WCC and CMA Sponsored a Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon!

written by Mary Jane Shultz


For the Fall ACS National meeting, the WCC, in partnership with CMA, sponsored a Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon, spearheaded by Stephanie Hare. In keeping with the WCC’s mission of broadening participation, the focus was on creating pages for Women and members of the Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) community. Currently, only 18.5% of Wikipedia articles written in English feature women, and in chemistry, representation is sparser: only 15.5% are women. For the BIPOC community, the statistics are not even available. It is a highly visible medium: the 5th most highly visited web site with 650 million views every day. Of course, those who take the time to create pages bring their biases.

To address this under-representation, the Edit-A-Thon provided instruction in how to become a Wikipedia editor: the first step required is to make pages. In keeping with its community-based orientation, anyone can become a Wikipedia editor. Be bold, register for an account. Accounts are free and there is no filter on who may have one. To create an account, on the main Wikipedia page, click Create Account on the top right, fill out the form with your Username, password, and CAPTCHA Security check. To avoid unwanted attention, create a username that is unique to your Wikipedia efforts.

For novices, it is wise to start small, editing existing pages. The best edits add sources for information, new data bolstering the notoriety of the subject, or correcting incorrect data. After editing, you are asked to describe the changes you made. For larger efforts, keep the five pillars of Wikipedia in the forefront:

    • Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia
    • Wikipedia has a neutral point of view
    • Wikipedia is free content
    • Wikipedians interact with respect and civility
    • Wikipedia does not have firm rules

The worst thing that can happen is that the content you put up gets taken down! Everything on the page must be verifiable: sources are important. The subject must be notable or “worthy of notice.” This criterion presents barriers for women and the BIPOC community. One piece of evidence supporting notoriety is recognition by National Awards – so nominate a woman or BIPOC member. There is a somewhat lower barrier to be represented on WikiData; a free data storage platform. So if your candidate person is not (yet) notorious, give them a Wikidata page.

The 50 participants were from all over the world: The United States, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, Italy, Iceland, Germany, and Colombia. This energetic group created eight new pages, made 280 edits on 64 articles and added 236 new references. Anecdotal evidence suggests that enthusiasm was so great that some participants are propagating Edit-A-Thons to additional sites!

The event was recorded. If you missed it, the recording can be found at https://vimeo.com/449695405; password WCC_CMA_Editathon_2020.