Wikipedia gets overdue makeover to give recognition to science’s female pioneers
They are some of the most important names in modern science, pioneers in their fields. But, unless you work in academia, it is unlikely that you will have ever heard of them.
All that is set to change, though, as the Royal Society hosts a mass “edit-a-thon” to improve the Wikipedia profiles of leading female scientists who have been ignored and overlooked by the online encyclopedia’s male-dominated army of contributors.
The scientific body, founded in 1660, has drawn up a list of prominent women who it believes deserve greater prominence on the site. Volunteers are invited to scour the society’s archives for information which can be used to improve the women’s Wikipedia entries, allowing internet users around the world to learn about their work.
Organisers believe that a perceived under-representation of women on the site is emblematic of a wider ignorance of the contributions of women to science. “I was completely astonished that the bias exists,” said Professor Uta Frith, the University College London neuroscientist leading the project.
"This issue pervades all age groups. I and some colleagues took a quiz [on female scientists] and it was embarrassing how few even we knew. Most of the names we could get, but we knew very little about some of the most stunning people. Everybody needs to be educated; the knowledge is not there, it is not cultivated."
Dr Patricia Fara, Senior Tutor at Clare College, Cambridge University, said it was important to raise the issue of undervaluing women in science. “I am against positive discrimination in the long term but this is important in the short term,” she said.