Last month, Outreach Manager Samantha Weald, Classroom Program Manager Helaine Blumenthal, Director of Programs LiAnna Davis, and I attended the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting here in San Francisco. At the conference, we spoke to dozens of scientists who believe Wikipedia is a valuable website for them, their students, and the world. We’re excited to bring more geophysics, geology, and earth science students to Wikipedia in the coming years, helping us amplify the impact of this year’s Wikipedia Year of Science.
In January 2016, we started the Year of Science as a year-long campaign to improve Wikipedia’s science coverage. After all, Wikipedia is the main source of scientific information for the general public. So if we’re interested in a scientifically literate populace, we need to make science accessible and available to those who don’t pursue it as a career.
The idea was simple: students have all the tools they need to contribute to the public scholarship of science. They have access to rigorous research and scientific journals through the university library and they regularly meet with an expert in the field who explains important topics and concepts. Plus, students are still studying and learning about scientific topics as they develop their own expertise, so they’re less removed from communicating these ideas to non-experts than decades-long researchers. This key attribute makes students ideal science communicators, and we want to help students actively build those science communication skills in the classroom.
In the Classroom Program, we provide the toolkit students need to become Wikipedians, or contributors to the encyclopedia. Over the course of the semester, students identify missing components in a Wikipedia article related to class, research the topic, and learn how to add well-sourced information to Wikipedia. We’ve worked with several earth science courses over the years, which is why we created a guide for students editing environmental science content.
During the Year of Science, more than 6,000 science students have used our training materials to learn how Wikipedia works. Together, they added 4.93 million words about science to Wikipedia. At the AGU conference, we were proud to share these results with potential program participants, as they considered the value Wikipedia assignments can bring not only to their classroom, but also to the public. By inviting these instructors to join our program, we will build on the accomplishments our students made during 2016 to make science accessible to those outside of academia.
If you teach in the earth sciences and are interested in learning more about increasing your students’ contributions to public scholarship about the earth and climate, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.