Women and Wikipedia

Scientists considering a hike, not their Wikipedia pages.

Perhaps you have seen that Nobel Laureate in chemistry, Donna Strickland did not have a Wikipedia page until just now. She was deemed by the moderator not to be worthy back in March 2018. See the discussion on the Wikipedia talk page, or in any number of publications. It has been fixed, but does a woman have to get a Nobel prize before the overly strict moderators value them?

I wrote about this before, here. In that post you can see that a scientist named Debra Brock was denied a Wikipedia page though all kinds of athletes were approved, even if they are limited to those with the last name Brock.

Other female scientists whose Wikipedia pages I have been involved in creating have either been taken down or challenged. What do people mean by notability? I think being a professor or active scientist should be enough. Shouldn’t we be more concerned about accuracy and completeness? Is having a Wikipedia page at all such a big honor?

So I had to look at my own page. It is almost nothing. There was more once but someone stripped it all away. Since no one close to one or oneself can work on these pages, it is easier to lose than gain information.

I know there are people that have as projects to write Wikipedia pages for women. I did at one time, but got discouraged that so many were taken down. I did not want to subject my students to that level of discouragement. Higher ups at Wikipedia said they were powerless to fix this.

Maybe now with the extreme nature of this particular woman being told she gets a Nobel prize, but not a Wikipedia page, maybe now the trolls that take women down on Wikipedia will hesitate. I am not optimistic, though.

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About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
This entry was posted in Awards and prizes, Gender bias, Wikipedia and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Women and Wikipedia

  1. Aloha Joan, Do you know how this works? Is each addition and deletion moderated? Or is it that the moderators allow pages to be put up but then anyone can take away? Who are the moderators? How diverse are they? How are they chosen? This is maddening. Thank you, Marguerite

    • Yes, I do know how it works. Basically anyone can do anything. You can put stuff up as can anyone else. But you can also take it down, or take just about anything down. The key is to defend what you do on the talk pages. There is a ton of helpful stuff on writing for Wikipedia, tutorials and the like. My students use the Wiki education tutorials and work well with me not really teaching them how, just requiring they do the tutorials. The more you do on Wikipedia, the more you will be respected in that community. The community will teach you how to do it correctly. Overall it is great, but I fail to understand the particular issue around biographies of women. I suppose we should all start writing more of them and defend them on the talk pages. If someone takes something down, someone else can put it back up, but should do so only with good reasons. Link in, link out from the page, document and make your case. For particularly sensitive pages, the administrators can lock a page. I think the entry for evolution is locked for example, or the creationists would constantly mess it up. Hope this helps.

  2. D says:

    Prof. Strickland received the Physics prize, not the Chemistry one.

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