Earlier this month, I attended the Ocean Sciences Meeting, a venue for marine scientists to share knowledge and research across disciplines, including geology, physics, and chemistry. The meeting is co-hosted by the American Geophysical Union (AGU), The Oceanography Society (TOS), and the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO), whose members’ lives and careers are dedicated to understanding and conserving the world’s largest ecosystem. I spoke with dozens of university instructors, graduate students, undergraduates, and industry professionals, and the ethos toward Wikipedia was overwhelmingly positive. One researcher “confessed” to reading Wikipedia as a quick refresher on topics related to his research, and another instructor even remarked that Wikipedia is “one of the great things of the information age.”
At Wiki Education, we couldn’t agree more. Wikipedia is a valuable source of information about topics ranging from current events to biographies of famous people to geological evidence of climate change. While the encyclopedia serves as a valuable refresher for professionals already embedded in a field of study, it’s often the primary or only source people have access to when looking to learn from others’ expertise. If Wikipedia is where the general public accesses scientific knowledge, then we should work hard to make it as comprehensive, accurate, and up-to-date as possible.
In our Classroom Program, university instructors are improving Wikipedia by assigning students to write articles as a part of their course curriculum. Students access Wiki Education’s online trainings and other tools to learn how to turn academic research into a thorough, well-cited Wikipedia article. Students are motivated to do good work because they see purpose behind their hours of labor, research, and writing. Instructors help share knowledge with the world—knowledge that otherwise might end up in a recycling bin.
I also attended the American Geophysical Union’s Fall meeting in December 2017. The event is open to their members beyond oceanographers, and thousands gathered under the theme: What will you discover?. Now that we’ve recruited several of AGU’s members, I’m hopeful they will work with their students to discover the wider implications of freeing knowledge to share with the world. We’re actively looking for more geology and oceanography students to improve Wikipedia, making information about the earth more readily accessible to its inhabitants. If you’re an instructor looking for a meaningful, real-world activity for students, visit our website for steps to get involved or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.