Engaging diverse communities to profile women of Antarctica
In June 2016 Jan Strugnell approached me with a proposal and a problem. The proposal: Jan had convinced the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) to hold a 'Wikibomb' event for women Antarctic scientists at their upcoming international conference, in which participants would update a large set of relevant articles. The problem: Jan had never edited Wikipedia before. She just knew that improving the representation of notable women on the world’s largest encyclopaedia was important.
She’d heard about my workshops on “Wikipedia Editing for Scientists” and together we composed a plan:
- To engage the Antarctic research community and make the most of their knowledge by getting SCAR members to nominate notable women scientists and provide information and references
- To recruit volunteer writers from the early career researcher community
- To ensure as much as possible that articles met Wikipedia’s quality standards for notability and sourcing before submission to the Articles for Creation editors.
We therefore decided to hold a 3-month-long virtual editathon followed by a final in-person celebration, presentation and recruitment event being held on the 28th of August.
As with Wikipedia as a whole, there has been systemic under-representation of notable women Antarctic scientists. Compounding this is Antarctic science's unique history of exclusion of women. There was a gap of over 100 years between the first man to set foot on the Antarctic mainland (John Davis) and the first woman to do so (Ingrid Christensen). Most science programmes explicitly prohibited women from working in Antarctica until at least the late 1950s (Maria Klenova), more than half a century after the first male scientists. Women scientists have now risen to prominent positions, including directorships of the British Antarctic Survey (Jane Francis) and Alfred Wegener Institute (Karin Lochte). Nevertheless, women remain under-represented in official recognition (e.g, Polar Medals), and public awareness (e.g., Wikipedia biographies). With 60% of polar early career researchers now women, better representation was needed.
We gathered 170 nominations from the Antarctic community over the course of a few months via an online form, requesting information and sources, promoted via social media, mailing lists and the official SCAR website.(archive link) We classified the initial nomination forms on a 4-point scale from "no references provided," to "clearly notable with all the necessary supporting references."
At the same time, we were recruiting volunteers to help turn nominations into biographies over the next three months. The Women in Polar Science, Association of Polar Early Career Scientists, and Equal Opportunity Science networks were helpful for recruiting keen volunteers, who then worked to move drafts through the pipeline towards being upload-ready. Our initial enquiries indicated that most of our volunteers were initially intimidated by the idea of editing Wikipedia. We therefore developed a pipeline that allowed volunteers to draft off-wiki if they preferred, and work on-wiki once they felt comfortable, organised in a Google Sheets spreadsheet.
Firsts wrote biography drafts and stored them in a shared Dropbox folder, starting with the information provided in the nomination form and researching additional references where necessary. We then swapped the drafts around to edit and proofread each other’s writing. Finallys comfortable with Wikipedia editing were trained by Skype to use the preloaddraft system on the meetup page to upload the drafts.
As is always the case, not all pages passed Articles for Creation review (AfC), but we found that the volunteers involved understood that this is all part of the robust calibration that the Wikipedia community has to continuously consider for who is notable. We have been particularly proud of how many images we have added. Requesting photos from article subjects directly yielded a >50% success rate over three weeks.
The people who made this possible
These efforts are being promoted at the SCAR2016 conference and used to recruit further interested editors. We’re hosting a two-hour set of presentations and panel discussions about the new articles and about women in research, followed by drop-in Wikipedia training over the following days of the conference.
Overall, the success of this editathon was based on effectively engaging multiple communities – SCAR members, early career researchers, experienced Wikipedians, and finally the subjects themselves; and on putting people to work in advance of the edit-a-thon itself.
Consequently we would like to thank the Women in Red for their fantastic help, support and advice and the AfC editors whose feedback helped improve the standard of our submitted articles. The SCAR community really got behind the project, nominating a great range of high-flyers. We were fortunate to have a great committee to organise everything consisting of Jan Strugnell, Thomas Shafee, Jenny Baeseman, Nerida Wilson, Craig Stevens, and Justine Shaw. Lastly, of course, the dozens of volunteers who helped on-wiki and off-wiki made this process possible!
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