Wikipedia is one of the most-accessed references in the world, with aims to include the sum of all human knowledge. Yet its coverage of crucial sciences, such as chemistry, lacks substance. Look at Wikipedia’s list of Featured Articles — the highest-quality, most complete articles — and you’ll find only 41 related to chemistry. By comparison, you’d find 533 comprehensive articles about military history and warfare.
That’s why I’m so excited to announce the Wiki Education Foundation’s partnership with the American Chemical Society (ACS). For the Year of Science and beyond, we’ll work with ACS instructors to increase public access to reliable scientific research.
Wikipedia gets 500 million views every month. In its 15 years, it has evolved into a robust resource where people —including students and instructors — go for information. Perhaps more importantly, Wikipedia is a top reference for the public. Outside of the university library, people have limited access to recent scientific research and discoveries, stinting their science literacy. The world deserves to access important knowledge, and the knowledge deserves a wide readership. With access to reliable information, non-scientists, including policy-makers, can make decisions informed by science. Rather than be reactive, academics are taking action and embracing Wikipedia as a platform for public scholarship.
ACS and its members already have shown considerable interest in improving chemistry articles. At last year’s annual meeting, Wiki Ed participated in a symposium on Wikipedia and education. Conference attendees also joined a Wikipedia edit-a-thon, and several attendees were excited about the opportunity to amplify their impact by bringing Wikipedia into the classroom.
Students and Wikipedia sure have chemistry
Wiki Ed has long supported chemistry courses in our Classroom Program—so many that we developed a quick guide for writing chemistry articles. The spring 2016 term isn’t over, and chemistry students have already contributed 175,000 words to Wikipedia. That’s about 240 bound pages. That book would be a best-seller: Over 2 million people have read those pages. That’s more than the number of subscribers to Popular Science magazine. How many students can say their work has made such a real-world impact before they’ve even turned in their final assignments?
A solution for diversifying STEM fields
As a part of the Year of Science initiative, we’ll work with ACS instructors and their students to create and improve biographies of women chemists. We believe information is advocacy, and our students can play a significant part in advocating for successful women whose research is largely overlooked. Together, we can use Wikipedia’s reach to highlight notable women in the field, increasing their visibility as role models, especially to budding and future scientists. Historical role models, as well as contemporary scientists, challenge stereotypes, reduce stigma, and inspire future generations.
If you’re a chemist interested in our initiatives, please see our Year of Science page or get involved by emailing us: email@example.com.