How to run a Wikipedia editathon – a workshop for health information professionals at the EAHIL conference

This post was authored by Ruth Jenkins, Academic Support Librarian at the University of Edinburgh.

For some time, Wikipedia has been shown to be a resource to engage with, rather than avoid. Wikipedia is heavily used for medical information by students and health professionals – and the fact that it is openly available is crucial for people finding health information, particularly in developing countries or in health crises. Good quality Wikipedia articles are an important contribution to the body of openly available information – particularly relevant for improving health information literacy. In fact, some argue that updating Wikipedia should be part of every doctor’s work, contributing to the dissemination of scientific knowledge.

Participants editing Wikipedia

With that in mind, Academic Support Librarians for Medicine Marshall Dozier, Ruth Jenkins and Donna Watson recently co-presented a workshop on How to run a Wikipedia editathon, at the European Association for Health Information and Libraries (EAHIL) Conference in Cardiff in July. Ewan McAndrew, our Wikimedian in Residence here at the University of Edinburgh, was instrumental in the planning and structuring of the workshop, giving us lots of advice and help. On the day, we were joined by Jason Evans, Wikimedian in Residence at the National Library of Wales, who spoke about his role at NLW and the Wikimedia community and helped support participants during editing.

We wanted our workshop to give participants experience of editing Wikipedia and build their confidence using Wikipedia as part of the learning experience for students and others. Our workshop was a kind of train-the-trainer editathon. An editathon is an event to bring people together at a scheduled time to create entries or edit Wikipedia on a specific topic, and they are valuable opportunities for collaborating with subject experts, and to involve students and the public.

Where a typical editathon would be a half-day event, we only had 90 minutes. As such, our workshop was themed around a “micro-editathon” – micro in scale, timing and tasks. We focused on giving participants insights into running an editathon, offered hands-on experience, and small-scale edits such as adding images and missing citations to articles.

Systematic review edit
Key stats from the EAHIl Wikipedia editathon

We also presented on the Wikipedia assignment in the Reproductive Biology Honours programme here at Edinburgh, including a clip from this video of a student’s reflections on the assignment, which sparked discussion from the attendees. Jason Evans’ talk about Wikimedia UK and Wikiproject Medicine, contextualised the participants’ edits within the wider Wikimedia community.

We are waiting on feedback from the event, but anecdotally, the main response was a wish for a longer workshop, with more time to get to know Wikipedia better! There was lots of discussion about take-home ideas, and we hope they are inspired to deliver editathon events in their own organisations and countries. We also spotted that some of our participants continued to make edits on Wikipedia in the following weeks, which is a great sign.

If you want to know more, you can visit the event website which roughly follows the structure of our workshop and includes plenty of further resources: https://thinking.is.ed.ac.uk/eahil-editathon/

Further information.

Pic of Ruth Jenkins at the Reproductive Biology Hons. Wikipedia workshop.
By Stinglehammer [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

The internet’s favourite website for information

Wikipedia at 17.

  • The world’s biggest encyclopedia will turn eighteen in January 2019.
  • English Wikipedia has 5.7m articles (full list of all 302 language Wikipedias)
  • 500 million visitors per month
  • 1.5 billion monthly unique devices per month.
  • 17 billion pageviews per month.
  • Completely open process and more reliable than you think
  • All edits are recorded in the View History of a page in permanent links so pages can be rolled back to their last good state if need be. e.g. View History page for Jeremy Hunt.
  • Vandalism removed more quickly than you think (only 7% of edits are considered vandalism)
  • Used in schools & universities to teach information literacy & help combat fake news.
  • Guidelines around use of reliable sources, conflict of interest, verifiability, and neutral point of view.
  • Articles ‘looked after’ (monitored and maintained) by editors from 2000+ WikiProjects.
  • Includes a quality and ratings scale – the two highest quality levels of articles are community reviewed.
  • Information organised in categories using a category tree. These categories can help create dynamic timelines.
  • Knowledge discussed on Talk pages  and at the Wikipedia Tea House where you can ask questions.
  •  87.5% of students report using Wikipedia for their academic work (Selwyn and Gorard, 2016) in “an introductory and/or clarificatory role” as part of their information gathering and research and finding it ‘academically useful’ in this context.
  • Used by 90% of medical students and 50-75% of physicians. (Masukume, Kipersztok, Shafee, Das, and Heilmam, 2017)
  • Research from the Harvard Business School has also discovered that, unlike other more partisan areas of the internet, Wikipedia’s focus on NPOV (neutral point of view) means editors actually become more moderate over time; the researchers seeing this as evidence that editing “Wikipedia helps break people out of their ideological echo chambers
  • It is the place people turn to orientate themselves on a topic.

 

More reading

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.” (Boyd, 2017)

Don’t cite Wikipedia, write Wikipedia.

  • Wikipedia does not want you to cite it. It considers itself a tertiary resource; an online encyclopedia built from articles which in turn are based on reliable, published, secondary sources.
  • Wikipedia is relentlessly transparent. Everything on Wikipedia can be checked, challenged and corrected. Cite the sources Wikipedia uses, not Wikipedia itself.
Own work by Stinglehammer, CC-BY-SA

Wikipedia does need more subject specialists to engage with it to improve its coverage, however. More eyes on a page helps address omissions and improves the content.

Six in six minutes – 3 students and 3 staff discuss Wikipedia in the Classroom

  1. Karoline Nanfeldt – 4th year Psychology undergraduate student.
  2. Tomas Sanders – 4th year History undergraduate student.
  3. Aine Kavanagh – Senior Hons. Reproductive Biology student.
  4. Ruth Jenkins – Academic Support Librarian at the University of Edinburgh Medical School.
  5. Dr. Jenni Garden – Christina Miller Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Chemistry.
  6. Dr. Michael Seery – Reader in Education at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Chemistry.

Wikipedia has a problem with systemic bias.

A 2011 survey suggests that on English Wikipedia around 90% of editors are male, and are typically formally educated, in white-collar jobs (or students) and living in the Global North.

“if there is a typical Wikipedia editor, he has a college degree, is 30- years-old, is computer savvy but not necessarily a programmer, doesn’t actually spend much time playing games, and lives in US or Europe.”

This means that the articles within Wikipedia typically reflect this bias. For example only 17% of biographies in English Wikipedia are of women. Many articles reflect the perspective of English speakers in the northern hemisphere, and many of the topics covered reflect the interests of this relatively small group of editors. Wikipedia needs a diverse community of editors to bring diverse perspectives and interests.

Wikipedia is also a community that operates with certain expectations and social norms in mind. Sometimes new editors can have a less than positive experience when they aren’t fully aware of this.

“5 Pillars of Wikipedia” flickr photo by giulia.forsythe https://flickr.com/photos/gforsythe/21684596874 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

There are only 80,000 regular contributors to Wikipedia. Of these, only 3,000 are considered ‘very active. That’s the population of a small village like Pitlochry trying to curate the world’s knowledge.

We need to increase the diversity and number of Wikipedia editors.  One way to do that is to run edit-a-thons and other facilitated activities that introduce some of these norms and expectations at the same time learning how to technically edit Wikipedia.

Isn’t editing Wikipedia hard?

Maybe it was a little hard once but not now. It’s all dropdown menus now with the Visual Editor interface. So super easy, intuitive and “addictive as hell“!

Do you need a quick overview of what all the buttons and menu options on Wikimedia do? Luckily we have just the very thing for you.

By Zeromonk (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Search is the way we live now” – Google and Wikipedia

  • Google depends on Wikipedia. Click through rate decreases by 80% if Wikipedia links are removed. (McMahon, Johnson and Hecht, 2017)
  • Wikipedia depends on Google. 84.5% of visits to Wikipedia attributable to Google. (McMahon, Johnson and Hecht, 2017)
  • Google processed 91% of searches internationally and 97.4% of the searches made using mobile devices according to 2011 figures in Hillis, Petit & Jarrett (2013).
  • Google’s ranking algorithm also has a ‘funnelling effect’ according to Beel & Gipp (2009); narrowing the sources clicked upon 90% of the time to just the first page of results with a 42% clickthrough on first choice alone.
  • This means that addressing knowledge gaps on Wikipedia will surface the knowledge to Google’s top ten results and increase clickthrough and knowledge-sharing. Wikipedia editing can therefore be seen as a form of activism in the democratisation of access to information.

 

The Symbiotic Relationship between Wikipedia and Google.

Learn how to edit Wikipedia in 30 mins

More Reading

Scotland loves Monuments 2018

Glenfinnan Viaduct at Loch Shiel won 2nd place in the 2017 UK prizes, let’s see if we can win first place this year!
Pic by Paul Stümke [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

Get involved in Wiki Loves Monuments!

This post was written by Delphine Dallison, Wikimedian in Residence at the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) and Scotland Programme Co-ordinator for Wikimedia UK, Sara Thomas.
Wiki Loves Monuments is an international photo competition which takes part throughout the month of September, and is supported by the Wikimedia Foundation. The aim is to crowdsource as many high quality, openly licensed photos as possible of scheduled monuments and listed buildings throughout the world.In the UK, there will be prizes for the best photos of a site in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales as well as prizes for the best UK photos overall. The latter will then be put forward for international prizes. (A picture of Glenfinnan Viaduct at Loch Shiel won 2nd place in the 2017 UK prizes, let’s see if we can win first place this year!)

Why take part?

Portobello and Wikipedia – Great 8 min podcast featuring University of Edinburgh Digital Curator Gavin Willshaw and Dr Margaret Munro of the Portobello Heritage Society discussing the importance of surfacing local heritage online.
Portobello beach by Photochrom Print Collection [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons is a free repository of photographs, audio and video content that anyone can use, re-use or distribute. Images on Commons can also be used to illustrate Wikipedia articles – which can then be seen by a global audience.  But not all of our rich heritage is represented – there are a number of gaps when it comes to the coverage of Scotland – and this year, we’d like to do what we can to change that.Is your organisation or group looking for activities for September?  Wiki Loves Monuments can be a great activity for local social or volunteer groups, not just those those concerned with photography or history.  Why not organise a heritage walk to take pictures of listed buildings in the local area, and visit the local museum or library at the same time?

How do you take part?

Register for an account on Wikimedia Commons. (Individuals only, no organisational accounts.)If you already have a Wikipedia account, no need to register for a new account on Wikimedia Commons, you can use the same account for Wikimedia Commons. To enter the competition you must make sure that your account has a valid email address and that your email is activated. To check that, once you have logged in, look for “My preferences” tab at the top right of the page. Click on it, and then select “enable email from other users.”  This will allow the competition organisers and other registered users on Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons to contact you but will not make your email address publicly available.
Wiki Loves Monuments – dynamic map of Edinburgh showing listed buildings requiring an image (in red).

What should you photograph? How do you upload it?

In Scotland, the subjects eligible to be entered in Wiki Loves Monuments are those designated by Historic Environment Scotland references for Listed Buildings and Scheduled Monuments. If you’re not sure what buildings or monuments are classed as listed, don’t worry! We’ve got a great tool for you to use to upload your photos which includes an interactive map.

Blue pins on the map indicate monuments which already have a photo on Wikimedia Commons, whereas red pins indicate where they are missing. Select your town or city then wander around your local area and look for buildings or monuments with red pins. You can take photos on smartphones, tablets or cameras and then upload them by selecting the appropriate pin on the map and clicking upload. Make sure that you are logged into your Wikimedia Commons account and follow the basic instructions. Every photo uploaded via the interactive map will be entered into the Wiki Loves Monuments.

You can take more than one photo of a building or monument. Preferably one should be a photo of the building or monument as a whole, but also use your photographic flair to add photos of key features, inside views or behind the scenes features that the public doesn’t normally get to see. Doors Open Day runs throughout September and is a great opportunity to organise a photography tour of a building or a tour of the local listed monuments in your town.

Other tips:

  • Not sure that your photo skills are up to the competition? Don’t worry about it, the important thing is to take part. The more photos we can crowdsource, the more we can improve the coverage of listed buildings and monuments in Scotland, which is our ultimate goal. You can also check the Wiki Loves Monuments blog for tips on how to best take architectural photos.
  • Wiki Loves Monuments is aimed at everyone! You don’t have to be an expert photographer, or have prior experience with any of the Wikimedia projects.
  • The competition runs through the whole of September from the 1st till the 30th and any entries uploaded during that time will be part of the competition. Photos don’t have to have been taken during September though, so you can add old photos, as long as they’ve not been previously uploaded to Wikimedia Commons. Doors Open Day is a great opportunity to tie in with Wiki Loves Monuments, so if you know local DOD venues or if you work with a local heritage officer, please advertise it with them too.

How can you take part?

In 2017, Scotland was voted the most beautiful country in the world in a Rough Guide readers’ poll.

Perhaps I’m a tad biased but I’d tend to agree. There’s nowhere quite like it.

Yet, we who live and work here can take it for granted that our beautiful locations, listed buildings and monuments will always be there… something that can never be fully guaranteed. Political and economic tides change  and forces of nature can have devastating effects as we have seen with the Mackintosh building fire at the Glasgow School of Art, Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterwork.

The Mackintosh Building in 2012 (CC-BY, via Flickr)

That’s why it’s so important that we take the opportunity to document our cultural heritage now for future generations before it is too late. Share your high quality pics of listed buildings and monuments to Wikimedia Commons and help preserve our cultural heritage online. After days out, weekend breaks and holidays at home & abroad, there will be gigabytes of pics taken in recent months and years. These could remain on your memory card or be shared to Commons and help illustrate Wikipedia for the benefit of all.

Aside from being great fun, Wiki Loves Monuments is a way of capturing a snapshot of our nation’s cultural heritage for future generations and documenting our country’s most important historic sites. Don’t wait till it’s too late, do your bit today! Click here to view a map of your local area to get started.

You just take a quick look at the map, take a pic and upload. It takes seconds and is the easiest way to take part in this year’s competition.

I was surprised to see Ryries, a public house near Haymarket Station was a listed building on the Wiki Loves Monuments map; a building I pass every day so it was an easy one to snap and upload.

If each one of us took just 1 pic, we’d have this sewn up in a couple of weeks. Which is when Wiki Loves Monuments closes – end of 30 September 2018. But if you can do more then great.

#ScotWiki #WikiLovesMonuments

ps. If nothing else, let’s give our counterparts in Ireland, England and Wales a run for their money in terms of how many images we can upload. A little friendly rivalry never hurts, right?

Scotland uploaded 300+ images in 2016. That rose to 2,100 in 2017 with 1,351 of those uploaded by staff at the University of Edinburgh.

This year we’re inviting Scotland’s public libraries to take part through Delphine Dallison, Wikimedian in Residence at the Scottish Library and Information Council.

Let’s see if we can get pics from ALL over Scotland this year. Everyone is welcome to take part and every picture helps.

You can check out the images uploaded so far for Wiki Loves Monuments in Scotland here.

University wins Wikimedia UK’s Partnership of the Year award

The University of Edinburgh has won Partnership of the Year at Wikimedia UK’s AGM.

On Saturday 14 July 2018, Wikimedia UK, the national chapter for the global Wikimedia movement, held its Annual General Meeting at the Natural History Museum in London.

Left to right: Stephanie (Charlie) Farley, Open Education Resources; Lorna Campbell, OER Service; Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence; Anne-Marie Scott, Deputy Director of Learnng, Teaching & Web Services.

Each year the AGM recognises individuals of the Wikimedia UK community who have made a recognisable impact and this year there were 4 categories open to nomination:

  • UK Wikimedian of the Year 2018
  • UK Partnership of the Year
  • Positive Wikimedian of the Year
  • Up and Coming: Wikimedian to Watch 2018

It was announced at this year’s event that the University of Edinburgh had been nominated and won for UK Partnership of the Year, as the institution which had stood out in the past year as ‘the most effective Wikimedia and Open Knowledge Advocate’.

This is the second time the university has won this accolade following its win in 2016 for hosting the Open Educational Resources conference (OER16) and follows Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew, being named UK Wikimedian of the Year in 2017.

The UK Partnership of the Year award recognises the leadership of Melissa Highton and Anne-Marie Scott in supporting the Wikimedia residency and fostering an Open Knowledge community within the university and beyond. It also recognises the fantastic work of our Open Education team; Wikipedia in the Classroom course leaders; our student interns; colleagues in Digital Skills; in Library & University Collections, in Digital Learning Applications and Media (DLAM); and colleagues all across Information Services and the university’s three teaching Colleges in furthering the sharing of open knowledge through the Wikimedia projects.

“The work done by the University of Edinburgh continues to lead the way in Scotland in terms of Higher Education engagement with Wikimedia, and has prompted enquiries from a number of other universities and organisations… showing impact within and outwith Scotland.”

“Their success is absolutely key to the development of the Wikimedia community and its work in Scotland – and I feel it’s right and proper that they be recognised for that.” – Wikimedia UK

Fittingly, the award was collected by Lorna Campbell, who works for the University’s OER Service, and is also a Wikimedia UK Board Member.

Overall, it was a good day for the growing ScotWiki community with other award winners including Delphine Dallison, Wikimedian in Residence at the Scottish Library & Information Council, who won Up and Coming Wikimedian of the Year and Sara Thomas, Scotland Programme Co-ordinator for Wikimedia UK, who received an honourable mention for UK Wikimedian of the Year 2018.

Read more about the nominations on Wikimedia UK’s website.

Wikidata in the Classroom and the WikiCite project

The following post was presented by Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew, at the Repository Fringe Conference 2018 held on 2nd & 3rd July 2018 at the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

 

Hi, my name’s Ewan McAndrew and I work at the University of Edinburgh as the Wikimedian in Residence.

My talk’s in two parts;

The first is part is on teaching data literacy with the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database and Wikidata.

Contention #1:  since the City Region deal is there is a pressing need for implementing data literacy in the curriculum to produce a workforce equipped with the data skills necessary to meet the needs of Scotland’s growing digital economy and that this therefore presents a massive opportunity for educators, researchers, data scientists and repository managers alike.

Wikidata is the sister project of Wikipedia and it the backbone to all the Wikimedia projects, a centralised hub of structured, machine-readable, multilingual linked open data. An introduction to Wikidata can be found here.

I was invited along with 13 other ‘problem holders’ to a ‘Data Fair’ on 26 October 2017 hosted by course leaders on the Data Science for Design MSc. We were each afforded just five minutes to pitch a dataset for the 45 students on the course to work on in groups as a five week long project.

The ‘Data Fair’ held on 26 October 2017 for Data Science for Design MSc students. CC-BY-SA, own work.

Two groups of students were enthused to volunteer to help surface the data from the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database, a fabulous piece of work at the University of Edinburgh from 2001-2003 chronicling information about accused witches in Scotland from the period 1563-1736, their trials and the individuals involved in those trials (lairds, sheriffs, prosecutors etc.) which remained somewhat static and unloved in an Microsoft Access database since the project concluded in 2003. So students at the 2017 Data Fair were invited to consider what could be done if the data was exported into Wikidata with attribution, linking back to the source database to provide verifiable provenance, given multilingual labels and linked to other complementary datasets? Beyond this, what new insights & visualisations of the data could be achieved?

There were several areas of interest: course leaders on the Data Science for Design MSc were keen for the students to work with ‘real world’ datasets in order to give them practical experience ahead of their dissertation projects.

 “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—and not just ‘real-world data sets’—has the potential to stimulate learning, exchange, and serendipity on all sides, and on different levels: noticing unexpected things in the data, developing surprising skills, finding new ways to communicate, and, lastly, in the development of new strategies for teaching, learning and practice.”

Towards Open-World Scenarios: Teaching the Social Side of Data Science by Dave Murray Rust, Joe Corneli and Benjamin Bach.

Beyond this, there were other benefits to the exercise. Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Web, has suggested a 5-star deployment scheme for Open Data (illustrated in the picture and table below). Importing data into Wikidata makes it 5 star data!

By Michael Hausenblas, James G. Kim, five-star Linked Open Data rating system developed by Tim Berners-Lee. (http://5stardata.info/en/) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
Number of stars Description Properties Example format
make your data available on the Web (whatever format) under an open license
  • Open license
PDF
★★ make it available as structured data (e.g., Excel instead of image scan of a table)
  • Open license
  • Machine readable
XLS
★★★ make it available in a non-proprietary open format (e.g., CSV instead of Excel)
  • Open license
  • Machine readable
  • Open format
CSV
★★★★ use URIs to denote things, so that people can point at your stuff
  • Open license
  • Machine readable
  • Open format
  • Data has URIs
RDF
★★★★★ link your data to other data to provide context
  • Open license
  • Machine readable
  • Open format
  • Data has URIs
  • Linked data
LOD

Importing data into Wikidata makes it 5 star data!

Open data producers can use Wikidata IDs as identifiers in datasets to make their data 5 star linked open data. As of June 2018, Wikidata featured in the latest Linked Open Data cloud diagram on lod-cloud.net as a dataset published in the linked data format containing over 5,100,000,000 triples.

Over a series of workshops, the Wikidata assignment also afforded the students the opportunity to develop their understanding of, and engagement with, issues such as: data completeness; data ethics; digital provenance; data analysis; data processing; as well as making practical use of a raft of tools and data visualisations. It also motivated student volunteers to surface a much-loved repository of information as linked open data to enable further insights and research. A project that the students felt proud to take part in and found “very meaningful”. (The students even took the opportunity to consult with professors of History at the university in order to gain even more of an understanding of the period in which these witch trials took place, such was their interest in the subject).

Feedback from students at the conclusion of the project included:

  • “After we analysed the data, we found we learned the stories of the witches and we learned about European culture especially in the witchhunts.”
  • “We had wanted to do a happy project but finally we learned much more about these cultures so it was very meaningful for us.”
  • “In my opinion, it’s quite useful to put learning practice into the real world so that we can see the outcome and feel proud of ourselves… we learned a lot.”
  • “Thank you for inviting us and appreciating our video. It’s an unforgettable experience in my life. Thank you so much.”

As a  result of the students’ efforts, we now have 3219 items of data on the accused witches in Wikidata (spanning 1563 to 1736). We also now have data on 2356 individuals involved in trying these accused witches. Finally we have 3210 witch trials themselves. This means we can link and enrich the data further by adding location data, dates, occupations, places of residence, social class, marriages, and penalties arising from the trial.

The fact that Wikidata is also linked open data means that students can help connect to and leverage from a variety of other datasets in multiple languages; helping to fuel discovery through exploring the direct and indirect relationships at play in this semantic web of knowledge.

 

Descendents of King James VI and I, king during union of English and Scottish crowns

And we can see an example of this semantic web of related entities, or historical individuals in this case, here in this visualisation of the descendants of King James I of England and James VI of Scotland (as shown in the pic above but do click on the link for a live rendering).

We can also see the semantic web at play in the below class level overview of gene ontologies (505,000 objects) loaded into Wikidata, and linking these genes to items of data on related proteins and items of data on related diseases, which, in turn, have related chemical compounds and pharmaceutical products used to treat these diseases. Many of these datasets have been loaded into Wikidata, or are maintained by, the GeneWiki initiative – around a million Wikidata items of biomedical data – but, importantly, they are also leveraging from other datasets imported from the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) among other sources. This allows researchers to add to and explore the direct and, perhaps more importantly, the indirect relationships at play in this semantic web of knowledge to help identify areas for future research.

 

Using Wikidata as an open, community-maintained database of biomedical knowledge – CC-BY: Andrew Su, Professor at The Scripps Research Institute.

Which brings me onto…

Contention #2 – Building a bibliographical repository: the sum of all citations

Sharing your data to Wikidata, as a linking hub for the internet, is also the most cost-effective way to surface your repository’s data and make it 5 star linked open data. As a centralised hub for linked open data on the internet, it enables you to leverage from many other datasets while you can still have  your own read/write applications on top of Wikidata. (Which is exactly what the GeneWiki project did to encourage domain experts to contribute to knowledge gaps on Wikidata through providing a user-friendly read/write interface to enable the “consumption and curation” of gene annotation data using the Wiki Genome web application).

Within Wikidata, we have biographical data, geographical data, biomedical data, taxomic data and importantly, bibliographic data.

The WikiCite project are building a bibliographic repository of sources within Wikidata.

“How does the Wikimedia movement empower individuals to assess reliable sources and arm them with quality information so they can make decisions based in facts? This question is relevant not only to Wikipedia users​ but to consumers of media around the globe. Over the past decade, the Wikimedia movement has come together to answer that question. Efforts to design better ways to support sourcing have begun to coalesce around Wikidata – the free knowledgebase that anyone can edit. With the creation of a rich, human-curated, and machine-readable knowledgebase of sources, the WikiCite initiative is crowdsourcing the process of vetting information​ and its provenance.” – WikiCite Report 2017

Wikidata tools can be used to create Wikidata items on scholarly papers automatically from scraping source metadata from:

  • DOIs,
  • PMIDs,
  • PMCIDs
  • ORCIDs (NB: Multiple items of data can be created simultaneously to represent multiple scholarly papers using one ORCID identifier input in the Orcidator tool).

Indeed, 1 out of 4 items of data in Wikidata represents a creative work. Wikidata currently includes 10 million entries about citable sources, such as books, scholarly papers, news articles and over 75 million author string statements and 84 million citation links in Wikidatas between these authors and sources. 17 million items with a Pubmed ID and 12.4 million items with a DOI.

Mike Bennett, our Digital Scholarship Developer at the University of Edinburgh, is working to develop a tool to translate the Edinburgh Research Archives’ thesis collection data from ALMA into a format that Wikidata can accept but there are ready-made tools that Wikidatans have developed that will automatically create a Wikidata item of data for scholarly papers scraping the source metadata from DOIs, Pubmed IDs and ORCID identifiers, allowing for a bibliographic record of scholarly papers and their authors to be generated as structured, machine-readable, multilingual linked open data.

Why does this matter?

Well…​the Initiative for Open Citations (I4OC) is a new collaboration between scholarly publishers, researchers, and other interested parties to promote the unrestricted availability of scholarly citation data. Over 150 publishers have now chosen to deposit and open up citation data. As a result, the fraction of publications with open references has grown from 1% to more than 50% out of 38 million articles with references deposited with Crossref.

Citations are the links that knit together our scientific and cultural knowledge. They are primary data that provide both provenance and an explanation for how we know facts. They allow us to attribute and credit scientific contributions, and they enable the evaluation of research and its impacts. In sum, citations are the most important vehicle for the discovery, dissemination, and evaluation of all scholarly knowledge.”

Once made open, the references for individual scholarly publications may be accessed within a few days through the Crossref REST API.  Open citations are also available from the OpenCitations Corpus that is progressively and systematically harvesting citation data from Crossref and other sources. An advantage of accessing citation data from the OpenCitations Corpus is that they are available i n machine-readable RDF format which is systematically being added to Wikidata.

Because this is data on scholars, scholarly papers and citations is stored as linked data on Wikidata, the citation data can be linked to, and leverage from, other complementary datasets enabling the direct and indirect relationships to be explored in this semantic web of knowledge.

This means we can parse the data to answer a range of queries such as:

  • Show me all works which cite a New York Times article/Washington Post article/Daily Telegraph article etc. (delete as appropriate).
  • Show me the most popular journals cited by statements of any item that is a subclass of economics/archaeology/mathematics etc. (delete as appropriate).
  • Show me all statements citing the works of Joseph Stiglitz/Melissa Terras/James Loxley/Karen Gregory etc. (delete as appropriate).
  • Show me all statements citing journal articles by physicists at Oxford University in 1960s/1970s/1980s etc. (delete as appropriate).
  • Show me all statements citing a journal article that was retracted.

And much more besides.

Screengrab of the Scholia profile for the developmental psychologist, Uta Frith, generated from the structured linked data in Wikidata.

 

Like the WikiGenome web application already mentioned, other third party applications can be built with user-friendly UIs to read/write from Wikidata. For instance, the Scholia Web service creates on-the-fly scholarly profiles for researchers, organizations, journals, publishers, individual scholarly works, and research topics. Leveraging from information in Wikidata, Scholia displays information on total number of publications, co-authors, citation statistics in a variety of visualisations. Another way of helping to demonstrate the impact and reach of your research.

Citation statistics for developmental psychologist Uta Frith, visualised on the Scholia web service and generated from the citation data in Wikidata.
Co-author graph for Polly Arnold, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh in the School of Chemistry visualised in the Scholia Web Service and generated from bibliographic data in Wikidata. Professor Arnold is the Crum Brown Chair of Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh.

To  conclude, the many benefits and power of linked open data to aid the teaching of data literacy and to help share knowledge between different institutions and different repositories, between geographically and culturally separated societies, and between languages is a beautiful empowering thing. Here’s to more of it and entering a brave new world of linked open data. Thank you.

By way of closing I’d like to show you the video presentations the students on the Data Science for Design MSc students came up with as the final outcome of their project to import the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database into Wikidata.

Here are two data visualisation videos they produced:

Further reading

 3 steps to better demonstrate your institution’s commitment to Open Knowledge and Open Science.

  1. Allocate time/buy out time for academics & postdoctoral researchers to add university research (backed up with citations) to Wikipedia in existing/new pages. Establishing relevance is the most important aspect of adding university research so an understanding of the subject matter is important along with ensuring the balance of edits meets the ethos of Wikipedia so that any possible suggestion of promotion/academic boosterism is outweighed by the benefit of subject experts paying knowledge forward for the common good. At least three references are required for a new article on Wikipedia so citing the work of fellow professionals goes some way to ensuring the article has a wider notability and helps pay it forward. Train contributors prior to editing to ensure they are aware of Wikipedia’s policies & guidelines and monitor their contributions to ensure edits are not reverted.
  2. Identify the most cited works by your university’s researchers which are already on Wikipedia using Altmetric software. Once identified, systematically add in the Open Access links to any existing (paywalled) citations on Wikipedia and complete the edit by adding in the OA symbol (the orange padlock) using the {{open access}} template. Also join WikiProject Open Access.
  3. Help build up a bibliographic repository of structured machine-readable (and multilingual) linked open data on both university researchers AND research papers in Wikidata using the easy-to-use suite of tools available.

Open.Ed – OER and Open Knowledge at the University of Edinburgh

The following post was co-written by Stephanie ‘Charlie’ Farley and Lorna Campbell who work at the University of Edinburgh’s Open Education Resources (OER) Service. It was presented by Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew, at the Repository Fringe Conference 2018 held on 2nd & 3rd July 2018 at the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

 

Open.Ed  – OER & Open Knowledge at the University of Edinburgh

by Charlie Farley & Lorna M. Campbell

The University of Edinburgh’s OER Service is based within information Services and provides staff and students with practical advice and guidance on creating, finding and using open educational resources.  Charlie Farley and Lorna Campbell run a wide range of workshops and initiatives within the University and beyond, and also maintain Open.Ed which provides a one stop shop to access open educational resources produced by staff and students across the university.  The University does not have a single OER Repository, instead we have multiple repositories across the institution for different kinds of content and we believe in sharing our open resources where ever they will be found most easily, e.g. Media Hopper Create, flickr, Vimeo, Sketchfab, TES, etc.

 

OER Mission, Vision and Policy

CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, Centre for Research Collections, https://flic.kr/p/snkn7o
  • Provide the highest quality learning and teaching environment for the greater wellbeing of our students
  • Make a significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution to Scotland, the UK and the world.
  • OER Vision draws on history of the Edinburgh Settlement, excellent education and research collections, traditions of the Enlightenment.
  • OER Policy encourages staff and students to use, create and publish OERs to enhance the quality of the student experience.

At Edinburgh we believe that open education is strongly in line with our institutional mission to provide the highest quality learning and teaching environment for the greater wellbeing of our students, and to make a significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution to Scotland, the UK and the world, promoting health and economic and cultural wellbeing.

Our vision for OER builds on our excellent education and research collections, traditions of the Scottish Enlightenment and the university’s civic mission.   In addition to the OER Service, this vision is backed up by our OER Policy which encourages both staff and students to engage with the use and creation of OER and open knowledge, to enhance the quality of the student experience while at the same time making a significant contribution to the cultural and digital commons.

OER for Digital Skills

OER can help to develop digital skills for both staff and students. 23 Things for Digital Knowledge is an award winning, open online course, adapted from an open course developed by the University of Oxford.  23 Things is designed to encourage digital literacy by exposing learners to a wide range of digital tools for personal and professional development. Learners spend a little time each week, building up and expanding their digital skills and are encouraged to share their experiences with others.  All course content and materials are licensed under a CC BY licence and the University actively encourages others to take and adapt the course. The course has already been used by many individuals and organisations outwith Edinburgh and it has recently been adapted for use by the Scottish Social Services Council.

OER for Equality and Diversity

OER can make a significant contribution to diversifying the curriculum.  A number of studies, including the National LGBT Survey released by the Government today, have shown that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual health is not well-covered in Medical curricula, however knowledge of LGBT health and of the sensitivities needed to treat LGBT patients are valuable skills for qualifying doctors.

Using materials from the commons, a project at the University of Edinburgh, LGBT+ Healthcare 101, sought to address the lack of teaching on LGBT health within the curriculum through OER.  The project remixed and repurposed resources originally created by Case Western Reserve University, and then contributed these resources back to the commons as CC BY licensed OER.  New open resources including digital stories recorded from patient interviews, and resources for Secondary School children of all ages, were also created and released as CC BY OER.

OER for Knowledge Exchange

Open access makes research outputs freely accessible to all. It allows research to be disseminated quickly and widely, the research process to operate more efficiently, and has the potential to increase use and understanding of research by the wider public.  However it is not always easy for those outwith academia to know how to access these outputs, even though they are freely and openly available.   In order to address this issue, we’ve created a series of open educational resources in the form of video interviews and case studies called Innovating with Open Knowledge.  These resources are aimed at creative individuals, private researchers, and entrepreneurs to provide guidance on how to find and access the open outputs of Higher Education.  The resources focus on developing digital and data literacy skills and feature case study interviews with creative individuals and entrepreneurs engaging with the University of Edinburgh’s world class research outputs.

OER and Co-creation 

We believe strongly in engaging both staff and students in the co-creation of open education and one hugely successful example of this is the School of Geosciences Outreach and Engagement course.  Over two semesters, students develop an outreach project that communicates an element of GeoSciences outside the university community.  Students work with schools, museums, and community groups to create a wide range of resources for science engagement. Students gain experience of science outreach, public engagement, and knowledge transfer while working in new environments and developing transferable skills to enhance employability.  A key element of the course is to develop reusable resources which are then repurposed by our Open Content Curation Interns to create OER that are then shared online through Open.Ed and TES where they could be found and reused by other teachers and learners.

e.g. The Sea-Level Story, http://open.ed.ac.uk/the-sea-level-story-geoscience/

Open Content Curation Student Interns 

Open Content Curation student interns play an important role in OER creation at the University.  These fully-paid interns help to repurpose and share resources created by staff and other students while at the same time developing their own digital literacy skills. We’re now in the third year of this internship and the feedback we’ve received from the students has been nothing short of inspiring. This is Tomas Sanders who worked as our Open Content Curation Intern last year, and who then went on to run a successful Wikipedia editathon for Black History Month with the student History Society.

OER for Playful Learning

The OER Service also runs a wide range of events that develop playful and creative strategies for finding and reusing open licensed content.  Board Game Jam is a popular workshop that leads groups through creating, licensing, and sharing an OER board game using digitised images from the University collections.  It’s a fun and creative way to teach copyright and open licensing by stealth.   GifItUp is another workshop that provides an introduction to creating GIFs using free and open tools and openly licensed and public domain images.  It teaches colleagues how to find and use open licensed public heritage content and encourages discussion of the ethical responsibilities we as creators have towards those materials.

OER for Creativity

Eric Lucey was a pioneering biologist and film maker at the University of Edinburgh whose film collection from the 1950s and 60s has now been made available under open license by University’s Centre for Research Collections. With help and guidance from the OER Service on open licensing and content reuse, students from Edinburgh College of Art and the Edinburgh Film Society have created film poems from the Lucey collection for the Magma Poetry journal.  And we’ve also released open film snippets from our MOOC content that can be reused in a wide range of creative contexts.

These are just a few examples of how the OER Services encourages staff and students at the University of Edinburgh to engage with and contribute to a wide range of open content collections, while enhancing their own digital skills and contributing resources back to the digital commons.  For more information about the OER Service you can visit Open.Ed here, or contact Lorna or Charlie via the details below.

 

Lorna M. Campbell

lorna.m.campbell@ed.ac.uk

@LornaMCampbell

 

Charlie Farley

stephanie.farley@ed.ac.uk

@SFarley_Charlie

Board Game Jam, CC BY-SA 2.0 Open.Ed, https://flic.kr/p/R53nGm

 

 

 

 

Ada Lovelace Day 2018 – nominate Women in STEM heroines

It’s a little over two months until Ada Lovelace Day 2018, which is happening on Tuesday 9th October this year.

Pop it in your calendar now and we’ll announce further details about the University’s plans on this website shortly.

Find out more on the official Ada Lovelace Day website – http://findingada.com

In celebration of International Women’s Day (#IWD2018) watch footage from Ada Lovelace Day 2017 at the University of Edinburgh. Via Media Hopper Create you can watch and download a Creative Commons licenced (CC BY-SA) full HD version for sharing/repurposing/remixing!

Celebrating 100 years of Votes for Women

A photograph of the Great Procession and Women’s Demonstration in Edinburgh in 1909. The image shows crowds of people congregated together to watch the procession. Many of those marching are carrying large banners. There is a brass band marching in front of the banner procession. There are also horses and carts that are carrying men and women. The photograph also shows a long view of Princes Street, which emphasises the amount of people who turned out for the demonstration. CC-BY-SA via Wikimedia Commons – kindly shared by Edinburgh Central Library’s Capital Collections.

To celebrate 100 years since the Representation of the People Act (1918) gave some women the vote, we held three #Vote100 Wikipedia editing events.

34 brand new biography articles have now surfaced on Wikipedia about Scotland’s suffragettes and the Eagle House suffragettes, along with 220 improved pages and items of data so people can discover all about their lives and contributions.

Wikipedia editathon for Processions 2018 at the University of Edinburgh Library. CC-BY-SA via Wikimedia Commons
Students and staff creating new Wikipedia pages about Scottish suffragettes at Processions 2018. CC-BY-SA via Wikimedia Commons.

 

“Annie’s Arboretum” at Eagle House

Eagle House (suffragette’s rest) became an important refuge for suffragettes who had been released from Holloway prison after hunger strikes. Many major people from the suffragette movement were invited to stay at Eagle house and to plant a tree to celebrate a prison sentence — at least 47 trees were planted between April 1909 and July 1911, including by Emmeline Pankhurst, Christabel Pankhurst, Annie Kenney, Charlotte Despard, Millicent Fawcett and Lady Lytton.

Read more in the Histropedia timeline (external website).

Suffragettes Annie Kenney, Mary Blathwayt and Emmeline Pankhurst, Eagle House, Batheaston 1910. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The Scottish suffragettes

New Wikipedia pages have been created about: Maude Edwards slashing the portrait of King George V at the Royal Scottish Academy and her defiance at trial; the force-feeding of Frances Gordon and Arabella Scott at Perth Prison by the doctor who was “emotionally hooked” to Arabella Scott and offered to escort her to Canada; the attempted arson conducted by pioneer doctor Dorothea Chalmers Smith; the Aberdonian suffragette & organiser, Caroline Phillips, being sacked by telegram by Christabel Pankhurst; and the “energetic little woman from Stranraer” Jane Taylour who was a firebrand lecturer on Women’s Suffrage touring up and down Scotland and England.

Read more in the Histropedia timeline (external website).

Bessie Watson – suffragette aged 9 years old.
In 1909, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) staged a march through Edinburgh to demonstrate “what women have done and can and will do”. Bessie Watson had played the bagpipes from an early age and at the age of nine she was asked to join the WSPU march and play the pipes. The march had a big impact on Bessie and she became involved in the suffragette movement. This involved playing the pipes outside the Calton Gaol to raise the spirits of incarcerated suffragettes. Playing the pipes led Bessie to do remarkable things and she became one of the first Girl Guides in Edinburgh and was seen by the King. The Capital Collections exhibition includes images of Bessie and the 1909 march as well as pictures of Calton Gaol. CC-BY-SA via Wikimedia Commons. Kindly shared by Edinburgh Central Library’s Capital Collections.

Academia and Wikipedia – a presentation at Maynooth University on 18 June 2018

Below is what I said at the Academia and Wikipedia Conference held at Maynooth University on 18 June 2018. My slides are here.

I have been working at the University of Edinburgh for two and a half years now in this rather strange sounding role of Wikimedian in Residence. My role here today is to explain a little about what I do at the University of Edinburgh and why we think there is a need for all universities to engage with Wikimedia.

So the Academia and Wikipedia conference is a very timely conference for the work we have been doing.

Academia and Wikipedia. This is a huge discussion right now. It needs to be. Not least in terms of what value we as higher education institutions place in students, staff and members of the public being conversant with how knowledge is created, curated and contested online and with the digital intermediaries that govern our daily lives. Beyond this in terms of what value we place on the transparency of knowledge sharing and having somewhere online you can go to orientate yourself on a topic and students can contribute their scholarship for the common good.

Because I take the view that there is a huge & pivotal role for universities to play in this discussion.

Full disclosure, I was not born a Wikimedian. Although I am interested in all the things so perhaps I was. My background is in Software Development, English & Media teaching and Information Management and the work we do at the University of Edinburgh draws on all 3 of these aspects.

So what can I tell you about the residency itself?

I can tell you that it started, and has continued, with information literacy and digital skills at its heart. Our IT director, Melissa Highton, was asked at the time what strategies could be employed to help better meet the information literacy and digital skills needs of our staff and students at the university, and how could we better meet our commitment to sharing open knowledge.

Working with Wikimedia ticked all these boxes.

But because the University of Edinburgh is a research-based institution, Professor Allison Littlejohn from the Open University was invited to come along to our first editing event in 2015 to help us make sure there was value in a collaboration with Wikimedia UK and to analyse what was going on in these editing events and what their impact actually was. And what she discovered was that there was indeed genuine formal and informal learning going on at these events and she’s produced two research papers arising from that 1 event.

The first looked at the formation of networks of practice and social capital through participation in an editathon. Through Allison’s work we learned that activity did not stop after the editathon event and participants did see it as an important part of their professional development. The second paper looked at the process of becoming a Wikipedia editor – and how participants felt editing was a form of knowledge activism and helped generate important discussions about how knowledge is created, curated and contested online and how Wikipedia editors can positively impact on the knowledge available to people all around the world and addressing those knowledge gaps. So we had strong evidence there was real merit in universities engaging with Wikipedia editing because of this. This made the business case once we aligned it with our information literacy and digital skills strategy.

Since then we have never looked back. As the university’s new resource, I could have been twiddling my thumbs or treated as a snake oil salesman but I’ve never been busier. While academia and Wikipedia have something of a chequered history*, as soon as we started discussing the university taking an informed approach to Wikipedia and knowledge sharing, we found we had a lot to talk about.

And that’s what Wikipedia is about – making connections, wiki-linking from one subject to another, disappearing down the rabbit hole of knowledge. And that’s what the residency has been about, delivering workshops and creating resources which allow colleagues across the whole university to see the connections between their work and the work of the Wikimedia projects. As such we have now created a network of Open Knowledge nodes. We find that when we work with a colleague in one discipline this can often lead to further collaborations and other colleagues being brought in and other disciplines. The number of connections and positive quality interactions that a collaboration with Wikimedia affords makes, I think, working in this space finding areas of mutual benefit makes this the most exciting in academia right now, because it is so emergent but it has so much potential to make a really “significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution to the world”.

I’m supported on all sides by a growing number of people all passionate for the sharing of Open Knowledge. There’s our IT Director Melissa, and Anne-Marie her deputy. Our Open Education team, our digital curator, our academic support librarians. Our course leaders from year one in Translation studies, World Christianity and Reproductive Biology. The team at Wikimedia UK, course leaders from year two. Course leaders in Digital Sociology, Reproductive Biology, Anthropology, English Literature, Design Informatics, Data Science for Design. A growing number of Wikimedians in Residence. And, latterly, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was tweeting his support of Wikimedia UK recently too.

So “if you build it they will come”.

And it grows over time.

Timelines of engagement

Of the in-curriculum work we have done – all of these courses have been repeated because of the positive reactions of staff and students. And we’re adding to these with workshops in Digital Sociology MSc, Global Health MSc, Data Science for Design MSc. We’re also now discussing which year group we should work with in the Law school – postgraduate, undergraduate, or both – because supporting digital research skills and the ability to communicate their scholarship an accessible way is absolutely something we as a university should be looking to do.

By way of example of our work with students , Reproductive Biology Hons. student, Áine Kavanagh scrupulously researched an article on one of the most serious and most deadly forms of ovarian cancer, backing up her work with over sixty references and creating her own openly-licensed diagram in Photoshop to help illustrate the article. The artice has now been viewed over 40,000 times since 2016, addressing a serious knowledge gap with scholarly research. Áine benefited from the practice academically and she enjoyed doing it personally. Because her scholarship lasted beyond the assignment and did something for the common good. Lots of the students see that as the main benefit of engaging with Wikipedia and are enthusiastic to help because of this.

The reason being: “Search is the way we live now”.

Google and Wikipedia have a symbiotic relationship where they depend on one another. Google is the #1 search engine and Wikipedia is the go-to information site, powering Google’s Knowledge Graph. So because Wikipedia pages are given a high ranking by Google’s algorithm, there is real agency to Wikipedia editing which our editors find inspiring. They become an activist for knowledge.

And it’s never been easier to contribute because of the new Visual Editor interface and all the little fun things you can do to add citations, images, links and more – while it’s also never been harder to vandalise because of the increased checks & balances put in place.

So there is lots to talk about in terms of Wikimedia in education… but I’ll let our students and staff speak to this and I’m happy to answer any questions you may have.

* Everything about Wikipedia is relentlessly transparent so here is its ‘warts & all’ history:

Danah Boyd also wrote some articles back in 2005 on academia & wikipedia which make for interesting reading… if for nothing other than Jimmy Wales’s ‘Wikipedia as steakhouse’ analogy which deserves to be read:

Danah also wrote an article entitled Did Media Literacy backfire? last year which has a very pertinent point to the discussion of Wikipedia in academic contexts:

“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.”

How useful has  this approach been to date?

 

Use of Wikipedia in higher education

Jemima John, 4th year undergraduate at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Law.

This post was co-authored with Jemima John (pictured above), 4th year undergraduate student at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Law and a Digital Skills intern in Information Services. It was written with a focus on Wikipedia and legal education but speaks to Wikipedia’s role in tertiary education more generally. You can watch an interview with Jemima John on Media Hopper.

 

Uses of Wikipedia in higher education

Since the early 2000’s, Wikipedia has acquired somewhat of a negative reputation for being unreliable. Educators are normally wary of allowing Wikipedia as a source that anyone can edit. This is due to believing it to be a source of misinformation, going directly against their role to reduce misinformation in the world.

However, what if the contrary is true?

What if Wikipedia can be used to reduce misinformation in the world, an often-highlighted problem of our current times. This is the very mission of Wikimedia organization. The Wikimedia projects exist to combat misinformation[1]. Indeed, Wikipedians have been combating fake news for years as source evaluation is a core skill of a Wikipedian[2]. Researchers found that only 7 percent of all Wikipedia edits are considered vandalism[3] and nearly all vandalism edits are reverted instantly by automated programs (bots) which help to patrol Wikipedia for copyright violation, plagiarism and vandalism. If a page is targeted for vandalism it can also be ‘semi-protected’ (essentially locking the page so new edits are reviewed before being added) for one day, two days or longer as required while accounts or IP addresses repeating vandalism can be blocked indefinitely. While Wikipedia is still the encyclopedia that anyone can edit, a recent implementation is new users cannot create new pages until their account has been active for four days and accrued at least ten edits. Within the first four days, however, new users can submit their new pages for review by another editor who quality checks it is sufficiently neutral, notable and well-referenced for inclusion in Wikipedia’s live space.

Due to open licensing of Wikipedia content, it is more visible across the Internet. For example, Google scrapes from Wikipedia biographies to feature as sidebar profiles as part of its ‘Knowledge Graph’ answer engine results for notable people; among many other topics. Wikipedia articles also happen to be within the top five search results due to its preferential status in Google’s ranking algorithm. This is important when one considers ‘search is the way we live now’. According to 2011 figures, Google processed 91% of searches internationally and 97.4% of searches from mobile devices[4]. Google has also been found to have a funneling effect whereby the sources clicked upon the first page of results are clicked on 90% of the time with 42% click through on the first choice alone[5]. Indeed, more recently, research published in 2017 found that Wikipedia and Google have a symbiotic relationship whereby Google depends on Wikipedia – click through rates decrease by 80% if Wikipedia links are removed – and Wikipedia depends on Google – 84.5% of the visits to Wikipedia are attributable to Google[6]. While, just this year, researchers at MIT and the University of Pittsburgh published a paper that evidenced that science is actually shaped by Wikipedia; demonstrating the free encyclopedia’s influence. The randomised control trial the researchers undertook evidenced a strong causal impact that, as one of the most accessed websites in the world, incorporating ideas into Wikipedia leads to those ideas being used more in the scientific literature. [7]

Today Wikipedia is the fifth most visited website[8] on the Internet and sometimes more trusted than traditional news publications, according to a recent YouGov poll[9]. This poll indicated that Wikipedia was trusted by the British people more than such reputable news sites as the Guardian, BBC, the Telegraph, the Times and others. Wikipedia relies on these sources, and other similar sources with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy, so would not necessarily advocate trusting a Wikipedia article over these other sites.

However, Wikipedia’s policies on Neutral Point of View (NPOV) and identifying reliable sources do help police its content and plainly increases trust in its content. Research from the Harvard Business School has also discovered that, unlike other more partisan areas of the internet, Wikipedia’s focus on NPOV (neutral point of view) means editors actually become more moderate over time; the researchers seeing this as evidence that editing “Wikipedia helps break people out of their ideological echo chambers”.[10] More than this, it is worth considering what value one would place on having somewhere online like Wikipedia – and unlike many other of the world’s top ten websites – where it is completely, ruthlessly transparent in how pages are put together so that you can see: when edits were made; and by whom; and so that edits can always be checked, challenged and corrected if need be. After all, all edits to a Wikipedia page are recorded in its View History which includes which account or IP address made the edit along with a date, time and edit summary. Importantly, these entries in the View History are all permanent links so that different versions of the page can be compared and, ultimately, so a page can always be reverted back to its last good state if any unhelpful edits are ever made.

Indeed, the process of researching and writing a Wikipedia article demonstrates ‘how the sausage is made’ – how knowledge is created, curated and contested online – and asks students as part of their research to consider what constitutes a reliable source. In this way, students can be introduced to the pros and cons of searching a variety of databases as part of discussions on information and media literacy[11]. Ultimately, whether it is a news article, journal article or Wikipedia article one should always evaluate what one is reading. That much has always been true. Wikipedia, for its part, has as its policy that no Wikipedia page should be cited in an academic paper. Rather Wikipedia considers itself a tertiary source; an encyclopedia of articles made up from citations from high quality published secondary sources. If one cites anything it is these sources that one should cite, not Wikipedia itself. In this way, Wikipedia reframes itself as useful place for pre-researching a topic in order to orientate oneself before delving into the scholarly literature. Hence, it is not the endpoint of research but the beginning; the digital gateway to academic research. In this way, it can then be seen as a valuable resource in itself. 2016 research confirmed that 87.5% of students were using it in this way; in “an introductory and/or clarificatory role” as part of their information gathering and research and finding it ‘academically useful’ in this context[12]. Now in its seventeenth year, Wikipedia has approaching 5.7 million articles in English[13] with about ten edits per second across all Wikimedia projects and nearly 500 articles created each day[14]. As the largest reference work on the internet, it is simply too big to fail now and too important a source of information for the world. Consequently, Wikipedia has realized this and has taken out an endowment to ensure it exists it perpetuity.

Within the boundaries of Wikipedia editing guidelines of notability, reliability, and verifiability, it can prove to be a valuable resource in education. Editing Wikipedia articles builds a number of key skills. It encourages digital creation and digital collaboration skills. It builds legal research skills through finding relevant sources. Most of all, the ability to synthesize the research in an accessible manner for a non-legal audience is an unique but incredibly valuable skill for any law student. What is amazing about editing and creating Wikipedia articles is that the articles it allows for dialogue and improvement over the article through collaboration with other editors.

Indeed, it was the ‘realness’ and collaborative element of the assignment that appealed to students on the Reproductive Biology Hons. programme along with seizing a rare opportunity to communicate medical knowledge to a lay audience[15][16]. Being able to communicate to a non-specialist audience is a key skill for new medics just as communicating legal knowledge is a key skill for new entrants to the legal profession.

For History undergraduates, it was the opportunity to improve the public’s understanding of history in a way that was active and not just passively receiving knowledge. More than this, it was recognizing that people’s understanding of the diversity of history would not be improved until staff and students actively engaged with addressing these gaps in representation; particularly in underrepresented areas such as social history, gender history and queer history.[17]

A Wikipedia assignment isn’t just another essay or presentation that students may never return to, but something that has actually been created; a way of demonstrating the relevance of a student’s degree and communicating their scholarship in a real-world application of teaching and learning. Beyond this, the experience of a Wikipedia assignment at Bucknell University was that:

at the close of the semester, 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[18].

Once the article becomes live on Wikipedia and indexed in Google’s top five results, students realise that there is agency to sharing their scholarship with the world. By way of example, Reproductive Biology Honours student Áine Kavanagh’s scrupulously researched a brand new article on high-grade serous carcinoma, one of the most deadly and most common forms of ovarian cancer[19]. This article, including over sixty references and open-licensed diagrams Áine herself created, has now been viewed over 33,000 times since it was published in September 2016[20]; adding a well-referenced source of health information to the global Open Knowledge community. Hence, rather than students’ work being disposed of at the end of an assignment, it can become a community project that can then be added to and improved over time; either by the students themselves or by other editors anywhere around the world. This has been a key motivator for students taking part in Wikipedia projects at the University of Edinburgh.

Of these other editors, there are some 2000+ WikiProjects on Wikipedia where editors come together to focus on a particular area of Wikipedia because they are passionate about the subject and/or have expertise in that area. If you check the Talk page of an article on Wikipedia you will see the WikiProject that has been assigned to ‘look after’ the article. In this way, content on Wikipedia is monitored and curated by a team of subject specialists; amateur enthusiasts and professionals alike. WikiProject Law aims to organise the law-related articles that consist of defining concepts spanning jurisdictions. There is a need for more articles focused on Scots law and there is scope to start a WikiProject to organise articles regarding Scots law.

There can be a number of applications within the law school. A Wikipedia assignment can be run in a single afternoon or over the course of an entire semester. It can be done as individual work, paired work or group work. Starting small and building up over time has proven a sensible methodology although best practice has been developed over a number of years at the university and elsewhere if bolder approaches are warranted.

It can be a formative assessed from a student perspective, it should be noted that if software seems too difficult to learn, students may feel like it is not worth the formative assessment and that it should be summative in nature. Indeed, recent experience is that students have been enthused to take part in Wikipedia assignments and put great efforts in to complete the assignment so receiving some feedback on their efforts always goes some way to ensuring they are fully satisfied by the experience: be it a group discussion; using a Wikipedia marking rubric; individual assessment; peer assessment; blogging their reflections on the project; or providing an oral presentation. The timing of the assignment may also help ensure its success. If it is assigned during a time of the term where other summative assessments may be due then the students may be more strategic in where they place their priorities.

Hence, past experience at the University of Edinburgh has suggested that a Wikipedia assignment incorporating such elements as students having discussions around information literacy and learning how to edit/ how to use a new form of educational technology may work best in the first semester as part of inducting the students into good digital research habits for the rest of the year before the course programme becomes busier in the second and third semesters. World Christianity MSc students and Psychology undergraduate students have also reported in recent interviews how the experience of adding references to Wikipedia was both a motivating and “very exciting”[21] moment for them; partly because of the “slick” way Wikipedia allows you to add citations easily and partly because of the fact they were able to draw from relevant news articles and bring them together with books and journal articles (and more) to holistically convey the subject they were writing about.[22]

In terms of how hard or difficult Wikipedia editing now is, Wikipedia has a new WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) Visual Editor interface which is easy to learn in an hour and just takes a little practice. It makes use of dropdown menus much like one experiences in word processing applications such as Microsoft Word and WordPress blogging and has been described variously as “super easy”, “fun”, “really intuitive” and “addictive as hell.”

There is also scope for a Wikipedia assignment to form a proportion of the summative element of the course as they have done on the World Christianity MSc.[23] It should be noted that contributions made to Wikipedia are not static, but rather they are picked up by other Wikipedia editors to improve the reliability of the site. In educational contexts, this could be seen negatively but students have intimated that they like their work surviving beyond the life of the assignment and becoming a community project that can be added to over time. Beyond this, students can download their finished pages as a pdf, create books of their finished articles and, because all edits are recorded as permanent links in the View History of a page, they will always have a permanent link to their version of the page, no matter what changes are made to improve or expand it by other editors.

Wikipedia is an useful source but it can never replace formal legal education which teaches specialist knowledge, analytical skills, ethical standards, and importantly impart a love of democracy and justice. Wikipedia in legal education will only supplement these activities.

For further information – refer to:  

References

[1] Kamenetz, Anya (2017). “What Students Can Learn By Writing For Wikipedia”. NPR.org.

[2] Davis, LiAnna (2016). “Why Wiki Education’s work combats fake news — and how you can help”. Wiki Education.

[3] Adler B.T., de Alfaro L., Mola-Velasco S.M., Rosso P., West A.G. (2011) Wikipedia Vandalism Detection: Combining Natural Language, Metadata, and Reputation Features.

[4] Hillis, Ken; Petit, Michael; Jarrett, Kylie (2012). Google and the Culture of Search. Routledge. ISBN9781136933066.

[5] Beel, J.; Gipp, B. (2009). “Google Scholar’s ranking algorithm: The impact of citation counts (An empirical study)”. 2009 Third International Conference on Research Challenges in Information Science: 439–446. doi:1109/RCIS.2009.5089308.

[6] McMahon, Connor; Johnson, Isaac; and Hecht, Brent (2017). The Substantial Interdependence of Wikipedia and Google: A Case Study on the Relationship Between Peer Production Communities and Information Technologies.

[7] Thompson, Neil; Hanley, Douglas (2018). “Science Is Shaped by Wikipedia: Evidence From a Randomized Control Trial”. Rochester, NY.

[8] https://www.alexa.com/topsites

[9]https://yougov.co.uk/news/2014/08/09/more-british-people-trust-wikipedia-trust-news/

[10] Guo, Jeff (2016). “Wikipedia is fixing one of the Internet’s biggest flaws”. Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286.

[11] “Wikipedia and Information Literacy – Academic Support Librarian Ruth Jenkins”. Media Hopper Create – The University of Edinburgh Media Platform.

[12] Selwyn, Neil; Gorard, Stephen (2016). “Students’ use of Wikipedia as an academic resource — Patterns of use and perceptions of usefulness”. The Internet and Higher Education. 28: 28–34. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2015.08.004. ISSN 1096-7516.

[13] “Wikipedia:Statistics”. Wikipedia.

[14]https://tools.wmflabs.org/wmcharts/wmchart0002.php

[15] “Wikipedia in the Classroom – Interview with Aine Kavanagh (Reproductive Biology Hons. student)”. Media Hopper Create – The University of Edinburgh Media Platform.

[16] “Wikipedia in the Classroom – Eve Sealy, Senior Honours student on the Reproductive Honours programme”. Media Hopper Create – The University of Edinburgh Media Platform.

[17] “Wikipedia and History – Tomas Sanders, History undergraduate at the School of History, Classics and Archaeology”. Media Hopper Create – The University of Edinburgh Media Platform.

[18] Stuhl, Andrew (2014-10-14). “Wikipedia and Student Writing”. Wiki Education.

[19] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-grade_serous_carcinoma

[20] https://tools.wmflabs.org/pageviews/?project=en.wikipedia.org&platform=all-access&agent=user&range=all-time&pages=High-grade_serous_carcinoma

[21] “Wikipedia in the Classroom – Psychology student Karoline Nanfeldt”. Media Hopper Create – The University of Edinburgh Media Platform.

[22] “World Christianity MSc students on the Wikipedia literature review assignment”. Media Hopper Create – The University of Edinburgh Media Platform.

[23] “Wikipedia in the Classroom – Interview with Dr. Alex Chow (World Christianity MTh/MSc programme)”. Media Hopper Create – The University of Edinburgh Media Platform.