Science students become science communicators through Wikipedia

When students study a new topic, they often turn to a search engine to get a better understanding of the topic. Those search results take them to Wikipedia, where (hopefully) they find a comprehensive and understandable summary. As they begin to understand the concept, they scroll to the bottom to find sources for further reading. Students find links to academic articles within their university libraries and click through for a deeper reading.

That’s how it works for students. But what about the rest of the world – those who can’t access those journal articles? Wikipedia may be their only source of information.

That’s one of the reasons we launched the Wikipedia Year of Science. If Wikipedia is the general public’s science primer, we believe it should be as comprehensive and accurate as possible. Most importantly, it should be understandable.

This year, science students all over the United States and Canada have participated in our initiative to create science content that your typical non-scientist can understand. They’re educating the public while learning how to communicate science. Students are already making Wikipedia better for the world. But we’re not satisfied yet!

That’s why we attended so many science conferences this summer—to spread the word about teaching with Wikipedia.

In July, we attended the Allied Genetics Conference, where we met dozens of university instructors who want the public to understand how geneticists’ research is transforming the world. We joined plant biologists at the American Society of Plant Biologists’ annual meeting, where scientists stressed the importance of educating the world about increasing the food supply over the next century. Again, Wikipedia is the place to do so. Later in August, Wiki Ed attended the Botanical Society of America’s conference, the Joint Statistics Meeting, MathFest, the Ecological Society of America’s conference, and the American Chemical Society’s fall meeting.

The common thread across all of these events? Science communication. In fact, a quick search of these conferences’ programs turns up nearly 100 results for sessions about science communication and public engagement. In a digital world that provides so much information to the curious among us, scientists need to learn how to speak to people without their expertise and rigorous research background. Writing Wikipedia is one way our future scientists can develop this skill.

Won’t you join us? If you’d like to work with us during the Year of Science and beyond, we’d love to hear from you. Whether you’re a higher education instructor looking to bring Wikipedia into your course, a librarian looking to expand access to your special collections with a Visiting Scholar, or you’re interested in offering financial support, reach out to us:


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