Supporting the University of Edinburgh's commitments to digital skills, information literacy, and sharing knowledge openly

Author: Ewan McAndrew Page 1 of 12

Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Edinburgh. English & Media Teacher. Film, Travel & Open Knowledge enthusiast.

Wikipedia editing for World Music Day 2024!

Sticky post

Dr. Jenny Nex giving the guided tour of St Cecilia’s Hall concert room and music museum. Pic by Ellie Whitehead, CC-BY-SA

This post was written by Assistant Wikimedian in Residence, Ellie Whitehead.

Our most recent event saw us editing Wikipedia to add more women composers and instrument makers onto the world’s go-to site for information. The event took place on Friday, 21st June 2024 to mark World Music Day.

Our World Music Day celebrations took place at the historic St Cecilia’s Hall Concert Room and Music Museum. St Cecilia’s Hall dates from 1763 and is Scotland’s oldest purpose-built concert hall and also houses the University of Edinburgh’s musical instrument collection.

Attendees on the guided tour of St Cecilia’s Hall concert room and music museum. Pic by Ellie Whitehead, CC-BY-SA

Our event kicked off with a bang, as St Cecilia’s Hall curator, Dr. Jenny Nex, provided a guided tour of the museum’s collection. Jenny gave us a tailored tour, based upon her archival research, focusing upon the “Hidden Women of St Cecilia’s”. We saw instruments that were made by women, such as flutes and violins, and heard stories about historic women’s places in music which have only just been uncovered.

After the tour, our guests were provided with lunch. This time gave people the opportunity to get to know each other and start thinking about what they might want to edit as the afternoon went on. As always, we made sure that the tea and coffee was flowing and that we had a good supply of snacks to keep our fantastic team of volunteer editors going!

Tea and coffee to keep us all going! Pic by Ellie Whitehead, CC-BY-SA

After lunch, we were welcomed back by a fantastic talk by Luke Whitlock. Luke is a current MScR student in Music at the University, researching women instrument makers, and a producer for BBC Radio 3. Luke gave some insight into his experience of writing about women composers and instrument makers on Wikipedia, referring to two pages he had previously created on Ethel Parker and Margaret Purcell.

Luke Whitlock, BBC Radio 3 producer at MScR researcher, giving a talk on his research into hidden women composers in the music archives. Pic by Ellie Whitehead, CC-BY-SA

Luke gave us some wise words of wisdom, particularly emphasising that much of the information about these women is hidden. He encouraged us to ‘think outside of the box’, looking at newspapers and sources that talk about people these women were linked with in order to build a bigger picture of the women themselves.

After this editing training began and I, with the help of Ewan, got to teach the attendees how they can add to and edit Wikipedia. Once the training was out of the way the researching and editing began. People began scouring books, biographies, encyclopaedias, and the internet to find all the information they could about women composers and instrument makers. Overall, we created and edited 24 articles and added almost 10,000 words to Wikipedia. A few of the articles created include:

The afternoon finished with everyone being able to publish what they had been working on. It was a fantastic afternoon with a great group of attendees who were eager to learn and add some fantastic pages onto to Wikipedia. We are very grateful to our colleagues at St Cecilia’s Hall for hosting us in such a lovely venue, making for a thoroughly enjoyable event.

Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence, instructing attendees how to publish their new articles on Wikipedia at St Cecilia’s Hall concert room and music museum. Pic by Luke Whitlock, CC-BY-SA

Teaching data literacy with real world (witchy) datasets

Our Digital Humanities award-winning interactive map ( caught the public’s attention when it launched in September 2019 and has helped to change the way the stories of these women and men were being told with a campaign group, Witches of Scotland, successfully lobbying the Scottish Government into issuing a formal apology from the former First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, for the grave wrong done to these persecuted women.(BBC News, 2022)

The Survey of Scottish Witchcraft

The map is built upon the landmark Survey of Scottish Witchcraft Database project. Led by Professor Julian Goodare the database collates historical records about Scotland’s accused witches (1563-1736) in one place. This fabulous resource began life in the 1990s before being realised in 2001-2003. It’s a dataset that has the power to fascinate.

However, since 2003, the Survey data has remained static in an MS Access database so I invited groups of students on the University of Edinburgh’s Design Informatics MFA/MA to consider at the course’s annual “Data Fair” in October 2017 what could be done if the data were exported into Wikipedia’s sister project, Wikidata, as machine-readable linked open data? Beyond this, what new insights & visualisations could be achieved if groups of students worked with this real-world dataset and myself as their mentor over a 6-7 week project?

Design Informatics students at the Suffer the Witch symposium at the Patrick Geddes centre displaying the laser-cut 3d map of accused witches in Scotland. CC-BY-SA, Ewan McAndrew

The implementation of Wikidata in the curriculum presents a huge opportunity for students, educators, researchers and data scientists alike. Especially when there is a pressing need for universities to meet the demands of our digital economy for a data literate workforce.

“A common critique of data science classes is that examples are static and student group work is embedded in an ‘artificial’ and ‘academic’ context. We look at how we can make teaching data science classes more relevant to real-world problems. Student engagement with real problems…has the potential to stimulate learning, exchange, and serendipity on all sides.” (Corneli, Murray-Rust and Bach, 2018)

The ‘success of the Data Fair’ model, year on year, prompted questions as to what more could be done over an even more extended project. So I lobbied senior managers for a new internship dedicated to geographically locating the places recorded in the database as linked open data as the next logical step.

Recruiting the ‘Witchfinder General’

Geography student Emma Carroll worked closely under my mentorship and supervision for three months in Summer 2019 with her detective work geolocating historic placenames involving colleagues from the National Library of Scotland, the Scottish Studies Archive, the Scottish Place-Name Society. The website creation itself involved my working with the creativity and expertise of the university’s e-learning developers.

Geography undergraduate student, Emma Carroll, our first ‘Witchfinder General’ intern in Summer 2019.

Since the map’s launch, this project has gained media coverage across Scotland and the world in allowing users to explore, for the first time, where these accused women resided, local to them, and learn all about their stories in a tremendously powerful way. It also shows the potential of engaging with linked open data to help the teaching of data science and to fuel discovery through exploring the direct and indirect relationships at play in this semantic web of knowledge, enabling new insights. There is always more to do and we have since worked with another four student interns on this project since 2022.

Our latest, Ruby Imrie, will be returning following her exams and a Summer break on 15th July to continue her work quality-assuring the vast amount of Scottish witchcraft data in Wikidata and creating new features, new visualisations, fixing any bugs and generally making our Map of Accused Witches in Scotland website as useful, as engaging and as user-friendly as possible so that when it is ready for relaunch in Autumn/Winter 2024 we have something that truly does justice in respecting all the work that has gone before and all the individual women and men persecuted during the Scottish witch trials.

Ruby Imrie and Professor Julian Goodare, Project Director of the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft at University of Edinburgh Library 23 August 2023

Almost five years on – the legacy of the project

The legacy of the project is that our students, year-on-year, are highly engaged and motivated to learn important histories from Scotland’s dark past AND the important data skills required for Scotland’s future digital economy. Many of our colleagues at the University (and beyond) also seek our advice on how to meet research grant stipulations that they make their research outcomes open both in terms of producing open access papers and releasing their data as open data. Lukas Engelmann, History of Medicine, is using Wikidata to document the history of 20th century epidemiology. Dr. Chris Langley and Asst. Prof. Mikki Brock have worked with myself to create a similar website, Mapping the Scottish Reformation, (as a proof-of-concept Project B to our Project A) and have shared their experiences with other similar projects such as: the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Military Museum in Stirling; Faversham Local History Group, Places of Worship in Scotland database team and more.



1. “Nicola Sturgeon apologises to people accused of witchcraft”. BBC News. 2022-03-08.
2. Corneli, J, Murray-Rust, D & Bach, B 2018, Towards Open-World Scenarios: Teaching the Social Side of Data Science.

Media Responses

Wikipedia, inclusive practice and improving representation online

International Women’s Day at the University of Edinburgh. CC-BY-SA by Ewan McAndrew

Since January 2016, I have worked as Wikimedian in Residence with the University of Edinburgh’s course teams to quickly generate real examples of technology-enhanced learning activities appropriate to the curriculum. As a result, students from diverse learning communities and a variety of disciplines benefit from learning new digital and information literacy skills appropriate for the modern graduate. The published outputs of their learning have an immediate public impact in addressing the diversity of editors and diversity of content shared online. For example, World Christianity MSc students wrote new pages about women in religion and on topics such as Asian Feminist Theology.

Many of the training workshops and in-curriculum assignments I have lead and facilitated focused on addressing under-representation of topics on Wikipedia and encouraging more women to become editors. Over the course of the last eight years, I have designed and lead edit-a-thon events focused on such topics as Women in STEM, LGBTQ+ History Month, Black History Month, Mental Health Week, and Edinburgh’s global alumni.

Through my work within the DLAM (Digital Learning Applications and Media) and and Digital Skills departments within Information Services, I have worked with, taught on and helped design learning activities on over 15-20 course programmes as the University’s Wikimedian in Residence. I have also created and shared hundreds of learning resources (video tutorials, webpages, blogs, pdfs, powerpoints, word docs), organised and hosted conferences & seminars, facilitated and lead over 360 training workshops along
and 150 edit-a-thon events celebrating: International Women’s Day; Ada Lovelace Day; Gothic Writers; Feminist Writers; Women Architects; Contemporary Scottish Artists, Scottish women authors; Women in Anthropology, Women in Chemistry, Women in Law and Global Health; Women in Engineering; and Women in Espionage. Over two thousand students and 660 staff have now been trained to edit Wikipedia, with a (conservatively) estimated ~16,000 articles created and improved. Stories that may not have been shared otherwise are now discoverable and being read, added to and improved, as OERs shared with the world for the benefit of all.

Editathon attendees, CC-BY-SA via Ewan McAndrew

Wikipedia has a gender problem. In considering the diversity of editors and content, “the “overwhelming majority of contributors are male” and the vast majority of biographies (81 percent on English Wikipedia) are about men (Ford & Wajcman, 2017). This means there is clear gender bias in terms of the stories being disseminated online, the choices being made in their creation and curation and who is writing these stories (Allen, 2020).

Yet, 69 percent of participating editors at the University of Edinburgh have been women, demonstrating that Wikipedia editing does not have to be the preserve of “white, college-educated males” (Wikimedia, 2011). Addressing systemic bias and under-representation online has consistently been a key motivator for staff and students at the University—working toward building a fairer, more inclusive internet and society.

Changing the “pale, male,stale” nature of our physical spaces at the University with more diverse heroes on display like Brenda Moon, our 1st female Chief Librarian. CC-BY-SA via Ewan McAndrew

The residency has facilitated monthly “Wikipedia Women in Red” workshops for the last eight years and created a supportive setting where students and staff can come together to learn a new digital skill. As a result of the success of this approach, the residency now sits on the Gender@Ed Steering Committee and the Wikipedia Women in Red edit-a-thons are included in the University’s Athena Scientific Women’s Academic Network (SWAN) charter plan to highlight female achievement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to encourage and inspire new STEM careers and help encourage new role models by changing the online and physical world around them by surfacing the brilliant lives and contributions of women to be where they can be visible and help inspire.

Imagine a gender equal world, IWD2024 event poster by E. McAndrew, all images CC-BY-SA

Global Activism and Women’s Rights- International Women’s Day 2024

International Women’s Day 2024. CC-BY-SA via the Global Justice Academy

Our most recent Wikipedia editathon event took place on the 8th March, between 13:00-16:30 in the Digital Scholarship Centre of the Main Library and was in collaboration with the University’s Global Justice Academy. It was lead by Assistant Wikimedian in Residence Ellie Whitehead for International Women’s Day 2024. It celebrated the lives and contributions of all the inspiring women the world, past and present, who have dedicated themselves to fighting for women’s rights and global justice, by adding those missing from Wikipedia – the world’s go-to site for information.

Dr. Kasey McCall-Smith, Senior Lecturer in Public International Law at the International Women’s Day 2024 event. CC-BY-SA via the Global Justice Academy

The session began by welcoming Dr Kasey McCall-Smith from the Global Justice Academy and Senior Lecturer in Public International Law who spoke to us about women in justice at local, national, and global levels. Dr McCall-Smith spoke about some incredible things being done by female colleagues in the field and helped to set the supportive and inclusive tone of the event.

Together, the attendees created some amazing new pages, including:

and more!

I also liaised with Navino Evans to update the Histropedia timeline of Women’s Suffrage in Scotland with all the new pages written in the last 5-6 years since the Vote100 events in 2018. Our editing events celebrated the Scottish suffragettes with newly written pages about them on Wikipedia and marked 100 years since the 1918 Representation of the People Act when all men over 21 and some women over 30 were granted the vote for the first time.

Overall, it was a brilliant event which encouraged some great discussions and added some great pages onto Wikipedia!

#inspireinclusion #IWD2024

Bessie Watson, the 9 year old Scottish suffragette from Edinburgh who now has a page and an image on Wikipedia and who now has a room at the University named after her on International Women’s Day 2024. CC-BY-SA via Wikimedia Commons (gratefully shared by Capital
Collections from the Central Libraries,


1. Allen, R. (2020, April 11). Wikipedia is a world built by and for men. Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight is changing that. The Lily.
2. Ford, H. and Wajcman, J., 2017. ‘Anyone can edit’, not everyone does: Wikipedia’s infrastructure and the gender gap – Heather Ford, Judy Wajcman, 2017. [online] SAGE Journals. Available at: <> [Accessed 24 March 2021].
3. Wikimedia. (2011, April). Wikipedia editors study. Wikimedia Commons.

7 years of Wikipedia and the Translation Studies MSc

Translation Studies MSc students at the University of Edinburgh, CC-BY-SA via Wikimedia Commons

A Wikipedia assignment has been part of Translation Studies MSc since 2016 when I first met with Dr. Charlotte Bosseaux and convinced her to try a new approach to a pedagogical problem they had; getting the students to have meaningful, published translation practice that they would be motivated to complete. Course leaders were keen to motivate students to complete this translation practice as it was a core objective of the Masters programme.

I work closely with each of the three (rotating) Programme Directors to reflect on the changing needs of the student cohort, the changing makeup of tutors and the course itself so that I can plan ahead to ensure I provide a quality educational experience each time.

Between 2016/2017 and 2018/2019, 20-30 students registered annually in the Translation Studies MSc, which supports a wide variety of languages (Arabic, Chinese, Danish, French, German, Japanese, Norwegian, Spanish, Swedish, and Turkish in 2018/2019). This has since doubled, sometimes trebled, to 50-75 students in recent years and became a remote only offering in 2020-2021 (during lockdown) and a hybrid assignment during 2021-2022 before returning to on campus delivery.

The assignment I designed and lead trains students to select a high quality article and publish a 2,500 word translation in a different language Wikipedia by the end of the semester. The change to make the project an elective one was important to respond to as it came following feedback from some students (during the first iteration) who felt that their “digital labour” ought to be remunerated. Therefore, I now speak at the introductory session to such concerns and of the key benefits by providing context about the charitable Wikimedia Foundation and how the assignment aligns with their core course requirements and course organisers desire for published translation practice.

Responding to the students’ desire for feedback, I co-designed the peer assessment process and I also assess the students’ work in terms of the suitability, quality and level of challenge of the article they choose to translate and, later on, the readiness of their translation for final publication.

The work I have undertaken with course leaders and students to refine, assess and quality assure the published translations over the last seven years further evidences how “introducing collaborative projects with genuine outcomes, we can allow students to coherently develop the competences required for professional translators” (Al-Shehari, 2017, p. 371).

I emailed a survey to students to complete anonymously. The seven questions consisted of a mix of Likert scale responses and free text.

Feedback from students indicated that:

  • they were engaged and enthusiastic about Wikimedia’s mission to share knowledge globally;
  • they were selecting texts they were interested in;
  • they were getting much-needed published translation practice which they could use when getting
    a job;
  • they were learning new skills and developing information and digital literacy; and
  • they were enjoying the assignment.

Participating lecturers were pleased that the students were:

  • getting the necessary practical experience they needed;
  • engaging in problem solving and critical thinking;
  • engaging with how knowledge is shared around the world;
  • writing neutrally for a Wikipedia audience;
  • considering the verifiability of the information they were presented with;
  • evaluating to what extent the translator should ever intervene; and
  • learning academic research and writing skills which should stand them in good stead for their


Translating between different language Wikipedias is a really impactful and inclusive way to help build understanding between language communities and helps students:

  1. understand how knowledge is created, curated, and contested online.
  2. create a new open educational resource that lasts.
  3. achieve much-needed and meaningful published translation practice ahead of entering the world
    of work.

Our work with MSc Translation Studies students in the 2023/24 academic year has added more than 100, 000 words onto Wikipedia. It has shown these students how to effectively use Wikipedia’s built in Content Translation Tool. In particular, the Isle of Skye (斯凯岛 ) page has been worked on extensively over on Chinese Wikipedia and is a much fuller and better article because of the work that students have undertaken and we also now have a wonderful new article on English Wikipedia about the Origins of the Sami people, translated from Swedish Wikipedia.

References consulted

  1. Al-Shehari, K. (2017). Collaborative learning: trainee translators tasked to translate Wikipedia
    entries from English into Arabic. The Interpreter and Translator Trainer, 11(4), 357-372.
  2. Martínez Carrasco, R. (2018). Using Wikipedia as a classroom tool — a translation experience.
    Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Higher Education Advances (HEAd’18). McAndrew, E. (2017, May 10).
  3. Word Count tool – counting the prose text in a Wikipedia article. [Online Video]. 10 May 2017.
  4. Selwyn, N., & Gorard, S. (2016). Students’ use of Wikipedia as an academic resource — patterns of
    use and perceptions of usefulness. The Internet and Higher Education, 28, 8-34.
  5. The University of Edinburgh. (2019a). Degree finder [online].
  6. The University of Edinburgh. (2019b). Vision and mission. [online]. governance-strategic-planning/content-to-be-reused/vision-and-mission
  7. Wales, J. (2016). Wikimania conference, Esino Lario, Italy. https://wikimania2016.wikimedia.
Image of a Burns Supper with Evelyn Hollow's hand raising a glass of whisky.

Reflections on Burns Night Editathon and My First Experience of Giving Training

This post is written by new Assistant Wikimedian in Residence, Ellie Whitehead.

On Burns Night, 25th January, I ran my first Wikipedia Editathon event. The event looked to add more Scottish traditions, information about Robert Burns, and Scottish women in literature onto Wikipedia. Together we made 557 total edits, added 15.5k words, created 7 new articles and 9 new images being uploaded onto Wikipedia. Altogether this has amassed 298k article views!

Cast of Robert Burns' skull - the front

(Casts of Robert Burns’ skull held at the Anatomical Museum in the University of Edinburgh, Malcolm MacCullum, Anatomical Museum in Edinburgh, Scotland, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Take a look at some of the articles created and improved:

Excitingly, we added pictures of – along with an article about – Robert Burns’ skull to Wikipedia. A cast of the skull is held within the collections of Edinburgh University’s Anatomical Museum, who kindly provided us with the images to be added onto Wikipedia.

Other images added, including updating the images of Burns Supper and Haggis to make them look more appetising, such as the photograph of Macsween’s Whisky Cream Sauce, added by Melissa Highton, and added images of a Scottish Ceilidh to the Ceilidh Wikipedia page.

Picture of Macsween whiskey cream sauce

(Macsween whiskey cream sauce added to the Macsween (Butcher) article, Melissa Highton, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons)

With this new event, I had my first experience of providing training on how to edit Wikipedia. People attending the event had varying levels of experience, which made for a very supportive atmosphere and an engaging audience. It is always nice to have both an in person and online presence, with those online being equally as supported as those in the room.

Photo of Bessie Watson, Scottish Suffragette, aged 9

(Bessie Watson, Scottish Suffragette, aged 9, unknown author, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Everyone managed to publish at least one article, there was a great sense of satisfaction in the room which certainly felt very rewarding…however, this satisfaction may have had something to do with the great Scottish snacks we had on offer (Tunnock’s Caramel Wafers, Irn Bru and Haggis flavoured crisps)!

With this experience under my belt, I am now turning my head to look at the next Women in Red Editathon event that I am running along with Ewan on the 8th March, International Women’s Day. This event will be in collaboration with the Global Justice Academy (GJA) and will see Dr Kasey McCall-Smith, Lecturer in Public International Law and Programme Director for the LLM in Human Rights from the GJA speak to us about women in justice at local, national and global levels. We will celebrate the lives and contributions of all the inspiring women the world, past and present, who have dedicated themselves to fighting for women’s rights, women’s education, universal suffrage and global justice by adding them onto Wikipedia.

If you would like to join us at this exciting event, please follow this link to our Eventbrite page and get your ticket!

Imagine a gender equal world, IWD2024 event poster by E. McAndrew, all images CC-BY-SA

Student Ruby Imrie onstage at the McEwen Hall, University of Edinburgh, receiving her award for Student Staff member of the Year 2023

Some wicked wiki news for Halloween

3rd year Computer Science student, Ruby Imrie, has just won Student Staff Member of the Year at the 2023 University of Edinburgh’s ISG (Information Services Group) Staff Recognition Awards on Tuesday 24th October 2023. As a central support service for the University and one of the largest tech employers in Scotland, and with over a hundred student workers being employed each year, this a real celebration of the work Ruby has been doing in opening up research datasets and helping people around the world understand what happened in the Scottish witch trials.

Ruby has worked for us full-time from Monday 5th June until Friday 25th August 2023 in the role of Witchfinder General: Data Visualisation intern and has happily agreed to continue working one day a week during her studies from 14 Sept 2023 until May 2024 to complete her exemplary work as there is always so much more to do.

Ruby has worked incredibly hard to help illuminate what happened in the Scottish witch hunts of 1563 to 1736 by focusing on opening up the rich historical data in the University’s landmark Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database (an MS Access 97 database created in late 1990s and completed in 2003) and turning it into linked open data in Wikipedia’s sister project, Wikidata, a knowledgebase of structured linked open data.

Importantly, Ruby has been quality checking and consistency checking the data using newly developed quality assurance methods in R Studio created by another student intern, Claire Panella, earlier this year that can be reused for many years to come. Ruby’s other focus has been on taking the extremely rich) data on all the 3,816 full witchcraft investigations (encompassing the initial or supposed denunciation, the arrest, the interrogation, the trial and the recorded trial outcomes) recorded in Scotland from 1563-1736 and embedding those new interactive visualisations on our Map of Accused Witches in Scotland website using a Javascript and the Vue.js framework. By also identifying and addressing bug fixes, conducting rigorous user testing sessions and using the feedback received to address areas for site improvement and action planning for developing new features she has helped to show how the data, and the individual human stories behind the data, can be better visualised, explored and interrogated as never before.

Ruby has also taken a personal interest in learning more about the Scottish witchcraft panics by attending talks about Scottish witches at the Edinburgh Book Festival 2023, reading the Jenni Fagan book, Hex, and attending the play, Prick, at the Edinburgh Fringe. She has also contributed blog articles documenting her work so that anyone can understand the variety of skills she has had to learn and then build from her prior learning.

Ruby Imrie and Professor Julian Goodare, Project Director of the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft at University of Edinburgh Library 23 August 2023

The work above shows the sheer variety of technical and analytical skills she had to employ. Attention to detail has been paramount so that the data was never misunderstood or misrepresented. Ruby analysed the original MS Access 97 database (2003), exported its contents in bespoke Access queries and .csv forms, manipulated and processed the data using Sparql, Python and R Studio which she had to first learn how to use, created a video about her work, learned new web developing skills using Javascript frameworks she was hitherto unfamiliar with, collaborated with developer colleagues, Wikidata experts, historian colleagues and other interns.

She has been enthusiastic both about learning technical skills and really motivated to learn about the Scottish witch hunts (even devouring books about it in her own time). Ruby took ownership and responsibility really seriously to represent the data correctly and the need to help public understand about how these women were persecuted. A seriously hard worker who takes her work seriously… but also an incredibly sunny and personable team player who always asks the right, most pertinent questions of the work in order to progress it in the right way. Which in of itself is really impressive to see in such an early career colleague. Ultimately, she’s analysed, curated and quality assured a VAST amount of data in Wikidata about the Scottish witch hunts in a short Summer internship and worked independently much of the time to do so. She has been an extremely dedicated, constructive and collaborative colleague to work with and has also contributed vastly to discussions about the future of the site and what that should be. So having this opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge her work, and the work of all our past student interns and developer colleagues is a wonderful thing to see.

Ruby in closeup holding her trophy for Student Staff Member of the Year

Ruby holding her trophy for Student Staff Member of the Year

Especially because we are working hard and not far away at all from launching version 2.0 of our Map of Accused Witches in Scotland website and the new elements will include:

  • Rich historical data on all the 3,816 witchcraft investigations in Scotland including:
    • Dates of investigations (filterable into panic and non-panic periods of time).
    • The primary  and secondary characteristics of investigations
    • Who the people investigating were – judges, expert witnesses, prosecutors etc.
    • Accusations of shape-shifting: “the magical transformation of a human into an animal. This was mainly a popular belief, but educated demonologists accepted it. In the Scottish witch trials, some accused witches confessing to having taken animal form, presumably through coercive interrogation. Less often, neighbours or victims testified that they had seen the witch in animal form. The animal was most often a cat, but we also find transformations into a dog, a ‘corbie’ (raven or crow), or other creatures. For more information about the shape-shifting terms mentioned below please refer to the Survey’s glossary of terms here:”
    • Accusations of the ritual objects supposedly used by accused  – “Two different types of rituals appear in accused witches’ records. First, there were real rituals, mostly carried out by magical practitioners, for healing and other beneficial purposes. Second, there were imaginary rituals, which the accusers thought that witches carried out when they met the Devil; accused witches were forced to confess to these under torture. Each type of ritual could use magical objects. Thus, a ‘belt’ or a ‘sword’ could be used in healing rituals, whereas ‘corpse powder’ appeared in confessions to demonic rituals. For more information about the ritual objects mentioned below please refer to the Survey’s glossary of terms here:
    • A customisable timeline with slider option and calendar style layout option.
    • Select all/deselect all filter options.
    • A modern map layer and a 1750 historic Dorret map layer from National Library of Scotland.
    • A ‘name search‘ option in the Histropedia timeline so you can type in the accused name and read their Wikipedia page and Survey of Scottish Witchcraft page.
    • Age of accused (where recorded) filter in our new Histropedia timeline feature.
    • All the unnamed accused witches on the Histropedia timeline.
    • Who named/denounced who and a network analysis over time.
    • Details of supposed witches’ meetings (locations and how they meetings were characterised and what supposedly happened at them)
    • Types of pacts with the devil – “Descriptions of meeting the Devil and entering a pact with him feature in the majority of records that have detailed information. This relationship with the Devil was crucial to the church and the law in proving someone was guilty. 90% of those whose records show demonic features were women. Many people were tortured into confessing to Devil-worship. For more information about the types of pact please refer to the Survey’s glossary of terms here:”
    • Types of property damage supposedly caused by the accused.
    • A new contact form so anomalies and suggestions can be reviewed and addressed.
    • A new map of witch memorials and sites of interest (coming soon) – being collated and illustrated with images and links.
    • A Curious Edinburgh tour of Edinburgh locations associated with the Scottish witch trials. (coming soon) – more research to be done.

Histropedia timeline with Survey pages embedded in each entry

Year on year, we are building on the work that has gone before and striving to respect and honour the legacy of that work with the human stories of the accused women always at the heart of what we do. Our ‘Witchfinder General‘ student interns in 2022 (Maggie Lin and Josep Garcia-Reyero) added so much data on the witchcraft investigations and now Ruby Imrie in 2023 have helped to turn this data into something quality assured, parseable and implementable on our website: adding dates of witchcraft investigations so we can explore timelines; creating filters to explore individual aspects of the investigations; creating network analyses of who named/denounced who, and demonstrating how the hysteria of the witch trials spread across Scotland in space and time during panic and non panic periods so we can better understand and illuminate this dark period of Scottish history.

If curious about how this all started then you can watch our very first student ‘Witchfinder General’ student intern, Emma Carroll, talking about her 2019 work hunting for the places of residence of all the accused witches in Scotland so they could be geolocated on a map and their individual stories discovered, remembered and brought home to their local communities.

Reading up about… Wikipedia

The Solace of Oblivion

  • Jeffrey Toobin, The New Yorker, 29 September 2014.
  • Really interesting article. Toobin addresses a decision by the European Court of Justice that prohibits Google from linking to certain stories and highlights the distressing Catsouras case as a worthy discussion point: “There is an inevitable conflict between two distinct social values”–privacy and free speech… The question is how do societies value those competing rights. Technology didn’t create the tension but just revealed it in a dramatic way.”

Wikipedia warns against French attempt to extend EU privacy law globally

  •, 10 June 2016.
  • Short article warning about technology being censored by judicial restrictions in certain countries.

Jeffrey Toobin Suspended From New Yorker

  •, 19 October 2020.
  • Interesting follow-up on the author of the 1st article and how he may now wish for this alleged incident to be removed from web search results.

Google And The Right To Be Forgotten

  • Julian Vigo,, 3 October 2019.
  • Short article following the story about Google delisting web results.
  • “Breyer went on to say that supporting Google’s right to break privacy laws outside the EU would “fracture the internet and raise more borders online.” Obviously, where information is available elsewhere, one need not travel to access it. When I am blocked because of GDPR rules in reading an online American publication, I simply change my VPN location to the US and I have immediate access. Hence, the notion of geography determining access and privacy right, given current technology of VPN for starters, makes a mockery out of legal data protections. “

Is Wikipedia a good source? 2 college librarians explain when to use the online encyclopedia – and when to avoid it

  • The, 20 March 2023.
  • Really good and concise opening introduction to Wikipedia and some perceived pros and cons.

Wikipedia is 20, and its reputation has never been higher

  • The Economist, 9 January 2021.
  • Two years old article (Wikipedia is 22.5 years old now) but excellent summary of where we are with Wikipedia 20 years on and you can also listen to this story in an engaging audio in 14 minutes.
  • A former president of the American Library Association in 2007: “A professor who encourages the use of Wikipedia is the intellectual equivalent of a dietician who recommends a steady diet of Big Macs with everything,” he sneered.
  • “Toby Negrin, chief product officer at the Wikimedia Foundation, the San Francisco-based charity that provides the site’s infrastructure, describes the online encyclopedia as a “guardian of truth”. That sounds grandiose. But other tech behemoths now use it as a neutral arbiter.”

How Wikipedia gets to define what’s true online

  • Ethan Zuckerman, Prospect magazine, 3 March 2022
  • “Who gets to define what’s true online?… In practical terms, truth is what Google’s knowledge graph—the massive database of facts that allows the powerful search engine to answer most questions—can deliver to its users. Google’s knowledge graph is descended primarily from Wikipedia and Wikidata, an open-source collection of facts derived from Wikipedia, the remarkable participatory encyclopedia that, in the past 20 years, has become a core part of our collective knowledge infrastructure.”
  • “Somehow, verifiability and neutral point of view work together to gradually produce articles that reflect consensus reality. Nonsense, argues Ford. The formation of truth on Wikipedia is as political as it is anywhere else in the world. Her book centres on the creation of a single Wikipedia article about the Tahrir Square protests that ultimately ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in 2011. By following the editing of this single article, Ford documents the tension between activists who want to recognise and celebrate history in the making and those who argue that “Wikipedia is not a crystal ball” and should be slow and cautious in writing history.”

  • “Wikipedia is a roadmap for co-operation and collaboration at scale. As we mourn the apparent impossibility of keeping YouTube free of flat Earthers or Facebook free from vaccine disinformation, the fact that Wikipedia remains an anchor for consensus reality seems worthy of close study. “

Students are told not to use Wikipedia but it’s a trustworthy source

  • Rachel Cunneen and Mathieu O’Neil of University of Canberra, The, 4 November 2021.
  • “For popular articles, Wikipedia’s online community of volunteers, administrators and bots ensure edits are based on reliable citations. Popular articles are reviewed thousands of times. Some media experts, such as Amy Bruckman, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s computing centre, argue that because of this painstaking process, a highly-edited article on Wikipedia might be the most reliable source of information ever created.”
  • “Wikipedia can be a tool for better media literacy. Research suggests Australian children are not getting sufficient instruction in spotting fake news…. Our students clearly need more media literacy education, and Wikipedia can be a good media literacy instrument. One way is to use it is with “lateral reading”. This means when faced with an unfamiliar online claim, students should leave the web page they’re on and open a new browser tab. They can then investigate what trusted sources say about the claim.”

How many Wikipedia references are available to read? 

  • The Wikimedia Foundation,, 20 August 2018.
  • 6 minute read. The article discusses measuring the proportion of open access sources across languages and topics.
  • Less than half of the official versions of scholarly publications cited with an identifier in Wikipedia are freely available on the web: 29% are free-to-read at the source, while an additional 10% have a free-to-read version available elsewhere.

Wikipedia is open to all, the research underpinning it should be too.

  • Tattersall Andy, LSE Blogs, 21 February 2022.
  • Our sample indicated that around half of all academic citations on the platform are paywalled. This is a major flaw in the Wikipedia model. Openly available published research helps support the development of Wikipedia. This in turn assists Wikipedia’s ultimate goal of access to transparent and evidence-based knowledge. It would also lower barriers to access research, which ultimately is good for academics and society.

    We appreciate that not everything is open for the rest of society and it might be some time before that happens. But, given Wikipedia’s global influence and stated mission, the research that underpins each entry should be as open and accessible as possible. To take full advantage of this it requires a greater understanding amongst academics and Wikipedians as to the importance of citing open access works over those behind a paywall.

‘Disrupting the Publisher-Academic Complex’

  • a talk by scientist Peter Murray-Rust at the British Library on 21 April 2018 (45 min video) about the ‘dystopia’ of the current scholarly publishing model.
  • Disruption does not mean illegality – it can be new technology, new philosophies, new people. We need a “Knowledge Spring” to break free of licences and all the other restrictive rubbish. Today’s publishers are like Bradbury’s firemen (Fahrenheit 451) – their role is to prevent reading.”
    Peter Murray-Rust, University of Cambridge and ContentMine Ltd.

Closing the Gender Gap

  • Wikimedia UK, 30 December 2019 (19 minute video).
  • Wikimedia UK is the national chapter for the global Wikimedia movement which supports Wikipedia and its sister sites. This video showcases the work of Wikimedia UK and the community of Wikimedians in the UK as they try to address gender bias and a lack of content on Wikipedia about women.

Science Is Shaped by Wikipedia: Evidence From a Randomized Control Trial. 

  • Research paper about how Wikipedia actively influences science development, providing evidence of causality, instead of the usual correlation. (Video presentation summarising the paper)
  • “As the largest encyclopedia in the world, it is not surprising that Wikipedia reflects the state of scientific knowledge. However, Wikipedia is also one of the most accessed websites in the world, including by scientists, which suggests that it also has the potential to shape science. This paper shows that it does.”

‘Anyone can edit’, not everyone does: Wikipedia’s infrastructure and the gender gap

  • Heather Ford, Judy Wajcman, Social Studies of Science, Vol. 47, No. 4 (August 2017), pp. 511-527 (17 pages)
  • Less than ten percent of Wikipedia editors are women. At one level, this imbalance in contributions and therefore content is yet another case of the masculine culture of technoscience. This is an important argument and, in this article, we examine the empirical research that highlights these issues. Our main objective, however, is to extend current accounts by demonstrating that Wikipedia’s infrastructure introduces new and less visible sources of gender disparity. In sum, our aim here is to present a consolidated analysis of the gendering of Wikipedia.”

Wikipedia Co-Founder Jimmy Wales On The Future Of The Internet, Bitcoin, Web3, Cryptocurrencies And Encryption

  • Roger Huang,, 16 December 2022.
  • Fairly interesting wide-ranging chat with Jimmy Wales about all of the above.

Wikipedia on Olive Schreiner, like it or what?

  • Professor Liz Stanley, University of Edinburgh, Whites Writing Whiteness: Letters, Domestic Figurations & Representations of Whiteness in South Africa 1770s-1970s, 18 July 2019.
  • UoE Professor Liz Stanley grapples with what ‘expert’ academics role should be when it comes to ‘non-expert’ Wikipedia editors (potentially) getting things very wrong in such commonly visited web pages on their specialist subject. Asks some interesting questions.
  • “Do these ‘hidden’ editors know about the topics under consideration, do they have a good grasp of what the current state of knowledge about something is, and do they understand how to evaluate the quality of different positions, ideas and claims? The bottom line is, are these editors able to detect serious issues in what an entry represents as knowledge?”

“I Was Devastated”: Tim Berners-Lee, the Man Who Created the World Wide Web, Has Some Regrets

  • Katrina Brooker, Vanity, 1 July 2018.
  • “Initially, Berners-Lee’s innovation was intended to help scientists share data across a then obscure platform called the Internet, a version of which the U.S. government had been using since the 1960s. But owing to his decision to release the source code for free—to make the Web an open and democratic platform for all—his brainchild quickly took on a life of its own.”
  • “He fully recognizes that re-decentralizing the Web is going to be a lot harder than inventing it was in the first place. “When the Web was created, there was nobody there, no vested parties who would resist,” says Brad Burnham… has started investing in companies aiming to decentralize the Web. “There are entrenched and very wealthy interests who benefit from keeping the balance of control in their favor.” Billions of dollars are at stake here: Amazon, Google, and Facebook won’t give up their profits without a fight.”

The Jimmy Wales interview

  • Ann-Marie Corvin,, 23 February 2023.
  • At OpenUK’s inaugural State of Open Conference, Wikipedia’s founder talks ChatGPT, the Online Safety Bill and the site’s ongoing diversity imbalance.
  • Wales “acknowledges that the UK government’s troubled-but-well-meaning bill – which has passed through the hands of four prime ministers in as many years – is trying to hold big tech platforms like Facebook and Twitter to account. The entrepreneur himself has been the subject of vile slander and abuse on Twitter, but he argues that the Online Safety Bill in its current form is harmful to the open internet and that the government’s “simplistic, top down approach” ignores the way that the wider web works.”

Wikipedia’s Plan to Resist Election Day Misinformation

  • The, 26 October 2020. May be paywalled.
  • The encyclopedia is determined to emerge from the insanity of a pandemic and a polarizing Biden v Trump election with its information and reputation intact.

‘What Counts as Information: The Construction of Reliability and Verifiability’

  • Z.J. McDowell, and M.A. Vetter,  (2021). Wikipedia and the Representation of Reality (1st ed.). Routledge. [Download and read Chapter 2]
  • In essence, the encyclopedia decides “what counts” as knowledge as it evaluates, processes, and consequently validates information… In many ways, reliability in Wikipedia is a double-edged sword, as it is accompanied by both advantages and disadvantages. Verifiability, for example, helps to validate information and promote accuracy and trust in the encyclopedia. At the same time, the focus on print or written secondary sources, to the exclusion of other types of knowledge, limits Wikipedia’s ability to fully become reliable in terms of coverage of marginalized topics, or topics which have been developed through knowledge-making practices beyond print. These lessons are important for the general public that consumes and uses the encyclopedia, as well as for anyone that identifies as a newcomer to Wikipedia. Understanding even a small piece of how information becomes knowledge in Wikipedia can increase information literacy skills across other digital platforms.”

Should you believe Wikipedia? : online communities and the construction of knowledge.

  • A. Bruckman (2022).  Cambridge University Press. Read pages 64-90 [Chapter 3]
  • What does it mean for something to be “true”? How is the internet changing how we understand truth? This chapter explores how theories of the nature of truth and knowledge can help us to understand the internet.

Students’ use of Wikipedia as an academic resource – Patterns of use and perceptions of usefulness.

  • N. Selwyn & S. Gorard (2016). The Internet and Higher Education v.28 pp 28-34
  • Survey data examining 1658 undergraduate students’ uses of digital technologies for academic purposes found 87.5% of students report using Wikipedia for their academic work, with 24.0% of these considering it ‘very useful’.

  • Use and perceived usefulness of Wikipedia differs by students’ gender; year of study; cultural background and subject studied.

  • Wikipedia mainly plays an introductory and/or clarificatory role in students information gathering and research.

“You get what you need”: A study of students’ attitudes towards using Wikipedia when doing school assignments.

  • M. Blikstad-Balas (2016). Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research 60(6) pages 594-608.
  • A discrepancy between students’ positive attitudes to including Wikipedia in their school-related literacy practices and their teachers’ lack of approval of this knowledge source is discussed.

Changing the Way Stories Are Told: Engaging staff and students in improving Wikipedia content about women in Scotland.

  • E. McAndrew in Wikipedia and Academic Libraries: A Global Project (2021).
  • Overview of the how & why of five years’ work at the University of Edinburgh targeting improved diversity of content and editors contributing to Wikipedia inc. Scottish suffragettes, Scottish witches and the Edinburgh Seven, the first female undergraduates to study at any UK university.

The Gender Divide in Wikipedia: Quantifying and Assessing the Impact of Two Feminist Interventions

  • I. Langrock & S. González-Bailón, Journal of communication (2022).

Wikipedia is the last bastion of idealism on the internet

  • Barbara Speed,, 22 January 2021.

Academia and Wikipedia

  • Professor Danah Boyd,, January 4 2005.
  • Very early dissection of the tensions between academia and Wikipedia from way back in 2005.

Wikipedia, academia and Seigenthaler

  • Professor Danah Boyd,, 17 December 2005.
  • Seigenthaler’s concern that “irresponsible vandals [can] write anything they want about anybody.” Much to my complete and utter joy, Jimmy Wales responded with a fantastic structural comparison that i felt should be surfaced and shared to the world at large about comparing Wikipedia as a steak restaurant. Worth a quick read.

Wikipedia: The Most Reliable Source on the Internet?

  • S.C. Stuart, UK, 3 June 2021.
  • Professor Amy Bruckman states the answer to “should you believe Wikipedia?” isn’t simple. In [her] book she argues “that the content of a popular Wikipedia page is actually the most reliable form of information ever created. Think about it—a peer-reviewed journal article is reviewed by three experts (who may or may not actually check every detail), and then is set in stone. The contents of a popular Wikipedia page might be reviewed by thousands of people. If something changes, it is updated. Those people have varying levels of expertise, but if they support their work with reliable citations, the results are solid. On the other hand, a less popular Wikipedia page might not be reliable at all.”

Wikipedia, research and representation

  • Amy Burge, 404 error.
  • Was a lovely article written by a medieval historian and member of staff here at the University of Edinburgh BUT doesn’t seem to exist anymore. It’s just gone. An internet full of memory holes 🙁

Mary Susan McIntosh and the Women in Red

  • Lorna Campbell,, 11 May 2017.
  • Our Lorna Campbell writes a short post for International Women’s Day about the impact you can have from writing a page that does not yet exist and then publishing it and nominating it for mention on Wikipedia’s front page as a ‘Did You Know’ fact.

What do you do with a dead chemist

  • Anne-Marie Scott,, 11 May 2017.
  • Our Anne-Marie Scott reflects on how sometimes when we talk about Wikipedia with colleagues they can quickly get as passionate and engaged as we are. That happened when Ewan went to visit our colleague in Chemistry, Dr Michael Seery and Michael got very upset that 19 brilliant women chemists has been refused Fellowship of the Royal Society of Chemistry and had to petition them in 1904.
  • Reader: all 19 have a page on Wikipedia now.
  • Well, 18. One got deleted. So we need to write that page again so it remains this time!

Wikipedia and Student Writing

  • Andrew Stuhl, Wiki Edu blog, 14 October 2014
  • Almost 10 years ago but it reflects on what students get from contributing to Wikipedia.
  • “Students 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 and as they were.”

Vandalism on Collaborative Web Communities: An Exploration of Editorial Behaviour in Wikipedia

  •  A. Alkharashi and J. Jose in: 5th Spanish Conference on Information Retrieval (CERI ’18), Zaragoza, Spain, 26-27 Jun 2018.
  • University of Glasgow researchers preliminary analysis in 2018 revealed that ~ 90% of the vandalism or foul edits done on Wikipedia were by unregistered users due to nature of openness.
  • The community reaction seemed to be immediate: most vandalisms were reverted within five minutes on an average.
  • Further analysis shed light on the tolerance of Wikipedia community, reliability of anonymous users revisions and feasibility of early prediction of vandalism.

‘Shiver-inducing contacts with the past’

  • Martin Poulter, CILIP Update, November 2015.
  • Bodleian Wikimedian Martin Poulter says that the digital world can
    play a crucial role in sharing those shiver-inducing moments of contact
    with the past, such as seeing Charles Darwin’s actual handwriting,
    and libraries can involve more people in that authentic experience.

Covid-19 is one of Wikipedia’s biggest challenges ever. Here’s how the site is handling it.

  • Travis M. Andrews, The Washington Post, 7 August 2020.
  • More than 67,000 editors had collaborated to create more than 5,000 Wikipedia articles in 175 different languages about covid-19 and its various impacts.
  • Jevin West, a professor in the Information School at the University of Washington, said not to worry, that the Wikipedia has handled the virus “overall, exceptionally well. It’s not only what people go to and read,” West said. “It’s what feeds a lot of the major search engines, too. So it sort of has double impact. As someone who studies misinformation and disinformation, it’s kind of a ray of hope in a sea of pollution,” West added. “It’s almost like people’s passion to get things right and to be these curators of human knowledge makes them even more careful.” He also cited Wikipedia’s transparency. Certain discredited sources aren’t allowed, and the entire website’s edit history is readily available to the user. Finally, every fact is plainly sourced. “That level of transparency provides trust,” he said.

Majority of Wikipedia editors are still men – so how is the online encyclopedia addressing the issue?

  • The Evening Standard, 8 March 2023. Recent article.
  • The proportion of so-called “Wikipedians” who identify as women is now around 15 per cent. Almost 20 per cent of biography articles on English-language Wikipedia are about women. That compares to around 15.5 per cent in 2014. The most recent data from 2020 shows that newcomers to Wikipedia editing are more likely to be women.
  • “If society were to write more – historically and presently and in the future – about women, if journalists wrote as many paragraphs about a woman as is written about a man, there’d be more information that editors could put into Wikipedia articles. You know, we don’t come up with anything out of thin air.”

The Wikipedia rule that makes it harder to create entries about lesser-known but important women from history.

  • Stephen Harrison,, March 2019.
  • Gender bias on Wikipedia received media attention in 2018 when Donna Strickland won a Nobel Prize in physics and, at the time of her award, did not have a Wikipedia page. The problem wasn’t lack of trying: Before the award, a Wikipedia contributor attempted to create a page for Strickland, but a separate editor declined the article because Strickland had not yet received significant coverage in reliable publications like major newspapers. In retrospect, this seems like a bad ruling. Even before she won the Nobel Prize, Strickland was widely considered a leader in her field.

Who Updates Celebrity Deaths on Wikipedia?

  • Stephen Harrison,, 16 August 2018.
  • Meet the editors who race to be the first to declare a famous person dead.

Travel down a Wikipedia rabbit hole with the mastermind behind DepthsOfWikipedia Instagram

  • Elena Cavender,, 24 October 2021.

The Depths of Wikipedia creator on finding the goofy corners of the web

  • Kristina Bravo,, 10 March 2023.

Monitoring changes in Wikipedia pageviews could help save wildlife

  • Researchers have developed a new tool called the Species Awareness Index (SAI), which can track the real-time rate of change in online biodiversity awareness. The index looks at the monthly change in average daily page views for around 40,000 species (under reptiles, ray-finned fishes, mammals, birds, insects, and amphibians) across 10 of the most popular Wikipedia languages.
  • ‘Being able to see in real-time how a population’s interest in biodiversity is changing can help organisations make conservation management decisions on the basis of those changes.’ says Joseph. ‘But if, for example, you see in real-time that there is a growing interest for bumblebees, perhaps driven by a viral video, conservation charities could then make a deliberate effort to increase advertising to help protect that species.’

Russian court fines Wikipedia again for article about war in Ukraine

  •, 27 April 2023.
  • Wikipedia is one of the few surviving independent sources of information in Russian since a state crackdown on online content intensified after Moscow invaded Ukraine last year.

Russian court fines Wikipedia for seventh time over Ukraine invasion article

  • Kurt Robson,, 27 April 2023.x
  • Wikimedia’s fines now sit at a whopping Rbs8.4m ($103,000).Leighanna Mixter, Wikimedia’s senior legal manager, previously said: “These orders are part of an ongoing effort by the Russian government to limit the spread of reliable, well-sourced information in the country.”

How Wikipedia became too powerful

  • The Telegraph, 28 April 2023. May be paywalled.

The Hunt for Wikipedia’s disinformation moles

  •, 17 October 2022. May be paywalled.
  • AS SOCIAL PLATFORMS such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter have struggled with the onslaught of fake news, disinformation, and bots, Wikipedia has transformed itself into a source of trusted information—not just for its readers but also for other tech platforms. The challenge now is to keep it that way.

2022 wasn’t the year of Cleopatra – so why was she the most viewed page on Wikipedia?

  • Taha Yasseri, The Conversation, 12 January 2023.
  • Researcher Taha Yasseri gathers statistics on the most viewed Wikipedia articles of the year.
  • Most articles at the top of the 2022 list are related to major world events, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the death of the Queen and the men’s football World Cup. Elon Musk and Johnny Depp also made the list. In addition to perennial favourites such as the Bible and YouTube, there are a couple of surprises that were probably influenced by external factors like media and popular culture. For example, the article about Jeffrey Dahmer, the notorious US serial killer who died in 1994, had more than 54 million views, coming in at number two.
  • However, the massive interest in the article about Cleopatra remains a mystery…. the Google Assistant app, which uses voice recognition to allow users to interact with their phones through conversation, may be responsible. One of the prompts the app provides to demonstrate its capabilities is “Try saying: Show Cleopatra on Wikipedia”.
  • The Cleopatra example highlights the impact that seemingly small decisions by designers can have on directing collective attention to certain topics and issues, sometimes with more serious consequences. Google has been criticised for ranking search results in a way that prioritises its own products.

Friday essay: shaping history – why I spent ten years studying one Wikipedia article

  • Heather Ford, The Conversation, 24 November 2022.
  • It has been over a decade since Ford started studying this single article on English Wikipedia about the 2011 Egyptian revolution. At the time of writing, it runs to almost 13,000 words and more than 400 citations.
  • Rather than rational negotiation and broad consensus, I learned that Wikipedia articles about historic events are often the result of passionate struggle over representing what happened to whom and its consequences… Wikipedians shaped the representation of the event not by inserting falsities but rather by framing and selecting facts that supported certain narratives rather than others.

UK readers may lose access to Wikipedia amid online safety bill requirements

  • Dan Milmo, The Guardian, 28 April 2023.
  • Lucy Crompton-Reid, the chief executive of Wikimedia UK, warned the popular site could be blocked because it will not carry out age verification if required to do so by the bill. Crompton-Reid told the BBC it was “definitely possible that one of the most visited websites in the world – and a vital source of freely accessible knowledge and information for millions of people – won’t be accessible to UK readers (let alone UK-based contributors)”.

AI Is Tearing Wikipedia Apart

  • Claire Woodcock,, 2 May 2023.
  • Volunteers who maintain the digital encyclopedia are divided on how to deal with the rise of AI-generated content and misinformation.
  • “Like people who socially construct knowledge”, Professor Amy Bruckman says, “large language models are only as good as their ability to discern fact from fiction.”
  • The Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit organization behind the website, is looking into building tools to make it easier for volunteers to identify bot-generated content. Meanwhile, Wikipedia is working to draft a policy that lays out the limits to how volunteers can use large language models to create content.

How Wikipedia can shape the future of AI

  • Alek Tarkowski, blog, 4 May 2023
  • Creative Commons has been exploring how copyright law and tools apply to the generative AI space. Additionally, Mozilla has recently announced the launch of And Wikipedia is already deeply embedded in the emergent AI systems, as a key component of many of the AI training datasets. 
  • Wikipedia is radically setting itself up for its own replacement by generative AI. Especially if the very models trained on Wikipedia begin to create content for the encyclopedia — quickly pushing human editors out of the loop. However, this situation can also be seen as an opportunity.

Wikipedia’s value in the age of generative AI

  • Selena Deckelmann, Chief Product and Technology Officer of the Wikimedia Foundatrion, 13 July 2023.
  • “In an internet flooded with machine generated content, this means that Wikipedia becomes even more valuable.”

Using Artificial Intelligence to Fix Wikipedia’s Gender Problem

  • Tom Simonite,, 3rd August 2018.
  • A software program from Primer scours news articles and scientific journals for female scientists who don’t have entries in the online encyclopedia.

Should ChatGPT Be Used to Write Wikipedia Articles?

  • Stephen Harrison,, 12 January 2023.
  • Wikipedians like Knipel imagine that ChatGPT could be used on Wikipedia as a tool without removing the role of humanity. For them, the initial text that’s generated from the chatbot is useful as a starting place or a skeletal outline. Then, the human verifies that this information is supported by reliable sources and fleshes it out with improvements. This way, Wikipedia itself does not become machine-written. Humans remain the project’s special sauce.
  • Andrew Lih, the Wikimedian-at-large at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington and a volunteer Wikipedia editor since 2003, agreed that much of the potential for ChatGPT lies in overcoming that initial inertia and finding the “activation energy” to write a new article for the encyclopedia. “Wikipedians are not lacking for motivation or passion, but just the time,” he said.
  • “We always have imperfect information, and then we correct it,” he said. “If the issue is the original sin of using A.I., well, I don’t believe in original sin.” Perhaps that’s not a bad way to conceptualize this issue overall. Because generative A.I. is here to stay, it makes sense to adopt best practices and to stress the need for human supervision—not ban it from the outset as the fruit of the poisonous tree

Will Wikipedia be written by AI? Founder Jimmy Wales is thinking about it

  • Simon Hunt, The Evening Standard, 30 March 2023.
  • “The discussion in the Wikipedia community that I’ve seen so far is…people are cautious in the sense that we’re aware that the existing models are not good enough but also intrigued because there seems like there’s a lot of possibility here,” Wales said.“I think we’re still a way away from: ‘ChatGPT, please write a Wikipedia entry about the empire state building’, but I don’t know how far away we are from that, certainly closer than I would have thought two years ago,” he said..
  • “One of the issues with the existing ChatGPT is what they call in the field ‘hallucinating’ — I call it lying,” he said. “It has a tendency to just make stuff up out of thin air which is just really bad for Wikipedia — that’s just not OK. We’ve got to be really careful about that.”

And some (lying) advice from ChatGPT itself:

There are several recent articles about Wikipedia that could make for an interesting book group discussion. Here are a few options to consider:

“The Co-Founder of Wikipedia Has a Plan to Fix the Internet” by Andrew Marantz in The New Yorker (published on April 12, 2021). This article explores the vision of Larry Sanger, one of Wikipedia’s co-founders, for a new decentralized internet that would be less susceptible to manipulation by corporations and governments.

“Wikipedia’s Plan to Resist Election Day Misinformation” by Amanda Hess in The New York Times (published on October 29, 2020). This article examines Wikipedia’s efforts to combat misinformation and disinformation during the 2020 U.S. presidential election, including the use of “edit-a-thons” to improve coverage of election-related topics on the site.

“The Uneasy Future of Wikipedia” by Tom Simonite in Wired (published on November 15, 2021). This article explores the challenges that Wikipedia faces as it seeks to maintain its status as a reliable source of information in an era of “fake news” and increasing skepticism towards traditional media.

“What Does Wikipedia Mean Now?” by Jia Tolentino in The New Yorker (published on February 17, 2020). This article reflects on the role that Wikipedia plays in shaping our collective understanding of the world, and considers the site’s limitations and biases.

Each of these articles offers a different perspective on the strengths and weaknesses of Wikipedia, and could spark a lively discussion about the site’s impact on the way we access and consume information online.

Reader: these sources do not exist.

Edinburgh Award participants sat around a boardroom table in the shadow of Edinburgh castle at final showcase event, CC-BY-SA by Ewan McAndrew, University of Edinburgh

“Digital Volunteering with Wikipedia” – the Edinburgh Award

We know that many students are involved in activities alongside their studies such as volunteering, part-time work, and getting involved in the University community.

To help these activities to stand out from the crowd, our University has a new Award for “Digital Volunteering with Wikipedia to sit beside other available Edinburgh Awards– the Edinburgh Award is a programme that allows students to get official recognition for their involvement in extracurricular activities and demonstrate their digital capabilities to employers.

Edinburgh Award participants sat around a boardroom table in the shadow of Edinburgh castle at final showcase event, CC-BY-SA by Ewan McAndrew, University of Edinburgh

Edinburgh Award participants sat around a boardroom table in the shadow of Edinburgh castle at final showcase event, CC-BY-SA by Ewan McAndrew, University of Edinburgh

There are many different types of Edinburgh Award activity students can undertake but Digital Volunteering with Wikipedia focuses on developing 3 Graduate Attributes (e.g. digital literacy, written communication, assertiveness & confidence etc.) over the course of 55-80 hours of work and providing evidence of demonstrable learning, reflection and impact. These hours are staggered over the October to end of March period punctuated by 3 main mandatory “input” sessions.

In the first, Aspiring, in October the students self -assess themselves against the Graduate Attributes and select three to develop as part of the award. They also select a topic area of Wikipedia they wish to improve and submit a 400 word action plan for how they plan to develop their chosen Graduate Attributes and how they’ll deliver impact.

Once they have had training and researched their topic areas, the 2nd Input Session, Developing, in late December, requires them to re-assess if their Graduate Attribute ranking has changed, and submit a completed Fortnightly Log of Activities designed to evidence their work to date and their reflections on how they are progressing towards their personal project goals. We hold fortnightly group research sessions in the library (because not everything is online) to help their research and allow them to edit in  a social and supportive environment where they can ask questions and seek help; both from the Wikimedian in Residence, and from each other. 

Example student project on Francophone Literature, CC-BY-SA by Ewan McAndrew, University of Edinburgh

The final Input Session, Owning, is about coming together to share their project outcomes and reflections as well as ensuring the students get the opportunity to tie all this in with their future goals and how they will communicate about their Edinburgh Award experience to their peers, academic advisors or employers. This session takes place at end of March and their final submissions are an 800 word report or 3-6 minute video presentation reflecting on both their impact achieved and the development achieved in their 3 chosen graduate attributes.

Topics suggested by students to improve online

More interestingly, are the topics the students wanted to write about. Climate change, Covid-19, LGBT History, Black History, Women artists, Women in STEM. Marginalised groups, underrepresented topics, some of the biggest and most pressing challenges in the world today. This shows me that students recognise and are intrinsically motivated by the importance of addressing knowledge gaps and improving the world around them.

Here’s a short video of an example project on LGBTQ+ history and women of the MENA region:

 The final 10

We started in October with a large cohort off 44 interested students but this reduced to 10 by Input 3 but this was to be expected and is in line with other Edinburgh Award programmes similarly asking students to undergo over 55 hours in extracurricular volunteering.

These ten ‘knowledge activist’ heroes have been put forward to achieving the Award this year. 

The projects

  1. Witch hunting: past and present day
  2. Visual culture: Artworks depicting Edinburgh
  3. Francophone literature
  4. Plant pathology
  5. Buddhism and Artificial Intelligence
  6. LGBTQ history and women in the MENA region
  7. Byzantium Greece and Cavafy’s poetry
  8. International development and human rights
  9. History of menstruation
  10. Northumberland Folklore and coverage of Edinburgh related artists, banks, and writers by using museum exhibits 

The outcomes

76,000 words have so far been added to Wikipedia and over 876 references to pages viewed almost 3 million times already! 

41 articles created, 157 improved, 35 images uploaded and articles translated in German, Spanish, Greek, Bulgarian and French including the accused Bavarian witch Anna Maria Schwegelin (translated from German Wikipedia) and Crime of Solidarity (translated from French Wikipedia) which is a concept coined in France by human right’s activists in order to fight against organised illegal immigration networks as well as fight against laws that prevent refuge for refugees.

Reflections on the Edinburgh Award. CC-BY-SA by Ewan McAndrew

Notable new pages also include:

Here’s a short video of an example project on the history of menstruation:

Here’s a short video of an example project on Witch hunting (past and present):

Quotes from the students

“During the Wikipedia project, Critical Thinking skills were crucial to ensure the information presented was accurate, unbiased, and relevant. As the research progressed, I noticed that my skill improved as I had to analyse and evaluate the information gathered. One of the key improvements in the skills was the ability to identify and evaluate different sources of information. Initially, I relied heavily on a few sources for my research, but as the project progressed, I began considering a wider range of sources. I made an effort to evaluate each source based on its credibility, relevance, and objectivity, which helped me to identify and include the most accurate information.”

“I think that I have helped improve information accessibility on Wikipedia, as one of the most widely used free encyclopaedias I have felt it important to fill gaps in information largely concerning the LGBTQ community and women, as both of these areas are often forgotten about. I think having access to marginalised communities stories, achievements and contributions is a really important value, by contributing to these topics I have hopefully made information available to people around the world.”

“Once, I completed my second article I felt more self-assured and assertive on what was appropriate writing to upload onto Wikipedia. I had created an article on one of Cavafy’s poems, which is one of my favourite poems from his anthology. That could’ve also been a contributor to the overall experience too, since producing something which engages with one of your likes makes the activity a little more bearable. As I overcame this barrier, I was able to expand as well as develop my skills by editing as well as creating a lot more articles on Wikipedia. As it stands right now, I have contributed 10k words on Wikipedia. Although the first half of this process was excruciatingly slow, after overcoming my fears and worries I was keener with contributing on Wikipedia and practically spent most days changing, improving, or producing articles. ”

“Being a part of writing communities like Wikipedia has helped me to improve not only my writing but also my editing and proofreading skills. I have learned to use plain language, avoid jargon and technical terms, and organise information logically and coherently, thanks to Wikipedia’s style guidelines.”

“Doing this award has helped me make significant progress made on improving my independent research skills. For example, I think that over the course of my project, I have become better at picking out relevant information from very long sources and not spending too much time reading and fussing over smaller less significant details. In addition, I am more proficient at finding sources through Google Scholar and DiscoverEd and have also learnt where to look when struggling to find more information about a topic e.g. using good quality sources referenced in the bibliographies of journals and books I had already found to help grow my source lists.”

“Overall, my confidence to make bolder edits and create quality articles on Wikipedia has grown significantly since I started my project and I now feel that I can have a more significant and active presence on the site. Editing and writing articles about witch-hunting has been incredibly enlightening and rewarding and I want to continue to edit about this important topic after I finish the award.”

“My digital literacy skills have greatly improved compared with when I started my Wikipedia research project. Since the project involved extensive online research, it required me to engage with a wide range of digital tools and technologies. Through this process, I have developed proficiency in various areas of digital literacy, such as information literacy, media literacy, and digital communication.”

“My Wikipedia project on the history of menstruation has had a positive impact on others in several ways. Firstly, the project has helped raise awareness and understanding of an often-overlooked aspect of women’s health and history. By providing accurate and accessible information on the history of menstruation, the project has helped to demystify a topic that has long been stigmatized and taboo. I corrected a key part of the history of menstrual cups, which were first patented in the US in 1867, whereas before the article only included that the first patent for a commercial cup was in 1937. My article on Menstruation and humoral medicine has filled a gap in the content on Wikipedia, and highlighted the ambiguities in the ways that people viewed menstruation in the early modern period.”

“I wrote an article on Mary Marjory MacDonald, and significantly edited articles on Edwin Chiloba and the Signares. Mary was nicknamed ‘the Scottish Queen of Thieves’, and I believe it is important to represent more women on Wikipedia, especially figures who do not fit into traditional gender roles. This is also the case for the Signares, who were a group of women who acquired wealth and power in colonial Senegal. In addition, representing African LGBTQ+ activists such as Edwin Chiloba is important, since they are a group often neglected on Wikipedia.”

“I decided to focus on creating new pages to maximise my impact as some very important parts of the history of Francophone literature were missing, such as The Colonial System Unveiled, one of the earliest critiques of colonialism, which is unfortunately not recognised widely enough as a significant historical anticolonial text. I also decided to emphasise the contributions of women to Francophone Caribbean and African writing, as they can be overlooked in this area.”

“I hope that my contributions can help other students like me, such as those studying French or taking the course that inspired me to pursue this project. On a wider level, I also think my project can help increase the awareness of Francophone literature among English speakers. I believe it is very much underappreciated and people do not realise how much influence Francophone African and Caribbean thought have had on literary criticism even in an Anglophone context.”

Here’s a short video of an example project on improving topic coverage of Francophone literature:

Here’s a short video of an example project on improving topic coverage of artworks depicting Edinburgh:

In conclusion

Example student project researching artists,writers and banks related to Edinburgh. CC-BY-SA by Ewan McAndrew, University of Edinburgh

There are no stars so lovely as Edinburgh street lamps“.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s words (below) are inscribed in Makar’s Court, Edinburgh. In taking this photo and sharing it openly to Wikimedia Commons and inserting it into the Makar’s Court page, the Edinburgh Award student has brought these words to my attention and helped raise my awareness that there are clearly other lovely stars in Edinburgh. Ten student stars in particular. And I have told them that they should all be enormously proud of their achievements this year.

Inscription of Robert Louis Stevenson quote in Makars’ Court, CC-BY-SA by Erisagal via Wikimedia Commons

One final student project!

Here’s a short video of an example project on improving topic coverage of plant pathology on Wikipedia:

Recovering Histories – Improving Equality and Diversity Online

Recovering Histories event: 3 student researchers looked at the gaps on Wikipedia and where important histories were not (yet) represented online. CC-BY-SA by Ewan McAndrew

Three students co-authored an application to take part in a Student Experience Grant project over a 14-week time period, learning how to edit Wikipedia and how to fill in diversity gaps on the website:

  • Eleanor– PhD Student researching LGBTQ+ History.
  • Sian – PhD student researching Black History.
  • Kirsty  – Undergraduate student researching Gender History.

Each student specialised in a particular aspect of diversity which Wikipedia was lacking coverage on. These were black history, LGBTQ+ history and women’s history. Through these three specialisations each student was able to increase their knowledge in their specialised area, digging through Edinburgh’s history in the matter. For example, Kirsty, one of the students, was able to delve into the University’s rich sporting history and learn about the impressive sportswomen that spent time at Edinburgh University. Kirsty also showed off a poster presentation on the Student Experience Grant project at the University’s GenderEd annual showcase & networking event.

Through the project the students developed knowledge of the gaps on Wikipedia and created worklists of pages in need of creation or updating to improve diversity of representation on Wikipedia. These worklists were utilised in a final end of project event, with 50-60 signups. The hybrid event was held in the Project Room of 50 George Square with students, staff and members of the public taking part in learning new digital and information literacy skills and contributing their scholarship openly to improve coverage of, and understanding about, LGBTQ+ History, Gender History and Black History in Scotland.

This event included many University of Edinburgh students who were introduced to editing Wikipedia, through a led tutorial, and given the aforementioned pre-researched worklists to help contribute to Wikipedia as a whole. The event featured a panel discussion and display of the work of the three primary students involved in the project, educating those in attendance about the disparities within Wikipedia and how they can help improve this as information activists.

Recovering Histories event, CC-BY-SA by Ewan McAndrew, University of Edinburgh

The event also included representatives from University of Edinburgh, University of Dundee, Wikimedia UK, the Devil’s Porridge Museum, Sussex University, University of Cape Town, Swansea University, Birkbeck University London, UCL, University of Leeds, the National Gallery of Ireland, Victoria University of Wellington, Kiel University, ZBW Leibniz, Manchester Metropolitan University, Staffordshire University, National Galleries Scotland, Arts University Bournemouth, University of Kent, Lothian Health Service Archives.

In addition, the structure of the project allowed all three students to specialise in their interests. This allowed each student to delve further into an area of interest/specialisation which was rewarding for all involved. They each created a poster which was printed out to display in the final end of project editing event for all to see.

Event page with worklists created:

Main learning points

  • Gained professional experience using their research skills outside of their main study.
  • Expanded awareness of information activism as a whole and the role of information in dictating awareness of those often ignored by society.
  • Had the opportunity to expand their network by making connections with the Scottish Portrait Gallery.
  • Organised and hosted an edit-a-thon at the University.
  • Eleanor has subsequently organised her own editathon on LGBTQ+ art on Wikipedia and been in discussions about presenting at the Queering Wikipedia conference 2023.

Scotland, Slavery and Black Histories poster, CC-BY-SA by Sian Davies

Reflections from Sian:

“I have been looking at Black history, specifically focusing on Scotland’s links to transatlantic slavery to try to address the silences on Wikipedia related to this topic. By adding in information to existing pages as well as creating new ones, I hope this work, however marginally, contributes to public understanding of the varied and widespread connections between Caribbean slavery and the making of modern Britain. Examples include adding in details such as William Wright’s, a renowned Scottish Botanist, ownership of enslaved people and how he developed an interest in botany while in the Caribbean, and adding in William Forbes of Callandar’s, a Scottish industrialists, connection to transatlantic slavery through his production of sugar boiling pans sold to planters in the Caribbean. I also developed a new page for Leith Sugar House, to show how some of built environment of Scotland is also connected the Caribbean and the profits made from slavery. “

Gender History poster, by Kirsty Vass-Payne, CC-BY-SA

Reflections from Kirsty:

“Higher Education Institutions, and the student bodies within them, are heavily involved within diversity-based research and movements throughout society.  However all too often work fails to extend beyond the reach of the university community. Information activism is an often unappreciated but vital part of diversity and equality movements. Work to increase representation of marginalised communities online helps to make the histories, achievements and movements of communities suppressed in mainstream media available to all. Wikipedia is the perfect website for such work. Further Wikipedia involvement can be vital in transforming this information to a wider community.

Firstly it does not occur to many that they themselves can, and should, contribute their knowledge to Wikipedia. Before entering this project two out of three of the students had not contributed to Wikipedia before. This is often the first, and primary, hurdle to many in being part of the Wikipedia editing community. Herein, raising awareness of the ease at which one can contribute to Wikipedia is vital alongside providing a space in which to edit with support.Through this project Ewan McAndrew assisted the students in entering Wikipedia as editing and taught them the basic understandings and rules necessary to contribute. Although these can be easily learnt online, live teaching can be invaluable in quickly setting up students to edit Wikipedia. Running events on specific topics which include mini tutorials on how to edit are invaluable to adding information on Wikipedia. This is as they target those who are not currently engaged. The more people that are taught to edit Wikipedia, the more who can contribute their wealth of knowledge to Wikipedia. 

Wikipedia is a very large website, and as such the breadth of information that can be added to or edited it never ending. This can be a daunting prospect to many. As such it is much simpler, and more manageable to focus particularly on one area. From here you can create a related a worklist of pages to be added/edited, including details of what is missing. Often half the job on Wikipedia is establishing the gap in Wikipedia as there is often the incorrect presumption that everything is already there. If creating a worklist is untenable there are many project pages/worklists already available that you can work through with students. Examples of this include Women in Red which aims to create pages for women of note.”

Researching LGBTQ+ History poster and the rich important stories to tell, CC-BY-SA by Eleanor Capaldi

Reflections from Eleanor:

“The strand I’ve been exploring on this project is diversifying LGBTQ+ records. These could be of individuals, organisations, projects, either historical or contemporary. Filling in the gaps of LGBTQ+ history is necessary to reflect the diversity of society over time, and to readdress inequalities that have seen these identities suppressed or erased in record. Doing so also has a role to play in validating LGBTQ+ communities as being connected to something larger, this history partly acting as defence against suggestions that being LGBTQ+ is new, and therefore temporary, to be changed. It’s a way to say – we’ve always been here. Given that the historical landscape regarding sexuality and gender has evolved over time, from the law to language, it can sometimes prove challenging to attribute LGBTQ+ identities, even when there are indications. It is a catch-22 – to be accessible on a site like Wikipedia where there needs to be evidence, but for LGBTQ+ lives such evidence may have been erased, or alternatively exist, but as a result of primary sources like oral histories, rather than secondary.

That said there are valuable records that have been created and contributed to, and research projects and efforts to establish and expand LGBTQ+ sources that do exist, and they are increasing all the time. Given Wikipedia’s prominence, their inclusion matters. As such, I’ve been exploring the history of the Lothian Gay and Lesbian Switchboard, the first such telephone support service in the whole of the UK, which didn’t have a Wikipedia entry until it was developed as part of this project. Through researching this organisation, in collaboration with Archivist Louise Neilson at the University of Edinburgh (who hold the Switchboard archives and have recently received Welcome Trust funding to catalogue its contents), it has opened up so many avenues of people and events that were connected to a significant and important part of LGBTQ+ history in Scotland. It is a privilege to be able to contribute in even a small way to place this piece of Scottish LGBTQ+ history into the Wikipedia puzzle. “

New Wikipedia pages about:

Improved pages also include:

In terms of challenges, due to the secondary source nature of Wikipedia there were issues encountered with getting archival information on to Wikipedia, which requires a step in between. Had there been a larger project timeframe there would have been more time to do this. However, due to the short nature of the project archival information was simply used less as it would have been too time consuming to use more.

The legacy of the project

The worklist, gaps and resources identified, still exist and the work will have a further legacy as the work will be continued with other student editors contributing to it either through the student Edinburgh Award for ‘Digital Volunteering  with Wikipedia’ (Oct-March each year) topics or through the monthly Wikipedia editing workshops run by the University’s Digital Skills team. This project has been a source of inspiration for students taking part in the aforementioned Edinburgh Award for the kind of ‘knowledge activism’ and the agency it demonstrates students can have.

Moreover, the three students involved in the project dictated the strands of their research according to interests found along the way, and lines of success in research. As such there was always interesting work to be done and it allowed the opportunity to have conversations with, meet and work with people inside and outside of the University; to raise awareness and provoke ideas of what more could, and should be, done in future.

Wikipedia, Student Activism and the Ivory Tower

This was a talk presented at the LILAC 2022 Information Literacy Conference held at Manchester Metropolitan University on 11-13 April 2022. The slides will be uploaded shortly.

0) Intro slide: Video of Manchester Metropolitan University’s Wikipedia page being edited.

Anyone can click “Edit” on any page on Wikipedia to improve its open-licensed information with verifiable facts. E.g. I’ve added a sentence to the page for Manchester Metropolitan University about it hosting the LILAC Information Literacy conference this year.  Backed up with a citation.

Anyone can edit, yes, but you have to CITE WHAT YOU WRITE.

1) Welcome slide

Good afternoon everyone – welcome!

My name is Ewan McAndrew and I have worked since January 2016 at the University of Edinburgh as the Wikimedian in Residence.

I presented at LILAC in 2019 about our work supporting Wikipedia in the curriculum and you can read more about that work in our Booklet of Case Studies of Wikipedia in UK education at

Jesse Ewing Glasgow

2) Scotland, Slavery and Black History slide

We’re actually updating that booklet to include 5 more case studies of work conducted during lockdown including our work with History Students to re-examine Scotland’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade and a more positive examination of Black History including creating new articles about Jesse Ewing Glasgow and more.

3) History of Art UG course programme slide

Another new case study has been working with History of Art students to improve coverage of non-Western art in Wikipedia so that even if you don’t know about the visual culture of the Ummayads in Syria (of which we have a new article written by students) you will still encounter Islamic art on pages about inkwells, pitchers, bowls and more.

4) Wikipedia and Academic Libraries slide

Another great resource relevant to this audience is the new open access book on Wikipedia and Academic Libraries published last year and we’ve contributed a chapter focusing on the work of the last 5 years improving Wikipedia’s coverage about women in Scotland and changing the way stories are told.

5) Mentimeter slide

All that said, to warm you for my talk today, tell me via the power of Menti – what is your favourite Wikipedia article? Answers here.

6) News article slide

While we wait for your answers, here are some recent news article headlines I searched for in Google about Wikipedia.

7) Prospect Magazine quote slide

This last headline I like from Prospect magazine last month as it posited the question… “Who gets to define what’s true online?...

 “In practical terms, truth is what Google’s knowledge graph … can deliver to its users.

Google’s knowledge graph is descended primarily from Wikipedia and Wikidata, an open-source collection of facts derived from Wikipedia, the remarkable participatory encyclopedia that, in the past 20 years, has become a core part of our collective knowledge infrastructure.”

Which reminded me of this earlier quote from Danah Boyd in 2017’s Did Media Literacy Backfire?

“Too many students I met were being told that Wikipedia was untrustworthy and were, instead, being encouraged to do research. As a result, the message that many had taken home was to turn to Google and use whatever came up first. They heard that Google was trustworthy and Wikipedia was not.”

8) 2nd Mentimeter question

Now 2nd question – if indeed “Search is the Way We Live now” then is Wikipedia part of the Information Literacy conversation at your workplace/institution? If so, how? If not, why not do you think?

9) Video slide

While you think about that I’ll show you this video to give you food for thought, with contributions from staff, students and Academic Support Librarians at the University of Edinburgh. 

The Edinburgh Seven – our first editing event in Feb 2015

10) Edinburgh Seven slide

It’s now 7 years since our first experiment with Wikipedia, to improve topic coverage of the Edinburgh Seven on Wikipedia. The first female students matriculated at a British university when they fought for their right to study medicine at the University of Edinburgh.

The Edinburgh Seven now have their degrees, posthumously. And a blue plaque commemorating their fight for the right to study. We’ll never know how many stop to read that blue plaque but we do know how many are reading their Wikipedia page. Thousands.

11) Allison Littlejohn slide

This group editing event was evaluated by Professor Allison Littlejohn and referenced in her 2019 LILAC keynote – her research further cementing our belief that engaging with Wikipedia and in conversations over copyright, neutral point of view, open access, verifiability of sources, academic referencing, writing for a lay audience and issues of underrepresentation and invisibility online were absolutely pertinent in supporting the professional development of staff and students and helping us walk the walk when it comes to sharing knowledge outside of the Ivory Tower. Becoming knowledge activists.

12) WiR slide

Since 2016, the role of Wikimedian in Residence provides a free central service to all staff and students, working alongside other digital skills trainers, learning technologists and library colleagues and our OER Service to support the university to explore and better understand how knowledge is created, curated, and disseminated online. Beyond this, what they can get out of the learning and teaching experience from contributing to Wikipedia and understanding how the sausage is made.

13) Reframing Wikipedia slide

Our students are using Wikipedia now, today and finding it useful in a clarificatory and orientating way. We need to support them in developing good practice.

So we need to see it less as a problem of passive consumption and think instead of Wikipedia as a form of learning technology that we can actively engage with and contribute to and gain so much from in terms of core competencies and transferable graduate attributes.

14) Promoting Knowledge Equity slide

This was our starting point in many ways. Working with the Wikimedia projects affords many opportunities to support transferable graduate attributes, information and digital and data literacy, but it also promotes this idea of knowledge equity.

As part of this evolving in thinking about how we engage with Wikipedia, we wanted to push on and do more. In the pandemic, the uni had something of a hiring freeze but we still wanted to offer students the opportunities for internships for roles our CIO could see merit in as being critical for our institutional mission and help get us where we needed to be.

15) Hannah Rothmann slide

Hannah Rothmann worked a 12 week internship in lockdown 2020, creating 20 short videos for different aspects of Wikipedia editing which she embedded in a 40 page website she created. All with the purpose of providing staff and students with one-stop shop for resources they needed to understand and engage with Wikipedia, be they at our institution or anywhere else. For this work she recently won an Open Education Global award.

Wikimedia internships at the University of Edinburgh since 2019

16) More Wiki internships slide

Two more interns, Erin and Clea, improved the website in 2021 and focused on adding new sections on Wikimedia Commons, Wikidata, and WikiSource. Our new interns for this Summer 2022 will focus on expanding our work on the Map of Accused Witches site.

These internships were my way in to work more closely with our Careers Service and discussing trialling new ways to support students through also offering accreditation for the work they did outside the curriculum.

17) The Edinburgh Award slide

We know that many students are involved in activities alongside their studies such as volunteering, part-time work, and getting involved in the University community.

To help these activities to stand out from the crowd, our University has worked to pilot a new Award for “Digital Volunteering with Wikipedia to sit beside other available Edinburgh Awards– the Edinburgh Award is a programme that allows students to get official recognition for their involvement in extracurricular activities and demonstrate their digital capabilities to employers.

18) Graduate Attribute slide

There are many different types of Edinburgh Award activity students can undertake but Digital Volunteering with Wikipedia focuses on developing 3 Graduate Attributes over the course of at least 50 hours of work and providing evidence of demonstrable learning, reflection and impact. The 50 hours are staggered over the December to May period punctuated by 3 main input sessions.

19) Three inputs slide

In the first, Aspiring, in December the students self -assess themselves against the Graduate Attributes and select three to develop as part of the award. They also select a topic area of Wikipedia they wish to improve and submit a 400 word action plan for how they plan to develop their chosen Graduate Attributes and how they’ll deliver impact.

20) Fortnightly Log slide

Once they have had training and researched their topic areas, the 2nd Input Session, Developing, at end of January requires them to re-assess if their Graduate Attribute ranking has changed, and submit a completed Fortnightly Log of Activities designed to evidence their work to date  and their reflections on how they are progressing towards their personal project goals.

The final Input Session, Owning, is about coming together to share their project outcomes and reflections as well as ensuring the students get the opportunity to ties all this in with their future goals and how they will communicate about their Edinburgh Award experience to their peers, academic advisors or employers. This session will take place at end of May and their final submission will be an 800 word report or 3-5 minute video presentation.

21) Course level slide

Of the 23 student pilot group – the vast majority of applicants were female. Over 80%. Bucking the 10-15% of editors on Wikipedia normally.

They also tended to come from Undergraduate courses. 60%. 

22) Course disciplines slide

Of the disciplines, History of Art and Physics backgrounds were well represented. Which I believe is owing to recent project work with these departments and a willingness of the School Secretary to alert interested student groups.

Topics suggested by students to improve online

23) Topics slide

More interestingly, are the topics the students wanted to write about. Climate change, Covid-19, LGBT History, Black History, Women artists, Women in STEM. Marginalised groups, underrepresented topics, some of the biggest and most pressing challenges in the world today. This shows me that students recognise and are intrinsically motivated by the importance of addressing knowledge gaps and improving the world around them.

24) The final 11

The initial 23 reduced to 11 by Input 3 but this was to be expected and is in line with other Edinburgh Award programmes similarly asking students to undergo 50 hours plus in extracurricular volunteering. 19,000 words have so far been added to Wikipedia and over 300 references to pages viewed almost 900,000 times. This is only a pilot of course and I have much I have to reflect on myself.

25) Reflections

Like how best to support students to ascertain what is Wikipedia missing when that task is seemingly endless, how to structure student time and support without losing elements of personalisation, choice and flexible working that they like, how best to engender a sense of a self-sustaining community and collaboration between students and between the students and hive mind expertise across the university and beyond, also how best to quantify and quality assure what counts as a significant body of work and impact on Wikipedia.

26) Conclusion

I have much I have learnt myself from this trial run and it is not over yet. But when turning on the news seems to reflect the darkest of times of late, I have found faith that students find this work meaningful and relevant for their studies, for their employability and for their personal development as both empowered online citizens and card-carrying members of the human race.

Their willingness to communicate their scholarship openly for the good of all and to be the change they want to see has real and I hope profound potential which can be enhanced and greatly expanded in future iterations. Encouraging an army of student volunteers to be ambitious, reach out, learn, collaborate, to delve deep into the libraries and archives, devouring knowledge, synthesising it, finding the gaps and the people willing and able to help fill them. Everything connects after all, or it should. We can uncover hidden histories, build on prior learning, illuminate the darkness and lift each other up.

27) Final slide

So my question for you – how can Wikimedia best support you and wiki link with your work? Because that’s what this work is all about.

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