The imagination of the Wikimedia UK community was first ignited by the idea of the Ada Lovelace Day in May 2012. When we found out about it, we immediately decided we had to get involved. Ada Lovelace Day is about sharing stories about women in science that inspired you. However, if a female scientist does not have an article on Wikipedia often it’s difficult to learn about her – hence she cannot serve as a role model for others. So, the idea is to spread the stories about them, and at the same time inspire more women to get involved, not only with Wikipedia, but in maths, science, technology and engineering.
This is one of the issues we wanted to approach with this event – the other is the fact that, proportionally, there aren’t many female editors on Wikipedia. For more background on this you can read a blog from Sue Gardner, Executive Director. By promoting the idea of the Ada Lovelace Day we wanted to take a step in changing this situation. We were able to share that inspiration with the Royal Society in London, who agreed to partner with us for an event on 19 October. This was an ideal match as not only does the Royal Society have a wonderful library, but is also maintaining a network of ‘women in science’. The Society’s library holds a rich collection of printed works about women in science, including biographies and works authored by scientists, which we made great use of during the event.
I was aware that a lot is being done within the movement to increase female participation, but during the course of working on the event I have realised quite how much enthusiasm and collaboration there is to get women editing. Linking up with the Finding Ada movement has been very inspiring too, and we are now connected to many more women that want to support Wikipedia.
The main effort of the event was to run the editing session focused on creating articles about women in science, particularly Royal Society Fellows. We then arranged an evening panel discussion about women in science to give more context to the issues of women’s participation.
To say the event was popular is something of an understatement – we ran out of tickets within a few hours of announcing the event! The amount of participants and their curiosity and willingness to contribute to Wikipedia was extremely encouraging.
It was even more inspiring to see how communities from around the world believed in the importance of what we were doing, so much as to organise their parallel events and link with us online. There were groups in India (led by Netha Hussain), Russia (led by Lvova Anastasia), and the United States (led by Audrey Murray).
During the editathon at the Royal Society, we have created or significantly expanded 20 articles, including Mary Edwards (human computer) and Emily Williamson. This adds to 14 articles that were created even before the event started, thanks to the promotion of the editathon. Many of these are now the first results in the search engines. There were 20 editors present at the Royal Society, most of whom new to Wikipedia. Judging from their tweets throughout the day, they enjoyed the editing and excitement of creating articles immensely. The online participants (of which there were about 25, from UK and abroad), added even further to the pool of created articles. All the information can be found here.
The media seems to have understood the importance of what we are doing, and I have counted 27 pieces of coverage so far (listed here), all stressing both the importance of women engagement and coverage of female related topics on Wikipedia. The articles included pieces in ”Scientific American”, the ”Independent”, the ”Telegraph”, the ”Guardian”, the ”Huffington Post”, BBC (online and on radio with editathon participant Dr Nathalie Pettorelli) and the “Signpost“.
The volunteers who were involved in the editathon made it the unique event that it was. Special thanks to Andrew Gray, Katie Chan, Tom Morris, anyone who joined us online. Also thank you to anyone who had their first go at editing! It all made it a pleasure for me to work on organising the event.
While working on the event, we have been approached by many other groups and individuals really keen to make their contribution to Wikipedia, like the Women’s Library. We hope to get back to all of them – if you are thinking of doing a similar event please get in touch too. There is more work to be done!