» The UNESCO Science Report finds a new public on Wikipedia
05.09.2017 - Natural Sciences Sector

The UNESCO Science Report finds a new public on Wikipedia

John Cummings, CC-BY-SA 4.0, Google search results in 2017 for Wikipedia articles from the UNESCO Science Report

A staggering 500 million people worldwide visit Wikipedia each month, according to John Cummings, who has been Wikimedian in Residence at UNESCO for the past three years. There are currently 354 Wikipedia pages which use text from UNESCO publications. In June 2017, these pages were viewed over 3.2 million times.

Since January this year, a growing amount of information and data from the latest UNESCO Science Report (2015) has been added to this online encyclopedia. ‘UNESCO has been working with the Wikimedia Foundation to extend the report’s reach to the general public’, explains Editor-in-Chief Susan Schneegans. ‘Since the report tracks the level of support for science, technology and innovation worldwide from different social, economic, political and environmental perspectives, it provides information that can appeal to a wide audience’, she says.

As yet, few Wikipedia articles describe trends in the governance of science and technology in developing countries, so remedying this oversight has been an initial priority of the project. Material from the report has been added, for example, on science and technology in Armenia, Brazil, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cabo Verde, the five Central Asian republics (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan), Jordan, Morocco, the Pacific Islands, United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Articles have also been added to Wikipedia on a variety of topics covered by the report, including south–south cooperation in science, scientific mobility, higher education in Afghanistan, the West Africa Institute, the Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa, innovation in Malaysia and the European Union’s scientific cooperation with third countries. In parallel, existing Wikipedia articles have been improved through the addition of information and data from the report, such as those on women in science and on science policy in the United States of America. Each of these articles links to the full report on the report portal.

Twenty-seven pages have been created, so far, and a further 27 existing pages have been enriched. ‘The newly created and improved pages are being very widely read on Wikipedia, collectively receiving 500,000 page views per month, on average’, says John Cummings. ‘The great majority of articles appear as the first result in Google searches. This is particularly true for the enriched articles, since these have already established a following among visitors to Wikipedia over time.’

John Cummings puts this work in perspective. ‘Over the past 16 years, the English-language Wikipedia has grown to 5.4 million articles’, he says, ‘but it is estimated that 105 million articles are needed for Wikipedia to cover all notable subjects, which at the current rate would take around 150 years!’

It is planned to add more articles from the UNESCO Science Report to Wikipedia over the coming months. As the report profiles 140 countries and provides data on trends in research for as many as 189 countries, there is great potential for adding or enriching more ‘science and technology’ pages. Hundreds of graphics from the report are also being gradually added to Wikimedia Commons. UNESCO is hoping to enlist United Nations volunteers to translate these pages from English into other languages, as part of its outreach strategy. Initially, the focus will be on French and Russian, as the full report also exists in these languages. The report should also be available soon in Arabic and Chinese.

The Wikipedia project has been made possible by UNESCO’s policy of placing its recent publications under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license. These publications are stored in the central UNESDOC repository. The Creative Commons Share Alike (CC-BY-SA) license entitles internauts to use text from any UNESCO publication that carries this logo on its legal page, as in the case of the UNESCO Science Report.

Other articles have been created on Wikipedia using other UNESCO reports, including The United Nations World Water Development Report 2016 and Rethinking Education: towards a Global Common Good? Pages are also being created using the descriptions on UNESCO’s portal of biosphere reserves established by countries through UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme.

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