These scientists are improving the public’s knowledge of science

By on April 16, 2019

These scientists are improving the public’s knowledge of science

By on April 16, 2019

These scientists are improving the public’s knowledge of science

When members of the public read of a new astronomical discovery, learn about a unique endangered animal, fact-check claims about climate change, or educate themselves about an illness, Wikipedia is often their first stop. The encyclopedia that anyone can edit provides a wealth of information on a wide range of topic areas, but also presents many opportunities for improvement. Wikipedia articles are best in subject areas that align with the interests of its volunteer user base. When a lot of people are not just interested in something, but have relevant knowledge and access to sources, the result is a high-quality article. Some scientific and technical topics, however, have few people editing them and can be difficult for someone without specialized training. Among Featured Articles, the highest quality assessment a Wikipedia article can receive, there are clear clusters of coordinated interest around topics related to history and popular culture. There are far fewer Featured Articles on medicine or astronomy than there are on military history or sports, for example.

For years, when Wiki Education staff have attended science-related conferences, we’ve heard from scientists that they’ve noticed errors, omissions, misconceptions, and overly technical writing on this or that article in their field, but didn’t know how to fix it themselves. It’s easy to make an edit on Wikipedia, but it can be challenging to learn how to contribute content meaningfully. That’s why we run virtual professional development courses to train subject matter experts to be “Wiki Scientists”. In this 12-week course, Wiki Education staff help scientists learn how Wikipedia works and how to improve public knowledge in their fields.

I’m excited to announce the participants of our newest Communicating Science course, with 8 scientists coming from a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines.

  • Alexandra M. Courtis is a PhD candidate at the University of California, Berkeley, working in materials science, physical chemistry, and nanoscience. Through this course, she will focus on improving Wikipedia’s coverage of women in STEM as well as topics concerning nanoscience and optics.
  • Meg Eastwood is an Assistant Professor and Science and Engineering Reference Librarian at the University of Denver Libraries. She has a BA in Biology from Grinnell College and an MS in Information Studies from The University of Texas at Austin. In the years between those degrees, Meg worked as a field assistant for ecological studies and as a lab prep/RA for the Shoals Marine Lab on Appledore Island, ME. In this Wiki Education course, Meg hopes to learn more about the inner workings of Wikipedia so that she can contribute articles and host edit-a-thons that highlight women in STEM, citizen science projects, and more.
  • Eric Grunwald is a lecturer and group coordinator in the English Language Studies group at MIT, where he teaches writing, speaking, and listening to second-language undergraduates and graduate students. As an undergraduate at Stanford University, Grunwald, intending to be an engineer or a physicist, took two years of STEM subjects and worked on a project for the NASA Space Shuttle before switching to the humanities (history). His teaching interests include the writing process, creative writing (he holds an MFA in fiction), composition, and the Web 2.0, and he has been using Wikipedia in his graduate STEM writing classes for three years, allowing students to practice their academic writing with an authentic audience and fill in content gaps in the online encyclopedia. An active writer himself, Grunwald has published fiction, book reviews, and translations in journals and newspapers nationwide and is currently focusing on poetry and a play.
  • Wasiu Lawal holds a PhD in Earth and Environmental Sciences from the University of Texas at Arlington. He is an advocate for the advancement of underrepresented minorities in the sciences. He is an active volunteer with the American Chemical Society where he serves as a member of its Committee on Minority Affairs. Wasiu’s overall mission is to improve the public’s perception of science through effective science communication.
  • Maame Ekua Manful is an entrepreneur and a Food Science Graduate Student at ISA Lille, France with specialization in Food Quality Management Systems. She is passionate about using storytelling to make science simplified and attractive to the younger generations, as well as bridging the science community with the global community through knowledge sharing in the food science space. Maame seeks to achieve this as she engages Wiki Education’s course by sharing and improving articles related to food science.
  • Tyler Newton is a PhD Candidate in Earth Sciences at University of Oregon. His research focuses on understanding the mechanics and properties of Earth’s crust using computational and observational seismology. Tyler is passionate about communicating earthquake science to the public and increasing the accuracy of Wikipedia.
  • Roopesh Ojha is an astronomer working for the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. He is active in outreach because he thinks it is important for everyone to know about both basic and cutting-edge science so they can make informed decisions as the citizens of a democracy. He looks forward to learning the mechanics and ethos of Wikipedia so he can contribute his mite to this invaluable public resource.
  • Sarah Peers is current Deputy President of the International Network of Women Engineers & Scientists and a very longstanding champion of diversity in STEM. She is based near Hadrian’s Wall in the United Kingdom, and holds several degrees in mathematics and an engineering PhD. Her day-job involves advising on STEM education that fit-for-industry and supporting innovation in technology and engineering sectors. As an avid Wikipedia user, Sarah hopes through this Wikipedia course to ensure better visibility of the issues of gender and wider diversity in STEM and in industry.

Our Communicating Science on Wikipedia course will run through May. Stay tuned for updates about the great work these experts contribute to Wikipedia.


For more information about our course offerings and to sign up for updates about our next Wiki Scientists course, visit learn.wikiedu.org.

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