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To celebrate International Women’s Day 2020, this year NDCN teamed up with the Radcliffe Department of Medicine to host a Wikipedia Editathon

Person using laptop

Eseoghene IfieTo celebrate International Women’s Day 2020, this year NDCN teamed up with the Radcliffe Department of Medicine to host a Wikipedia Editathon, focused on training a new cohort of editors to collectively increase the coverage of women in science, technology, engineering maths and medicine (STEMM) on Wikipedia. Here, Postdoctoral Researcher Dr Eseoghene Ifie, explains why she took part and what she got out of joining the editathon. 

Growing up in Nigeria, I rarely heard of female scientists or their contributions to the scientific world. Although now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford, I have always wondered what it would have been like to have had access to more female scientific role models in my teenage years and whether this might have had any impact on my career to date. When I heard about NDCN’s International Women’s Day Wikipedia Editathon, I was thrilled by the opportunity to help increase the visibility of women in academia by acknowledging and recognising their contributions, via an encyclopaedia that is free for anyone to access, anywhere.

This event was fun and hands-on, where we only had to bring in a laptop; prior experience in Wikipedia editing was not required. Liz McCarthy, Head of Campaigns and Digital Communications at Oxford University and long-time Wikiepdia editor (also known as a “Wikipedian”), kicked things off with an overview of Wikipedia and numerous other Wikimedia projects.  I was very quickly inspired by the collaborative nature of Wikipedia, in which over 30 million registered volunteers from across the world are creating, proofreading, expanding and assessing the reliability of over 52 million articles.

Wikipedia could be considered as one of the foremost information sources on the internet, where changes are checked via a combination of “bots” that reject suspicious edits and also thousands of volunteers who constantly check new changes for their reliability. The highlight for me was learning that millions of editors were on the lookout for misleading information, making Wikipedia an accurate encyclopaedia with information that is quickly accessible through its use of links. However, to date, only 18% of biographies on English Wikipedia are of women.

To get us up and running as Wikipedia editors and start addressing this imbalance, we were directed towards a number of beginner’s guides, including a fun and interactive adventure tutorial.  It was great to know that friendly Wikipedians were available at the online “Wikipedia Teahouse” to answer questions and provide clarity. By the end of the morning, I had completed the Wikipedia adventure tutorial and developed numerous Wikipedia skills in areas such as neutrality, citing and verifying reliable sources, and advising other users. With these skills, I can now start tackling the underrepresentation of women in science by updating and creating their biographies as a legitimate Wikipedia editor.

Overall the editathon was a great experience, in which participants (fuelled by plenty of caffeine and pastries!) supported each other with a common goal to raise the profile of women in STEMM.

By Dr Eseoghene Ifie, Postdoctoral Researcher in NDCN