CSUN Women in Science Edit Wikipedia


Despite developing immunity to the disappointing feeling of discovering that my brilliant ideas were first someone else’s, I still feel it. This past winter break, I learned that “Wikipedia edit-a-thons” are a thing (perhaps I’m a bit slow on the uptake), and I had the brilliant idea of organizing one of these events for our Women in Science Club.

I was especially excited about this because I had read this New York Times piece from 2011 revealing that fewer than 15% of Wikipedia contributors are women. Wikipedia has grown immensely in both credibility and size over the years, and it is proving to be the perfect place to record history. Without a doubt, this huge bias in authorship translates to a bias of information online. But I digress a bit…

Okay, I’ve alluded to the fact that I wasn’t the first to think of holding one of these events for women in science. But this time, those disappointing feelings weren’t there—instead I was encouraged! I found that many large and well-organized edit-a-thon events have been held for this purpose and many Wikipedia pages exist on the topic. For example: There is this Wikipedia Project Page that is dedicated to getting biographies of female scientists online, assessing the quality of pages that already exist and improving those that are of lower quality; there is also this list of articles to be created of female scientists. Cool, right?

Anyway, last week we held our first “Women in Science Wikipedia Edit-a-thon” event. It was quaint, but a success. From our own idols, news articles, and resources in our department (asking professors), we made a fairly long list of ecologists and evolutionary biologists. We rented a large room at the library, and between seven participants, guacamole, brownies, “sparkling grape juice”, questionable spotify playlists, and three hours, we created eight Wikipedia pages for deserving female scientists (see the bottom of the post for links to some of our pages).

Overall, everyone found that it was difficult to write more than a paragraph or two with proper references in the short time that we had. But, I think everyone was satisfied with our something-is-better-than-nothing approach— especially as pages can always be enhanced. This event was easy to plan, so we will definitely do it again. Hopefully with a greater number of participants and a bit of experience we can hash out more pages in the same amount of time next time. If you are interested in seeing our list, adding names to our list or writing a page and checking someone off of our list, please let me know and I can email you about it!

Not all of our pages have been posted yet (they go through a review process) but for now, check out the page Amy created about marine phycologist Diane Littler, the page from Erica on Rosemary Gillespie and the page from Sarah on Lacey Knowles.

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