EPFL Wikipedia Project bolsters the School's online visibility

The EPFL Wikipedia Project boosted EPFL’s presence on the free encyclopedia © Jamani Caillet / Martin Boyer / EPFL / Wikipedia

The EPFL Wikipedia Project boosted EPFL’s presence on the free encyclopedia © Jamani Caillet / Martin Boyer / EPFL / Wikipedia

The EPFL Wikipedia Project, which ran from August 2020 to July 2021, boosted EPFL’s presence on the free encyclopedia and helped share information about the School’s scientific discoveries with its Swiss audience.

According to the 2019 Science Barometer Switzerland survey, the internet – and especially Wikipedia – is the main source of scientific information for Swiss people. A study has also shown that when scientific articles are added as references to Wikipedia, those articles are cited more often in the literature. That means Wikipedia is having an important influence on shaping scientific knowledge.

These findings prompted EPFL President Martin Vetterli to introduce the ambitious EPFL Wikipedia Project in August 2020. Coming on the heels of EPFL’s Open Science Initiative, the project aimed to increase the School’s presence on Wikipedia by creating articles on its key projects and on its professors, alumni and many innovations.

The School asked its students as well as its academic and other staff to share their experience and write or edit articles for publication on Wikipedia. To help them in this task, the two project managers – Martin Boyer and Olivier Dubey – held a total of eighteen online workshops and four editathons – or Wikipedia article-writing marathons – starting in October 2020. Over 350 people participated in these events.

“The online workshops showed people how important Wikipedia is for science,” says Boyer, the project lead. “We trained them on the Wikipedia platform, taught them how to create new articles and update existing ones in order to improve the encyclopedia’s content.”

The four editathons were held in association with Wikimedia Switzerland and covered topics ranging from science and women in science to diversity (in collaboration with Equal!, ETH Zurich’s equal opportunity office) and sustainability (in collaboration with both Science et Cité and the Swiss Academy of Sciences, or SCNAT).

The project also included a service where contributors wrote biographical articles for EPFL professors in order to enhance these experts’ visibility.

Thanks to the efforts of everyone involved in the project – from the organizers to the article writers – and despite the challenges caused by the pandemic, EPFL’s presence on the world’s largest online encyclopedia grew substantially, from around 2,000 mentions in Wikipedia articles in July 2020 to over 3,300 ten months later. On top of that, more than 130 new biographical articles have been written so far.

Number of Wikipedia articles mentioning EPFL by month (source: Martin Boyer, EPFL Wikipedia Project)

The project is now drawing to a close, but the organizers hope that the momentum created over the past year will continue. They’re counting on the entire EPFL community to keep pitching in and help make sure that EPFL-related content on Wikipedia is accurate and up to date.

“We wanted to show the EPFL community that stepping up the School’s presence on Wikipedia is feasible, interesting and essential,” says Boyer, who is eager to see how the idea behind the project will be taken further. “It would be gorgeous to see that it the project caught momentum and that people are starting to contribute more by themselves. The goal of the project was to make me obsolete!”

The project ended in July 2021. Nevertheless, support and new workshops will be provided to people interested beginning in August 2021. Please contact [email protected].

Save the date:
In September 2021, a Wikipedia hackathon will be held in association with Wikimedia Switzerland. This last project-related event will be geared towards data scientists in particular and include an in-depth introduction to Wikidata.

Author: Noémie Frezel

Source: EPFL