Outreach from home? It’s actually not an oxymoron. Done properly, science outreach using only a computer can be incredibly effective. A number of scientists have actually had great success using different social media platforms to share their research with the greater public. The online encyclopedia Wikipedia is particularly tailor-made for scientists. Open for editing by anyone, all you need is an internet connection (and hopefully some scientific knowledge) to make a substantial contribution to Wikipedia. The site is increasingly being used by researchers and students alike as a legitimate source of reference material. Which means that Wikipedia is always in need of more content.
To focus effort on generating this content, organizers have started hosting edit-a-thons that bring together beginner and expert Wikipedians for a set amount of time that is dedicated to a specific topic area. On April 4 at the San Diego Convention Center (during EB2016), the ASBMB hosted its own Wikipedia edit-a-thon, where students and faculty attending the meeting came together to work at improving the quality (and quantity) of Wikipedia articles focused on biochemistry and cell biology. Despite some severe competition from the concurrent ASBMB Game Night, the edit-a-thon had a respectable turn-out from meeting attendees.
As of April 25, the event had resulted in:
- 5 articles created
- 45 articles edited
- 180 total edits
- 259,000 page views (!)
Even more exciting is how the edit-a-thon was able to inspire attendees to use Wikipedia in their own efforts going forward. “I’m more excited than ever about using Wikipedia in my classes!” exclaimed ASBMB member Sandi Clement from Cal State Poly, San Luis Obispo after attending the event.
Sponsorship for the edit-a-thon came from the Simons Foundation, who has helped to put on edit-a-thons at numerous professional society meetings over the past year, including those of the American Society for Cell Biology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, as well as the Wiki Education Foundation as part of their “Year of Science” (you can read more about the “Year of Science” here). As such efforts continue, even more members of the scientific community will be willing and able to get involved and start doing outreach, even if it’s just from their couch.