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

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Wikimedia and the Diversity of Languages online – Guest post by Clea Strathmann

Globally, over 7,000 languages are spoken – only around 4% of people are native English speakers. Despite this, English holds the title of the “Language of the internet”.  It dominates with Chinese almost 50% of global web traffic with the top ten languages accounting for 76.9 percent of global internet users. The majority of African and Indigenous languages are not recognised by Google’s search engine. 

When an English speaker searches for something on Google, a Wikipedia article typically appears as a top hit, often as a convenient infobox at the side of the browser. This is because English Wikipedia has over 6 million articles. Wikipedias in other languages are more limited – only two other Wikipedias (Cebuano and Swedish) have over 3 million articles, and the 20 largest Wikipedias have around 1 million entries each. Many of these articles are comparatively shorter than those in English Wikipedia. 

Percentage of Wikipedia articles in each language group – Western European language groups dominate Wikipedia.

This lack of diversity restricts a significant portion of the world from access to knowledge that is readily-available to English speakers, and disproportionately affects those who live in less-developed regions who may not speak any of the internet’s other dominant languages. Access to knowledge is vital for bridging the understanding between languages and cultures. 

Knowledge creates understanding – understanding is sorely lacking in today’s world. – Katherine Maher, Executive Director Wikimedia Foundation. 

The United Nations has, as part of their sustainable development goals, emphasised a need for equitable education and lifelong learning. To enable this, resources of knowledge must be available in all languages. But alongside access to knowledge, the lack of linguistic diversity is a pressing issue for smaller languages, including indigenous languages which are dying out at a rate of two languages per month. For speakers of these languages, their extinction may also reflect the extinction of their culture and identity. 

Watch Dr. Sara Thomas speak about Scots Wikipedia at the Arctic Knot.

The role of Wikimedia in improving linguistic diversity 

Wikipedia is attempting to increase global access to knowledge, and it is one of the aims of The Wikimedia Foundation to ensure that knowledge is diverse, inclusive, and accessible to all. When considering linguistic diversity, the aim is for the number of Wikipedia articles to be evenly distributed across languages. Theoretically, this could be done by simply translating articles from one language Wikipedia into another. 

However, translating Wikipedia would not be enough to create linguistic diversity. Take the Game of Thrones article on Welsh “Wicipedia”, for instance, which highlights the similarity of the fictional languages in the series to Welsh and emphasises its Welsh actors. This demonstrates the impact of culture on what is important, or not, to the readers of Wikipedia. The relationship between the language and culture is heavily-entangled, and makes it even more important that these are represented and preserved online. 

Watch the opening speeches by Aili Keskitalo, President of the Sámi Parliament of Norway and Guri Melby, Minister of Education Norway at the Arctic Knot 2021

One of the best ways that we can support linguistic diversity is through collaborative efforts with Wikipedia projects. In 2017, The University of Edinburgh and Wikimedia UK started the ‘Celtic Knot’ Wikipedia Language conference, which aims to bring together smaller language communities to collaborate on ideas for how to improve the Wikipedia content in these languages and to increase their linguistic presence across other language Wikipedias. The Celtic Knot also developed into the Arctic Knot conference, hosted by Wikimedia Norway this year, which aims to improve the visibility of indigenous arctic languages. These conferences allow speakers to address the importance of engaging with their language, and provide practical resources for encouraging contributions to Wikipedia. The Toolkit for language activism, for instance, supports the creation of digital skills and written language skills which can help people who speak minority languages to contribute to Wikipedia. Through such projects, people are encouraged to contribute to Wikipedia to improve both representation and usability of languages. 

Using Wikidata to build linguistic diversity online 

From the collaborative efforts of dedicated Wikimedians, communities are already seeing successes in increasing the presence of their languages. But for smaller languages, including many indigenous languages, writing entire Wikipedia articles is challenging and time-consuming. This is where Wikipedia’s sister project – Wikidata – has proven to be an important contributor to improving language diversity online.

This chart, made using Wikidata, shows the amount of Wikipedia articles about Greek citizens that are available on English Wikipedia but not on Greek Wikipedia. The majority are sports players, but it also includes a number of artists and academics.

Wikidata is a free and open knowledge base of machine-readable facts. Each data item has  a unique identifier (a ‘Q’ number). The label, description and all of the statements within each data item can be labelled in any language and, because of this, the data can be instantly transformed into any language. This means that any search can make this knowledge both discoverable and understandable in any language. Items from Wikidata are important for modern technologies such as Amazon’s Alexa and Siri, which use Wikidata’s machine-readable entries to answer questions – but, importantly, these can only provide responses in the languages it is labelled in, and the number of Wikidata language labels, beyond European languages, is scarce.

As an example, take disease and health data, which constitute vital information that needs to be easily-accessible. A search of diseases uploaded to Wikidata reveals over 13,000 diseases have been uploaded to the database, but around 5,000 of these entries are only labelled in 1 language. So whilst Wikidata is a useful tool to aid knowledge discovery, it will take the work of native language speakers from around the world to develop it into the linguistically diverse database that it has the potential to become. In growing both the number of items in Wikidata, and its language labels, technologies can become more accessible for different languages. Ultimately, this is crucial in enabling smaller languages to thrive, rather than just to survive. 

What can we do to promote linguistic diversity?

Governments have highlighted the importance of actively increasing linguistic diversity. UNESCO has produced a 10-year plan for the preservation of indigenous languages, referred to as the Decade of Indigenous Languages, which calls into action the human rights of Indigenous Peoples. A key part of the plan surrounds the use of technology to support access to Indigenous languages – this can involve the use of Wikipedia and Wikidata as impactful open platforms for building global understanding about different languages and, alongside this, different cultures. Encouraging people to contribute to Wikipedia may seem difficult, but events including the Celtic and Arctic Knot conferences, and outreach projects such as Indigenizing Wikipedia, have demonstrated how successfully Wikipedia can be used as a platform for language activism. 

By contributing to both Wikipedia and Wikidata, we can increase the use and representation of smaller languages, contributing to the preservation of the important cultures that are intertwined with them. 

Clea Strathmann, Open Data and Knowledge Equity intern

Watch the whole Arctic Knot conference on YouTube here.

Welsh Wikipedia Thinking Big – Keynote address by Jason Evans at the Celtic Knot

A state of the question – the Catalan language project – Àlex Hinojo, Executive Director, Amical Wikimedia

The Scottish Gaelic Uicipeid project – Susan Ross at the Celtic Knot

Celtic Knot – Panel discussion & closing plenary: The Politics of Language Online

Supporting Open Collections – Guest post by Wikisourceror intern, Erin Boyle

Figure 1: ‘Main Library Rainbow’, Stewart Lamb Cromar 2021 CC BY-SA, File:’Main Library Rainbow’ (2 3) (51239066072).jpg – Wikimedia Commons

I am now at the end of week four of my role as a Wikisourceror – Open Collections intern, and the learning process has continued; albeit now I am a bit more familiar with the world of Wiki! I have now created two new articles on Wikipedia (for Hannah Shields and Iona McGregor), and this week I uploaded some of Stewart Lamb Cromar’s (@stubot) Lego Library images to Wikimedia Commons. You can now find one of the Lego Library pictures on the Wikipedia page for the University of Edinburgh Main Library!

I also had the pleasure to attend the Arctic Knot – Wikipedia Language Conference last week, during which I listened to many incredibly interesting and insightful talks. This included several talks about Arctic languages and indigenous languages, digital language activism, and I participated in an Intro to Wikisource workshop led by Nicolas Vigneron; during which we proofread pages from a book in French Breton – it was a bit of a challenge! However, I am getting the hang of Wikisourcing a little more now.

I have also been playing around with the Wikidata query service; especially looking at interesting queries made by others, such as Martin Poulter. Some queries that I found really interesting were those to return items in particular galleries/libraries/museums, organisations founded by people born in Edinburgh, people who invented scientific instruments, and places of education of Members of Parliament of the United Kingdom. I really enjoyed looking at the several different ways of visualising the results of the query, such as plotting geocoordinates associated with the items on a map or making an interactive graph of connections between the items returned.

Over the past week or two I have been turning my attention to drafting content for the University’s Wikimedia website and corresponding resources (PDFs and videos) and laying the foundations for designing the workflows for library staff. This has involved looking at the website as it is currently and deciding where the content gaps are that need filled.

As I am planning content for the website, I am also investigating good examples of GLAM WikiProjects; especially those which involve working with Wikisource. Examples of best practice and advice will both help inform the resources that I am going to create, and demonstrate to people who are thinking about getting involved in Wikimedia (especially those working in Library & University Collections) that their contributions can have a positive impact; and that in the case of the Library they can use Wikimedia to significantly raise awareness and engagement with their collections both within the University, as well as nationally and globally. Institutions that I am investigating involve the Rijksmuseum, Europeana, Wellcome Library, National Library of Wales, The Smithsonian and more.

Knowledge doesn’t belong in silos. The interlinking of the Wikimedia projects exemplified through Robert Louis Stevenson. Media files on Commons, his written works on Wikisource, machine-readable linked open data on Wikidata. All linked to from Wikipedia.

Whilst planning my content and resources, I needed to think a lot about what the needs and prior knowledge of the users would be. Thinking about potential barriers that people face when contributing content to the Wikimedia projects, many difficulties stem from a lack of accessible, easy-to-use documentation, and users not being aware of how to find resources easily or get started with the various platforms. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be having conversations with some members of staff at the university to find out about their previous experiences with the Wikimedia projects, what their feelings towards them are and how they could be better supported to feel able to contribute.

I am creating resources with a Library focus, meaning that for example, my Wikisource resources will focus more on guiding users on how to upload digitised texts to Wikimedia Commons, add structured data for the texts, and then set up the text for proofreading, validating and transcluding on Wikisource. I will also be creating a guide for making an author page on Wikisource and for showing users how they can link content across the Wikimedia projects: such as adding a template to an author’s Wikipedia page that will show an associated works box, so that users who are interested in an author can quickly and easily access their works.

The goal for this week is to begin creating the content that I have planned in my draft last week. This will involve preparing scripts for how-to videos and beginning to carve out some rough drafts for supporting PDF guides.

Updates to come soon!

Erin Boyle – Wikisourceror Open Collections intern

Final reflections on my Wikimedia Training Internship by Hannah Rothmann

Before starting my internship as the Wikimedia Training Intern at the University of Edinburgh, I did not know much about Wikipedia and its sister projects. I had obviously used Wikipedia; to settle arguments, as a springboard for research and as a helping hand in some particularly difficult pub quizzes. However, I had not given much thought to where that information came from, how it was curated, maintained and what prompted people to edit freely and in their spare time. The goal to make Wikipedia the ‘sum of all human knowledge’ lies behind the work of many editors. It is this possibility of open access to all knowledge for all that drives people. The majority of editors want to preserve information, such as creating an online database of small, nearly extinct languages. For many, it is also a wish to share knowledge, to help people and to make the internet a bit better that drives them to contribute. It is a noble aim and one that many strive to help achieve both within the University of Edinburgh and Wikimedia UK, the UK branch of the Wikimedia Foundation.

However, I do acknowledge that Wikipedia and the other Wiki platforms are not perfect. They sadly reflect the biases that are inherent in our society. Only around 18% of all biographies on the English Wikipedia are on women and there are even less on women from the Global South. The representation of ethnic minorities is also problematic. A study in 2011 found that the perspective on Wikipedia tends to come from the Global North and this is something that needs to change as the editors of Wikipedia are predominantly male, college educated, white and in their 30s. Therefore, to make Wikipedia a better place we need to make learning how to edit and maintain Wikipedia accessible for all and we need to persuade people to get involved from all backgrounds to try to address the systemic bias on Wikipedia.

One way is through edit-a-thons, where people come together with a goal to edit and create articles around a particular topic. For example, a group called Women in Red create Wikipedia articles about notable women that are lacking from Wikipedia and they helped to increase the percentage of articles about women on the English Wikipedia from around 15% to around 18%. During my summer, I attended events aim at improving representation of women such as the NHLI Wikithon for Women in Science and events hosted by the Women’s Classical Committee. Both had great speakers and showed me the possibility for social activism that Wikipedia holds.

Another way to increase access to Wikipedia is through training materials. Making accessible and understandable ‘how to’ videos and content for Wikipedia and Wikidata, an open machine-readable database, has been a main focus of my internship and over the last few weeks I have been finalising what I have made and making a website for this information. This is not a final solution for Wikipedia and Wikidata training but hopefully it will be a place where most questions can be answered for those taking their tentative first steps into the world of wiki. Not only do we need to persuade people to edit but we also need them to continue to edit and this training resource could mean that there is a safety net for new editors to fall back on for help.

Working from home has had its difficulties. Waiting for software, for a headset and sending many emails which could have been short conversations in person are some of the things that have slowed down my work. It also is important to stay motivated when working from home as the days can blur especially when there is no distinction between home and work. However, the team at the university have been very friendly, they have been around to have video calls if I need any help and extremely supportive. Everyone is going through a strange time and working from home has been a good learning curve and one that will be important for my final year at university where most of my studying will take place remotely.

I am grateful for the skills I have learnt this summer during my internship and for an opportunity to learn about the positive work that we can collectively do on the internet. Hopefully, I will continue to edit Wikipedia and in a small way increase representation on the internet and open access to knowledge for all.

Thanks especially to Ewan McAndrew for all the help and guidance this summer!

Internship Blog #2: 4 weeks into my Wikimedia Internship by Hannah Rothmann

I have now finished 4 very busy weeks of my Wikimedia Training Internship! These past few weeks I have begun developing ideas and plans for training materials for Wikipedia and Wikidata and for a website where I can share these materials. This has meant that, among other things, I have been learning how to create a website and how to use screen capturing software; all useful skills! There have been some stumbling blocks in getting the relevant access to the necessary sites so I have spent time ensuring I had the skills to access platforms such as EdWeb.  Everything has now been sorted out and hopefully I will be able to progress smoothly for the next 8 weeks of the internship!

The website that I want to create will showcase the work that the Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Edinburgh, Ewan McAndrew, is doing, explain the importance of Wikipedia and Wikidata, explore real life examples of using both platforms and hopefully give all novices the skills they need to feel confident using these platforms. It will be a mix of videos, pdfs, images and texts and I am looking forward to having a finished website which will be useful to many people embarking on their wiki-journey!

Working from home is still a strange experience but luckily frequent calls with colleagues and Wikimedians outside of the university ensure that I feel connected and part of something. Last week, I was able to sit in on some of the talks at the Celtic Knot Conference 2020 (originally meant to be held in Ireland) which changed up my routine a little. This conference  clearly exemplified how Wikipedia and especially Wikidata can cause real life change. The focus of this conference was

‘to bring people together to share their experiences of working on sharing information in minority languages’

and the organisers wanted to have

‘a strong focus on Wikidata and its potential to support languages’.[1]

One of the talks I attended was led by Léa Lacroix and Nicolas Vigneron who showed us how to input Wikidata lexemes. For example, Nicolas used Breton as the language he was inputting. This function of Wikidata is significant in ensuring that a record of these languages is accessible for many people in many languages. This is important work considering a recent study suggested that Scots Gaelic, for example, could die out within the decade.

The next few weeks I will be focusing on creating videos, the website and editing all of these materials. I will be also attending the Women’s Classical Committee UK Wiki colloquium at the end of July which describes itself as

‘a crowd-sourced initiative that aims to increase the representation of women classicists (very broadly conceived) on Wikipedia.’[2]

This neatly combines my degree, Classics, with the new skills and interests I am developing from this internship and it is a good way I can practically put these new skills to use diversifying Wikipedia!

[1] https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Celtic_Knot_Conference_2020

[2] https://ics.sas.ac.uk/events/event/22700

Internship Blog #1: My First Week by Hannah Rothmann

Hi, my name is Hannah and I will be going into the final year of my Classics degree in September. I have just finished week 1 of my Wikimedia Training Internship; the start date was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty that came with it. Adjusting to working remotely from home, meeting new people but over video calls and Microsoft teams and also learning about entirely new things has meant that it has been a strange and somewhat nerve-racking first week and not what I would have expected from a summer internship a year ago. Thankfully, my line manager, Ewan McAndrew, has been very welcoming and made me feel at ease despite this novel situation!

The Wikimedia Training Internship caught my attention among a long and varied list of Employ.Ed internships. The aim of my internship of is to create materials to teach people how to edit and use Wikipedia and Wikidata with the goal of them becoming active editors and contributing to a growing database of free, credible and jointly gathered information. I was shocked when I discovered this week that only around 18% of biographical pages on the English Wikipedia are about women! Hopefully, by making more accessible teaching materials we will be able to address this imbalance and increase the diversity of Wikipedia and Wikidata. This means making resources that avoid complicated jargon, address all stumbling blocks a beginner wiki-user may encounter and will enable the uninitiated to become confident editors and contributors. Wikimedia UK believes

‘that open access to knowledge is a fundamental right’ and in the ‘democratic creation, distribution and consumption of knowledge’.[1]

These aims demonstrate the importance of the work of Wikimedia UK. My line manager Ewan stressed this importance and that Wikimedia related activities have a growing significance in a learning environment shifting more towards the digital world when he had to argue that the internship should go ahead despite financial impact COVID-19 on the university; many internships were cancelled. My internship will hopefully enable remote learning and help people see how they can change their approach to teaching to incorporate Wikimedia related activities into how students learn.

This aim means that the work I am doing is firmly rooted in the present and even the future. Just this week I have learnt new ways to use technology and skills which will be indispensable in a world moving ever more into the realm of online, online learning and the online experience. Although at first glance this internship appears in direct contrast to my Classics degree, which is focussed among other things on reading and interpreting ancient texts, the aim of a Classics degree, in my opinion, is to understand that ideas and concepts of whatever period always have relevance and there is always the possibility of continual learning.  The different skills I will develop in my internship and the skills I am learning from my degree will hopefully enrich my approach to work and any work that I do in this time and in the future.

So far, I have been getting used to remote working and all the quirks that come with it (hoovering is not something that goes too well with a work video call for example!) and I have also been figuring out where the gaps are in the current resources that Ewan has to teach people about Wikipedia and Wikidata while also filling in my rather large gaps of knowledge. For example, I had no idea what Wikidata really was before the start of my first week and I am still trying to understand it fully. I was lucky enough to attend the NHLI Women in Science Wikithon at the end of my first week which gave me a chance to implement what I had learnt about Wikipedia editing and it showed me how much more still needs to be done to improve diversity. Dr Jess Wade, who was Wikimedia UK’s Wikimedian of the year 2019, gave an introduction exploring why we should all edit Wikipedia. She has personally made hundreds and hundreds of Wikipedia pages for women and for notable women in science who previously had been ignored and in doing this has increased awareness regarding Wikipedia and how it can be used to tackle inequality and lack of diversity. After this introduction, it was a treat to have some training from Dr Alice White who showed us how to begin editing and creating our own pages. I edited some pages already created but lacking details, for example a page about Dr Susan Bewley, as I did not feel quite ready to begin making my own pages. The work Dr Jess Wade has been doing and continues to do along with this event really showed me how Wikipedia could be used as a force for good and also the importance of ensuring people have access to learning materials.

I am excited about getting to grips with my internship, developing skills, challenging my abilities all with the aim to make Wikipedia and Wikidata a platform that anyone anywhere will feel able to use, edit and appreciate!

 

[1] https://wikimedia.org.uk/ viewed 30/06/2020

Wikimedia at the LILAC Information Literacy Conference 2019

I attended the 2019 LILAC Information Literacy Conference (Twitter hashtag: #LILAC19) at the University of Nottingham on 24-26 April 2019 with my Academic Support Librarian colleague, Donna Watson. This was my first visit to this conference and I was unsure what to expect and to what extent information professionals attending the conference would welcome and engage with discussing Wikipedia and Information Literacy.

However, I was blown away with the level of enthusiasm to discuss this subject – from discussions on Wikipedia’s role in teaching and learning; on open access; on addressing gender bias online and feminist pedagogy in information literacy instruction; to developing our understanding and a definition of data literacy further; to how better to facilitate the dissemination of accurate health information arising from Ruth Carlyle’s excellent keynote; and how to support a more robust critical information literacy when it came to combating ‘fake news’ (misinformation & disinformation) using the IF I APPLY model instead of the CRAAP Test.

IF I APPLY: Updated CRAAP Test for Evaluating Sources Presenters: Kat Phillips, Sabrina Thomas and Eryn Roles

I was particularly buoyed, inspired, and grateful for the advocacy and articulacy of Professor Allison Littlejohn’s keynote presentation on how information literacy needs to support innovation in pursuit of social good as it devoted time to discussing Allison’s research into Wikipedia editing and paid tribute to the leadership of Melissa Highton, Assistant Principal at the University of Edinburgh, with the ‘Edinburgh Seven’ Wikipedia editing event in 2015, our very first editathon here at the university, held up as an example of good practice.

NB: If you are interested then ‘Changing the Way Stories Are Told’ – Melissa Highton on the Edinburgh Seven has audio from her presentation at the Wikipedia Science Conference 2015, and a video presentation at the 2017 Physiological Society event).

Professor Allison Littlejohn’s keynote on ‘[Un]intended consequences of innovation in H.E. – Tensions of profitability and social mobility’.

I have many other highlights from the warm welcome I received over the three days I spent at the University of Nottingham including the conference dinner and disco at Colwick Hall (Lord Byron’s ancestral home apparently); the introduction we received and anecdotes shared on the D.H. Lawrence archival collection; and discussing with Caroline Ball and Jonathan White about their own Wikipedia in the Curriculum project at the University of Derby. Staff and student feedback does seem extraordinarily clear on the benefits of engaging with Wikipedia in teaching and learning over any abstinence-only approach. So it does seem to me that Wikipedia editing events, ‘editathons’, have indeed reached a ‘tipping point’ moment where we can have these conversations about how best to engage across the library and education sectors and beyond.

University of Derby librarians, Caroline Ball and Jonathan White, presenting on Using Wikipedia as a teaching tool.

Caroline Ball displaying the positive feedback to the Wikipedia assignment with the only negatives reportedly around the room temperature and uncomfortable chairs.

My presentation, which Donna Watson co-presented with me, is below.

Embedding Wikimedia in the Curriculum

 

Good Morning,

My name is Ewan McAndrew and I work at the University of Edinburgh as the  Wikimedian in Residence. Melissa Highton, our Director of IT at the University was to have been here today to speak about why she wanted a Wikimedian in post but she’s otherwise engaged so I’m delighted my Academic Support Librarian colleague, Donna Watson, has agreed to share her perspective on the residency.

So this presentation asserts that working with Wikipedia in the curriculum helps students to “think critically and make balanced judgements about information. It empowers us as citizens to reach and express informed views and to engage fully with society” (CILIP Information Literacy Group, 2018).

Sound familiar?

Because that’s what we found to be the case over the last three years.

Icebreaker opening:

Can you tell me three words that come to mind when I mention Wikipedia?

Would they be Don’t Use Wikipedia?

Or have we moved away from that into a different way of thinking about Wikipedia?

 

Let’s start with a short video of staff & student reaction to the residency to see if things have moved on.

This is a video submission which was shortlisted for the 2019 LILAC Information Literacy Awards for the work of the Wikimedia Residency at the University of Edinburgh.

 

I have been working at the University of Edinburgh for over 3 years now as the Wikimedian in Residence. It has been something of an experiment, a proof of concept, the first role of its kind in the UK supporting the whole university.

But it has been a successful one. And I’m pleased to see Wikimedian roles at Oxford University, Maynooth University, Coventry University and Wiki work being taken up in unis up and down the country.

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 and libraries to engage. You can find more about the residency and its work by typing Wikipedia:University of Edinburgh into the search bar of Wikipedia. You can find our 254 videos and video tutorials at tinyurl.com/StudentVids and you can find some ‘need-to-know’ state of the project facts at bit.ly/Wikipedia2019

So this conference is a very timely conference for reflecting on the work we have been doing over the last 3 years. In thinking about how we support developing a more robust critical information literacy. And looking at how to do things differently in a rapidly changing digital world.

”Digital intermediaries such as Google and Facebook are seen as the new powerbrokers in online news, controlling access to consumers and with the potential even to suppress  and target messages to individuals.” (Tambini, 2016)

This is a huge discussion right now. It needs to be. Not least in terms of what value we in higher education, and information professionals in general, place in students, staff and members of the public being conversant with how knowledge is created, curated and contested online and their being conversant with the big digital intermediaries that govern our daily lives. Particularly when one thinks “search is the way we now live”.

When you turn on a tap you expect clean water to come out and when you do a search you expect good information to come out

(Swift in Hillis, Petit & Jarrett, 2013)

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 where students, staff and members of the public can all contribute their scholarship for the common good.

Because I take the view that there is a huge & pivotal role for information professionals to play in this discussion. A role based on asserting our values in order to shape the open web for the better.

So I’ll start with a bit of context.

A year ago, Tim Berners-Lee was on Channel 4 News being interviewed about the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal and he said this.

“We need to rethink our attitude to the internet.

It is not enough just to keep the web open and free because we must also keep a track of what people are building on it.

Look at the systems that people are using, like the social networks and look at whether they are actually helping humanity.

Are they being constructive or are they being destructive?”

And he’s later reiterated this point that he feels the open web is at something of a crossroads and could go either way. So I do think that the time has come to talk of many things and consider how the web is working. I quite like these quotes in thinking about the pervasiveness and black box nature of the algorithms and the data gathering going on behind the scenes.

 

So you have these big digital intermediaries acting somewhat like gatekeepers. And you have Wikipedia. The free and open encyclopaedia, just turned 18 years old and the fifth most visited website on the planet. And happily, Sir Tim had cheered up a little by May 2018 when he gave his Turing Award lecture in Amsterdam.

It IS amazing that humanity has produced Wikipedia. And he’s right. That’s my experience of working with Wikipedia. People do feel they are doing something inherently good, and worthwhile in sharing verifiable open knowledge. Today it is the largest collaboratively-built encyclopaedia in history with 49 million articles in roughly 300 languages. Every month, 10 million edits are made in Wikipedia by 250,000 users.

No longer just a “weird community project” or the bane of librarians and scholars. Today, Wikipedia currently ranks among the world’s top 10 sites for scholarly resource lookups. Estimated by Crossref to be in the top five or six referrers to DOIs at least.

Because its content is open-licensed, Wikipedia is extensively used by virtually every platform you use on a daily basis from Google to Youtube to Facebook powering their search & knowledge graph backends. It informs the structure of various ontologies and categories, and it is ingested into Neuro Linguistic Programming & other Machine Learning technologies.

So, in the words of Katherine Maher, the Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation..

It may not be too much of a stretch to consider that Wikipedia today — with all of our imperfections — has gone from being the least trusted source in the room into perhaps among the most. Serving today as a kind of accidental epistemic backbone of the internet

So for this reason, and many more, at the University of Edinburgh, we felt working with Wikimedia UK was something we could not ignore.

Many have since told us they’d love to host a Wikimedian but they can’t afford to.

Our experience is you can’t afford not to.

Not least because Universities must invest in the development of digital skills for staff and for students. There are so many reports urging universities to pay attention to digital skills. Why? Because it is widely recognised that digital capabilities are a key component of graduate employability. “to support and drive research and innovation throughout the  economy” in order to stay competitive globally.

Universities do invest- some more than others. Some buy Ipads and give them out to students like its a cure-all. Some buy a site-wide license for Lynda.com. My residency is placed alongside our digital skills trainers as a free resource available to anyone at the university and working with free and open projects.

Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence, at a Wikidata workshop at the University of Edinburgh

Full disclosure, in case you’re wondering where you get Wikimedians from, 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. Other Wikimedians in Residence have come from library backgrounds, event management backgrounds and more. I was recruited not for my Wiki skills, which I learnt, but for my teaching background, and the ability to communicate how & why of contributing to the greatest open education resource the world has ever seen.

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 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.

Melissa Highton, presenting at the Wikipedia Science Conference 2015

Working with Wikimedia ticked all these boxes. If Melissa was here she’d tell you that her view is that universities offer an environment in which Wikipedia can thrive. It has a higher than normal concentration of librarians and information professionals, and networks of people interested in discussing and writing about just about every topic under the sun.

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 one 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 Wikipedia editing 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. This strong evidence helped 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, working closely with academic support colleagues, course leaders and student societies. 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 online we found we had a lot to talk about. And this is why I’m here today, at an information literacy conference.

So the Wikipedia editing event or ‘editathon’ is a model which has found its tipping point moment. Things obviously happen slowly in higher education, but once those key people have been introduced to how rewarding an editathon can be, they are increasingly hosting them themselves.

Our experience at Edinburgh is that there are enough people who get it and been excited & motivated to run with it that we have quickly generated real examples of technology enhanced learning activities appropriate to the curriculum which can be embedded in all sorts of disciplines.  Here are a few which have been run multiple times.

WTF here means “what teaching fun” as opposed to the other WTF that perhaps reflected historic attitudes.

Because that’s what Wikipedia is about – making connections, building on prior learning, using digital research skills and 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. Both students and staff feel empowered and motivated to suggest collaborations.

Jemima (pictured above here) is an undergraduate at the School of Law and she suggested and lead an editing event for Law students.  As a result of her enthusiasm, we’ve been discussing with her course leaders 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 the law, medicine, what have you, and “world leading research” more generally, in an accessible lay way is absolutely something we as a university should be looking to do.

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 positive quality interactions that a collaboration with Wikimedia affords makes, I think, working in this space the most exciting in academia right now, because it is so emergent but it also has so much potential to make, and I’m quoting the university’s mission here: a really “significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution to the world”.

To make it work, 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 academic support librarians. The team at Wikimedia UK, course leaders from years one and two. An ever growing number of Wikimedians in Residence. And, latterly, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was tweeting his support of Wikimedia UK recently too.

So far from Wikipedia being anathema in academic contexts. It really is a case of “if you build it they will come”.

Timelines of engagement

 

And it grows over time. Planting the seed and watching it grow.

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, Korean Studies MSc.

I’ll pass over to my academic support librarian colleague, Donna Watson, now to speak more on this and her experience & perspective.

The Academic Support Librarian perspective on engaging with Wikipedia:

My colleague Ruth Jenkins assists with the Reproductive Biology sessions, and this was her experiences of the process of learning and then helping to host sessions. As Ruth points out- everyone is already using it. The ‘Just say No’ approach has not worked. So do we ignore it or help students understand how to use it to best effect- understanding the pros and cons.

The journey from not knowing how to do (or even thinking it was a good idea to learn) is something I can completely agree with. Editing during the teaching sessions has developed to publishing for fun- I have yet to reach that stage, but an article about the Hob Hole pumping station in Lincolnshire is on my list!

Academic Support Librarian, Ruth Jenkins, at the Reproductive Biology Hons. Wikipedia assignment at the University of Edinburgh

I have, like Ruth, helped to prepare editathons and offered help to others during sessions- a steep learning curve, but we have Ewan there to help us help others. It is great CPD!

We took the Editathon to the EAHIL 2018 conference and the feedback was very positive. Ewan unfortunately couldn’t come with us but we had great help from the National Wikimedian from the national Library of Wales- Jason Evans. The wiki community is really supportive

So why my colleagues and I see using Wikipedia as useful

  1. It is familiar to people so more acceptable to use.
  2. It is easy to use and access- not like some databases or catalogues.
  3. Many students will enjoy the sessions as it is slightly different- some will feel more tentative.

What I see is gained:

Using Wikipedia in teaching, I’m not saying it gives you everything that other tasks would not, but I see it as a tool in the arsenal of techniques that should be available when teaching. My thought come from a healthcare perspective, but are applicable to other areas of study.

You use the same research techniques as you would when doing work in a more traditional format. It allows attendees to an opportunity to develop their research skills, which is paramount in many subjects. I have had to use material I would not usually use- for example newspapers, historical texts. This is the same for session attendees- exposing them to a wide range of literature formats, building searches, using a variety of resources, problem solving where to find literature, seeing how different resources allow searching. All of this is good practice.

I am aware that Wikipedia has been used to help find keyword or phrases for search strategies.

Once you have performed the research you need to be able to discern the relevant points and summarise these- EFFECTIVELY. The guidelines Wikipedia give means this is really important. Understanding the style of writing formally for an encyclopaedia is sometimes different to how you might write an essay or email. Picking out relevant points and knowing they should be backed up requires decision making on behalf of the writer.

As the output is for the general public it means the way the summary is written should be in plain understandable language. We need to move beyond the technical jargon and make what is said accessible and understandable to all. My thoughts are that for medics this is especially important and can help them realise what they will need to consider when conversing with patients.

One of the backbones of Wikipedia is the referencing- articles must reference thoroughly- backing up the findings and allowing others to follow the path that lead to the finished article. It also can show how to use Wikipedia for your own research- by citation tracking.

Copyright compliance is important and Wikipedia is strong on this. Learning about licenses can help in other areas work. Images and copyright can always be problematic and the access you get to licensed images is very helpful.

Producing a Wikipedia page means for many learning new skills and for the first time putting material out to the wider world. Other text based ways of teaching do not always offer the opportunity to learn technical skills and undergo a digital stretch. Healthcare professionals are having to develop their digital skills in order to enter an ever evolving landscape in the NHS. Telemedicine, e-prescribing, robotic surgery are but a few of the reasons why having a high level of digital skills is important. Putting an opinion out for public scrutiny can be daunting- but training as a healthcare professional often means putting your opinion out for all to hear and see- from patients and colleagues.

The digital stretch is not only for session attendees, but also for the trainers. I had to build my skills so I could assist others not just do my own work. The amount of work that goes into setting up a session should not be underestimated- thanks go to Ewan. So everyone has the opportunity to upskill their digital assets.

Lastly during the research and writing up stage you start to critically assess the validity and reliability of the sources you use. Ensuring the output is balanced (lacks bias), relevant, evidence based and inclusive- all important parts of the process. This can be a good place to start the critical thinking process.  

So bringing it back to the CILIP information literacy statement: The ability to think critically and make balanced judgements about any information we find and use. It empowers us as citizens to reach and express informed views and to engage fully with society.”

I think Wikipedia can help achieve these aspects.

[Donna handed back to myself to continue presenting at this point.]


 

In the field of medicine our best estimates indicate that the nearly 200,000 articles about health & medical topics accessed on desktop across over 200 Wikipedia languages… attract more traffic than the US National Institutes of Health websites, or WebMD.

Contributing accurate up-to-date health information is therefore vitally important. Wikipedia played a major role in providing access in local languages on medical information on Ebola, extracted from often paywalled literature, during the 2014 outbreak in West Africa. Receiving more local readership than CDC, CNN and WHO.

 

Of course, if it’s on Wikipedia it must be true” is sometimes scoffed. But that makes me a little cross when you think of volunteers giving up their time to scrupulously research and share open knowledge for the benefit of the world. There are some excellent articles on Wikipedia. I know because our students and staff helped create and improve them. There are also some missing articles and some needing lots of improvement. Wikipedia is always going to be a work in progress but if everyone contributed even a little then would be an even more amazing resource than it is today.

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, high grade serous carcinoma, backing up her work with over sixty references and creating her own openly-licensed diagram in Photoshop to help illustrate the article. The article has now been viewed over 60,000 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 is published, lasting long beyond the assignment and doing 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”.

Wikipedia Community cartoon – Giulia Forsythe, redrawn by Asiyeh Ghayour, Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by Seyyedalith [CC0]

Google and Wikipedia have been shown to have something of 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 knowledge activists.

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 images, links and more –learning through play, particularly citations which autogenerate from a url, stable DOI, Pubmed IDs or ISBN numbers –– while it’s also never been harder to vandalise because of the increased checks & balances put in place.

The View History page of Jeremy Hunt’s Wikipedia page – screengrab

University of Glasgow researchers published research last year which found that:

Preliminary analysis reveals (∼90%) of the vandalism or foul edits are done by unregistered users… community reaction seemed to be immediate: most vandalisms were reverted within 5 mins on average” –  Alkharashi, A. and Jose, J. (2018)

We also do need to talk about diversity. Gender inequality in science and technology is real.

We host Women in Red editing events every single month – where we turn red-linked articles about notable women which don’t yet exist into blue clickable ones that do. This has motivated many to become involved with 69% of our attendees being women. Bucking Wikipedia’s normal 10% average. Creating pages and increasing the visibility of inspirational female role models online that can also help inform and shape our physical environments to inspire the next generation. You can’t be what you can’t see.

There is now a commitment to keep this going in ten disciplines for the next four years written into our Athena Swan plan to inspire more women to enter STEM fields. Higher Education shares addressing gender inequality with Wikipedia. It is not enough to say that the world of Wikipedia- and science in general- is ‘neutral and fact driven’ and thus free from bias.

Representation matters.

Diversity matters.

This has been a key part and a key motivator during the residency to date.

Students on the World Christianity MSc were motivated to make the subject of World Christianity much less about White Northern hemisphere perspectives and created articles on Asian Feminist Theology, Sub-Saharan Political Theology and more. Students on the Translation Studies Masters similarly have been motivated for the last 3 years to gain meaningful published practice ahead of the world of work by sharing knowledge from one language Wikipedia to another. We’ve also hosted events for LGBT History Month, Black History Month and celebrated Edinburgh’s Global Alumni.

The Data Fair on the Data Science for Design MSc, University of Edinburgh

But it’s not just Wikipedia. The implementation of Wikidata in the curriculum, Wikipedia’s sister project, presents a massive opportunity for student learners, educators, researchers, repository managers and data scientists alike. Especially when there is a pressing need to meet the demands of our digital economy for developing 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—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“.Corneli, J, Murray-Rust, D & Bach, B 2018, Towards Open-World Scenarios: Teaching the Social Side of Data Science.

A Wikidata assignment, of the kind we have done over the last two years on the Data Science for Design MSc, allows students to develop their understanding of, and engagement with, issues such as: data completeness; data ethics; digital provenance; data analysis; data processing; as well as making practical use of a raft of tools and data visualisations. The fact that Wikidata is also linked open data means that students can help connect to & leverage from a variety of other datasets in multiple languages; helping to fuel discovery through exploring the direct and indirect relationships at play in this semantic web of knowledge.

This real-world application of teaching and learning enables insights in a variety of disciplines; be it in open science, digital humanities, cultural heritage, open government and much more besides. Wikidata is also a community-driven project so this allows students to work collaboratively and develop the online citizenship skills necessary in today’s digital economy.

And it’s all free. Wikimedia’s suite of open knowledge projects are all free, open and powered by volunteers around the world, giving of their free time and passionate to share open knowledge with the rest of the world for the benefit of the world.

So there is lots to talk about in terms of Wikimedia in education… not least in developing the skills and experiences we want to see our students come out with, in terms of collaborative working, digital research and developing a critical information literacy, and I really like this quote from a paper on developing Political Literacy, which came out of a project at the University of Strathclyde Library to support political literacy during the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum.

The challenge is not just for school librarians to prepare the next generation to be informed but for all librarians to assist the whole population.”  Abram, 2016. Political literacy can be learned.

Only I think this challenge is too big, too vitally important, to leave solely in the lap of librarians when higher education, and education as a whole, can play a central and pivotal role here too.

Lots to talk about. But we need to be talking. Our staff and students are clear, we can’t go on pretending Wikipedia does not have SO MUCH to offer in teaching and learning. We need to consider how well the open web is working, how we can best support developing a critical information literacy, and how well this current abstinence-only approach has served us. Especially when there is a great love affair between Wikipedia and Education in the offing.

And yes, I am comparing Anthony Hopkins in Remains of the Day to the (hopefully) historic abstinence-only approach when thinking of Wikipedia in education.

If you’re interested we have produced interviews and video tutorials at tinyurl.com/WikiHopper and resources at tinyurl.com/timeforopen.

As to the future, we are publishing our first booklet of case studies of UK examples of Wikipedia in the Classroom which include numerous examples from the University of Edinburgh along with case studies of Wikipedia in secondary education as part of the Welsh Baccalaureate and Jewish Studies MSc students at the University of Glasgow collaboratively researching, writing  & illustrating the Wikipedia article on the Garnethill Synagogue. So there are many opportunities for secondary schools, universities, and libraries to benefit from and contribute to the knowledge available online through Wikimedia’s free and open projects.

Shaping the open web for the better, constructively.

Many Thanks

Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Edinburgh, 26 April 2019.

ewan.mcandrew@ed.ac.uk

Dr. Mia Spiro at the University of Glasgow and Aaron Morris, WiciMôn Project Officer supporting school children in Anglesey to learn about Wikipedia.

 

Footnote

 

* Everything about Wikipedia is relentlessly transparent so here is its ‘warts & all’ history: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Wikipedia

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?

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Please also read ‘Leveraging Wikipedia’ if you’d like to find out more.

Witchy Wikidata – a 6th birthday celebration event for Halloween

Wikidata is turning 6 years old at the end of October 2018“the source for open structured data on the web and for facts within Wikipedia.” so we are hosting a birthday celebration on Wednesday 31st October 2018 in time for Halloween in Teaching Studio LG.07, David Hume Tower, University of Edinburgh.

Wikidata is a free and open data repository of the world’s knowledge that anyone can read & edit. Wikidata’s linked database acts as central storage for the structured data of its Wikimedia sister projects.

Using Wikidata, information on Wikipedia can be queried & visualised as never before. The sheer versatility of how this data can be used is only just beginning to be understood & explored.

In this session we will explain why Wikidata is so special, why its users are so excited by the possibilities it offers, why it may overtake Wikipedia in years to come as the project to watch and how it is quietly on course to change the world.

Pumpkinpedia

What will the session include?

  • An introduction to Wikidata: what it is, why it is useful and all the amazing things that can be done with structured, linked, machine-readable open data.
  • A practical activity using the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database where you will learn the ‘nuts & bolts’ of how to use and edit Wikidata (manually and in bulk) and help shape the future of open knowledge!
  • A practical guide to querying Wikidata using the SPARQL Query Service.
  • Cake and Wikidata swag to take home.

Who should attend?

Absolutely anyone can use Wikidata for something, so people of all disciplines and walks of life are encouraged to attend this session. Basic knowledge of using the internet will be needed for the practical activity, but there are no other pre-requisites.

Anyone interested in open knowledge, academic research, application development or data visualisation should come away buzzing with exciting new ideas!

NB: Please bring a laptop with you OR email ewan.mcandrew@ed.ac.uk at least 24 hours ahead of the event if you need to borrow one.

Please also create a Wikidata account ahead of the event.

Programme

  • 10:45 – 11:00: Welcome, Tea/Coffee, Registration
  • 11:00 – 11:30: Introduction to Wikidata – what is it, and why is it useful? – Dr. Sara Thomas, Scotland Programme Co-ordinator for Wikimedia UK.
  • 11:30 – 12:30: Introduction to SPARQL queries – Delphine Dallison (Wikimedian at the Scottish Library and Information Council).
  • 12:30 – 13:00: Break for lunch
  • 13:00 – 14:30: Witchy data session – Ewan McAndrew (Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Edinburgh).
    • Manual edits practical – adding data from the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database to Wikidata.
    • Mass edits practical – adding data in bulk from the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database to Wikidata.
    • Visualising the results
  • 14:30 – 14:45:– Close and thanks.

Book here to attend.

If coming from outside the University of Edinburgh then book your place via Eventbrite here.

North Berwick witches – the logo for the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database (Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

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.

Wikimedia at the Open Educational Resources Conference 2018

Ewan McAndrew – Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Edinburgh (Doug Belshaw, CC-0)

The 9th annual conference for Open Education research, practice and policy, OER18, took place at the Bristol Watershed Cinema on 18 and 19 April 2018. Its theme was ‘Open to All’ and it featured Wikimedia heavily in its programme.

 

Lorna Campbell takes the stage for her opening keynote at OER18 (Own work, CC-0)

 

Anne-Marie Scott and Jason Evans supporting the EdTech Wikipedia editathon at OER18 (Own work, CC-0)

OER18 further builds on the advocacy work of the last seven years when Martin Poulter first presented on ‘Wikipedia and Higher Education: beat them or join them?’ back in 2011. An overview of Wikimedia UK’s growing engagement with the OER Conference over the years can be found on the Wikimedia UK site. A playlist of the recorded talks from the conference can be found on ALT’s Youtube channel while the Wikimedia related sessions are also hosted on CC-BY licences on the University of Edinburgh’s Media Hopper channel along with a recently uploaded playlist of 2018 videos of interviews with staff and students about the Wikimedia residency. A roundup of blogposts since the conference can be found on OER18’s site.

Data Science for Design MSc students’ feedback on the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database import into Wikidata. (Own work, CC-0)

 

Wikimedia UK at OER18 – Jason Evans (National Wikimedian for Wales), Martin Poulter (Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Oxford) and Hannah Evans, Programme Co-ordinator at Wikimedia UK. (Own work, CC-0)

Wikidata in the Classroom – Data Literacy for the next generation

Summary:

The University of Edinburgh are looking to support the development of a data-literate workforce over the next ten years to support Scotland’s growing digital economy. This therefore represents a huge opportunity for educators, researchers and data scientists to support students in this aim. The first Wikidata in the Classroom assignment at the university is taking place this semester on the Data Science for Design MSc course and two groups of students are working on a project to import the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database into Wikidata to see what possibilities surfacing this data as structured linked open data can achieve.

Wikidata in the Classroom

The New York Times described this current era as an ‘era of data but no facts’. Data is increasingly valuable as a key driver of the 21st century economy and is certainly abundant with 90% of the world’s data reportedly created in the last two years. Yet, it has never been more difficult to find ‘truth in the numbers’ with over 60 trillion pages to navigate and terabytes of unstructured data to (mis)interpret.

The way forward is clear.

  • “We need to increase the reputational consequences and change the incentives for making false statements… right now, it pays to be outrageous, but not to be truthful.”(Nyhan in the Economist, 2016)
  • ”This challenge is not just for school librarians to prepare the next generation to be informed but for all librarians to assist the whole population.”(Abram, 2016)

Issues at the heart of the information age have been exposed: there exists a glut of information & a sea of data to navigate with little formalised guidance as to how to find our way through it. For the beleaguered student, this glut makes it near impossible to find ‘truth in the numbers’. Therefore there are huge areas of convergence in developing information & data literacy in the next generation and developing Wikidata as a linked hub of verifiable data; fueling discovery and surfacing open knowledge through Google’s Knowledge Graph but, importantly, providing the digital provenance so it can be checked.

Meeting the information & data literacy needs of our students

The Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region has recently secured a £1.1bn City Region deal from the UK and Scottish Governments. Out of this amount, the University of Edinburgh will receive in the region of £300 million towards making Edinburgh the ‘data capital of Europe’ through developing data-driven innovation. Data “has the potential to transform public and private organisations and drive developments that improve lives.” More specifically, the university is being trusted with the responsibility of delivering a data-literate workforce of 100,000 young people over the next ten years; a workforce equipped with the data skills necessary to meet the needs of Scotland’s growing digital economy.

The implementation of Wikidata in the curriculum therefore presents a massive opportunity for educators, researchers and data scientists alike; not least in honouring the university’s commitment to the creating, curating & dissemination of open knowledge. A Wikidata assignment allows students to develop their understanding of, and engagement with, issues such as: data completeness; data ethics; digital provenance; data analysis; data processing; as well as making practical use of a raft of tools and data visualisations. The fact that Wikidata is also linked open data means that students can help connect to & leverage from a variety of other datasets in multiple languages; helping to fuel discovery through exploring the direct and indirect relationships at play in this semantic web of knowledge. This real-world application of teaching and learning enables insights in a variety of disciplines; be it in open science, digital humanities, cultural heritage, open government and much more besides. Wikidata is also a community-driven project so this allows students to work collaboratively and develop the online citizenship skills necessary in today’s digital economy.

Data Science for Design MSc – Importing the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database into Wikidata

Packed house at the Data Fair for the Data Science for Design MSc course – 26 October 2017 (Own work, CC-BY-SA)


At the University of Edinburgh, we have begun our first Wikidata in the Classroom assignment this semester on the Data Science for Design MSc course. At the course’s Data Fair on 26th October 2017, researchers from across the university presented the 45 masters students in Design Informatics with approximately 13 datasets to choose from to work on in groups of three. Happily, two groups were enthused to import the university’s Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database into Wikidata (the choice of database to propose was suggested by a colleague). This fabulous resource began life in the 1990s before being realised in 2001-2003. It had as its aim to collect, collate and record all known information about accused witches and witchcraft belief in early modern Scotland (from 1563 to 1736) in a Microsoft Access database and to create a web-based user interface for the database. Since 2003, the data has remained static in the Access database and so students at the 2018 Data Fair were invited to consider what could be done if the data were exported into Wikidata, given multilingual labels and linked to other datasets? Beyond this, what new insights & visualisations of the data could be achieved?

The methodology

A similar methodology to managing Wikipedia assignments was employed; making the transition from managing a Wikipedia assignment to managing a Wikidata assignment an easy one. The two groups of students underwent a 1.5 hour practical induction on working with Wikidata and third party applications such as Histropedia, the timeline of everything, before being introduced to the Access database. They then discussed collaboratively how best to divide the task of analysing and exporting the data before deciding one group would work on (1) importing records for the 3,212 accused witches while the other group would work on (2) the import of the witch trial records and (3) the people associated with these trials (lairds, judges, ministers, prosecutors, witnesses etc).

At this current juncture, the groups have researched and now submitted their data models for review. Now the proposed data model has been checked and agreed upon, the students are ready to process the data from the Access database into a format Wikidata can import (making use of the Wikidata plug-in on Google Spreadsheets). Once this stage is complete, the students can then choose how to visualise the linked data in a number of ways; such as maps, timelines, graphs, bubble charts and more. The students are to complete their project by presenting their insights and data visualisations in an engaging way of their choice on the 30th of November 2017.

North Berwick witches – the logo for the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database (Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The way forward

The hope is that this project will aid the students’ understanding of data literacy through the practical application of working with a real-world dataset and help shed new light on a little understood period of Scottish history. This, in turn, may help fuel discoveries by dint of surfacing this data and linking it with other related datasets across the UK, across Europe and beyond. As the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft’s website states itself Our list of people involved in the prosecution of witchcraft suspects can now be used as the basis for further inquiry and research.“

The power of linked open data to share knowledge between different institutions, between geographically and culturally separated societies, and between languages is a beautiful thing. Here’s to many more Wikidata in the Classroom assignments.

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