Sustaining the impact of the Year of Science

In 2016, Wiki Education ran an initiative called the Year of Science, dedicated to improving science content on Wikipedia. We nailed our goals for the year-long campaign: nearly 5 million words of science content added to more than 5,700 science articles on Wikipedia by more than 6,300 students.

In 2017, we had surpassed the impact of the “Year of Science” by early October.

That’s right: In 2017, Wiki Education’s programs added more than 7.68 million words of science content to Wikipedia. More than 8,500 students — enrolled in 383 science courses — improved 9,310 science articles, including creating nearly 1,000 new articles. For context, 7.68 million words is 17.5% of the words in the last print edition of Encyclopædia Britannica. These dramatically larger impact numbers highlight the sustainable nature of Wiki Education’s Classroom Program, the cornerstone of 2016’s initiative.

In our Classroom Program, higher education faculty assign students to improve course-related Wikipedia articles. Throughout 2016, we set out to increase the number of science courses in the program as part of the Year of Science. Our goal was to both improve the science content on Wikipedia during the initiative, as well as to build a network to sustain the impact of the Year of Science for years to come.

Communicating Science,” our shorthand for the ongoing initiative to further the impact of the Year of Science, got off to a roaring start in 2017. Here’s why: As part of the work we did in 2015 and 2016 to attend science-focused academic conferences, we collected contact information for a lot of science instructors. Some were eager to incorporate Wikipedia assignments into the next course they taught; those 150 first-time science instructors participated in the formal Year-of initiative in 2016. But many weren’t teaching a Wikipedia-appropriate course in 2016, or had another project lined up for their course already. These are among the 178 science instructors who taught with Wikipedia for the first time in 2017.

It’s not just the new instructors, however: 97% of our instructors report they will teach with Wikipedia again. That means the new instructors we bring on to teach science with Wikipedia tend to return year after year, bringing more and more students and improving more and more articles on Wikipedia. We also have a healthy word-of-mouth recruiting pipeline; since our instructors see the value in teaching with Wikipedia, they often encourage colleagues to participate in our program as well.

Finally, partnerships we established with academic associations in the sciences (such as with the American Chemical Society, American Society of Plant Biologists, and Midwest Political Science Association) continue to provide a network to reach faculty in science disciplines. These partners encourage their members — many of whom teach science courses — to participate in our programs.

Our retention, ongoing recruitment, and partnerships foster a sustainable base of science courses to continue the impact we’ve had to improving science content on Wikipedia for years to come. For more information, see our Communicating Science page.


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