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Wikimedia UK: Supporting free and open knowledge

Changing the way stories are told – Ada Lovelace Day outcomes

October 20th, 2016 by John Lubbock

Ada Lovelace Day 2016 attendees (Ewan McAndrew, CC-BY-SA)

By Ewan McAndrew (reposted with permission from Ewan’s blog)

Wikipedia has a problem with representation. Its mission is to be “the sum of all human knowledge” yet it only covers, by very rough estimates, only 5% of the number of articles that it needs to. Clearly there is a lot of work to be done. However, that it has amassed over 40 million articles in 300 languages in its short existence is quite incredible and is a testament to the dedication of its community of volunteers.

Yet the fact Wikipedia is human-curated means that it reflects the editors that engages with it. The late Adrianne Wadewitz, wrote an article on why teachers should engage with Wikipedia:

“Wikipedia is the encyclopedia anyone can edit but not everyone does. You and your students can dramatically affect the most popular and important reference work in the world.

If you want your students to learn about how a small community is influenced by demographics and how they can change that community by participating in it, Wikipedia is the place to go.

Google takes information from Wikipedia, as do many other sites, because it is licensed through a Creative Commons Share-Alike license. Those little boxes on the left-hand side of your screen when you do a Google search? From Wikipedia. The information that is on Wikipedia spreads across the internet. What is right or wrong or missing on Wikipedia affects the entire internet.” (Teaching with Wikipedia: the why, what and how” HASTAC Blog February 21, 2014)

Since I began my residency in January 2016, the figure we have cited in terms of female editorship of Wikipedia is 15%. Better than the 10% of 2014 but still shamefully low. This lack of female representation also skews the content in much the same way; resulting in only 15% of biographies on Wikipedia being about notable females.

According to figures from Equate Scotland, Women in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) represent similarly low percentages (only 14-18%) of the STEM workforce. If Scottish education & industry is serious about becoming a realistic competitor in STEM sectors and Wikipedia is serious about attaining the sum of all human knowledge then both need to take action to become more inclusive spaces; and both have an important role in highlighting success stories in providing role models for young & old women alike so they can see a career in STEM as viable.

With this in mind, the university held an Ada Lovelace Day event on Tuesday 11th October 2016 which incorporated guest talks, fun technology activities and a Wikipedia editathon which created 9 brand new articles on Women in STEM and improved 9 others. The event was enthusiastically received by its attendees and attracted the attention of STV News.


Ada Lovelace Day 2016 attendees (Ewan McAndrew, CC-BY-SA)

Articles created

  • Sheila May Edmonds – British mathematician, a Lecturer at the University of Cambridge, and Vice-Principal of Newnham College from 1960 to 1981.
  • Ann Katharine Mitchell – Decrypted messages encoded in the German Enigma cypher at Bletchley Park. Wrote several academic books about the psychological effects of divorce on children. Won a place to study maths at Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford (1940–1943). At the time relatively few women went to Oxford and even fewer studied maths. There were only 5 women in Ann Williamson’s year at Oxford and she remarked that the men coming to university had been taught maths much better at school than the girls. Indeed, it was suggested to her by the headmistress of her school that studying maths was “unladylike” and her parents had to overrule her school to allow her to take up her place at Oxford. Returned to university in 1970s to study social policy and in 1980 she graduated with a Master of Philosophy from the University of Edinburgh.
  • Margaret Marrs – Senior Operator of the original Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Computer (EDSAC). EDSAC was an early British computer constructed at the University of Cambridge Mathematical Laboratory in England, and the second electronic digital stored-program computer to go into regular service.
  • Code First: Girls – Not for Profit Social Enterprise that works exclusively with women in Britain to develop coding skills. The organisation promotes gender diversity and female participation in the technology sector by offering free and paid training and courses for students and professional women. It also supports businesses to train staff and develop talent management policies. As of June 2016, Code First: Girls is reported to have provided in excess of £1.5 million worth of free coding courses to more than 1,500 women since 2013.
  • PLUS another 5 Wikipedia articles were translated from English Wikipedia to Portuguese Wikipedia using Wikipedia’s new Content Translation tool.
  1. Tamar Ziegler translated to Tamar Ziegler here. Ziegler is an Israeli mathematician known for her work in ergodic theory and arithmetic combinatorics. Much of her work has focused on arithmetic progressions, in particular extensions of the Green–Tao theorem.
  2. Vyjayanthi Chari translated to Vyjayanthi Chari here. Chari is an Indian–American professor of mathematics at the University of California, Riverside, known for her research in representation theory and quantum algebra. In 2015 she was elected as a fellow of the American Mathematical Society.
  3. Stefanie Petermichl translated to Stefanie Petermichl here. German mathematical analyst who works as a professor at the University of Toulouse, in France. Topics of her research include harmonic analysis, several complex variables, stochastic control, and elliptic partial differential equations. She became a member of the Institut Universitaire de France in 2013.
  4. Cornelia Druțu translated to Cornelia Druțu here. Romanian mathematician working in the areas of geometric group theory, topology, and ergodic theory and its applications to number theory. She is a fellow and a tutor in pure mathematics at Exeter College, and lecturer in the Oxford University’s mathematical institute.
  5. Mildred Sanderson translated to Mildred Sanderson here. American mathematician, best known for her mathematical theorem concerning modular invariants. She is mentioned in the book Pioneering women in American mathematics. A Mildred L. Sanderson prize for excellence in mathematics was established in her honor in 1939 at Mount Holyoke College.

Ada Lovelace Day 2016 attendees (Ewan McAndrew, CC-BY-SA)

Articles improved

  • Place of education data (University of Edinburgh) was added to Mary Fergusson (Q37215) and a new improved Histropedia timeline of female graduates of University of Edinburgh working in mathematics and engineering was created.
  • A summary infobox and additional information was added to the early life and academic career sections of Nora Calderwood‘s page.
  • Links, references & formatting were all fixed in Margaret Rock‘s page – Rock was an English cryptoanalyst who worked as a code-breaker at Bletchley Park during World War II.
  • The size of the Athena SWAN page was doubled.
  • Links were improved from Joan Robinson (British economist well known for her work on monetary economics) linked to John Eatwell (British economist and the current President of Queens’ College, Cambridge) and then Nicholas Kaldor(Cambridge economist in the post-war period) linked to Joan Robinson. Text has been drafted in sandbox to improve the Cathie Marsh page. Marsh was a sociologist and statistician who lectured at the University of Cambridge and University of Manchester. The Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research (CMIST) at the University of Manchester was named following her early death from breast cancer, aged 41.
  • Spelling mistake fixed on the Sue Black (computer scientist) page.
  • Hut 6 linked to Ann Katharine Mitchell‘s page.
  • Our editors learnt ab

    Ada Lovelace Day 2016 attendees (Ewan McAndrew, CC-BY-SA)

    out Wikidata and improved the Wikidata list on female mathematicians. They also identified sources to create the Katherine Clerk Maxwell page.

  • The ‘Sweden‘ section in the Elizabeth Blackwell (illustrator) page which covers the fact that Blackwell has a genus of plants named after her.
  • Entrepreneur First page was improved by making a link to Code First: Girls

Highlighting female success stories like these is massively important soWikiProject Women in Red (the second most active WikiProject out of 2000 or so WikiProjects) hold 5 editathons every month on and gets editors from all over the world to turn those red-linked articles on Wikipedia (i.e. ones that don’t yet exist) into blue clickable links that do; whether it be Women in Art, Women Writers, Women in Nursing, Women in Religion or Women in STEM.

To date they have been very successful, averaging 1-3000 articles a month and shifting the balance from 15% of biographies on female to 16.52%. Still a long way to go but it is important for projects like these to write women back into history.

WMUK and National Library of Scotland are hiring a Gaelic Wikipedian

October 11th, 2016 by John Lubbock


Wikimedia UK and the National Library of Scotland are advertising for a Gaelic Wikipedian to help promote the Scottish Gaelic Wikipedia, Uicipeid.

Following a successful funding application to Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the department of the Scottish government which promotes Gaelic, we will be appointing a Gaelic Wikimedian who will work throughout Scotland to promote the Gaelic language by training people to improve or create resources on Uicipeid, the Scottish Gaelic Wikipedia.

This will require the Wikipedian to deliver training and events in the Western Isles, Highlands and central Scotland. The role will allow the Wikipedian flexibility in where they are based, though they will be able to work from the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh if they choose to.

Wikimedia UK launched the first Wikimedian-in-Residence programme in Scotland with the National Library of Scotland in 2013. The programme aimed to build links between the Wikimedia community and the National Library of Scotland and was followed by residencies at Museums Galleries Scotland and the University of Edinburgh. These projects are enabling us to mainstream the idea of open knowledge and open licenses within the cultural heritage and education sector, and we now want to create open educational resources to support people learning Gaelic.

A map of Scots Gaelic speakers – CC BY-SA 3.0. By Skate Tier

If you search for ‘Scots Gaelic’ or ‘Scottish Gaelic’ on Google, the Wikipedia page for Scottish Gaelic is the top link. The 2011 national census showed that 87,056 people had some ability with Gaelic compared to 93,282 people in 2001, a decline of 6,226. However, the number of speakers of the language under age 20 has increased, and this is why Wikipedia can be such an important tool to make sure that young people continue to develop their proficiency in speaking Gaelic.

The Gaelic Wikipedian will be responsible for designing and delivering a range of activities which will encourage young Gaels to improve their language skills through editing Uicipedia. They will deliver events and workshops and work with Gaelic organisations and communities to increase knowledge about Uicipedia and increase its size and usage. They will support the development of open knowledge and open licenses and prepare progress reports to assess the impact of their work on the development of Uicipedia.

Wikimedia UK is committed to improving digital access to knowledge, culture and educational resources throughout the UK and we understand how important it is that people outside of London and other big cities can benefit from the opportunities Wikimedia projects provide. The UK is a diverse place with many cultures and languages which we are committed to supporting and representing online, so if you have a good knowledge of Gaelic and a passion for improving access to Gaelic resources, please consider applying.

To apply:

Please complete the application form at and include your current CV, a statement on why you think you are suited to the role of Gaelic Wikipedian including your level of spoken and written Scottish Gaelic, experience in designing and leading workshops or events and experience as a Wikipedia editor and your Wikipedia username if you have one.


Help shape Wikimedia UK’s delivery plans for 2017 – 18

September 14th, 2016 by John Lubbock
Wikimedia UK evaluation panel, June 2016. Photo by  Wolliff (WMUK) CC BY-SA 4.0

Wikimedia UK evaluation panel, June 2016. Photo by Wolliff (WMUK) CC BY-SA 4.0

Wikimedia UK will soon be applying to the Wikimedia Foundation for an Annual Plan Grant (APG) in 2017 – 18. Longstanding volunteers, members and other stakeholders will be familiar with this process but for those of you who aren’t, an APG enables affiliated organisations around the world – including country ‘chapters’ of the global Wikimedia movement, like Wikimedia UK – to access funds raised by the Foundation through the Wikipedia banner campaign.

The deadline for proposals is 1st October and we will need to submit our draft delivery plan for next year as well as the proposal itself. On Saturday 24th September we will be holding a day of meetings to discuss and develop our proposal and our delivery plans for next year alongside the wider Wikimedia UK community. These include a meeting of the Evaluation Panel in the morning followed by a discussion focused on education from 12 – 3pm and a Planning Lab from 3 to 5pm.

The education meeting will give participants the opportunity to feed into our emerging plans for education and help us to shape an education conference in early 2017. At the Planning Lab we will share our plans for partnerships and programmes in 2017, with a view to incorporating feedback and ideas into our proposal to the Wikimedia Foundation, and enabling volunteers to identify how they might get involved with Wikimedia UK over the next year.

All meetings will take place at Development House near Old Street, London and are open to all, but signing up in advance is essential (see below for links). Refreshments including lunch during the education meeting will be provided, and support for travel is available if Wikimedia UK is notified in advance by email to karla.marte@wikimedia.org.uk.

Education eventbrite registration page.

Planning Lab eventbrite registration page.

No article? No problem.

September 13th, 2016 by Jason.nlw

Generating Article Placeholders on the Welsh Wikipedia

The Welsh Language Wicipedia already punches above its weight with seventy thousand articles. That’s roughly one article for every eight Welsh speakers. But now a student in Germany has developed a new tool which can fill in the gaps on Wikipedia by borrowing data from another of Wikimedia’s projects – Wikidata.

The aim of this new feature is to increase the access to open and free knowledge in Wikipedia.  The Article Placeholder will gather data, images and sources from Wikidata and display it Wikipedia style, making it easily readable and accessible.

Currently the Article Placeholder is being trialled on a few smaller Wikipedia’s and after a consultation with the Welsh Wicipedia community it was agreed that we would activate the new extension here in Wales.

An Article Placeholder for Hobbits on the Welsh Wikipedia

An Article Placeholder for Hobbits on the Welsh Wikipedia

The most obvious advantage of this functionality is the easy access to information which has not yet been included on Wicipedia, and with 20 million items in Wikidata, it’s not short on information. This in turn should encourage editors to create new articles using the information presented in the Article Placeholder.

But perhaps the most exciting aspect of using Wikidata to generate Wikipedia content, is that Wikidata speaks hundreds of languages, including Welsh! This means that many pages it generates on the Welsh Wikipedia appear entirely in Welsh.

If the Wikidata entry being used hasn’t yet been translated into Welsh, the Placeholder will display the information in English, however it is now easier than ever to link from the Placeholder to the Wikidata item and add a Welsh translation.  And plans are underway to hold Translate-a-thons with Welsh speakers in order to translate more Wikidata items into Welsh.

Welsh can easily be added to any Wikidata label

Welsh can easily be added to any Wikidata label

It is hoped that embedding this feature into the Welsh language Wicipedia will provide Welsh speakers with a richer Wiki experience and will encourage more editors to create content and add Welsh translations to Wikidata, cementing the place of the Welsh language in the digital realm.


Jason Evans

Wikimedian in Residence

National Library of wales


Wiki Loves Monuments 2016 kicks off the world’s biggest photography competition

August 31st, 2016 by John Lubbock

The overall winner of WLM UK in 2014. “St Michael’s Mount” by Fuzzypiggy is openly licensed under CC by-SA 3.0.

Wiki Loves Monuments returns to the United Kingdom in September. The competition has a heritage focus and we want your help to photograph every monument in the country. The prizes are funded by Wikimedia UK and the Open Data Institute, with £250 for best photograph and a £100 special prize for the best photo of a tax exempt heritage item.

Anyone can take part, all you need is a camera. Our interactive map lets you explore the environment around you, helping you find hidden heritage just around the corner. There are hundreds of thousands of sites which need photos!

By sharing images through Wikipedia we are creating a resource which anyone can benefit from. The photos from the competition are available under a free licence.

You can submit as many images as you want, and as long as you are the photographer and the photos are uploaded in September it doesn’t matter when they were taken.

350 people took part from the UK in 2014, submitting more than 7,000 photos. In August these images were seen by 4.3 million people on Wikipedia.

If you’re looking for inspiration use the map to see what monuments are around you. Or you can look at some of the photos from previous years.

Once you’re ready, get uploading!

You can follow Wiki Loves Monuments UK on Facebook and Twitter. To learn more about Wikimedia UK’s activities subscribe to our newsletter.

#Internaut Day – can we learn to stop worrying and love the internet?

August 23rd, 2016 by John Lubbock

Photo of the NeXTcub used as the first web server. The label reads “This machine is a server. DO NOT POWER IT DOWN!!”. On display at the science museum london. – Photo by user:Coolcaesar GFDL CC-BY-SA 3.0

The public internet turned 25 today, which means it’s on its third unpaid internship, still living with its parents and has become a cynical nihilist with little hope for the future of humanity.

‘The Web took off without regard for borders at all’, said Tim Berners-Lee on the 25th anniversary of the idea for the Web’s conception in 2014. In fact, for the pioneers of the public internet, this liberation from state control (especially coming just after the end of the Cold War) was part of the great promise of the internet, a promise that it has not always been able to live up to.

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

— John Perry Barlow, “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” (1996)

Wikipedia still stands as one of the lasting legacies of this period of internet idealism, which seemed to fade in the wake of the Dot Com Bubble and the new political reality of a unipolar world order plagued by small wars and the fear of terrorism.

I think it’s worth repeating that out of the top 100 most popular websites in the world Wikipedia is the only one run by a charity. Its founding principle, to give everybody free access to the sum of all human knowledge, sounds idealistic to us now, it was only 15 years ago that the site was first created.

So can we still be optimistic about the internet given the problems it is plagued with and the negative impacts it has on many people’s lives? Absolutely, as Werner Herzog’s new film Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World seems to suggest.

Herzog is a somewhat otherworldly figure, who delights in a kind of innocent awe at the possibilities of human potential. If you’ve not seen his film Cave of Forgotten Dreams, it is very good, and Lo and Behold seems to offer a kind of companion piece, juxtaposing the liminal nature of the Chauvet Cave paintings, the oldest extant human visual art in the world, with the bizarre Jungian subconscious which we have digitised in constructing the internet.

The New Statesman worries that Herzog is becoming a meme of himself, getting in the way of his subject matter. This cynicism seems to me reflective of the malaise with which we regard the internet now, with all its faults. People feel that we have lost something human by intertwining human destiny so closely with technology, and that is understandable, but feels like nostalgia to me. Herzog suggests in a Vice interview that we should think of the internet as we think of the Chauvet Cave paintings, not as something separate from our humanity, but as part of it, a representation of what is already inside of us.

So what does that make Wikipedia? Like the invention of writing, it takes the knowledge inside all of us and structures it, makes it editable, reviewable and verifiable. We are beginning to structure this knowledge in more and more complex ways that require huge amounts of data and processing power to create new tools which will allow us to better understand what we are, and how we can be better humans. In this respect, Wikidata holds great possibilities for the future analysis and structuring of knowledge. Who knows what kinds of technological or human progress it will allow us to make? It was impossible to see back when the first ARPANET intranet link was established in 1969.

“Kleinrock, a pioneering computer science professor at UCLA, and his small group of graduate students hoped to log onto the Stanford computer and try to send it some data. They would start by typing “login,” and seeing if the letters appeared on the far-off monitor.

“We set up a telephone connection between us and the guys at SRI …”, Kleinrock … said in an interview: “We typed the L and we asked on the phone,

“Do you see the L?”

“Yes, we see the L,” came the response.

We typed the O, and we asked, “Do you see the O.”

“Yes, we see the O.”

Then we typed the G, and the system crashed …

Yet a revolution had begun”“

It’s understandable why we are so cynical when we are constantly bombarded with terrible news, especially after the promise and potential which seemed to fill the 1990s with hope. Or perhaps it just felt that way because I was a child, who knows?

My most inspiring teacher at school once told me that the difference between being a sceptic and a cynic is that a cynic has already made their mind up. I think that this kind of cynicism is unhelpful, though probably inevitable at different points in history. For long periods of the Middle Ages, many people believed that the world had reached its final age and there were therefore few possible social or technological innovations worth striving towards. Then the Renaissance happened, which led to the Enlightenment and scientific revolution and here we are now.  

Poststructuralist critic Frederick Jameson famously said in 2003 that “it has become easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism”. This kind of thinking was also evident in Fukuyama’s ‘end of history’ hypothesis, that liberal capitalist democracy was the only political structure possible after the end of the Cold War. But this is just a lack of imagination, and we can do better. The internet is our imagination visualised, uploaded to the world’s networks, and we can query that imagination, we can use it as a repository to create new artworks and new ideas.

The internet is in a period of flux greater than ever before, as new digital communities come online, and we try to find a language for us all to communicate in. There are serious problems in making these systems work, but we have to resist cynicism and imagine how it could work and how amazing it could be if we are ever to achieve that potential greatness.

How did Werner Herzog learn to be a filmmaker? He read the entry for filmmaking in an encyclopedia and it told him everything he needed to get started.

Wikimedia UK AGM

August 12th, 2016 by Lorna Campbell

This post was written by Lorna Campbell and originally posted on her website.

On Saturday I went along to my first Wikipedia AGM in Birmingham.  It was a really interesting event and it was great to meet so many dedicated Wikimedians and also to see more than a few familiar faces. Martin Poulter has put together a Storify of tweets and pictures from the event here Wikimedia UK AGM 2016.

Selfridges Birmingham

The event featured an inspiring keynote on The Open Movement by Andy Mabbett who highlighted the importance of linking Wikimedia initiatives to both Open Government and national heritage organisations and who argued that we need to  do more to welcome people to the open community and communicate why openness is important to everyone.

Andy’s talk was followed by a workshop on Wikidata and a walk around the local area to take photographs for Wikimedia Commons.  Who’d have thought a photography safari of Digbeth could be so fascinating? 🙂 I just need to remember to upload some of the pictures I took to the Commons.

In the afternoon we had a fascinating series of lightning talks, one of which covered the brilliant Wiki Loves Monuments photography competition which will take place in the UK again later this year.

Of course the highlight of the day was the UK Wikimedian of the Year Awards.  Martin Poulter was a very worthy winner of the individual UK Wikipedian of the Year award; Navino Evans, one of the developers behind the fabulous Histropedia timeline tool, received an Honourable Mention; and I was delighted that the OER16 Open Culture Conference won Partnership of the Year.

The AGM concluded with the Board meeting and I was honoured to be voted onto the Board as a new Trustee of Wikimedia UK.  The University of Edinburgh already has a strong relationship with Wikimedia UK and I hope that I can make a positive contribution to nurturing the development of a supportive and mutually beneficial relationship between Wikimedia and the education sector.  Gill Hamilton, of the National Library of Scotland stepped down from the Board, so I’ll also be doing my best to fill her shoes as the Scottish representative on the Board, though it’ll be a hard act to follow!

With Josie Fraser, Wikimedia UK Trustee and #OER17 Co-Chair

Access All Areas: how can Wikimedia contribute to increasing Open Access publishing?

August 8th, 2016 by John Lubbock
Image by Danny Kingsley & Sarah Brown, CC BY 4.0

Image by Danny Kingsley & Sarah Brown, CC BY 4.0

It’s a normal part of an academic’s duties to be asked to peer-review papers for academic journals, something they do as part of their salaried position at a university. Equally, publishers rarely even pay the academic who writes the article, as Hugh Gusterson explains:

‘I get paid nothing directly for the most difficult, time-consuming writing I do: peer-reviewed academic articles. In fact a journal that owned the copyright to one of my articles made me pay $400 for permission to reprint my own writing in a book of my essays.’

Academic journals used to not make much money, but in recent years have been taken over by for-profit companies like Elsevier, Taylor & Francis, and Wiley-Blackwell. These companies now make very good profits, as they are in a position to charge a lot for access to their content. Erik Engstrom of Elsevier is the third highest paid chief exec in the FTSE100. He earned £16.18m last year.

Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 11.32.58

A recent review of the benefits of Open Access publishing found ‘several key trends… including a broad citation advantage for researchers who publish openly, as well as additional benefits to the non-academic dissemination of their work.’ The researchers also found that ‘The societal impact of Open Access is strong, in particular for advancing citizen science initiatives, and leveling the playing field for researchers in developing countries.’

So Open Access publishing exists within an Open ecosystem of which Wikimedia is a large part. It supports better knowledge sharing which can help improve Wikipedia and its sister projects by giving readers access to the research used to write Wiki content. There are a number of new initiatives to put pressure on commercial publishers to make more content Open Access, like the Open Access Button, which allows you to search to see if a paper behind a paywall exists for free elsewhere, and to contact the author directly if not. The Directory of Open Access Journals helps academics make informed choices about the journals they submit to, and Wikimedians track down sources. As of writing it catalogues over 9,000 open access journals.

Within Wikimedia there is also the Wikipedia Library, where you can sign up to get access to some journals and databases that are behind paywalls. There are a number of requirements for you to be able to get access. Elsevier, for example, allows Wikipedians access to its Science Direct database as long as you have a track record of editing and are ‘active in content generation, research, or verification work’.

One of our partner institutions, the Wellcome Trust, has also recently announced that it will embrace Open Access and publish its own open academic journal. According to Ars Technica,

Wellcome Open Research will exclusively feature the research of people funded by the organization, and it will provide open access for anyone to view it—no subscription required. The journal will also have distinctive twists on what constitutes something worth publishing, as well as the peer review process.’

University College London is also launching its own open access journal to publish enhanced digital editions, scholarly monographs and ‘Books as Open Culture Content’. UCL Press launched last year as the UK’s first open access university publisher. Lara Speicher, publishing manager of UCL Press, says that its new online platform ‘demonstrates UCL’s commitment to broadening access to research via open access and digital innovation, and [will] allow for the publication of non-traditional research outputs that are not suited to a traditional monograph format.’’

In the field of scientific publishing, there have been a number of positive developments, with the EU science chief proposing that all research it funds will be free to access by 2020. A UK government study recommended the same in 2012, saying that although it would have short term costs, “In the longer term, the future lies with open access publishing”, which the government should embrace for its obvious benefits. In the UK, the Research Excellence Framework which influences the allocation of £1.7 billion funding for universities now stipulates that research submitted to the REF must be open access.

Challenges to open access publishing remain, as it seems that Elsevier are attempting to buy up OA publications. In May, they announced that they planned to take over the open access archive, Social Science Research Network (SSRN), which now makes them one of the biggest open access publishers. Unfortunately, the signs are not good that Elsevier intends to get with the Open Access programme, as they have started removing content from SSRN, including papers released under a CC license.

One question for the Wikimedia community is how we can systematically use the knowledge made available in open access journals to improve the quality and reliability of Wikimedia projects. There is a WikiProject Open Access page where you can join in the discussion with other Wikimedians and contribute to improving Open Access resources on Wikimedia projects.

We would like to hear any ideas you might have for how Wikimedia UK should engage with open access publishers to use their research to improve content across our projects. Would you like to help run an editathon, or are there any groups doing work on open access publishing we should develop partnerships with? Get in touch and let us know.

#MoreinCommon at Wikimania 2016

July 4th, 2016 by Lucy Crompton-Reid

Wikimania 2016 – group photo by Niccolò Caranti CC BY-SA 4.0

By Lucy Crompton-Reid

I didn’t expect to be crying through much of the opening speech for Wikimania 2016, given by Jimmy Wales in the rather muggy, and very busy, Gym Palace of Esino Lario on the morning of Friday 24th June. As he talked of the inspiring life and tragic murder of his friend Jo Cox MP, he urged us to remember that “Wikipedia is a force for knowledge, and knowledge is a force for peace and understanding.” In the context of the political turmoil in the UK over the past week accompanied by a frightening and shameful increase in racist and xenophobic abuse, I am holding onto that sentiment.

I feel very privileged to have attended Wikimania 2016 on behalf of Wikimedia UK, along with a number of other staff and volunteers. Feeling tense after a delayed flight, I felt myself starting to breathe more deeply as I took in the stunning views of Lake Como on route to the beautiful mountainside town of Esino Lario. My spirits lifted even further when I was given a lift by a local to the tranquil village of Ortanella, where I was staying with my colleagues Daria and Karla in a small, rustic house with a garden full of fireflies.

A view of the countryside near Esino Lario

The small, rustic house shared by Lucy, Daria and Karla from the Wikimedia UK Team during Wikimania 2016 – photo by Lucy Crompton-Reid

Before I arrived at Wikimania, a number of people had said to me that it would be the conversations and connections made outside of and in between sessions that would prove to be the most useful, and enduring. Whilst to a large extent this was true for me, I also learnt a huge amount about the global movement through the scheduled conference programme. As a relative newcomer to Wikimedia, it was great to hear about projects involving the cultural heritage sector and to learn more about the current use and future potential of Wikidata in this context. The session on the ‘coolest chapter projects’ was particularly inspiring. Initiatives such as Wikipedia for Peace in Austria, AfroCROWD in New York, Wiki Loves Theatre in Serbia, WikiNobel in Norway and the People’s Pictures Project in Israel were a reminder of how the best ideas are often the most simple, and the most effective projects don’t have to have a big budget.

With a strong personal and professional interest in diversity and equalities I made a beeline for sessions on the gender gap, the first of which didn’t actually touch on gender at all but was a fascinating insight into the extent to which cultural identity is key to editor motivation.  This was followed by an equally interesting presentation on the gender gap in the global south, with a particular focus on recent activities in India. I also participated in a discussion on Wikimedia and gender, facilitated by Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight, in which the only two people in the room who disagreed with the proposition that gender is the biggest or most important gap on Wikimedia to deal with, were men. I’m not sure what this says about the issue but it felt like an interesting observation.  

It was particularly useful for me to meet with Katherine Maher and Christophe Henner, the new Executive Director and Chair of the Wikimedia Foundation respectively, who discussed the Foundation’s priorities over the next year and the importance of involving Chapters and other Affiliates in the development of a new ten year strategy for the movement.

Jimmy Wales announcing Katherine Maher as the new Wikimedia Foundation ED – photo by Niccolò Caranti CC BY-SA 4.0

At any conference, the social aspects are an important element of forging new friendships that can underpin working relationships, and one of the highlights of Wikimania 2016 was the programme of evening events. Having seen ‘country music’ on Friday’s schedule, I had envisaged an evening of traditional Italian folk music, so was surprised (and admittedly, rather pleased) to find myself line-dancing along to Sweet Home Alabama and other American country music classics. Whilst the rock band on Saturday more than made up for the disappointment at being unable to locate a karaoke machine, and I ended the night dancing alongside staff and volunteers from Wikimedia UK, colleagues from Wikimedia Deutschland and Norway, staff from the Foundation and members of the Funds Dissemination Committee.

Country music and dance at Wikimania Esino Lario – photo by Niccolò Caranti CC BY-SA 4.0

I can’t write about Wikimania, however, without reflecting on the UK’s referendum on EU membership, which of course is still dominating our thoughts and the news. Whilst Wikimedia UK is politically neutral, at a personal level I felt devastated by the outcome, and my shock and dismay at Friday morning’s news cast a shadow over the whole weekend. The spirit of exchange, collaboration and connection which permeated the conference and which is fundamental to the Wikimedia movement felt terribly at odds with the prospect of the UK leaving the EU, and abandoning one of the greatest peace projects of our time.


Chris Keating steps down from the board of trustees after five years

July 2nd, 2016 by John Lubbock

Chris Keating (right) presents Robin Owain with the 2013 UK Wikimedian of the year award. Photo by Rock drum CC BY-SA 3.0

By Chris Keating

In the summer of 2010 I saw a banner on Wikipedia asking me to come along to an event at the British Museum.

“Wikipedia and museums,” I thought. “What a great idea. People should do more of that.”

Little did I know that this would set me off down a path that would see me spending five years as a trustee of Wikimedia UK, a post from which I am finally stepping down next week.

When I was elected to the Wikimedia UK board, we weren’t even a charity. The first task was to sort this out. After many dozens hours from volunteers and thousands of pounds of legal fees later, we finally persuaded the Charity Commission that Wikipedia was a “public benefit” – more difficult than it seems thanks to an arcane point of British law –  and were registered as a charity.

At the same time, we were hiring our first staff and trying to make the best use of an increasing pile of expressions of interests from museums, libraries, universities, and charities. After the first success of the British Museum project, it became clearer and clearer to institutions across Britain that working with Wikipedia was something that they could and should do.

The more contacts we made the more doors seemed to open. The seeds were sown then for many of the Wikimedia UK’s most prominent projects – like our partnerships with Oxford Unviersity, the Natural History Museum and the Wellcome Trust – even if many of them took years more work and discussion before they came to fruition.

New charities often encounter problems, as you go down the path from a bunch of passionate people talking in a pub to being a charity with a six-figure budget and serious responsibilities. I took over as Chair in summer 2012 after the charity encountered some of those problems, and my first months in the role were spent dealing with a string of tense phonecalls with our own Board and with the Wikimedia Foundation, arranging – and then implementing – a review of our governance. There were many lessons to be learned, and I know that the results of the Wikimedia UK governance review were read and used by dozens of other Wikimedia chapters worldwide hoping to avoid falling into some of the same pitfalls.

It’s truly remarkable to think back on how far Wikimedia UK has come in the past five years thanks to the efforts of so many people – everything we do depends on the hard work and commitment of our volunteers and our staff – and it has been a real pleasure and privilege to serve on the Board for so long.

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