known information about accused witches and witchcraft belief in early modern Scotland (from 1563 to 1736) in a Microsoft Access database and to create a web-based user interface for the database. Since 2003, the data has remained static in the Access database and so students at the 2018 Data Fair were invited to consider what could be done if the data were exported into Wikidata, given multilingual labels and linked to other datasets? Beyond this, what new insights & visualisations of the data could be achieved?
We now have 3219 items of data on the accused witches in Wikidata (Spanning 1563 to 1736). We also now have data on 2356 individuals involved in trying these accused witches. Finally we have 3210 witch trials themselves. This means we can link and enrich the data further by adding location data, dates, occupations, places of residence, social class, marriages, and penalties arising from the trial.
But we also need to talk about the ingrained revenue generation model too. If you examine the actually revenue brought in and costs associated with image sales from the beginning to end of the process and then add in how much you would normally expect to pay for the kind of marketing that Wikipedia offers for free and then add in that by sharing images to Commons that you can still retain a higher-resolution image for sale on your own site then the increased exposure, engagement and reputational gain from the move to open looks like a pretty good deal.
In terms of finding bodies to help you, there is a new Scotland Co-ordinator at Wikimedia UK, and a Wikipedia community ready, willing and able to help share your collections. There are staff at your institutions, digital champions, there are students, there are volunteers, friends of the library who if you said the word that you wanted to share your collections they would jump at the chance, I’m sure.
At the University of Edinburgh, we now have our own Equality Images intern opening up some of our image collections to make them more discoverable and usable with a focus on identifying role models, women in science, women in medicine, diverse groups and positive representations.
It has 120,000 regular contributors (of which only 3455 or so are considered ‘very active’ Wikipedians which means a village the size of Pitlochry is trying to curate the world’s knowledge).
500 million visitors per month
1.5 billion monthly unique devices
Trusted more than the BBC, ITV, the Times, the Telegraph, The Guardian and more according to Yougov survey (2014).
And in last week, where Youtube have arguably take billions of dollars of value from Wikipedia, the single greatest Open Education Resource the world has ever seen for granted, we need to think about what value we place in having Wikipedia as the largest referenced work on the internet; free, open, and dedicated to sharing verifiable open knowledge transparently.
Wikipedia doesn’t take itself for granted, and we shouldn’t either. While it is volunteer-built and 100% donated funded, it is too important to fail now so it has created an endowment now to ensure it exists in perpetuity.
In closing, I take Tim Berners-Lee’s view:
“We need to rethink our attitude to the internet. It is not enough just to keep the web open and free because we must also keep a track of what people are building on it.
Look at the systems that people are using, like the social networks and look at whether they are actually helping humanity.
In these terms, in terms of the internet we want to see and the digital landscape we want to help people navigate and engage with, I believe libraries have a huge role, the most important role to play, in supporting learners, in fuelling discovery, in driving engagement and in displaying the kind of leadership – local, national and international – in building a civic digital society we can be proud of.
10 Reasons to work with Wikimedia UK
Wikipedia is not the end point research, it is the beginning. It is a useful place to orientate yourself at the start of your research.
A recent study found 87.5% of students use Wikipedia for their academic work and found it “academically useful”. It is also a source of health care information for half to nearly three-quarters of physicians and more than 90 percent of medical students. (Anecdotally, reference librarians at the Mitchell Library also directed a customer to Wikipedia when asked where the best place to start finding out information about the Bermuda Triangle was).
Staff, students and members of the public are already consulting Wikipedia for pre-research purposes so why not ensure gaps in representation and inaccuracies are addressed? Because if not you then who?
Wikipedia is only ever as good as the editors who engage with it and gaps in the knowledge possesses occur because of this. So as a postscript, here are ten reasons to engage with Wikipedia:
Our attendees tell us the new Visual Editor is super easy to learn, fun and addictive.
Smith, L.N. (2016). ‘School libraries, political information and information literacy provision: findings from a Scottish study’ Journal of Information Literacy, vol 10, no. 2, pp.3-25.DOI:10.11645/10.2.2097
I have been working as Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Edinburgh for just over two years now (one year part-time and one year full-time) so now seems a good time to start the deep delving of reflecting back. (I’m also, it has to be said, contractually obliged to reflect back now I am undertaking my CMALT).
The importance of reflection in my role, or any role for that matter, is not lost on me… and not a new experience either. My background is in English and Media teaching at secondary school level and the yearly soul-searching and evidencing of continuous professional development is something other teachers will recognise. Teaching, it has to be said, can be a very solitary profession at times. Aside from tea and lunch breaks you often spend the lion’s share of your day working autonomously in your own classroom; reflecting on your work and intuitively planning to better meet the needs of your students. Like most teachers, I tried to lead by example, offering support, guidance, humour when needed, cajoling when needed, and generally trying to remove any barriers to learning. Like most teachers, I needed to train myself to remember all the good things achieved during each day rather than dwelling on the work still outstanding or the things that hadn’t worked out.
The volunteering I did in various archives too (University of Glasgow Archives, Glasgow School of Art Archives and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Archives) was solitary in nature a great deal of the time. I didn’t mind that. There was something immensely gratifying about the process of quietly sorting* through the archives, looking for buried treasures and helping to catalogue & write about them so others could learn about them. A world away from the noise of the classroom. Though I’ll confess that those moments when I felt I made a difference in the classroom and helped inspire a love of learning in others (not to mention the daily barrage of humour that was released on me) is something one can’t help but miss.
Teaching and volunteering in libraries/archives were two aspects of my life for a while; and I felt they complemented one another perfectly. So, you can imagine how thrilled I was that these aspects could be combined in one role working as the Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Edinburgh.
The difference now is that I am no longer just a teacher. I learn justas much as I teach… which I love. Such is the fast-developing nature of the Wikimedia projects, there is always something new to learn and to share with others once mastered. Beyond this, after completing four courses of study in higher education, I was well versed in being a student but found I had a lot to learn about the inner workings of a university; especially one like the University of Edinburgh with some 35,000 students and 13,000 staff. Working to support the whole university across all the teaching colleges and support groups to see how the university could benefit from, and contribute to, the Wikimedia projects is a very new role; the first in the United Kingdom so I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to break new ground. I have never wavered in my belief that there are huge areas of crossover between universities and the Wikimedia projects and therefore huge opportunities to explore the untapped potential of collaborating with one another. This has been hugely exciting, hugely rewarding…. and, at times, more than a little daunting because there is so much that could and should be done. And in those few quiet moments when I have had my head too far buried in my laptop to see the wood for the trees and my inner Eeyore has taken over this can feel like another solitary role.
Only it hasn’t been. Not really.
And this, more than anything else, is why I believe that the residency is working.
Because I work in an incredibly supportive environment and learn everyday from the example of brilliant, inspiring women. Reflecting back, my two years at the University of Edinburgh has been characterised by, and shaped by, the fantastic female colleagues I work with. Even today at our International Women’s Day Wikipedia event to celebrate the lives and contributions of the suffragettes, I was struck by the absolute enthusiasm for editing Wikipedia by our all-female group of attendees. “This is soooo addictive.” was proclaimed multiple times this afternoon. Which is unfailingly awesome to hear as Wikipedia has (historically) been seen as the preserve of white techy males.
Not anymore. Not on the evidence of the last two years. Things are definitely changing for the better. Though there is still a way to go. #PressForProgress
So, I would like to pay tribute on International Women’s Day to the inspiring women that I feel honoured to work with and learn from. You’ve helped champion the work of the residency, of Wikimedia UK and the sharing of open knowledge. You’ve pointed me in the right direction (sometimes literally), provided advice, ideas, support, carved turnips, Periodic table cupcakes, guided me, forced me to take pictures of strip clubs for Wiki Loves Monuments, made me laugh, made me see things differently, challenged me to grow as a practitioner; and demonstrated just what it means to be dedicated & brilliant professional.
I am not normally one to pay compliments or give enough credit where credit is due as a general rule. A fault I know.
But in the dying moments of International Women’s Day I thought I could sneak this out.
I am endlessly grateful so I doff my hat to you all!
Melissa Highton – Twas bold to be first to host a university-wide Wiki residency. And Melissa has been never less than brilliantly supportive throughout.