New guidance for researchers on Wikimedia and open research

  • May 17, 2024

Nick Sheppard, Open Research Advisor at Leeds University and winner of Wikimedian of the Year Award 2023, and Martin Poulter, Wikimedian in Residence at the Khalili Collections and Wikimedian of the Year in 2016, have teamed up with to create a primer for researchers on how and why to use Wikimedia projects as platforms for their work.

The new document is one of many Open Research primers published by the UK Reproducibility Network (UKRN) – a consortium that promotes best practice in research. The UKRN site hosts advice on open and reproducible research across all subjects; all freely available and openly licensed. The primer was reviewed by Daniel Mietchen (Leibniz Institute for Information Infrastructure, FIZ Karlsruhe) who is a contributor to multiple Wikimedia projects as well as a scientific researcher.

It may surprise people how much content on Wikipedia and its sister projects is drawn directly from scholarly publications. If you read about peat in any of eight languages, you see a global map of peat distribution from a research database at the University of Leeds. It’s one of many images that have come from open-access research. If you read about ant species, some of the text has been repurposed from research papers.

A peatmap of the world.
File:PEATMAP.jpg by Xu, Jiren and Morris, Paul J. and Liu, Junguo and Holden, Joseph

Concentrating mainly on Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, and Wikidata, the new document describes how sharing open-access research helps to open up the process of research while reaching a public audience much larger than the typical readers of a research paper. Individual charts and diagrams can be shared on Wikimedia Commons, along with the code and data tables used to create them. Text from suitable research papers can be reused in Wikipedia articles. Large databases can build mutual links with Wikidata, using it as a hub to connect with other sources of information about a topic.

There are many reasons to make the process of research as open and transparent as possible, including rigour, reproducibility, and public trust. As part of the UKRN’s work promoting transparency, its readers now have concrete suggestions of how the Wikimedia projects help this goal.

“I think this will prompt researchers in many fields to consider how their work can be visible on the most popular reference websites,” says Poulter. “And maybe give helpful next steps to those who have thought about it but are still apprehensive.” Neil Jacobs from UKRN said “We hope that this primer will encourage more researchers to work with Wikimedia in conducting research that is rigorous and transparent. It sits alongside others on data sharing, open software / code, community engagement in research, open hardware and many more.”

Wikimedia projects are community-driven and mainly work “bottom-up” with individual scholars and experts. There is also a place for working “top-down”: shaping the advice that respected organisations give to their communities. This work with UKRN is one example of work that Wikimedia UK and its community are doing with organisations in the scientific, scholarly, cultural, and volunteering sectors.

Find the primer on UKRN.

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