Celebrate women in science with Wikipedia

This post was written by Martin Poulter, Wikimedian in Residence at the Bodleian Libraries, and was originally published on the library’s blog.

Whilst time is unveiling, Science is exploring Nature, by William Skelton (engraver); Charles Reuben Ryley (artist) (The Bodleian Libraries, Oxford) [CC BY 4.0],
This October will mark the bicentenary of Ada Augusta Byron, otherwise known as Ada Lovelace, often called the first computer programmer. Among the many events happening in Oxford this autumn, the Bodleian Libraries and IT Services are hosting a series of half-day workshops which hope to make a record-breaking impact on Wikipedia’s infamous gender imbalance.

As in previous years, there will be an edit-a-thon to create articles related to women in science and to wish happy birthday to Ada Lovelace with celebratory cake. This will happen on Tuesday 13 October. It will include an introduction to wiki editing, so is suitable for new and experienced wiki editors.

This year we are also running three related events. All four events are open to members of Oxford University. We are also seeking experienced Wikipedians to help with the training. Even if you are not connected with Oxford, you can take part on-wiki; welcoming the new users and helping make their experience a pleasant one.

Monday 12 October will be the first ever transcribe-a-thon. We will look at Wikisource, the free library, where out-of-copyright books are transcribed using Optical Character Recognition and manual correction. During the event we will create an electronic edition of a book that can be used as a source for Wikipedia articles. This is an opportunity to learn basic wiki editing without having to worry about the many policies and guidelines affecting original text on Wikipedia.

Wednesday 14 October will be an improve-a-thon: we will look at Wikipedia’s quality scale and system of open review, and improve existing articles by adding facts or citations or by accessibly rewording. This will be suited to people who have edited Wikipedia before.

Thursday 15 October’s event is an image-a-thon: we will look at how Wikipedia articles are illustrated, using images from cultural institutions, from out-of-copyright books or personal collections. We will look at Wikimedia’s database of 27 million digital media files. With newly-uploaded images, we will illustrate articles on the week’s theme. No photography is required and this event is suitable for people who have never edited wikis.

The image-a-thon is an opportunity that Oxford’s libraries can support. College libraries may have photographs of alumnae, staff, or perhaps relevant art or manuscripts. We hope that some of these images can be made available under a Wikipedia-compatible licence for use in articles, with attribution. We will be uploading images of Lovelace herself which have not existed in digital form before.

We are interpreting the ‘women in science’ theme broadly, not just writing and improving biographies of women — living or dead — in professions related to science. There are also articles about books, or about scientific innovations and theories, where women’s contributions could be better represented. We will provide suggestions for target articles, as well as online and offline resources to help improve them.

Each of these four events looks at open knowledge from a different angle. If you can only make one, sign up for one, but if you want a broad hands-on experience of improving open knowledge, come to all four.

Dr Martin Poulter, the Wikimedian In Residence at the Bodleian Libraries, will lead the training but welcomes experienced wiki editors who can make things easy for newcomers. If you fit that description, please get in touch at martin.poulter@bodleian.ox.ac.uk.

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