The Jisc/Wikimedia UK partnership in facts and figures

The Jisc/Wikimedia partnership project lasted for 10 months (from July 2013 to May 2014), involved officially around 100 days of paid work, and was jointly funded by the two charities with additional support from the University of Bristol. It officially ended in April, but I am still working on some aspects in a volunteer capacity.

The partnership objective was, “To demonstrate how publicly-funded research and education projects can benefit from crowdsourcing, using Wikimedia as a platform and a model. To capture this knowledge in a way that permanently changes how Jisc and the wider sector work with Wikimedia.” This is the first part of a two-part summary of the project. This part deals with facts and figures while the next part reflects on lessons learned.

Most of this document draws together figures from the project’s various public wiki pages. These are all linked from which also links to all the project outputs.

Institutions directly engaged

  1. Bodleian libraries, Oxford: Hosted an editathon and a blog post.

  2. University of Oxford IT Services: Hosted a three-hour workshop

  3. WikiVet/ Royal Veterinary College: Hosted an editathon and allowed John Cummings to take photos of exhibits from its museum. (Note: the RVC hosted the editathon, but it is just one of the consortium of institutions that support WikiVet).

  4. Wellcome Library: hosted an editathon

  5. CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals): Hosted a blog post, linked from the CILIP home page

  6. Coventry University: Hosted a two-hour workshop

  7. Bath Spa University: Hosted a two-hour workshop

  8. Sheffield University: Hosted a two-hour workshop

  9. Newcastle University: Hosted a one-and-a-half-hour workshop

  10. Jisc (internal): Hosted two internal presentations (lunchtime talk in Bristol and Innovation Group away day in London)

  11. Impact of Social Sciences project at London School of Economics and Political Science: Hosted a blog post

Institutions indirectly engaged

The project made use of Jisc’s many outward-facing communications channels which are followed and trusted by staff throughout higher and further education. These included:

  1. two sessions at the Jisc Digital Festival;

  2. two posts on Jisc’s corporate blog;

  3. two posts on the Jisc Content and Collections blog;

  4. an article in Jisc Inform online magazine;

  5. an item in a Jisc Digital Media podcast;

  6. the newly-created Jisc Wikimedia Ambassador blog.

Attendees at the workshops included staff from

  1. Victoria and Albert Museum (contact passed onto WMUK’s GLAM co-ordinator for follow-up)

  2. University of Leicester (follow-up meeting discussed the use of Wikipedia in teaching information literacy and writing)

  3. Jisc Netskills (follow-up meeting involved sharing advice and documentation about how Wikipedia functions as an online community)

  4. Jisc TechDis

  5. Jisc Regional Support Centre for Wales (follow-up involved the RSC hosting a talk by WMUK’s Wales Co-ordinator)

  6. Wikimedia Foundation: I met with Rod Dunican, Director of Global Education for the Wikimedia Foundation, and advised on a number of ways their education outreach material could be adapted for the UK and internationally, including term length, terminology and paper sizes. Since then, an overhaul of education portals has been announced.

Institutional, regional and national policy affected

Holders of digital content: The Spotlight on the Digital project, hosted by Jisc, identified ways to enhance the discoverability of digital content (including images, research outputs and educational materials). I attended a project workshop and gave a presentation about Wikimedia Commons, Wikisource and Wikipedia, following up with a written briefing. The final report mentions Wikimedia under the headings of “Content promotion” and “Foresight group”. I am following up with a short briefing to Paola Marchionni (Jisc’s Head of Digital Resources) about implementing the recommendations.

During my residency, Creative Commons released advice that high-resolution versions of images cannot be licensed separately from lower-resolution versions. This undermined the business model I had been trying to promote with holders who were looking to make an income for their collections, though I still believe there are good reasons for archives and libraries to share content through Wikimedia Commons. I explained this development to the report authors and Jisc.

Coleg Cymraeg: This federal college, providing Welsh-medium courses to many institutions, announced its own recruitment of a Wikipedian In Residence in early 2014. During the negotiations that led to this post, I contacted the principal by phone and email. I explained that my project’s contract with Jisc mandated the release of all foreground intellectual property under Wikipedia-compatible free licences, and influenced the Coleg to adopt a similar clause.

Open Scotland consortium: in early 2014, a draft Scottish Open Education declaration was announced by a consortium including representatives of CETIS and the Jisc Regional Support Centre for Scotland, amongst others. It mentions “engagement with Wikimedia UK” as a positive step for the Scottish education system. Lorna Campbell, one of the draft’s authors, was involved in Spotlight on the Digital and credits my presentation at that workshop as an influence on the draft declaration. She writes “I’ve been genuinely impressed by Wikimedia’s efforts to engage with education communities across the UK and the Jisc Wikimedia project is very much part of that”

Libraries of the Netherlands: At the Jisc Digital Festival I got to know Maurits van der Graaf, a consultant who is writing a report on how Dutch libraries can promote use of their catalogues and content. In person, I demonstrated authority control files on Wikipedia and Wikidata. In an audio meeting and subsequent correspondence, I talked about the special status of Wikipedia amongst the top web sites, and described ISBN resolvers, Wikipedia Library arrangements, and content-sharing agreements as steps that libraries could take to attract interest from a wider public. Some of these recommendations will feed into a (Dutch-language) report to the libraries.

Wikimedia volunteers engaged

Eight UK-based volunteer Wikimedians provided expertise or assistance at events: Doug Taylor, Dan Garry, Helga Perry, Harry Mitchell (twice), John Cummings (twice), Jacob DeWolff, User:Chipmunkdavis, and Robert Forsythe. Without them, the events would not have been a success.

Daniel Mietchen, a Wikipedian and researcher based in Germany, gave detailed and patient help with one of the case studies.

Event attendees and new volunteers

A total of 183 people attended this project’s events. Of these, 46 were given hands-on experience of wiki editing while the rest learnt about, and discussed, ways in which the Wikimedia projects could benefit their work.

In addition, 68 people attended the EduWiki conference at which there were sessions about the Jisc/Wikimedia UK partnership. I did not record the number attending the Spotlight on the Digital workshop where I presented, but it was about 16.

The editathons attracted a total of 46 Wikipedia contributors (excluding trainers). Of these, 35 had not edited Wikipedia before. Eight more of these were “reactivated”, i.e. they already had accounts but had not edited for more than a year.

The institutional workshops and the two Jisc Digital Festival sessions attracted 107 attendees. Of the university staff who came to workshops, 36 gave their contact details for Wikimedia UK’s list of academic contacts. Of these, 32 were new contacts.

The two internal Jisc events attracted a total of 30 attendees.

There were ten institutional contacts who were essential to hosting events (two in Wellcome Library, two in WikiVet, one in each of the five workshop venues and the Bodleian libraries). These are “leading activity units” in the terms of Wikimedia UK’s metrics.

Attitude change

Attendees at the Veterinary Science editathon and Wellcome Library editathon were asked how likely they were to continue to edit Wikipedia in future, on a scale from 1 (very unlikely) to 5 (very likely). Out of 26 new users surveyed, 18 (i.e. 69%) gave a positive response (a four or a five).

From some of the workshops, evaluation forms asked participants how likely they were to do something new as a result of what they had learnt. Out of 48 evaluation forms collected, 36 (75%) gave a positive response. Many participants wrote down specific things they would do, most often that they would start editing Wikipedia or read up on Wikipedia educational assignments.

Some way into the project, I started to survey event workshop and editathon attendees about their knowledge of Wikimedia before the event versus at the end. Out of 54 participants who answered these questions, 10 (19%) positively rated their knowledge beforehand and 51 (94%) gave positive ratings at the end.

Wikimedia content created or improved

The workshops made many university staff aware of specific ways that Wikimedia projects could help them innovate in their work. As explained above, many of these people gave their contact details, starting off a relationship with Wikimedia UK which will support future activity as educational projects are created or content is opened up. Hence I expect that most of the Wikimedia content resulting from this project will come in the future, mainly over the 2013/14 academic year.

Wikipedia articles: Between the 3 editathon events, 8 new articles were created and 43 existing articles were edited. Four of the new articles went through the Did You Know review process and were linked from the front page of English Wikipedia (Audrey Arnott, Mabel Purefoy Fitzgerald, Antoinette Pirie, Cecilia Glaisher), resulting in just under 3,000 additional views on those articles.

Of the 8 new articles created, 7 have been improved by other editors since the editathons.

The above numbers do not include the articles into which new images have been embedded (see below).

The various events put me in contact with three academics who had previously had bad on-wiki experiences; examples of what on Wikipedia is called “biting”. By contrast, the changes made during the editathons have been preserved, built upon, and even showcased by the Wikipedia community.

Images: As a result of the event at the Royal Veterinary College, 53 images of animal skeletons were shared on Commons by John Cummings ( ). Twenty of these images are used in Wikipedia articles.

Video: A video has been created of the Sheffield workshop.

Documentation: a 10,000 word booklet, “Crowdsourcing: the wiki way of working”, has been published both as a Jisc InfoKit and a Wikibook.

The collaboration flowchart, which contains around 5,000 words of documentation for academics and content holders, has been added to the Wikimedia UK wiki and linked from the main Jisc site.


It has not always been possible to get readerships for all outputs and blog posts, usually for technical reasons to do with the platforms these are published on. Here are those I have been able to get:

  • Seven posts on the Wikimedia UK blog had a total of 12,242 hits up to April. This excludes the post that announced the start of the project. These blog posts can also be read from the blog’s home page and archives, although those hits are not counted.
  • The Crowdsourcing Infokit had 587 pageviews, from 196 users, in its first month.
  • The Bodleian Libraries blog post (a public post supporting a course internal to University of Oxford) had 269 visits from October to April.

Jisc-funded projects with increased links from Wikimedia content

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.

Continue reading

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.
Continue reading

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