WikiProject L&O: Promoting Wikipedia Contributions to Enhance Communication and Public Impact

Margaret Mars Brisbin, OIST Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, Marine Biophysics Unit, Onna, Japan, Brice Grunert, City College of New York, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, New York, United States, Whitney S Beck, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, United States, Jessica E Brandt, University of Connecticut, New Haven, CT, United States, Kaitlin Farrell, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, United States, Kelly L. Hondula, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, United States, Dustin W Kincaid, University of Vermont, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Burlington, United States, Erin I Larson, Alaska Pacific University, Anchorage, United States and Arial Shogren, Michigan State University, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, East Lansing, United States
Wikipedia is the internet’s 5th most-visited website and is a major source of authoritative information for text-based search engines and voice search queries. Wikipedia is, therefore, a high-impact platform for broadly sharing scientific information, with potential benefits to both contributors and readers. While its reputation and utility are often questioned among academics, Wikipedia articles related to water, biogeochemistry, and hydrology are often viewed over 100,000 times per day. As a group of early-career aquatic scientists motivated by the limited scope and poor quality of many Wikipedia articles about aquatic sciences, we launched WikiProject: Limnology and Oceanography (L&O) in Fall 2018. Members of the WikiProject coordinate efforts for improving articles relating to inland waters and marine environments by developing tutorials, organizing edit-a-thon activities (i.e. focused Wikipedia editing time), and building an online community to encourage aquatic scientists, students, and members of the public to share their subject-matter expertise on water-related Wikipedia pages. Through these activities, WikiProject L&O-related efforts have so far resulted in the addition of over 56,000 words across 190 articles, the creation of 15 new articles, and improved the mean structural completeness of WikiProject articles by 15% (from 38.6 to 44.5). However, out of the 548 articles that have been assessed so far under the project’s scope, over 80% still have significant deficiencies, lack citations, or contain mostly irrelevant material. This presentation will showcase the project’s resources, training materials, and outcomes as examples of how to incorporate Wikipedia editing into educational and outreach settings, as well as to increase public access to aquatic science. We demonstrate how editing articles develops scientific communication and critical thinking among contributors and results in more accessible, high-quality scientific information on the web.