Learn to edit Wikipedia: Thurs 17th October, University of Manchester. All welcome…

Ada_Lovelace_color.svgTo celebrate the work of the world’s first software engineer, Ada Lovelace, we’re holding an edit-a-thon on Thursday 17th October at the University of Manchester where you can learn how to edit Wikipedia. This is a great opportunity for anyone looking to improve their digital skills and written communication skills, regardless of their level of computer literacy. Held in association with the Physiological Society, we’ll be focusing on creating and improving biographies of Women in Physiology.

Come and develop or improve your skill set using the world’s largest encyclopedia and ninth most visited site on the entire web. You don’t need to be a physiologist or a Wikipedian to participate, make a contribution or learn. Confirmed speakers for the morning include:

  • Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, Physiologist and Vice Chancellor of the University of Manchester
  • Professor Susan Wray, Physiologist, University of Liverpool
  • Dr Jessica Wade, Physicist, Imperial College London
  • Dr Duncan Hull, (yours truly) Computer Scientist, University of Manchester

After lunch (provided) we’ll have hands-on sessions with experienced editors to help you start your Wikipedia adventure. Registration is now open on eventbrite at bit.ly/ada-lovelace-editathon, you can attend either or both morning and afternoon sessions.

Any questions, please contact the organisers Sarah Mohammad-Qureshi (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion office) and me. We look forward to seeing you on Thursday 17th October from 10am, North Campus, Sackville Street Building B-Floor Entrance Hall, (5 minutes walk from Manchester Piccadilly train station) more details on the eventbrite registration page above.

[Update January 2020: See equality and diversity report on the event]

(Original watercolor portrait (Ada lovelace.jpg): Alfred Edward ChalonWoodcut-style graphic (Ada Lovelace.tif): Colin Adams, for the Ada InitiativeSVG conversion (Ada Lovelace.svg): Fred the OysterColorization: Kaldari [CC0] via https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ada_Lovelace_color.svg)


Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the most viewed of them all?

Wikipedia is mirror that reflects the world around it. Sometimes the reflections are accurate, other times they get distorted. [1] Either way, we can look at the data in Wikipedia to see which reflections are being looked at the most using powerful analytics tools that are part of the platform.

Two weeks ago, as part of Physiology Friday, I gave a talk examining how biographies of scientists are viewed in Wikipedia, using the crude measure of PageViews.

Melissa Highton from the University of Edinburgh also gave a talk about the Edinburgh Seven, changing the way stories are told and their Wikipedian in Residence scheme.

Our convenor, Andy Mabbett (normally found on a Brompton) gave a talk introducing Wikimedia since our reason for being there was to recruit and train new editors of Wikipedia.

Thanks to the Physiological Society for having us and Anisha Tailor for putting the program together.


  1. Samoilenko, Anna; Yasseri, Taha (2014). “The distorted mirror of Wikipedia: a quantitative analysis of Wikipedia coverage of academics”. EPJ Data Science. Springer Publishing. 3 (1). arXiv:1310.8508 doi:10.1140/epjds20

Another 50 new portraits of leading scientists, now available in Wikimedia Commons

As part of an ongoing collaboration between Wikimedia UK and the Royal Society, there are now another 50 high quality portraits of leading scientists and engineers available in Wikimedia Commons, published under a Creative Commons CC-BY-SA license. Unlike many portraits of scientists that you can find on the web, these images can be:

  • Adapted — remixed, transformed, and built upon

Provided that:

  • Attribution — appropriate credit must be given, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made.
  • ShareAlike — If remixed, transformed, or built upon the material, they must be distributed under the same license as the original.

These images add to a growing collection started in 2014, of over 200 images released by the Royal Society. Have a browse and take a look at the pictures (and their associated biographies) by clicking on the links above and below.

Thanks to John Byrne, Rachel Ford and Robert Rutter for their work in making this data available.

Portraits released this year include Chris Abell, Jas Pal Badyal, Steven Balbus, Polina Bayvel, Graham Bell, Martin Bridson, John P. Burrows, Katharine Cashman, Sarah Cleaveland, James Collier, Alastair Compston, Brian Cox, Jack Cuzick, William I. F. David, Christl Donnelly, Marcus du Sautoy, James S. Dunlop, Artur Ekert, Maria Fitzgerald, Antony Galione, Harry J. Gilbert, Patrick Gill, Anne Glover, Neil A. R. Gow, Ian A. Graham, Richard P. Harvey, Adrian Hayday, Ramanujan Hegde, David Hight, Sue Ion, Eugenia Kumacheva, Corinne Le Quéré, Mark A. Lemmon, David Lodge, Eleanor Maguire, Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan, Gilean McVean, Russell E. Morris, Luke A. J. O’Neill, Simon Peyton Jones, Jonathon Pines, James I. Prosser, Sriram Ramaswamy, Caroline Series, Ted Shepherd, Alison Mary Smith, David J. Wales, Philip J. Withers, Paul Workman, Adair Turner, Baron Turner of Ecchinswell, Robert Cava, Vint Cerf, Mark M. Davis, Jennifer Doudna, Gerd Faltings, John M. Hayes, Svante Pääbo, Pasko Rakic, Rino Rappuoli, Ellen D. Williams.


FRS vs Oscars: Scientists and Hollywood in Wikipedia

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An Oscar, picture via mafleen on flickr.

As of 2016, Wikipedia now has a page describing the award of Fellowship of the Royal Society. For the last ten years, this page (which is linked to by more than 5000 other wikipedia articles and visited about 800 times per day) had a redirect that sent readers to the “Fellows” subsection of the Royal Society wikipedia article, which was not very satisfactory.

Now, if you believe The Guardian newspaper, Fellowship of the Royal Society is the (quote) “equivalent of a lifetime achievement Oscar”, so the award probably deserves a page all of its own. For example, The Academy Awards (aka Oscars) have a separate article to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that awards them.

So, how does interest in scientists compare with interest in oscar-winning actors and the like? If page views are anything to go by, then the actors are winning by about an order of magnitude. Where the FRS page gets around ~800 visits a day, the Oscars page gets around ~8000, though there are significant seasonal spikes in traffic for both, see screenshot below from Pageviews Analysis.


Pageviews Analysis of FRS vis Oscars





Fellows of the Royal Society: Now available in Wikidata

Thanks to Magnus Manske, as of 2015, all 8000 Fellows of the Royal Society have been imported into Wikidata.

The data needs tidying up, as it has been imported from a spreadsheet of data from the Royal Society. Thankfully, Mix-and-match can help. If you play in “Game mode”, you are presented with four options shown below:

  1. Set Q (e.g. confirm that a given entry already exists in wikidata)
  2. No wikidata entry (given entry does not yet exist)
  3. N/A (no applicable)
  4. Skip (leave this entry for now, show a new one)

Playing this game, allows users to quickly run through the data and match it with what’s already in wikidata (and wikipedia) or flag entries that do not yet exist. Thanks Magnus!

Some places to start editing wikipedia

If you’re interested in improving the scientific content of wikipedia, there are several places you can start:

If you haven’t edited wikipedia before, Darren Logan’s introduction to editing wikipedia for scientists is a good place to start.