Ever wish there was a quick, easy way to connect your research to the public?
By hosting a Wikipedia ‘edit-a-thon’ at a science conference, you can instantly share your research knowledge with millions while improving the science content on the most heavily trafficked and broadly accessible resource in the world. In 2016, in partnership with the Wiki Education Foundation, we helped launched the Wikipedia Year of Science, an ambitious initiative designed to better connect the work of scientists and students to the public. Here, we share some of what we learned.
The Simons Foundation — through its Science Sandbox initiative, dedicated to public engagement — co-hosted a series of Wikipedia edit-a-thons throughout 2016 at almost every major science conference, in collaboration with the world’s leading scientific societies and associations.
At our edit-a-thons, we leveraged the collective brainpower of scientists, giving them basic training on Wikipedia guidelines and facilitating marathon editing sessions — powered by free pizza, coffee and sometimes beer — during which they made copious contributions within their respective areas of expertise.
These efforts, combined with the Wiki Education Foundation’s powerful classroom model, have had a clear impact. To date, we’ve reached over 150 universities including more than 6,000 students and scientists. As for output, 6,306 articles have been created or edited, garnering more than 304 million views; over 2,000 scientific images have been donated; and countless new scientist-editors have been minted, many of whom will likely continue to update Wikipedia content. The most common response we got from scientists and conference organizers about the edit-a-thons was: “Can we do that again next year?”
That’s where this guide comes in.
Through collaboration, input from Wikipedians and scientists, and more than a little trial and error, we arrived at a model that can help you organize your own edit-a-thons. This informal guide captures our main takeaways and lessons learned.
Edit-a-thons have a rich history in the broader Wiki ecosystem. However, they are a relatively new concept in scientific settings, which offer a unique opportunity to harness high-level, crowdsourced expertise. This guide focuses on integrating editing sessions into major science conferences. Topics covered in the guide range from basic logistics to obtaining critical buy-in from scientists and conference organizers.
There’s no one way to pull off a successful edit-a-thon. But it’s a fun project that allows conferences to engage the broader community in a clever and collaborative way.
Our hope is that edit-a-thons will become another integral part of science conferences, just like tweetups, communication workshops and other recent outreach initiatives. This would ensure that the content of the public’s most common gateway to science research will continually improve in quality and scope.
-The Science Sandbox Team
Note: This is a science conference-specific guide, intended to complement existing resources, including the excellent general edit-a-thon guide on Wikipedia.