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

Tag: Wikimedia

Balance for Better – Teaching Matters

Wikimedian in Residence highlights how staff & students are engaging with Wikipedia to address the diversity of editors & content shared online.

“The information that is on Wikipedia spreads across the internet. What is right or wrong or missing on Wikipedia affects the entire internet.” (Wadewitz, 2014)

Wikipedia, the free, online, encyclopaedia is building the largest open knowledge resource in human history. Now aged eighteen, Wikipedia ranks among the world’s top ten sites for scholarly resource lookups and is extensively used by virtually every platform used on a daily basis, receiving over 500 million views per month, from 1.5 billion unique devices. As topics on Wikipedia become more visible on Google, they receive more press coverage and become better known amongst the public.

“Wikipedia is today the gateway through which millions of people now seek access to knowledge.”- (Cronon, 2012)

At the University of Edinburgh, we have quickly generated real examples of technology-enhanced learning activities appropriate to the curriculum and transformed our students, staff and members of the public from being passive readers and consumers to being active, engaged contributors. The result is that our community is more engaged with knowledge creation online and readers all over the world benefit from our teaching, research and collections.

While Wikipedia has significant reach and influence, it also has significant gaps in its coverage of topics, articles in other languages and the diversity of its editors. Most editors are white men, and topics covered reflect this with less than 18 percent of biographies on English Wikipedia about women. The Wikimedia community are committed to diversity and inclusivity and have developed, and worked with, a number of initiatives to ensure knowledge equity such as Whose and WikiProject Women in Red, with Wikimedia’s campaign for 200 more biographies of female sportswomen (Levine, 2019) just one recent example of looking at ways to address this systemic bias.


Our Wikimedia in the Curriculum activities bring benefits to the students who learn new skills and have immediate impact in addressing both the diversity of editors and diversity of content shared online:


  • Global Health MSc students add 180-200 words to Global Health related articles e.g. their edits to the page on obesity are viewed 3,000 times per day on average.
  • Digital Sociology MSc students engage in workshops with how sociology is communicated and how knowledge is created and curated online each year as a response to the recent ASA article.
  • Reproductive Biology Honours – a student’s article on high-grade serous carcinoma, one of the most common forms of ovarian cancer, includes 60 references and diagrams she created, has been viewed over 67,000 times since 2016.
  • Translation Studies MSc students gain meaningful published practice by translating 2,000 words to share knowledge between two different language Wikipedias on a topic of their own choosing.
  • World Christianity MSc students undertake a literature review assignment to make the subject much less about White Northern hemisphere perspectives; creating new articles on Asian Feminist Theology, Sub-Saharan Political Theology and more.
  • Data Science for Design MSc – Wikipedia’s sister project, Wikidata, affords students the opportunity to work practically with research datasets, like the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft Database, and surface data to the Linked Open Data Cloud and explore the direct and indirect relationships at play in this semantic web of knowledge to help further discovery.

We also work with student societies (Law & Technology, History, Translation, Women in STEM, Wellcomm Kings) and have held events for Ada Lovelace Day, LGBT History Month, Black History Month and celebrated Edinburgh’s Global Alumni; working with the UncoverEd project and the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission.

Students are addressing serious knowledge gaps and are intrinsically motivated to do so because their scholarship is published and does something lasting for the common good, for an audience of not one but millions.

Representation matters. Gender inequality in science and technology is all too real. Gaps in our shared knowledge excludes the vitally important contributions of many within our community and you can’t be what you can’t see. To date, 65% of our participating editors at the University of Edinburgh have been women. The choices being made in creating new pages and increasing the visibility of topics and the visibility of inspirational role models online can not only shape public understanding around the world for the better but also help inform and shape our physical environments to inspire the next generation.

 “It’s an emotional connection… Within, I’d say, less than 2 hours of me putting her page in place it was the top hit that came back in Google when I Googled it and I just thought that’s it, that’s impact right there!” (Hood & Littlejohn, 2018)

Rosie Taylor and Isobel Cordrey from the student support group, Wellcomm Kings, co-hosted the Wikipedia Diversithon event for LGBT History Month at the Festival of Creative Learning 2019.


  1. Wadewitz, A. (2014). 04. Teaching with Wikipedia: the Why, What, and How. Retrieved from
  2. Cronon, W. (2012). Scholarly Authority in a Wikified World | Perspectives on History | AHA. Retrieved from
  3. Levine, N. (2019). A Ridiculous Gender Bias On Wikipedia Is Finally Being Corrected. Retrieved from
  4. Mathewson, J., & McGrady, R. (2018). Experts Improve Public Understanding of Sociology Through Wikipedia. Retrieved from
  5. Hood, N., & Littlejohn, A. (2018). Becoming an online editor: perceived roles and responsibilities of Wikipedia editors. Retrieved from
  6. McAndrew, E., O’Connor, S., Thomas, S., & White, A. (2019). Women scientists being whitewashed from Wikipedia. Retrieved from
  7. McMahon, C.; Johnson, I.; and Hecht, B. (2017). The Substantial Interdependence of Wikipedia and Google: A Case Study on the Relationship Between Peer Production Communities and Information Technologies.


The Wikimedia residency is a free resource available to all staff and students interested in exploring how to benefit from and contribute to the free and open Wikimedia projects.

If you would like to find out more contact

In the news


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:  


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

[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.



[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.


[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.



[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.



Wikipedia in the Classroom – the Edinburgh Residency

Wikimedia at the University of Edinburgh

Reasons to engage in the conversation

With about 17 billion page views every month, it’s safe to say that most of us have heard of Wikipedia and maybe even use it on a regular basis. However, most people don’t realise that Wikipedia is the tip of the iceberg. Its sister sites include a media library (Wikimedia Commons), a database (Wikidata), a library of public domain texts (Wikisource), and even a dictionary (Wiktionary) – along with many others, these form the Wikimedia websites.

While the content is all crowd-sourced, the Wikimedia Foundation in the US maintains the hardware and software the websites run on. Wikimedia UK is one of dozens of sister organisations around the globe who support the mission of the Wikimedia websites to share the world’s knowledge.

Today, Wikipedia is the number one information site in the world, visited by 500 million visitors a month; the place that students and staff consult for pre-research on a topic. And considered, according to a 2014 Yougov survey, to be trusted more than the Guardian, BBC, Telegraph and Times. Perhaps because its commitment to transparency is an implicit promise of trust to its users where everything on it can be checked, challenged and corrected.

The University of Edinburgh and Wikimedia UK – shared missions.

Wikimedia at an ancient university

The Edinburgh residency

In January 2016, the University of Edinburgh and Wikimedia UK partnered to host a Wikimedian in Residence for twelve months. This residency marks something of a paradigm shift as the first in the UK in supporting the whole university as part of its commitment to skills development and open knowledge.

Background to the residency

The University of Edinburgh held its first editathon – a workshop where people learn how to edit Wikipedia and start writing – during the university’s midterm Innovative Learning Week in February 2015. Ally Crockford (Wikimedian in Residence at the National Library of Scotland) and Sara Thomas (Wikimedian in Residence at Museums & Galleries Scotland) came to help deliver the ‘Women, Science and Scottish History’ editathon series which celebrated the Edinburgh Seven; the first group of matriculated undergraduate female students at any British university.

Timeline of the Wikimedia residencies in Scotland to date. The University of Edinburgh residency was the first residency in the UK to have a university-wide remit. Martin Poulter was Wikimedian in Residence at the Bodleian Library before beginning a 2nd residency at the University of Oxford on a university-wide remit.


Melissa Highton, Assistant Principal for Online Learning at the University of Edinburgh.

“The striking thing for me was how quickly colleagues within the University took to the idea and began supporting each other in developing their skills and sharing knowledge amongst a multi-professional group. This inspired me to commission some academic research to look at the connections and networking amongst the participants and to explore whether editathons were a good investment in developing workplace digital skills.”Melissa Highton – Assistant Principal for Online Learning.

This research, conducted by Professor Allison Littlejohn, found that there was clear evidence of informal & formal learning going on. Further, that “all respondents reported that the editathon had a positive influence on their professional role. They were keen to integrate what they learned into their work in some capacity and believed participation had increased their professional capabilities.”

Since successfully making case for hosting a Wikimedian in Residence, the residency’s remit has been to advocate for knowledge exchange and deliver training events & workshops across the university which further both the quantity & quality of open knowledge and the university’s commitment to embedding information literacy & digital literacy in the curriculum.

Wikimedia UK and the University of Edinburgh – shared missions

Edinburgh was the first university to be founded with a ‘civic’ mission; created not by the church but by the citizens of Edinburgh for the citizens of Edinburgh in 1583. The mission of the university of Edinburgh is “the creation, curation & dissemination of knowledge”. Founded a good deal later, Wikipedia began on January 15th 2001; the free encyclopaedia is now the largest & most popular reference work on the internet.

Wikimedia’s vision is “imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge”. It is 100% funded by donations and is the only non-profit website in the top ten most popular sites.

Wikipedia – the world’s favourite site for information.

Addressing the knowledge gap

While Wikipedia is the free encyclopaedia that anyone can edit, not everyone does. Of the 80,000 or so monthly contributors to Wikipedia, only around 3000 are termed very active Wikipedians; meaning the world’s knowledge is often left to be curated by a population the size of a village (roughly the size of Kinghorn in Fife… or half of North Berwick). While 5.4 million articles in English Wikipedia is the largest of the 295 active language Wikipedias, it is estimated that there would need to be at least 104 million articles on English Wikipedia alone to cover all the notable subjects in the world. That means as of last month, English Wikipedia is missing approximately 99 million articles.

Less than 15% of women edit Wikipedia and this skews the content in much the same way with only 17.1% of biographies about notable women. The University of Edinburgh has a commitment to equality and diversity and our Wikimedia residency therefore has a particular emphasis on open practice and engaging colleagues in discussing why some areas of open practice do have a clear gender imbalance. In this way many of our Wikipedia events focused on addressing the gender gap as part of the university’s commitment to Athena Swan; creating new role models for young and old alike. Role models like Janet Anne Galloway, advocate for higher education for women in Scotland, Helen Archdale (journalist and suffragette), Mary Susan McIntosh (sociologist and LGBT campaigner) among many many more.

Pages created at Women in Red meetings at the University of Edinburgh editing sessions.

That’s why it is enormously pleasing that over the whole year, 65% of attendees at our events were female.

Sharing knowledge

The residency has, at its heart, been about making connections. Both across the university’s three teaching colleges and beyond; with the city of Edinburgh itself. Demonstrating how staff, students and members of the public can most benefit from and contribute to the development of the huge open knowledge resource that are the Wikimedia projects. And we made some significant connections over the last year in all of these areas.

Inviting staff & students from all different backgrounds and disciplines to contribute their time and expertise to the creation & improvement of Wikipedia articles in a number of events has worked well and engendered opportunities for collaborations and knowledge exchange across the university, with other institutions across the UK; and across Europe in the case of colleagues from the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine working with research partner labs.

Wikipedia in the Classroom – 3 assignments in Year One. Doubled in Year Two.

Ultimately, what you wanted attendees to get from the experience was this; the idea that knowledge is most useful when it is used; engaged with; built upon. Contributing to Wikipedia can also help demonstrate research impact as there is a lot of work going on to ensure that Wikipedia citations to scholarly works use the DOI. The reason being that Wikipedia is already the fifth largest referrer of traffic through the DOI resolver and this is thought to be an underestimate of its true position.

Not just Wikipedia

Knowledge doesn’t belong in silos. The interlinking of the Wikimedia projects for Robert Louis Stevenson.

Introducing staff and students to the work of the Wikimedia Foundation and the other 11 projects has been a key part of the residency with a Wikidata & Wikisource Showcase held during Repository Fringe in August 2016 which has resulted in some out-of-copyright PhD theses being uploaded to Wikisource, and linked to from Wikipedia, just one click away.

Wikisource is a free digital library which hosts out-of-copyright texts including: novels, short stories, plays, poems, songs, letters, travel writing, non-fiction texts, speeches, news articles, constitutional documents, court rulings, obituaries, and much more besides. The result is an online text library which is free to anyone to read with the added benefits that the text is quality assured, searchable and downloadable.

Sharing content to Wikisource, the free digital library, and linking to Wikipedia one click away.

Wikidata is our most exciting project with many predicting it will overtake Wikipedia in years to come as the dominant project. A free linked database of machine-readable knowledge, Wikidata acts as central storage for the structured data of all 295 different language Wikipedias and all the other Wikimedia sister projects.

Timeline of Female alumni of the University of Edinburgh generated from structured linked open data stored in Wikidata.

 “How can you trust Wikipedia when anyone can edit it?”

This is the main charge levelled against involvement with Wikipedia and the residency has been making the case for re-evaluating Wikipedia and for engendering a greater critical information literacy in staff & students. And that’s the thing. Wikipedia doesn’t want you to cite it. It is a tertiary source; an aggregator of articles built on citations from reliable published secondary sources. In this way it is reframing itself as the ‘front matter to all research.’

Wikipedia has clear policy guidelines to help ensure its integrity.

Verifiability – every single statement on Wikipedia needs to be backed up with a citation from a reliable published secondary source. So an implicit promise is made to our users that you can go on there and check, challenge and correct the verifiability of any statement made on Wikipedia.


No original research – while knowledge is created everyday, until it is published by a reliable secondary source, it should not be on Wikipedia. The presence of editorial oversight is a key consideration in source evaluation therefore, however well-researched, someone’s personal interpretation is not to be included.


Neutral point of view – many subjects on Wikipedia are controversial so can we find common truth in fact? The rule of thumb is you can cover controversy but don’t engage in it. Wikipedians therefore present the facts as they exist.

Automated programmes (bots) patrol Wikipedia and can revert unhelpful edits & copyright violations within minutes. The edit history of a page is detailed such that it is very easy to revert a page to its last good state and block IP addresses of users who break the rules.

What underlies Wikipedia, at its very heart, is this fundamental idea that more people want to good than harm, more people want to create knowledge than destroy, more people want to share than contain. At its core Wikipedia is about human generosity.” – Katherine Maher, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation in December 2016.

This idea that more people want to good than harm has also been borne out by researchers who found that only seven percent of edits could be considered vandalism.



Wikipedia in the Classroom

Developing information literacy, online citizenship and digital research skills.

The residency has met with a great many course leaders across the entire university and the interactions have all been extremely fruitful in terms of understanding what each side needs to ensure a successful assignment and lowering the threshold for engagement.

Translation Studies MSc students have completed the translation of a Wikipedia article of at least 4000 words into a different language Wikipedia last semester and are to repeat the assignment this semester. This time asking students to translate in the reverse direction from last semester so that the knowledge shared is truly a two-way exchange.


The Translation MSc assignment

World Christianity MSc students undertook an 11-week Wikipedia assignment as part of the ‘Selected Themes in the Study of World Christianity’ class. This core course offers candidates the opportunity to study in depth Christian history, thought and practice in and from Africa, Asia and Latin America. The assignment comprised of writing a new article, following a literature review, on a World Christianity term hitherto unrepresented on Wikipedia.

When you hand in an essay the only people that generally read it are you and your lecturer. And then once they both read it, it kind of disappears and you don’t look at it again. No one really benefits from it. With a Wikipedia assignment, other people contribute to it, you put it out there for everyone to read, you can keep coming back to it, keep adding to it, other people can do as well. It becomes more of a community project that everyone can read and access. I really enjoyed it.”Nuam Hatzaw, World Christianity MSc student.

The World Christianity MSc assignment.

Reproductive Biology Honours students in September 2015 researched, synthesised and developed a first-rate Wikipedia entry of a previously unpublished reproductive medicine term: neuroangiogenesis. The following September, the next iteration was more ambitious. All thirty-eight students were trained to edit Wikipedia and worked collaboratively in groups to research and produce the finished written articles. The assignment developed the students’ research skills, information literacy, digital literacy, collaborative working, academic writing & referencing.

One particular deadly form of ovarian cancer, High grade serous carcinoma, was unrepresented on Wikipedia and Reproductive Biology student Áine Kavanagh took great care to thoroughly research and write the article to address this; even developing her own openly-licensed diagrams to help illustrate the article. Her scholarship has now been viewed over sixteen thousand times adding an important source of health information to the global Open Knowledge community.

It was a really good exercise in scientific writing and writing for a lay audience. As a student it’s a really good opportunity. It’s a really motivating thing to be able to do; to relay the knowledge you’ve learnt in lectures and exams, which hasn’t really been relevant outside of lectures and exams, but to see how it’s relevant to the real world and to see how you can contribute.” –Áine Kavanagh.

The Reproductive Biology Hons. assignment.

Following a successful multidisciplinary approach, including students and staff all collaborating in the co-creation & sharing of knowledge, the residency has been extended into a third year until January 2019. Twenty members of staff have also now been trained to provide Wikipedia training and advice to colleagues to help with the sustainability of the partnership in tandem with support from Wikimedia UK.

While also ensuring Wikipedia editing is both embedded in regular digital skills workshops, demystifying how to begin editing Wikipedia has been a core focus of the residency, utilising Wikipedia’s new easy-to-use Visual Editor interface. Over two hundred videos and video tutorials, lesson plans, case studies, booklets and handouts have been created & curated in order to lower the threshold for staff and students to be able to engage with the Wikimedia projects in the years ahead.

The way ahead

Ten years after Wikipedia first launched, the Chronicle of Higher Education published an article by the vice president of Oxford University of Press acclaiming that ‘Wikipedia had come of age’ and that it was time Wikipedia played a vital role in formal education settings. Since that article, the advent of ‘Fake News’ has engendered discussions around how best to equip students with a critical information literacy. For Wikipedia editors this is nothing new as they have been combatting fake news for years and source evaluation is one of the Wikipedian’s core skills.

In fact, there is increasing synchronicity in that the skills and experiences that universities and PISA are articulating they want to see students endowed with are ones that Wikipedia assignments help develop. The assignments we have run this year have all demonstrated this and are to be repeated as a result. The case for Wikipedia playing a vital role in formal education settings has never been stronger.

Is now the time for Wikipedia to come of age?

If not now, then when?

Course leaders at Edinburgh University

Postscript: All three assignments from 2016/2017 are continuing in 2017/2018 because of the positive feedback from staff and students alike.

These are being augmented with collaborations with:

  • two student societies; the History Society for Black History Month and the Translation Society on a Wikipedia project to give their student members much-needed published translation practice.
  • Library and University Collections to add source metadata from 27,000 records in the Edinburgh Research Archive to Wikidata and 20+ digitised theses to Wikisource
  • a further three in-curriculum collaborations in Digital Sociology MSc, Global Health and Anthropology MSc and Data Science for Design MSc.
  • the Fruitmarket Gallery and the university’s Centre for Design Informatics for a Scottish Contemporary Artists editathon.
  • A Litlong editathon as part of the AHRC ‘Being Human’ festival.
  • The School of Chemistry for Ada Lovelace Day to celebrate women in STEM.
  • the University Chaplaincy to mark the International Storytelling Festival.
  • Teeside University to run a ‘Regeneration’ themed editathon.

As we have shown, there are huge areas of convergence between the Wikimedia projects and higher education. The Edinburgh residency has demonstrated that collaborations between universities and Wikimedia are mutually beneficial and that Wikipedia plays a vitally important role in the development of information literacy, digital research skills and the dissemination of academic knowledge for the common good.

That all begins with engaging in the conversation. Building an informed understanding of the Wikimedia projects and the huge opportunities that working together create.

Planting the seed and watching it grow.

Reasons to engage in the conversation

OER17 – Less goat and More (empathetic) bear

I attended OER16, my first OER conference, but did not present. I had my own side room, just off the main drag, where I could provide respite from the main programme and entertain the Wiki curious.

Mostly I fired out tweets, recorded sessions and observed. And, it has to be said, had a great time doing so.

This year’s OER17 Conference was a different kettle of fish. I felt there was a lot to say, and be said, so I ill-advisedly submitted four sessions (I retracted a fifth on ‘Wikimedia vs. the Right to Forgotten‘).

Martin Poulter: Putting Wikipedia and Open Practice into the mainstream in a University at OER17 (Own work, CC-BY-SA)

Martin Poulter: Putting Wikipedia and Open Practice into the mainstream in a University at OER17 (Own work, CC-BY-SA)

Thankfully, my colleague Martin Poulter came to my aid to assist, and improve, on two of these sessions (one about goats and one about Wikimedia games) and in the end I’m glad we went for it this year because, between Lucy Crompton-Reid’s brilliant keynote and fab sessions from Alice White, Stefan Lutschinger, Sara Mörtsell, Martin Poulter and Navino Evans, I think the Wikimedia presentations played a really positive role in this year’s conference after what has been such a low year in politics. But maybe I’m just biased.

And our biases were laid out in the open this year, I think, because the theme was ‘The Politics of Open‘ and politics is, no getting away from it, deeply personal. ‘Shouting from the heart‘ was the mot juste. Perhaps because of this, or the steady supply of coffee and biscuits, the conference did seem that much fuller of warm embraces, smiles and laughter as much as critical discourse. People being good-natured with one another, huddling together in dark times, espousing what they held to be true. And this was not so much bonhomie as ‘bonfemie’ (doubtful this will catch on) because the conference had such a surfeit of brilliant articulate women forming its backbone with an all-female list of keynotes and plenary speakers. (The Arsenal fans in the pub next door would have appreciated such a strong backbone to their side no doubt.)

Lorna Campbell - The Distance Travelled: Reflections on open education policy in the UK since the Cape Town Declaration (Own work, CC-BY-SA)

Lorna Campbell – The Distance Travelled: Reflections on open education policy in the UK since the Cape Town Declaration (Own work, CC-BY-SA)

I still need to catch up on Thursday’s talks but here’s what I observed:

I observed passion (Lorna Campbell’s blistering first talk on UK Open Education policy left scorched earth in her wake and her second ‘Shouting from the Heart’, invoking the Declaration of Arbroath, had her choked and us fair greetin’).

I observed cool logic (because logic is cool and, from what I observed, there are no greater purveyors of undeniable reasoning than the three M’s: Martin Poulter, Martin Weller and Melissa Highton).

Handy definitions from Melissa Highton's talk - 'Brexit, praxis and OER redux – why not being open now costs us money in the future.' (Own work, CC-BY-SA)

Handy definitions from Melissa Highton’s talk – ‘Brexit, praxis and OER redux – why not being open now costs us money in the future.’ (Own work, CC-BY-SA)

I observed fun and playfulness in our Wikimedia Games session (which exposed Lucy’s competitive side) and Charlie Farley’s Board Game Jam. The #LILAC17 Credo Digital Literacy award-winning Charlie Farley no less.

Passion. Logic. Playfulness. Qualities that, to my mind, are what education should be about.

Godwin’s Law (redefined) meant that Trexit had to be discussed at some point during the conference while calls to action and calls for solidarity were also asked and answered (Let’s make copyright right right now“,Repeal the 8th” and “#IWill” for instance).

'Get your smart phone out!' - Lisette Kalshoven, and Alek Tarkwoski fixing copyright for teachers and students at OER17 (Own work, CC-BY-SA)

‘Get your smart phone out!’ – Lisette Kalshoven, and Alek Tarkwoski fixing copyright for teachers and students at OER17 (Own work, CC-BY-SA)

And we came out of the two days feeling pretty upbeat that there may actually be a way through the woods, out of the “unenlightenment” and into the bright future of a Viv Rolfe and David Kernoghan chaired #OER18.

(I could be wrong but there may even have been a moment of demob happiness around the room watching David rise out his seat to announce we could call him #OER18 co-chair).

No mean feat anyway after a grim year.

In this respect, I think Maha Bali’s keynote was an inspired choice and really set the tone for the whole two days. If politics is personal then the act of gift-giving is personal too; imposing your choices on someone else; whether it is the ‘gift’ of an open educational resource or the ‘gift’ of your elder brother buying you a Pixies CD for your birthday when he had the only CD player in the house and you’d never heard of the Pixies at that point. (He gave me a cassette copy in the end and kept the CD).

I’m grateful to Maha for the reminder of my brother’s wiliness but also that the best quality an educator has (beyond passion, logic and playfulness) is empathy.

Being able to empathise with other learners and considering how they can best access learning materials and the kinds of barriers they come up against is critical in OEP. You may think you’re being inclusive but we are too often trapped in our own worldview, traveling those same over-trammelled thought pathways; unable to see that our solutions aren’t really solutions at all or understand, or even acknowledge, the challenges of access or licensing others face; the obstacles they may have to overcome; the risks they may have to take.

Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action.”
― Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships

So that’s my takeaway:

Be less goat.

Be more empathetic bear.

Cheers to Josie, Alek, Maren and the rest of the ALT team.

Link to the summary of the Wikimedia related sessions at the Open Education Conference.

Related post:

May 2014 – The Right to Be Forgotten & the Mackintosh Building Fire

Two very different events took place in May 2014. As many will recall with great sadness, the Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh building, often considered Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece, was severely damaged by fire when “a canister of expanding foam” used in close proximity to a hot projector, caused flammable gases to ignite. Since that time, conservation efforts have been ongoing to reopen the Mackintosh building in 2018.

Screengrab of the Mackintosh Building fire

Screengrab of the Mackintosh Building fire

Elsewhere in May 2014, the Google Spain case was being heard at the European Union Court of Justice.

The Right to be Forgotten (GDPR).

Case Summary

The ‘Right to be Forgotten’ (RTBF) was actualised by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) following its ruling in May 2014 in Google Inc. vs. Agencia Espanola de Proteccion de Datos (aka the Google Spain case). The court ruled that personal information about a Spanish citizen, Mario Costeja Gonzalez, relating to his home being repossessed in 1998 could be removed from search engine results and that any EU citizen could apply to search engines to request that certain links be removed where they are “inadequate, irrelevant, or no longer relevant”. This controversial ruling, has since become the key pillar, Article 17, of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) set to become law automatically in every EU member state on 25th May 2018 (Ruaraidh, 2016).

The ruling affects not only search engines but any organisation that hosts EU citizens’ information or does business in the EU. (Werfel, 2016). Google’s reaction to the ruling was to de-list search results from the domain extension the delisting request originated from (e.g. for Germany and for France). However, the results could still easily be seen if you utilised a different domain extension; such as As a result, France slapped a $112,000 fine on Google for its refusal to remove results outside of France. Consequently, Google now utilises geolocations to determine which country the searcher is searching from and de-lists all affected search results accordingly, regardless of domain extension; thereby “obeying the letter of the law, if not the spirit.”(Tarantola, 2016).


Importance of the Case:

The case has been described as a breakthrough in data protection leading to “a brave new world” (Ruaraidh, 2016) while, at the same time, trampling the ‘right to know’ and marking “the beginning of the end of the global internet, where everyone has access to the same information.” (Granick in Toobin, 2015)

I find the ‘Right to be Forgotten’ as a central pillar of the GDPR a really fascinating subject. The arguments on both sides are really pertinent ones for right now: the ‘right to be respected’ (Ruaraidh, 2016) or ‘right to privacy’ on the one hand versus freedom of information or ‘the right to know’ on the other. Not least because Toobin (2014)’s article in The New Yorker showed both the risks of having a ‘right to be forgotten’ which can be abused (e.g. a Croatian pianist asking for a bad review in the Washington Post to be de-listed) versus the case of the Catsouras family in the USA who were the subject of a chapter in Werner Herzog’s new movie ‘Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected world’(2016). The Catsouras case involves a family where their teenage daughter tragically died in a car crash. Mr. & Mrs. Catsouras, along with the daughter’s siblings, had a memory of their daughter that they held on to which was shattered when the police crime scene photographs, taken by the Californian Highway Patrol, somehow came into the public domain and went viral. Suddenly Mr. & Mrs. Catsouras were confronted with graphic images of their daughter’s body decapitated in the fatal accident. So far their attempts to get the pictures de-listed or removed from the internet have been thwarted because the US has no ‘right to be forgotten’ so the fact the GDPR includes it as its central pillar, Article 17, means that the father, Christos Catsouras has said the European Court of Justice ruling represented a “broader victory. “I cried when I read about that decision,” he told me. “What a great thing it would have been for someone in our position. That’s all I wanted. I would do anything to be able to go to Google and have it remove those links.”(Toobin, 2014).

Google processes 90% of searches in Europe (Fioretti, 2014) and has reviewed in excess of 1.5 million webpages, de-listing 40% of them across Europe (Lumsden 2016); effectively creating a library where book titles are removed from the searchable catalogue. The books are still there “but their existence would be unknown and therefore, their access made more difficult.“(Gratton, 2016).

Wikimedia understandably are not a fan of what the Right to be Forgotten means in practice:

Accurate search results are vanishing in Europe with no public explanation, no real proof, no judicial review, and no appeals process… the result is an Internet riddled with memory holes – places where inconvenient information simply disappears.(Tretikov in Fioretti, 2014).

While Google claim the CJEU ruling forces them into a role they are uncomfortable with i.e. deciding what is & is not included in their ‘card catalogue’ (Walker in Toobin, 2015); others maintain that Google’s role has always been more than passive intermediary; therefore “if you’re going to be in the business of search then you need to take on privacy obligations.” (Rutenberg in Toobin, 2015). Forcing private companies to become judge & jury on public searching can hardly be ideal however; especially when Google notifying affected sites can, ironically, increase public scrutiny through what’s been termed ‘the Streisand effect’.

The GDPR will certainly toughen the penalties for non-compliance of these privacy obligations. Previously, £500,000 was the maximum penalty in the UK for breaching privacy rules. Now organisations will be penalised 4% of their turnover, or twenty million Euros, whichever is greater (Davidson, 2016). Organisations, therefore, will need to know & understand the data they hold on individuals in much stricter way. For some, this is a triumph, heralding a new ‘right to be respected’ (Ruaraidh, 2016). Others see it as Balkanizing the internet; resulting in a race to the bottom to see which country’s laws can apply the most pressure on Google (Zittrain in Toobin, 2015).



The debate over freedom of information vs. the right to privacy will continue to be a source of heated debate. While IM professionals should be very wary of Right To Be Forgotten compromising a record’s integrity & trustworthiness, tighter data protection protocols for UK organisations are likely to become the norm from here on.

Advice from the Information Commisioner’s Office, and independent legal firms, is to start planning your approach to GDPR compliance now (Rustici, 2016). The 2018 deadline is not far away for an institution the size of Edinburgh University to get prepared for with 37,510 students (2015/2016 Student Factsheet) and 13,818 staff (Sept. 2016 HR factsheet). While Brexit creates great uncertainty on the UK’s adherence to EU laws, the likelihood is that, regardless of Brexit, UK Higher Education Institutions will still have to comply with the GDPR. (Rustici, 2016)

Google could, post Brexit, lobby the British court not to adhere to RTBF in the UK however the ICO are advocating the terms of the Data Protection Act (1998) be extended as a way of ensuring UK organisations adopt a stricter data protection strategy more in line with GDPR (Lambe, 2016). While research is currently exempted by the GDPR, Edinburgh University would appear to still be bound to it in that it processes personal data of EU subjects. Therefore, the university will have to ensure it puts a plan in place ensuring a culture of ‘privacy by design’. (McCall, 2016).

This means implementing the ICO’s 12 steps including: designating a Data Protection Office; reviewing rules governing data erasure & portability; getting I.T. to map out & review the data processes throughout the university and how data is shared with 3rd parties; liaising with HR to raise awareness of data protection throughout the university. Reviews of data protection policies and how consent is given & recorded. Data breach protocols will have to be tightened up and any breach must be reported to the ICO within 72 hours. Subject Access Requests will no longer be charged for and must be responded to within a month.

Ultimately, the university may need to ensure it is far more familiar with its data processes & its data protection strategies than it is at present. This may mean that they will better understand the value of the data that it does keep but it is likely that, in seeking to avoid liability, they will err on the side of increased erasure of data rather than less; resulting in ‘premature forgetting’ (Sartor, 2016). The balancing act remains a delicate one but it is something for ‘custodians of the record‘ to prepare for in their increasingly pivotal role.

If the record is to mean anything, now and in the future, it has to have integrity, intactness, trustworthiness, and that can’t be the case if individual people have the opportunity or right or authority to pick and choose and prune and primp the way they are portrayed.” (Joseph Janes, 2016, American Libraries)

Meanwhile…. at the Glasgow School of Art Archives

While organisations around the UK prepare for the GDPR coming in 2018, the Glasgow School of Art archives had to move following the Mackintosh fire to take up residence in their new temporary home of The Whisky Bond site until the Mackintosh building reopens in 2018.

The World War One Roll of Honour Project

Thankfully, the Glasgow School of Art’s WW1 Roll of Honour survived the fire.

GSofA’s First World War Roll of Honour was designed and made by former GSA student Dorothy Doddrell in 1925 to commemorate the efforts of GSA staff, students and governors who served in WW1.

Dorothy Doddrell (All Rights Reserved to Glasgow School of Art)

Dorothy Doddrell (All Rights Reserved to Glasgow School of Art)

With the support of the Centenary Memorials Restoration Fund, it also underwent conservation in 2014.

The memorial is now temporarily on display in GSofA’s Reid Building where it will remain until it can be reinstated in the Mackintosh Building following the completion of restoration work to the building.

WW1 Roll of Honour (All rights reserved to Glasgow School of Art)

WW1 Roll of Honour (All rights reserved to Glasgow School of Art)

The Roll of Honour takes the form of an illuminated parchment in paint and gold leaf set within a substantial copper and wood framed triptych.

Unlike most war memorials, the Roll of Honour records the names and regiments not only of those who died, but also of over 400 GSA staff, students and governors who served in the war.

Herald advert (All rights reserved by Glasgow School of Art)

Herald advert (All rights reserved by Glasgow School of Art)

A recently discovered advertisement placed in the Glasgow Herald on 1 November, 1920 shows that the School of Art required the support of the wider public (or at least the readership of the Glasgow Herald) in collating the necessary information in order to deliver a suitable memorial.

Researching the names on the WW1 Roll of Honour

  • In 2015 a research project, supported by a Scottish Council on Archives’ and Heritage Lottery Fund Skills for the Future traineeship, sought to explore and document the stories behind the names recorded on the Roll of Honour.
  • A team of volunteers is now continuing with this research, using original material from GSA’s rich archives and collections to create biographies of those staff and students who feature on the memorial. The resulting biographies have and will continue to be made available on the Archives and Collections online catalogue:

How it worked

  • The investigation process begins with scouring the GSA’s student registers for any recorded instances relating to a listed name which may give an indication of the years they studied at the GSA, the classes they attended, which teachers they had, where they lived, what job they performed and so on.
  • Consulting a number of other sources: census records, birth certificates, death certificates, marriage records, medal cards, regiment histories, photographs as well as any notable artworks or architectural designs bearing their name.

I was a volunteer on the WW1 Roll of Honour project.

Screengrab of William Lindsay Renwick's entry on Glasgow School of Art Archives' website.

Screengrab of William Lindsay Renwick’s entry on Glasgow School of Art Archives’ website.

William Lindsay Renwick was one name on the roll of honour that I researched among many others: a University of Glasgow graduate, he undertook bookbinding classes at the Glasgow School of Art before becoming a professor of English Literature at Durham University and Edinburgh University where he was the founder of the School of Scottish Studies. William Lindsay Renwick fought at the Battle of Loos during World War One where he felt ‘like a ghost, an old ghost, sceptical and disillusioned.’”

Professor William Lindsay Renwick is commemorated on The Glasgow School of Art’s First World War Roll of Honour.

The research I undertook changed the way I viewed war memorials. It shouldn’t have but it did. I realised the name on the Roll of Honour was just one part and there was much more to be said: places lived in; jobs undertaken & where; family members; wives; children; the subjects they studied; their notable artworks; their achievements; the regiments they served in; the battles they fought in; the lives cut short and those lived afterwards; where they married; what they did; how they died. Uncovering the life story behind each name was detective work of the most rewarding kind.

As part of last week’s Samhuinn Wikipedia editathon to honour the dead, we created 16 new articles to remember notable lives & contributions; one of which was on William Lindsay Renwick who founded the School of Scottish Studies. Hence, while the debate about the Right to be Forgotten is an important one, it has to be balanced against the importance of remembering. And that’s where Wikipedia can play a vital role in ensuring digital provenance where the record is trustworthy, reliable and remembered.

Eugene Bourdon (1st Professor of Architecture at the Glasgow School of Art)

Eugene Bourdon (1st Professor of Architecture at the Glasgow School of Art)

Eugene Bourdon exhibition 5th November to 4th December 2016

From 5th Nov – 4th Dec the Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections are actually holding an exhibition in GSA’s Reid Building of the work of GSA’s first professor of architecture Eugene Bourdon (see here for more info: To accompany the exhibition the A&C team will be providing a series of lunchtime talks (dates to be confirmed), one of which will be about Eugene Bourdon (who died at the battle of the Somme) which you would be more than welcome to attend.


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Wikimedia UK at OER16 Conference 19-20th April 2016

The 7th Open Educational Resources Conference, OER16: Open Culture, will be held on the 19th-20th April 2016 at the University of Edinburgh.

The vision for the conference is to focus on the value proposition of embedding open culture in the context of institutional strategies for learning, teaching and research. The conference will be chaired by Melissa Highton, Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services at the University of Edinburgh, and Lorna Campbell, OER Liaison at the University of Edinburgh and EDINA Digital Education Manager.


And there will be a strong Wikimedia UK presence at the event.

By Robin Owain (WMUK) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Jason Evans by Robin Owain (WMUK) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Jason Evans  is the current Wikimedian in Residence at the National Library of Wales.  He is also a professional genealogist with a wealth of experience in researching all aspects of Welsh family and local history. This residency will contribute towards the NLW’s aim of providing ‘Information for All’ and in turn will draw people back to the services and collections of the Library. Information about previous, ongoing, or future Wikipedia-National Library of Wales collaborations are updated regularly on the National Library of Wales project page.

Jason has worked closely with the Library to release over 15,000 images into the public domain via Wikimedia Commons and has held dozens of public events at the Library and through out Wales. Working closely with other cultural partners in Wales the aim has been  encourage and facilitate increased open access across the sector by affecting policy change. Jason has also set-up and run a number of successful Wikimedia projects with the Library’s dedicated volunteer team.  The residency is increasingly focusing on Wikipedia in the education sector and he has made steps towards embedding a Wikipedia based projects into the Welsh curriculum for 16-18 year olds and has proposed a series of talks for sixth form students about using Wikipedia responsibly. He has also helped  several universities to use Wikipedia as vehicle for outreach and gender equality projects.


Martin Poulter By Ziko (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Martin Poulter by Ziko (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Martin Poulter

From April 2015 to March 2016, Martin Poulter was the Wikimedian In Residence at the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford. The project page is at Wikipedia:GLAM/Bodleian. From June 2013 to April 2014, Martin was the Jisc Wikimedia Ambassador running a project to explore overlaps between Jisc, Wikimedia, and academia in general. A certified Lead Trainer for Wikimedia UK in Membership Development and a trained Campus Ambassador as part of the Wikipedia Education Program, on English Wikipedia Martin has more than eleven thousand edits, mainly in the area of psychology. Martin also has hundreds of edits on Wikibooks, a thousand on Wikisource, and thousands of edits cataloguing scientific images on Commons.

In addition, Martin invented the EduWiki Conference (based on an original drink with Fabian Tompsett) and the Wikipedia Science Conference.

Sara Thomas By Lirazelf (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Sara Thomas By Lirazelf (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Sara Thomas

Sara Thomas is the Wikimedian in Residence for Museums Galleries Scotland, the national development body for the Scottish museums sector.  She’s also an event manager and social/digital media trainer with experience in both the private and third sectors.  Since January 2015 in this part time role she’s worked with around 80 cultural institutions to provide training, facilitate content upload and generally advocate for the use of open knowledge in a museums context.  She’s trained 280 new users of Wikipedia, run 16 editathons, 20 training sessions and spoken at 25 seminars, workshops and conferences, taking in museums, libraries, and universities.  A backstage pass event at Glasgow Museums brought some of the lesser-seen elements of Kelvingrove Museum, Kelvin Hall and the Riverside Museum to the Commons; an editathon dedicated to rent strike organiser and activist Mary Barbour contributed to the campaign for greater recognition of her work; and a recent series of editathons with the National Galleries of Scotland created biographies of key Scottish female artists missing from Wikipedia.

In the last two months of the project Sara will be working with Groam House Museum in Rosemarkie, Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow Women’s Library and Govan’s Hidden Histories to bring Scotland’s rich cultural heritage to a wider audience.

Lucy Crompton-Reid

Lucy Crompton-Reid

Lucy Crompton-Reid

Lucy Crompton-Reid joined Wikimedia UK as the new Chief Executive in October 2015, and is working with the staff team, board of trustees and wider Wikimedia community to develop a new strategy and business plan for the charity and to help shape the work of the programmes team. She will also be driving forward the organisation’s advocacy, communications and fundraising activities, and engaging new strategic partners. Lucy has worked in the cultural, voluntary and public sectors for nearly two decades, with past experience including senior roles at Arts Council England, British Refugee Council and the House of Lords. Most recently, she was Chief Executive of the national literature charity Apples and Snakes, England’s leading organisation for performance poetry and spoken word. Throughout her career, Lucy has had a particular focus on widening participation, and brings a strong commitment to access, learning and public engagement in her new role at Wikimedia UK.


Me in Mallaig after walking the West Highland Way and riding the Harry Potter train.

Me in Mallaig after walking the West Highland Way and riding the Harry Potter train.

Ewan McAndrew (yours truly)

An MA graduate in English & Modern History from the University of Glasgow, Ewan McAndrew went on to study Software Development at Glasgow Caledonian University before moving abroad to teach English. Ewan has taught in Japan, South Korea & Singapore which, in turn, has allowed him to travel throughout Asia, Australia, North America & South America.

A PGDE English & Media teacher for the last few years, Ewan has taught in various parts of Scotland and worked increasingly with heritage institutions, most recently with the Glasgow School of Art’s Archives team on their WW1 ‘Roll of Honour’ project.

Ewan is the current Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Edinburgh. Previous editathons have been on the ‘History of Medicine’ for Innovative Learning Week 2016, ‘Art & Feminism’ (with the National Galleries of Scotland & Sara Thomas), ‘Women in Art & Science’ for International Women’s Day 2016 and ‘Women in Espionage: Fact & Fiction’ for Spy Week 2016  in partnership with the English Literature and History departments at the University of Edinburgh.

Wikimedia at OER16

Sara Thomas, Lucy Crompton-Reid and Martin Poulter will all be presenting sessions at OER16.

The programme for OER16 (with details of these sessions) can be found here: OER16 website.

In addition, the following sessions will also be available to OER delegates.

1)      Wikipedia Training 1.20-2pm 19/04/2016

Editing Wikipedia has never been easier with the new WYSIWYG Visual Editor interface which makes editing Wikipedia as easy as blogging or utilising MS Word. A 2014 Yougov survey found that around two thirds of the British public trust Wikipedia more than traditional news outlets including the BBC, ITV, the Guardian and the Times.

One of the most visited websites worldwide, and now one of the most trusted, Wikipedia is a resource used by most university students. Increasingly, many instructors around the world have used Wikipedia as a teaching tool in their university classrooms as well.

Indeed, as the drive for scholarly research to become ever more Open Access gathers pace, Wikipedia will increasingly become the digital gateway to this research.

Full training will be given – just bring a laptop or tablet with you and start editing!


2)      Wikipedia Editathon 2-3pm 19/04/2016 – Women in Art, Science & Espionage

Did you know that only 16% of biographies on Wikipedia relate to notable females?

Once training is completed, why not join us for an editathon to improve Wikipedia’s coverage of Women in Art, Science & Espionage to put these skills into practice & help redress the balance?

Contributing to Wikipedia during an editathon can be about creating an entirely new page on Wikipedia (250 words minimum backed up by at least 3 references) or as simple as adding a citation or an image to an existing article or even just fixing a typo. Full training will be given at 1.20-2pm so feel free to join us for the editathon afterwards from 2-3pm or drop in to ask us questions about Wikipedia & its sister projects.

Just bring a laptop or tablet with you and start editing!


3)      Ask a Wikimedian: Drop-in clinic 1.20-2pm 20/04/2016

OER16 has a number of Wikimedians attending in Ewan McAndrew (Wikimedian in Residence for University of Edinburgh), Sara Thomas (Wikimedian in Residence for Museums & Galleries Scotland), Martin Poulter (Wikimedian in Residence for the Bodleian Library, Oxford University) and Jason Evans (Wikimedian in Residence for the National Library of Wales).

This lunchtime session will allow you to ask questions about their experiences & seek advice, be it on working with Wikipedia or its sister projects.


4)      Wikisource Demonstration: 2pm-2.25pm 20/04/2016

Martin Poulter (Wikimedian in Residence for the Bodleian Library, Oxford University) will demonstrate how to get the best out of Wikisource. Wikisource is a multilingual project, started in November 2003, to archive a collection of free and open content texts. It is not only a superior format for storing classics, laws, and other free works as hypertext, but it also serves as a base for translating these texts. At the beginning, source texts in all languages (except Hebrew) were all on one wiki. However, Wikisource now has several editions in many individual languages.

NB: Please bring a laptop of tablet with you to allow you to navigate around Wikisource.


5)      Wikipedia Editing Training: 2.25-2.50pm 20/04/2016

Editing Wikipedia has never been easier with the new WYSIWYG Visual Editor interface which makes editing Wikipedia as easy as blogging or utilising MS Word. A 2014 Yougov survey found that around two thirds of the British public trust Wikipedia more than traditional news outlets including the BBC, ITV, the Guardian and the Times.

One of the most visited websites worldwide, and now one of the most trusted, Wikipedia is a resource used by most university students. Increasingly, many instructors around the world have used Wikipedia as a teaching tool in their university classrooms as well.

Indeed, as the drive for scholarly research to become ever more Open Access gathers pace, Wikipedia will increasingly become the digital gateway to this research.

This will be a truncated training session from the one offered on 19th April but will introduce you to the basics of utilising the new Visual editor interface – just bring a laptop or tablet with you and start editing!


Hopefully see you there and you can meet the gang!

A smorgasbord of Wikimedia projects to choose from: not just Wikipedia!

In visiting a lot of different people of places over the last two months, one question keeps cropping up: what is the difference between Wikimedian and Wikipedian?

Which is a fair question.

Ultimately, Wikimedia UK is the parent or umbrella body, a charitable non-profit foundation (the UK chapter of the global Wikimedia movement which has its HQ in San Francisco) which exists to support & promote Wikimedia’s projects in the UK: one of which happens to be its main open Knowledge project, Wikipedia.

From the Wikimedia Foundation’s FAQs:

“What is Wikipedia?

Wikipedia is the largest collection of free, collaborative knowledge in human history. Millions of people from around the world have written and added to Wikipedia since it was created in 2001: anyone can edit it, at any time. Wikipedia contains more than 35 million volunteer-authored articles in more than 290 languages. Every month, Wikipedia is viewed more than 15 billion times, making it one of the most popular sites in the world. The people who support it are united by the joy of knowledge, their passion and curiosity, and their awareness that we know much more together than any of us does alone.

What is the Wikimedia Foundation?

The Wikimedia Foundation is the non-profit organization that supports and operates Wikipedia and the other free knowledge projects. All of our work is guided by our mission to share the sum of all knowledge with every person in the world. We keep the websites fast, secure, and available. We support the community of volunteers who contribute to the Wikimedia projects. We make free knowledge accessible wherever you are — on your phone or laptop, on a boat in the South Pacific, or in the hills of Nepal. We help bring new knowledge online, lower barriers to access, and make it easier for everyone to share what they know.”

However, while Wikipedia draws the most attention, there are numerous ways where staff & students can get involved & directly contribute their knowledge & expertise to develop Wikimedia UK’s diverse range of projects.


Not just Wikipedia: Wikimedia UK’s diverse range projects (above).


Wikisource, for instance, is a ‘free content library of source texts’ with some 300,000+ source texts which anyone can use.

Wikimedia Commons is our media repository with over 30 million freely usable media files to which anyone can contribute to and re-use.

Wikibooks, an open-content textbooks collection that anyone can edit, has been utilised by some academic institutions (notably Greg Singh, lecturer  in Communications, Media & Culture at the University of Stirling) as an assessed part of their courses where students work in research groups to contribute chapters to create a brand new textbook, the Digital Media & Culture Yearbook.

Wikidata, in particular, as Wikipedia’s newest sister project offers up a wealth of possibilities as a structured database of all human knowledge which is readable by humans and machines. For example, the Histropedia website makes good use of the data Wikidata harnesses in order to create visually stimulating & dynamic timelines: be it as straightforward as a timeline of University of Edinburgh alumni or something much more bespoke: such as a timeline of descendants of Robert the Bruce, who are female, and born in Denmark.

Example timeline from Histropedia

Example timeline from Histropedia

As the residency continues, I hope to explore each of these projects a bit further (and others besides) and see if any collaborations can be achieved which mutually benefit the university and Wikimedia in adding open knowledge content to these projects. So watch this space… and if you have any questions about any of the projects then let me know.

Wikimedia, Open Knowledge and The University of Edinburgh

 “Curiouser and curiouser,” said Alice.

Screenshot from ‘Alice in Wonderland’. By Walt Disney (Original Trailer (1951)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


“The time has come,” the Walrus said. “To talk of many things.”

By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

Exactly one month has flown by since I started my year-long residency at the University of Edinburgh as the new Wikimedian in Residence and I have not stopped to collect my thoughts. The starting of a new blog seems a good place to begin.

In starting this curiously titled new role at the University of Edinburgh, I am reminded how far we have come since I first began my undergraduate course at the University of Glasgow; when mobile phones and the internet were still very much in their infancy and social media (like blogs) and Wikipedia were still all to come.

This is now my third blog; following my WordPress blog (on film, tv & book reviews) and my travel blog covering my travels from Seoul (South Korea) to Glasgow (UK) via Canada, North America and South America. Like millions of others, I also have a Facebook account. It chose recently to ‘share a memory’ with me of the time, six years ago, I sat in the gardens outside Vina Undurraga, Santiago, Chile. In seeking to illustrate my first post with a picture to introduce myself, and until I can get a new picture taken of myself in my new surroundings, this picture seems a good one.


At Vina Undurraga, Santiago, Chile.

Prior to this picture, I had just completed two years’ teaching in Japan & South Korea and I had the option to return directly home to the UK or my employers would also pay for me to fly the equivalent distance elsewhere and I could indulge my curiosity and take the scenic route home.

I chose the scenic route.

The picture shows me mid-trip in Chile after visiting Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, Peru and Bolivia and Chile. I had just visited the observatory at Cerro Mammalluca (with the best conditions for stargazing in the world), stood next to a Moai statue from Easter Island, visited Pablo Neruda’s house in Valparaiso and I had a trip traversing the Andes into Patagonia to look forward to.

It reminds me how rich and interesting the world is and how wonderful it is to share knowledge and experiences. I was able to travel from country to country, experience new cultures, stop off at libraries, museums, art galleries, see many natural wonders, learn new languages and read terrific books, travel guides and articles on Wikipedia in-between stops.

New York 410

At the Natural History Museum, New York.

Since that time, as an English, History & Media teacher, I have been an advocate for lifelong learning and for Open Knowledge; for looking outward to the world and pooling & sharing our knowledge & experiences. In this way, I can think of no better role than a collaboration between Wikimedia UK and the University of Edinburgh to do just that.

Time to roll my sleeves up and get started…

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