Wiki Scholars reunite for political science conference panel in Chicago

Wiki Education kicked off the month in Chicago, where four political scientists from across the country joined Scholars & Scientists Program Manager Will Kent for a panel discussion at the 81st annual Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA) conference.

Panelists Yao, Kent, Sriram, Keil, and Afzal
From left: Yao Yao, Will Kent, Shyam Krishnan Sriram, Jacqueline M. Keil, and Muhamad Hassan Bin Afzal

For refugee resettlement expert Shyam Krishnan Sriram, participating in the panel, “Being a MPSA Wiki Scholar: Sharing Political Expertise on Wikipedia,”  was an opportunity to break from his typical engagement with the conference.

“The MPSA is an important conference and I have attended a dozen times in the last two decades,” said Sriram, assistant professor of political science at Canisius University. “When it was suggested to come together as a panel, I jumped at the chance because this professional development side of the conference is important to me – not just presenting original research.” 

Reflecting on their experience as participants of a recent Wiki Scholars course, each of the four scholars noted the importance of editing Wikipedia as a strategy to combat misinformation, particularly during the 2024 election year. Panelists also initiated conversations about the role Wikipedia can play in disseminating research, its relationship with artificial intelligence and large language models, and the challenges of biases against Wikipedia. 

“We agreed during the panel that the number one challenge was a vast amount of misinformation about Wikipedia and its legitimacy as an academic source,” noted Sriram. “We still have a lot of work to do!”

Panelist and doctoral student at the University of Georgia Yao Yao agreed, underscoring the importance of educating academics and students on the immeasurable value of Wikipedia.

“As a PhD student, I believe it’s crucial to challenge the notion that students should be discouraged from using Wikipedia,” said Yao, an American politics scholar. “Instead, we should educate them on how to leverage its benefits effectively.”

From her first day in the Wiki Scholars course, Yao was drawn to the “inclusive and collaborative nature” of the Wikipedia community, embracing the chance to question her assumptions, gain practical skills in content creation, and join the worldwide group of editors dedicated to sharing knowledge. 

“One aspect of the course that particularly resonated with me was its emphasis on overcoming bias and fostering confidence in editing Wikipedia,” said Yao. “I also appreciated the opportunity to learn the intricacies of article editing, even though some processes seemed complex initially. The course provided valuable guidance on editing various elements such as images and charts, which has expanded my skill set and deepened my understanding of content creation on Wikipedia.”

An idea championed by panelist Muhamad Hassan Bin Afzal, visiting professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Service at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, the group plans to collaborate on a writing project which will examine the topics they discussed at the conference.

“The participants were so fun, engaged, and curious, and we’re even in talks about developing a paper for publication,” said panel chair Jacqueline M. Keil, assistant professor of political science at Kean University.

Will Kent and Colleen McCoy
Will Kent and Colleen McCoy, Wiki Education

Wiki Education staff also engaged with all MPSA conference attendees from our booth in the exhibition hall. Both Kent and Wiki Education’s Communications and Outreach Coordinator Colleen McCoy connected with political science experts from across the globe, sharing information about our upcoming Wiki Scholars & Scientists professional development courses and the opportunity to teach with Wikipedia in our Wikipedia Student Program.


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