Ocean scientists can educate the world through Wikipedia

This week, Wiki Education is attending the Ocean Sciences Meeting in Portland, OR, where the hosting organizations aim to disseminate knowledge about the ocean. They do so via meetings like this one, where experts convene to discuss recent research and implications for the world’s biggest ecosystem. This venue is integral for scientists to collaborate and advance the world’s understanding of oceanography. That said, if these important findings remain behind closed doors and within complex, advanced scientific publications, it can’t have the broad impact we need in order to advance sustainability and conservation efforts. The interdisciplinary study of oceanography is vital for understanding our collective impacts on marine life and how to conserve this precious ecosystem, yet the vast amount of information—including studies from geology to chemistry to physics—can be overwhelming for non-experts. That’s where Wikipedia and Wiki Education come in.

Wikipedia is often a top search engine result, directing the curious toward verifiable, evidence-based facts that are understandable to a non-expert reader. Ocean scientists have the power and obligation to improve the accuracy and reliability of Wikipedia’s articles about the ocean and preservation efforts. If they make scientific information more accessible, hundreds of millions of people will gain access to vital information for preserving the ocean and making informed policy and behavioral decisions. But researchers are busy—doing research, writing scientific journal articles, teaching the next generation of scientists, and otherwise working hard to communicate science.

Wiki Education offers opportunities for overcommitted experts to improve Wikipedia and the Wikimedia projects in ways that capitalize on the work they’re already doing. We’re thrilled to spend the week meeting university instructors who are interested in spreading scientific research about the ocean via Wikipedia. Here are some of the ways oceanographers can work with Wiki Education to reach a wider audience online:

Join Wiki Education’s Classroom Program, and assign university students to improve Wikipedia articles related to their coursework. Even when scientific facts are available to the public, they may be difficult to understand without years of context and dedicated study. Students, however, can translate dense scientific jargon into cohesive, digestible pieces of information. In a Wikipedia assignment, students research topics related to the course, select a related Wikipedia article, and update the article to reflect the current scientific understanding of the topic. Wiki Education’s suite of tools and Wikipedia expertise can help simplify that process, empowering students to educate millions. We offer training materials to teach students all they need to know to add high quality contributions to Wikipedia. Students are motivated to do good work because they see purpose behind their hours of labor, research, and writing. Instructors help share knowledge with the world—knowledge that otherwise ends up in a recycling bin. Visit our website for steps to get involved.

Assign students to add media to Wikimedia Commons

Data visualizations that make compelling arguments to protect marine ecosystems are often incompatible with Wikipedia due to copyright restrictions. Instructors may be interested in improving Wikipedia’s reach to visual learners via photos, videos, illustrations, or charts and graphs. If students are developing graphics as a part of their course or taking high-quality photos in lab, they can upload them to Wikimedia Commons and add them to relevant Wikipedia articles. Instructors who join the Classroom Program will have access to tools to help students learn about copyright and how to upload media to Wikipedia.

Grant journal access to a Wikipedia editor to work on ocean science content

Wiki Education runs a program, Wikipedia Visiting Scholars, in which university faculty and staff at other educational institutions grant journal access to existing Wikipedia editors and direct them to highly important Wikipedia articles. If you run a department or organization with access to data or journal articles about ocean research, we can help find a Wikipedia editor who will use those resources to improve Wikipedia’s coverage of oceanography. See our website for more information.

Come meet Wiki Education staff at The Ocean Sciences Meeting this week

If you’re unsure how you can get involved, but you’re interested in contributing to the world’s shared understanding of the ocean, stop by the exhibit hall this week to learn more about our efforts to bring better science to the masses. If you aren’t attending the conference, please email us at contact@wikiedu.org.


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