Annette Aiello in the upper clearing on Barro Colorado Island in 1976 during one of the STRI team’s three times a week censuses of the Anartia fatima (Nymphalidae) butterfly population. Courtesy of Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

Women in Science on Wikipedia

Less than 19% of Wikipedia biographies in English represent women. Edit-a-thons can help change that.

There is a gender gap on Wikipedia. According to Wikipedian Kelly Doyle, who works as the Open Knowledge Coordinator for the Smithsonian American Women's History Initiative, less than nineteen percent of Wikipedia biographies in English represent women, and less than ten percent of Wikipedia editors identify as women.

To help solve this problem, Doyle works with Smithsonian colleagues to make sure notable American women are represented online, especially on Wikipedia. On June 25, 2020, the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative and the National Museum of Natural History hosted the latest event to narrow the gender gap, a Wikipedia training and editing session focused on improving articles about women in science at the Smithsonian. At the event, sixty-five participants added 4,080 words to Wikipedia, creating two new articles and editing twenty existing articles. 

Mary Rice at Florida Marine Station's Lab

Editors worked with the Funk List, a compilation of past and present women in science at the Smithsonian. Researchers at the Smithsonian Institution Archives have compiled the Funk List to try to create a comprehensive list detailing past and present women in science at the Smithsonian. When institutional records aren’t enough, they’ve crowdsourced names of women in science to help expand the research process and fill in the gaps. 

Annette Aiello holds a butterfly net and looks toward the camera.

Working from the Funk List, editors translated entomology curator Dr. Annette Aiello’s Wikipedia page into English. This is particularly exciting, because now that Aiello has an existing page on English Wikipedia, editors can enhance the information included in her page even more. For example, Smithsonian Institution Archives has a fantastic oral history feature about Aiello and her path to becoming an expert on the transformations of moths and butterflies, which offers new details for future editors to add to her page. Thanks to work completed at the edit-a-thon, people utilizing Wikipedia as a reference about the history of women in science can now learn more about Dr. Margaret Collins, one of the first African American women to become an entomologist.  As a result of the session, users can also now read more about Dr. Mary Rice, a research zoologist who became the first woman to direct a science unit at the Smithsonian when she was appointed the founding director of the Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce.

Margaret Collins sits near a microscope.

The Smithsonian is one of the United States’ first national museums and one of the first science institutions in American history. Women have undertaken original research and developed major collections at the Smithsonian since the late nineteenth century. Wikipedia edit-a-thons help Smithsonian researchers share this history, narrowing the gender gap on Wikipedia one edit at a time.

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