What if your power in this fight lies not in what you can do as an individual but in your ability to be part of a collective? You can’t solve the climate crisis alone, but it’s even more true that we can’t solve it without you. – Mary Annaïse Heglar
When people first learned about Wikipedia in 2001, they couldn’t fathom its eventual success. Building a massive online encyclopedia that relies on individual contributions to share knowledge? This is a lost cause! 22 years later, Wikipedia has proven that we can imagine a better world and collectively work to create it. Small contributions from people all over the globe working together and on their own to make something influential for the good of humankind. This sounds a lot like what we need to do in order to mitigate climate change.
Wikipedia gets billions of visitors every month and actually affects peoples’ behavior, so representing topics well on the site has a wide-reaching impact. That’s why it’s vital that Wikipedia represents the latest in climate science and solutions.
We’re thrilled to be doing just that in our latest Wiki Scientists course sponsored by the American Physical Society (APS). One of the central components of the APS mission is to share physics knowledge. Since 2019, the association has fulfilled this promise by partnering with Wiki Education to improve Wikipedia’s coverage of physics and physicists. APS has given 93 members—from a high school student to a Nobel Prize laureate—the opportunity to practice their science communication on a worldwide stage, write biographies of historically excluded physicists, and leverage Wikidata—the open data repository behind Wikipedia–for research, dissemination, and teaching. APS members in this Initiative have reached 31.1 million Wikipedia readers with their work in only three years.
“If other associations have the goals of fostering equity, inclusion, and diversity in their field, as well as increasing access to their discipline’s knowledge, Wikipedia is a great avenue to explore,” says Allie Lau, Public Engagement Programs Manager at APS.
Communicating new discoveries as they happen is one great way experts can elevate their field through Wikipedia. An APS Wiki Scientist from MIT added a recent notable demonstration of quantum supremacy to the quantum computing article, which received 1.8 million views in 2021 and 2022 after they made these changes. We’re excited to have that kind of impact come from our current course with APS, which is working on energy and climate science, especially as advances in mitigation strategies and technologies become newly available. We’re particularly thrilled to be working with the American Physical Society in this mission because they have long urged members and the surrounding academic community to research and understand the effects of human activity on the Earth’s climate, and to develop the technological solutions for the near and longer term.
Disseminating physics research through a popular open access tool like Wikipedia is important for advancing science. Research shows that journal articles cited in science-related Wikipedia articles receive a boost in citations; language in those Wikipedia articles affects future scientific literature; and traffic to knowledge institution websites (like those of academic journals) increases. Thus, this project helps fulfill the mission to share science with the public, and the work the APS Wiki Scientists do will help people make decisions informed by science.
APS members in our most recent Wiki Scientists course offer a diverse range of expertise including:
- Studio physics
- Extreme condition physics
- Particle physics
- History and philosophy of physics
- Technical writing for congress
- Instructional design, and more.
They will gather with our Wikipedia experts each week over Zoom. There, they will bring their expertise as physicists to address content gaps on Wikipedia related to energy and the climate. Together, they represent a cohort of scientists who are approaching climate science from many angles. We’re thrilled to see what they will do, both as individual contributors to Wikipedia and as a collective force for climate communication.