Using Wikipedia’s Force for Good

Friday 30 April 2021

Everyone will at some point in their life have heard “don’t trust Wikipedia because anyone can edit it” and students are often discouraged from referencing Wikipedia as their sources for their essays. However, in the information age, Wikipedia is a great source to increase digital, data and information literacy and is a key site for increasing the quality and quantity of open knowledge. And no one knows this better than the 5 co-founders of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Network in Open Knowledge: Abd Alsattar Ardati (a PhD student in the School of Computer Science, University of St Andrews), Dr Kirsty Ross (Public Engagement Officer, University of St Andrews), Dr Sara Thomas (Scotland Programme Coordinator, Wikimedia UK), Dr Alex Voss (Lecturer in Software Engineering, School of Computer Science, University of St Andrews), and Dr Angela Miguel (Associate Lecturer, School of Computer Science, University of St Andrews).

This set of devoted, like-minded staff and students from across the University and beyond, are united in their passion for justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in open knowledge through research and community activities. However, it was Abd whose fervor for this project brought everyone together and got the network lifted off the ground. From Abd’s educational experiences in his war-ravaged home country of Syria, he was dedicated to support the Syrian economy but struggled as there was a severe lack of Arabic language education resources, many of which were old and unfortunately outdated. Abd says “none of this was helped by a brain drain of Syrian academics”. As part of the solution for accessing educational materials, Abd decided to research collaborative remote Wikipedia training and editing in collaboration with the Wikimedia UK charity. From this, Abd started to create a network with the aim support and work with others that experienced similar changed to him from developing countries.

The initial focus for this network will be Wikipedia and her sister projects. Engagement with the Wikimedia projects can increase digital, data and information literacy for those editing, as well as being a key site for increasing the quality and quantity of open knowledge available worldwide concerning underrepresented subjects.

The project’s co-founders hope to encourage more public outreach among the students and staff, and bringing students and the St Andrews community together, which aligns with the University of St Andrews Strategy 2018-2023, in leading global social responsibility and diversity efforts. This includes facilitating greater equality and diversity among its student body and staff here at the University and beyond. This network also aims to nurture a culture of civic engagement and volunteering at the University, Scotland, the UK, and further afield. Its future events will be interdisciplinary, bring postgraduate and undergraduate students from across the University to network with each other and improve their digital literacy, good academic practice and critical research skills.

One of the challenges this network aims to address is that although anyone can edit Wikipedia, not everyone does edit Wikipedia. In addition to this there are three key aims:

  1. Increase engagement with, and representation of, marginalised people and subjects (E.g. via edit-a-thons)
  2. Work with partners to develop digital, data and information literacy through Wikimedia (E.g. via training for staff, students and external community partners)
  3. Develop our capacity and profile as a leading organisation for open knowledge (E.g. via increasing the number of individuals involved in this network who would be integrating Wiki projects into their research, teaching and public engagement/knowledge exchange practice).

The Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Network in Open Knowledge co-founders acknowledge that achieving these aims will be no walk in the park, but quote Martin Luther King in saying “Let us realise the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice”. They hope that this network will spark opportunities and discussions and that they can leave the world a little better than how they found it.



If this is something that interests you – the co-founds are keen for you to get involved! Please fill in the survey to get involved.

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