NIH Scientists Learn How to Contribute Content to Wikipedia

They met with volunteers last week

Those still skeptic about the reliability of the content on Wikipedia will have one less argument now that a new partnership between the US National Institutes of Health and the Wikimedia Foundation was put in place. The aim is to have the scientists at NIH contribute content and overview some of the entries from their line of expertise on Wikipedia.

As part of the collaboration, ten Wikipedia volunteers with experience in the field visited NIH headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland to help the scientists there learn how to use the tools at the site and how to contribute content. The visit is part of the Wikipedia Academy program in which experienced contributors to Wikipedia meet with experts in different fields to help them better understand the site, change some of the negative views they may have and even get them to contribute. This was the first such gathering in the US.

“One of our goals is to increase the scientists’ understanding of Wikipedia and the established practices and procedures that have evolved over the years,” Frank Shulenberg, Wikimedia Foundation Head of Public Outreach, cited by Wired, said. “They need some instructions about what’s going on and why Wikipedia culture is like it is.”

Wikipedia has exploded since it was first launched and is one of the biggest sites in the world at the moment. While the amount of content has never been a problem, accuracy, especially in scientific or other specialized fields, has been a concern. Many in scientific circles are skeptical about the site’s capabilities and these types of events are held to promote collaboration.

And even if the scientists are positive about the site and are even willing to contribute content they may lack the skills to do so and are faced with the evolving environment that is Wikipedia. Encouraging and helping them to contribute does benefit Wikipedia, providing it with accurate information, but also the scientists themselves, offering an easier way to reach the public.

“I think the main point is that [the NIH] recognizes what a great opportunity for doing outreach Wikipedia is,” Shulenberg said. “If you contribute to Wikipedia, you reach a large audience and we all want health-related information that’s reliable.”

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