Monday, March 24, 2014

Women Biographies Lacking on Wikipedia

I have heard for a while that men create and edit Wikipedia articles more than women by a huge factor -- something like ten to one.  Whatever the reasons for this are, a bad consequence is that there are many prominent women who do not have biographies on Wikipedia.  The Royal Society in the UK has recently undertaken an "edit-athon" to create more biographies for deserving women scientists and engineers. That got me thinking --- why not write a few myself?  If you would like to do the same but are not sure how to do it in practice, I outline here the steps to write such biographies.  The steps are simple, but it took a bit of effort to figure them out!

There are certain requirements to writing a Wikipedia article about a person.  The first is to make sure an article does not already exist.  The second is to make sure the person is notable, which is defined for academics as being "notably influential in the world of ideas" and with citable sources to prove it.  Awards or highly referenced papers count as citable sources.  Also the article must be about someone other than the author.  If the article is about a living person, it is best to consult with them to make sure they approve before undertaking the project.


With these criteria satisfied, the first step is to become a Wikipedia registered user, which is simple.  Better yet is to become an "autoconfirmed user" which requires being a registered user for at least 4 days and having made at least 10 edits.  This allows your new articles to be published right away, without being approved by the Wikipedia editors.  Nice, but not necessary.

Writing the article is not difficult.  It is particularly easy if you use the Article Wizard which walks through the steps with simple clicks.  When the basic structure of the article is set up, the easiest way to create a decent biography is to find an example of one you like.  When you find one, click the edit button, copy all in the edit box and paste it into the new biography.  Everything is saved to a work space so you don't need to worry about publishing junk.  Then go through and edit in the new material, which is not too hard when you have the template. 

To replace a picture, delete the old one and use the File Upload Wizard to upload a new image.  A requirement for images is that they be "common usage" or "public domain" files.  In some cases it is easy to guess, but other times you need to search on "public domain images" to figure it out.  If in doubt, you can post the image and fill in the credits in the Wikipedia field.  That way you are taking appropriate action and can see if it survives the editors.

Good luck!  I hope we will still start seeing a lot more articles on all deserving scientists.