Outreach: Wikipedia ‘Hackathon’

Omer Markovitch, BMSIS scientist, recently organized a Wikipedia hackathon event and shares his reflections below:

“Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia” is a major source of knowledge. As it is often used by both specialists and non-specialists as an initial source of information, we recently held an informal Wikipedia meeting talking about its place in the scientific community and how we can contribute.

Members of the Otto’s research group from the Stratingh Institute for Chemistry at the University of Groningen, The Nethelands, took part. The meeting started with a short overview of what Wikipedia is (one of the self-governed projects supported by Wikimedia foundation), its core concepts (written collaboratively by volunteers which may be anonymous, anyone with Internet access can write and make change, and it is not a formal requirement to be familiar with them before contributing) and how easy it it is to actually contribute to Wikipedia (very easy).

In the discussion followed, there was an very positive atmosphere towards Wikipedia. While it was not entirely clear as to what level of articles we expect, it was obvious that such articles must adhere to the scientific standard of being credible and sourced, if to be taken seriously. In Chemistry, it was pointed by a student, sometimes Wikipedia articles can contain errors that must be fixed [Journal of Chemical Education 94, 271-272 (2016)] and it is critical that we must not allow for such errors to exist. Another student pointed that when selecting advanced courses, the Internet and Wikipedia are checked to help identify relevant and interesting subjects.

Finally, we have identified “Systems chemistry” as a field that lacks a detailed Wikipedia entry, and, given our expertise in systems chemistry, we would like to contribute to. We then discussed how such an entry might be, and different people took upon themselves to contribute to different sections. Shortly after, the Systems chemistry entry was up in the air!