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The New Review: Discover: INTERNET: Stop Wikipedia writing off female scientists
[February 23, 2014]

The New Review: Discover: INTERNET: Stop Wikipedia writing off female scientists

(Observer (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Professor Dame Julia Slingo is not a shadowy figure. As chief scientist at the Met Office, she is an expert on a national obsession and has barely been out of the spotlight since Britain was taken by storm. But hunt for her on Wikipedia and just five short paragraphs pop up.

"Many female scientists are either not there at all on Wikipedia or just [have] stubs," said Dame Athene Donald, fellow of the Royal Society and professor of experimental physics at Cambridge University. "It's not just the historical characters, it's the current ones, and these very eminent women just somehow get overlooked." Now the Royal Society, in partnership with the Royal Academy of Engineering, is throwing open its doors and encouraging enthusiastic volunteers to go on to Wikipedia and blow the trumpet for unassuming women whose contributions to science and engineering are far from modest. Part of the celebrations surrounding International Women's Day on 8 March, the edit-a-thon will include a crash course in creating new entries, while assistance will be on hand as participants write, tweak and refine.

"It's really spreading knowledge and awareness of female scientists, and that there were a lot more than you might think," said Anna Knutsson, one of those who has already signed up.

With reports, including a recent study by the Wellcome Trust, suggesting a lack of female role models could be contributing to the leaky pipeline of women in science, raising the profile of pioneers is a priority. And Wikipedia is the perfect arena in which to do it. "It is almost always going to come top of Google search results and it will get higher readership than almost any other source," said the Royal Society's Wikimedian-in-residence, John Byrne, who will lead the event.

Studies by the Wikimedia Foundation suggest that as few as 9% of Wikipedia editors are female, so it is hoped that the edit-a-thon will encourage women to share their interests and expertise online. "There is the hope that by training more women not only will they do a good job of [creating] new entries but they will also become more confident about doing this more generally," said Donald.

Places for the edit-a-thon are limited but there's plenty of room in cyberspace to take part. "There will be a page on the wiki that will have the suggested articles and links to tutorials if you have never edited before," said Byrne. So you too can make sure women's achievements are written up, not written off.

Captions: Julia Slingo, Met Office chief scientist, gets just five paragraphs on Wikipedia. Eyevine (c) 2014 Guardian Newspapers Limited.

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