Students’ Contributions to Wikipedia: Making it easier for everyone to find, understand, and use health informationPosted on by
In 2018, we blogged about an exciting partnership between NIOSH and university graduate programs to improve occupational safety and health information on Wikipedia (see related blog). Using the Wiki Education platform and in coordination with NIOSH researchers, 15 courses were taught since 2016 involving 163 students at seven universities. The impact of these courses as of November 2021 is listed below.
Wiki Commons Media Uploads
A recent paper, “Expanding Reach of Occupational Health Knowledge: Contributing Subject-Matter Expertise to Wikipedia as a Class Assignment” describes the initiative, student contributions, and evaluations of this effort used by instructors from the University of Cincinnati and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health between 2016 and 2020.
As part of a semester-long writing assignment, students chose topics in occupational health based on their interests and by a set of topics deemed as a priority by the “WikiProject Occupational Safety and Health.” Students’ contributions were peer-reviewed by instructors, NIOSH Wikipedians-in-Residence, and traditional Wikipedians. Students presented their projects in class at the end of the semester. Students from both schools expanded 55 articles, created 8 new articles, and translated 2 articles to Spanish, adding 1270 references. These articles were viewed over 8 million times by May 2020.
Through this process, students learned about science communication and digital literacy—skills that will serve them well in their future careers. The review of their material also served as an introduction to the peer review (and public review) process. As the students worked to help fill the gaps in occupational safety and health in Wikipedia, they were able to take technical information, often only available in the scientific literature (and often behind a paywall), and translate it into easy-to-understand information in Wikipedia articles.
Both students and faculty alike deemed the project a success. By using the Wiki Education platform, instructors can continue to focus on the subject matter of the course, while students get support outside of the classroom to address the mechanics of editing Wikipedia. Instructors reported that the use of the Wiki Education platform did not add extra time in preparation or grading. In fact, it ended up saving time because of the metrics and the assessment tool that make it easy to review a student’s work. It was most rewarding to the instructors to see that the articles showcased the expertise of the students in a way that rarely can be seen in the classroom.
These tools are examples of participatory education and the future of education. The instructors involved have received accolades for utilizing this technology in their classrooms. The joint efforts of university programs with Wiki Education and NIOSH greatly expanded Wikipedia’s content in occupational health through contributions from students and instructors.
Writing in Wikipedia not only provides a public service by contributing solid, verifiable knowledge about occupational health to the general public, it also helps eliminate misinformation, and allows the writer to collect outcome metrics reporting on the reach of the dissemination efforts. This on-going initiative is part of a multicomponent strategy adopted by NIOSH to expand its science communication and outreach effort. Another recent paper describes a scalable framework for partnerships between health agencies and the Wikimedia ecosystem. If you are interested in learning more about this approach, please contact Thais Morata at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thais Morata, PhD, is a Research Audiologist in the NIOSH Division of Field Studies and Engineering.
John P. Sadowski, PhD, is the NIOSH Wikipedian-in-Residence (contractor)
To read more about NIOSH’s long partnership with Wikipedia see:
Ceballos DM, Herrick RF, Carreón T, Nguyen VT, MyDzung ScD, Chu T, Sadowski J, Blumenthal H, Morata TC, Expanding Reach of Occupational Health Knowledge: Contributing Subject-Matter Expertise to Wikipedia as a Class Assignment. INQUIRY: The Journal of Health Care Organization, Provision, and Financing. January 2021. doi:10.1177/00469580211035735
Mietchen D, Rasberry L, Morata T, Sadowski JP, Novakovich J, Heilman JM (2021) Developing a scalable framework for partnerships between health agencies and the Wikimedia ecosystem. Research Ideas and Outcomes 7: e68121. https://doi.org/10.3897/rio.7.e68121