Early career scientists advancing the role of science in policy making

The 2020 election offers an opportunity for scientists to engage the public in thinking about how policy and science affect their daily lives. When voters search online to learn more about their candidates or ballot measures, they’ll inevitably end up reading about these topics on Wikipedia. 

500 million readers come to Wikipedia each month to shape their understanding of topics; their behavior; and ultimately the world. That’s why the National Science Policy Network (NSPN) is sponsoring an upcoming Wiki Scientists course as part of their 2020 Election Initiative. The initiative highlights the importance of rigorous science in policy making in the United States and offers early career scientists a way to get involved.

NSPN is an organization committed to training early career scientists and engineers how to advocate for science and technology in policy making. The Wiki Scientists who participate in the NSPN course this fall will add neutral, fact-based information to the site, informing policy makers and voters on the critical role science and technology has in our community.

Making science policy a key part of the 2020 election

The National Science Policy Network believes the scientific community has an obligation to participate in the Wikipedia community to ensure the public has access to high-quality scientific information, especially as it relates to real-world policy decisions. But the barriers for entry into the “Wikipedia ecosystem” can deter scientists, especially early career scientists, from taking the time to learn Wikipedia’s technical, procedural, and cultural practices. That’s where Wiki Education’s professional development courses come in. Our team of Wikipedia experts will spend 12 weeks with NSPN members, helping them learn the ins and outs of Wikipedia. While these early career scientists make critical scientific knowledge more accessible to the public, they’ll hone their science communication skills.

NSPN Wiki Scientists will work with our team to learn how to update and improve Wikipedia’s coverage of science policy topics. Participants may work on articles about net neutrality, facial recognition systems in the United States, smart cities, science diplomacy, clean energy, broadband, artificial intelligence arms race, blockchain and cryptocurrencies, genetic privacy, or algorithmic bias. Some of these issues offer opportunities to document candidates’ policy proposals and political positions, ensuring voters have access to information from high-quality sources. We’re excited to see where these early career scientists take the course, bringing their expertise to the public.


Early career scientists interested in becoming a member of the National Science Policy Network to advance the role of science in policy making are eligible to apply for this course by August 16, 2019. Accepted applicants will be contacted by August 23, 2019.

Course details

Participants meet virtually each week on Fridays from 12:00 – 1:00pm Pacific to learn how to contribute to Wikipedia. The upcoming class meets weekly from September 6, 2019 – November 22, 2019 (12 weeks). 

How content experts can reach the public through Wikipedia

Editing Wikipedia is an incredibly powerful way to reach the public in a way few other publications can. When institutions collaborate with Wiki Education to train experts to do work on Wikipedia that aligns with their mission, the results are impressive.

We collaborated with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to conduct courses last fall, for example. In one course, 10 scholars worked together to improve Wikipedia’s coverage of women’s suffrage in the United States, a topic area and goal aligned with NARA’s mission. During the training period, these scholars added biographies of suffragists, expanded articles about civil rights, and ensured suffrage organizations were represented on Wikipedia. They added more than 200 high-quality references to Wikipedia, and some of them even found images to illustrate their contributions. In less than a year, their work has reached 965,000 readers.

Organizations across disciplines want to reach the public with accurate information about topics they care about. Wikipedia is the way to do it. We can help.

If you’re interested in buying out a customized professional development course for your members or for faculty at your institution, contact Director of Partnerships Jami Mathewson at jami@wikiedu.org.


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