500 Women Scientists central mission is to serve society by making science open, inclusive, and accessible through the transformative leadership of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. To meet that mission requires changing the face of what a scientist looks like. We have leveraged our network of over 300 Pods (or local chapters) to increase representation of women in STEM through a number of locally-driven initiatives, including hosting Wikipedia Edit-a-thons to combat bias on the free encyclopedia’s pages.
Building on Wikipedia’s guide on how to run an effective edit-a-thon, here are some tips to consider as you plan your own event to increase visibility of scientists from underrepresented backgrounds. (Tips from leader Maryam Zaringhalam published in Science Rising)
Tap into the local Wikimedia network. Wikipedia is run by dedicated volunteers who feel passionately about democratizing access to information. You can find a Wikimedia chapter near you and reach out in advance for support. Editing can be intimidating at first, so experienced Wikipedians are a valuable asset to lead you through the process. Megan Wacha facilitated our edit-a-thon in New York and her expertise and guidance to “be bold!” helped make our event a great success. If a Wikipedian isn’t in your area, you can work through this beginner’s guide as a group.
Be clear about your goals in advance. Make the problem and the need clear in the text of your event. Carry that goal with you during the planning stages—from where you advertise to factoring in accessibility when you choose a venue. Your goal will also attract an audience that is excited to tackle the challenge you’ve set out and foster an inclusive environment because they understand what to expect.
Prepare a list of pages to create. There are so many women and minorities who don’t yet have a Wikipedia page that it can be daunting to figure out where to start. Before our edit-a-thon, I crowdsourced a list of women who should have pages and filtered for those who I thought would meet the notability criteria. Creating a list is also a great way to get to learn about scientists you’d never heard of before!
Make your event interactive. Just because you’re in front of a computer doesn’t mean you have to be quiet in your own Wikipedia bubble. We organized ourselves into tables by different disciplines to facilitate conversations. We also had plenty of drinks and snacks to encourage breaks and get editors to share what they’d been working. At the end, we had everyone share what they had edited and what they had learned—from a new field of research to the fact that finding information on underrepresented minorities can be a challenge because of publishing or media bias.
Keep track. Wikimedia has launched a nifty Programs and Events dashboard, which allows you to keep track of the edits made over the course of your edit-a-thon and how much they’ve been viewed since. The tool is especially useful if you’re tracking impact to justify funding to continue hosting edit-a-thons in the future. If you use this tool, be sure to request the appropriate event coordinator privileges in advance and encourage attendees to register before your event begins.
It doesn’t have to end after the edit-a-thon! Making Wikipedia pages is a great activity to bring with you after the edit-a-thon so you can continue increasing representation for women and underrepresented minorities online.
If you have questions about hosting your own edit-a-thon,get in touch with is at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|17 NOV||New York, NY
21 A Clinton Street, Manhattan
|20 OCT||Storrs, CT
Homer Babbidge Library
|16 OCT||Atlanta, GA
General Assembly, Ponce City Market
|13 OCT||Washington, DC
West End DC Public Library
|10 OCT||Montreal, Canada
|9 OCT||Madrid, Spain
Wayfra, Edificio Telefónica
To combat bias on the free encyclopedia’s pages, two leaders of 500 Women Scientists Jess Wade (Imperial College London) and Maryam Zaringhalam (AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow) began hosting Wikipedia Edit-a-thons. In celebration of Ada Lovelace Day in October 2018, 500 Women Scientists chapters in Atlanta, Madrid, Montreal, Washington D.C. and Storrs hosted edit-a-thons over the course of two weeks, writing 69 new biographies and editing over 400.
Read more about our efforts:
Donna Strickland's treatment on Wikipedia shows how women have long been excluded from science. The Independent. Oct 2018.
Why we’re editing women scientists onto Wikipedia. Nature. Aug 2018
Press Release. November 2018