How I got started with contributing to Wikipedia
As part of her actions to disseminate her research outside the lab, Dr. Trinetra Mukherjee has recently begun to contribute to Wikipedia, one of the most freely accessible online encyclopedias in the world. She tells us about her experience so far.
Hi Trinetra, why did you choose to contribute?
Dr. Trinetra Mukherjee: Wikipedia is one of the biggest open-access online encyclopedias. Its multilingual nature makes it even more diverse and wide in terms of reachability. It has a wide user database and is very popular among students and the general public. Whenever someone wants to know about a particular topic in a lucid, concise, and easily understandable way, the first place one generally encounters is a Wikipedia article about it.
However, it is generally not as much popular among the scientific community and researchers, as it has an open writing and editing policy without a peer-reviewing process, so anyone can write and edit content here. There is always a question on the authenticity of the data and facts presented here which is also a reason it cannot be cited in scientific literature.
As a scientist I feel, we have a particular responsibility toward Wikipedia and we can try our own part to make this encyclopedia as authentic and reliable as possible. Since we have the correct scientific knowledge on various topics which we are working on/ or have worked on, I believe we should contribute towards disseminating knowledge via open-access platforms such as Wikipedia. I am thankful to Patricia from the Bienvenue program for suggesting I contribute to Wikipedia.
How did you get started?
Getting started with Wikipedia was very easy as Wikipedia itself has several web pages dedicated to Wikipedia editing. I also watched videos from a YouTube channel called the Wiki Show which has numerous videos related to the topic.
There are multiple ways to contribute to Wikipedia, for example writing own articles on a particular topic, editing existing articles, expanding stubs, i.e. very short articles, translating Wikipedia articles into other languages, etc.
Me, as of now, I am editing existing articles, related to my field of research. The help page on editing has been very useful. I have been using the visual editor which is the easiest one for me. For additional help, there is the Wikipedia help desk https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Help_desk, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Wikipedians_looking_for_help, where I can post my specific problems.
(there is even a page dedicated to academic contributors, editor’s note)
Are there any particular challenges you have encountered so far?
Finding the right words for making things easily understandable is a bit hard, but not very difficult. A particular challenge I encountered while editing Wikipedia was writing an “edit summary”. Once, we edit a page, we have to write a list of changes made and why were they made. There is not enough space to write a complete justification, but it has to be self-explanatory.
Once, I made a lot of changes to a wiki page that had a number of false scientific facts, but my whole editing was reverted by a Recent Changes patrol volunteer as I had failed to write an appropriate edit summary. So, I had to go back, justify each of my edits, and convince the patrol that whatever changes I had made were correct, and only then, I could revert back the reversion of my edits. The volunteer guided me through the whole process. I realized that, although Wiki is free and open-access, it is under constant vigilance by Wikipedia patrols to ensure one does not vandalize pages or write something inappropriate.
Which pages did you contribute to?
These topics are closely related to my field of research. Although these pages already existed, they were very short. I expanded them, reorganized, and corrected the existing data wherever needed.
In the future, I will add more information to the pages as it is an ongoing process. I am also making it a habit to contribute to various scientific Wikipedia pages I come across; whenever it’s possible to edit and add correct scientific data from my side.
Learn more on Trinetra’s work on piezophiles