Publishing scholarly papers with, and on, Wikipedia (a case study)

Astragalus Mayeri plant

Image from an Open Access journal article, shared on Wikimedia Commons by Daniel Mietchen. Click on the image for credits.

Wikipedia welcomes expert contributions, and is one of the most direct ways to promote public understanding of a subject area, but it isn’t always in researchers’ personal interest to contribute. It may seem as though any time spent writing for Wikipedia is less time to write the research papers which will advance their careers. One scholarly society, and its open access journal, have found how to do both at once.

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3 ways to use Wikipedia in education

CILIP is a scholarly/professional society for librarians and other information professionals. Jisc and CILIP have a working relationship, and CILIP has in the past hosted a Wikimedia UK stall at its conference.

Today, the CILIP blog has published a guest post from me, written with help from Jisc, on Wikipedia in education. It is a follow-up to my Ten tips for educators article, and goes into more depth on a few of its suggestions. It is based on the one-hour workshop “Wikipedia: a platform for learners as producers” which I gave recently at the Jisc Digital Festival.

A good companion piece to my post is N. V. Binder’s recent “7 reasons librarians should edit Wikipedia”, which makes an accessible, persuasive case that, for librarians, contributing to Wikipedia can both be personally rewarding and a way to develop professional skills.

“Wikipedia’s style teaches you to summarize, back everything up with credible references, and write with general audiences in mind. Your writing also instantly becomes useful. Every month, thousands of people read articles that I have contributed to–at least as a collaborator, and sometimes as a primary author. That’s more readers than a lot of published authors get.”

Note that Binder has kindly agreed to release her blog post under a CC-BY-SA licence so that it can be used in Wikipedia outreach materials.

Ten Wikipedia tips for educators

The latest issue of Jisc Inform – Jisc’s online magazine for educators, researchers, and related staff – is out and is well worth a read for anyone interested in open education. Articles include an introduction to Creative Commons licences and a preview of next week’s JIsc Digital Festival (at which I’m giving a workshop and helpdesk). David Kernohan writes about the legal and ethical issues that MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) need to consider, and recommends Wikimedia Commons as a sourced of freely-licensed material.

The issue also features a short article I’ve written giving Ten ways educators can use Wikipedia (and other Wikimedia projects). Please share the article with anyone who might be interested, and I always welcome constructive feedback.

Crowdsourcing: the wiki way of working

The Wikimedia family of projects

The Wikimedia family of projects

To influence education institutions, we need to speak their language and we need to put information in the places where they are looking for it.

The Jisc infoKits are online booklets for management, technologists and other staff in Higher and Further Education. This is where such people come for advice about Programme Management, Learning Spaces, Cloud Computing and many other topics. Today there is a new infoKit that I’ve written as part of the Jisc/Wikimedia UK partnership. “Crowdsourcing: the wiki way of working” shows how professionals and volunteers can collaborate to produce reference materials for education and research.
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One sentence on Wikipedia: a microcosm of information literacy

What are the building blocks or “atoms” of Wikipedia? A Wikipedia article can have many elements, but at its core is it built of originally-worded statements of fact with a citation to a reliable, published source which is independent of the thing written about. When a contribution is removed, it has usually broken at least part of this definition.

Taking each part of this definition, and asking “why?”, is a way to structure a discussion about the reliability of information found online. This briefing gives some examples of “why” questions that can emerge (or be elicited) and some pointers for discussion that will illuminate each point.

This could be used with a very wide variety of learners, depending on how you frame the discussion and on your examples. The discussion could be directed to focus on critical thinking, understanding of digital resources, knowledge of a specific subject, or even abstract questions about the nature of knowledge. Continue reading

Come and join us for a public editathon

The cover of a medieval manuscript of Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna)’s Canon of Medicine, held at the Wellcome Library. Public domain image hosted by Wikimedia Commons

The Wellcome Library is hosting an edit-a-thon on Wednesday 26th February 2014, to improve Wikipedia articles about medicine and health in the widest sense, including the history of medicine. This free public event is part of the partnership between Jisc and Wikimedia UK and is led by Martin Poulter, the ambassador between the two charities.

The Wellcome Library holds one of the world’s richest collections of physical and digital resources relating to medical history, contemporary medicine and biomedical science in society. The editathon itself is taking place in the Gibbs Building next to the library. This is in central London, opposite Euston Square tube but within easy walking distance of three other tube stations.

The event will take place from 11am to 4pm, with lunch provided. We will go through basic wiki training before lunch, then work directly on Wikipedia, with experienced Wikipedians and Wellcome Library staff on hand.

Please use the online booking form to register a free place.

It is advisable to bring a laptop computer though we have some spares: tell us on the form if you won’t be able to bring one.

See the event’s page on Wikipedia for more details and feel free to add your username or to suggest articles for improvement.

Telling the stories of rural England with Wikipedia

by Dr Humphrey Southall, Reader in Geography, University of Portsmouth, written with Dr Martin Poulter, Jisc’s Wikimedia Ambassador

In November, at the EduWiki Conference 2013, academics and Wikimedians spent two days discussing a range of issues of common concern. David White of the University of Oxford’s Department for Continuing Education delivered a keynote exploring the ways in which students use Wikipedia, and I contributed a presentation of my own, describing a Wikipedia-based assignment I give to first-year students in Applied Human Geography and also looking at how academics can inform the widest public about their subject, and raise awareness of the reliable sources used in research.

Humphrey Southall presenting at EduWiki. Photo by Rock Drum, CC-BY-SA

For the past two decades, I’ve been part of a team building the site A Vision of Britain with funding from Jisc, the National Lottery and research bodies. I have also been involved in international discussions about ‘gazetteers’, during which I’ve come to regard Wikipedia as one of the world’s most widely used gazetteers. In the course of creating links between A Vision of Britain and Wikipedia it grew clear how many stub articles existed about villages and that gave me an idea that developed into an engaging, challenging assignment for my first-year students. Continue reading

Introducing a new blog

Martin Poulter speaking at the EduWiki Conference in Cardiff. Image by Katie Chan hosted at Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA

Dr. Martin Poulter speaking at the EduWiki Conference in Cardiff. Image by Katie Chan hosted at Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA

Welcome to the official blog of the Jisc/Wikimedia UK ambassador. This blog will host case studies and briefings about innovative use of Wikipedia and its sister sites in research and education, based on interviews with academics. It will be regularly updated for the rest of the project.

In my role as the Jisc Wikimedia Ambassador I’ve been fortunate to have delivered events in a variety of institutions. So far these have included Oxford University, the Royal Veterinary College, Newcastle University, and the Humanities Research Institute at the University of Sheffield with more to come in 2014.

On the way, I am collecting case studies and requests for help from interested individuals, and documenting all activity (including all evaluation feedback) on Wikimedia UK’s wiki.

The academic and Wikimedia communities have a lot to learn from each other. I’ve found that academics and librarians are often surprised at the extent to which, behind the scenes, Wikipedia has a drive for quality, reflected in several different formal and informal review processes and the enthusiasm for “tagging” and discussing problematic articles. Wikimedians, in turn, are surprised at the vast amount of scholarly and educational content put freely online with Jisc’s support, and the wide variety of support and advice it gives to the sector.

When researchers, educators, curators, and support staff see Wikipedia and related sites as an outlet for their work, there are great opportunities to get people using digital resources, to expand the impact of research, and for innovative educational activities such as using Wikipedia article histories to teach close reading. The collaboration between Wikimedia UK and Jisc is a great opportunity to document those opportunities for the HE sector and the wider public.

Martin Poulter