Got a minute (and an internet connection)? Want to double the readership of your science?
Then contribute to the largest encyclopedia ever published: Wikipedia!
Last week I was at the New Zealand Ecological Society annual conference, this time held in Wellington at Victoria University. It was my first NZES conference and it certainly won’t be my last: a great range of talks, and so many bright ecologists (and imposters like me).
— Bryce McQuillan (@Bryce_McQuillan) November 26, 2018
— Thomas E. Saunders (@TomSaundersNZ) November 27, 2018
I was also lucky enough to spend some time with Mike Dickison, former Curator of Natural History at Whanganui Regional Museum, and now New Zealand’s own ‘Wikipedian at large‘. As part of his current role, Mike travels the country to inspire and educate people about Wikipedia, how to release materials under open licenses, and to foster relationships between New Zealand institutions and Wikipedia. Mikes passion for Wikipedia and open knowledge is infectious. So after only a few minutes of talking to him about how to use Wikipedia I knew I wanted to become an active editor.
Its all very easy. Wikipedia has lots of great tutorials and user guides (start here), and help is only ever a few keystrokes away at The Teahouse. You just have to keep in mind a few things specific to how Wikipedia works (detailed more in the linked tutorial):
- The goal is to create a comprehensive and neutrally written summary of existing mainstream knowledge about a topic.
- Always cite independent, reliable, published sources (its not good enough to say “I just know this.”).
- Operate in good faith, be polite, ask for help if you need it.
- And most importantly, don’t be put off if someone reverts your edit or deletes your page. Either they are trolling and it will be undone, or they are an experienced editor with a good reason. Just ask.
Students and academics can contribute much to Wikipedia, especially because their work requires them to navigate the published literature on their chosen topics. This means they can hit the ground running by added information from reliable sources. And there are some pretty sweet incentives: more people get a chance to read about your work, which means a larger pool of people who might cite it. Adding to Wikipedia is probably one of the most efficient ways to communicate your science. Citing your own work on Wikipedia is encouraged if it adds to the article and conforms to the guidelines.
But this isn’t to say you need to be a student or professor to contribute. There are thousands and thousands of contributors who sieve through literature and news reports in order to find relevant sources to add them to a page. All you need is to find an area you’re passionate about and work on those pages. You can create a page, edit an existing one, make suggestions on the talk page, add extra citations to the text, and improve how the article reads.
So check out the tutorials and have a go!