Wikimedian in Residence

Addressing knowledge gaps

The ways you can help improve the diversity of editors and content shared online.

Women, Science and Scottish History editathon series 

The very first University of Edinburgh editathon ran in February 2015 and focused on improving the quality of articles about women in Scottish history, such as the 'Edinburgh Seven' who were the first women to study medicine at the University of Edinburgh.

The striking thing for me was how quickly colleagues within the University took to the idea and began supporting each other in developing their skills and sharing knowledge amongst a multi-professional group. This inspired me to commission some academic research to look at the connections and networking amongst the participants and to explore whether editathons were a good investment in developing workplace digital skills. This is the research I presented at Martin’s Wikipedia Science Conference which underpinned my business case for establishing a Wikimedian in Residence at University of Edinburgh with focus on skills development as part of the University’s commitment to open knowledge.

- Melissa Highton - Director of Learning, Teaching & Web Services at University of Edinburgh.

As a research-based institution, Professor Allison Littlejohn from the Open University was invited to come along to the event to help us make sure there was value in a collaboration with Wikimedia UK and to analyse what was going on in these editing events and what their impact actually was. And what she discovered was that there was indeed genuine formal and informal learning going on at these events and she’s produced two research papers arising from that 1 event.

  1. Does a formal wiki event contribute to the formation of a network of practice? A social capital perspective on the potential for informal learning. This paper looked at the formation of networks of practice and social capital through participation in an editathon. Through Allison’s work we learned that activity did not stop after the editathon event and participants did see it as an important part of their professional development.

  2. Becoming an online editor: perceived roles and responsibilities of Wikipedia editors. The second paper looked at the process of becoming a Wikipedia editor – and how participants felt editing was a form of knowledge activism and helped generate important discussions about how knowledge is created, curated and contested online and how Wikipedia editors can positively impact on the knowledge available to people all around the world and addressing those knowledge gaps.

Melissa Highton and Professor Allison Littlejohn on the “The Edinburgh Editathon” at the OER Conference 2016.
Video: The Edinburgh editathon: Learning to Develop Open Knowledge & Improving Social Capital for Learning
The Edinburgh editathon: Learning to Develop Open Knowledge & Improving Social Capital for Learning

Addressing Gender inequality

The University of Edinburgh and their Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew, have hosted many editathons with the aim to improve the representation of women across all aspects of life. These editathons include:

  • International Women's Day (Women writers)
  • International Women's Day(Suffragettes)
  • Black History Month 
  • LGBT History Month
  • Ada Lovelace Day (Women in STEM) 
Women in Red

Wikipedia Women in Red editathons are held every month at the university to allow Wikipedia editors a place to come and gain further practice and advice in a supportive environment but also to focus on the creation of pages about notable women missing from Wikipedia to help address the content gender gap where only roughly 18% of biographies are about women. You can book to attend upcoming workshops on MyEd or via the Wikimedia in Scotland page.

Women in STEM

Dr Jess Wade has been, and continues to be, instrumental in addressing knowledge gaps and representation of women in STEM on Wikipedia. She was recognised by Nature's 10 people who matter in 2018 for her work on promoting underrepresented scientist and is a key example of how university lecturers can contribute to Wikipedia.

Talk by Dr. Jess Wade at the University of Edinburgh's Women in STEM Connect edit-a-thon on Sunday 16th August 2020.
Mary Susan MacIntosh - Inspiring Women on Wikipedia

Mary Susan McIntosh (1936–2013) sociologist, feminist, political activist and campaigner for lesbian and gay rights in the UK featured as a ‘Did You Know‘ fact was on Wikipedia’s front page on 11th May 2017. The front page is viewed, on average, 25 million times a day. Mary’s page was only written on 8th March 2017 during our International Women’s Day event here at the University of Edinburgh by one of our attendees, Lorna Campbell. Read more: Mary Susan McIntosh and the Women in Red


To celebrate 100 years since the Representation of the People Act (1918) gave some women the vote, the Wikimedian in Residence and the university held three #Vote100 Wikipedia editing events. 

New pages were created for the suffragettes who visited Eagle House (suffragette's rest). Eagle House became an important refuge for suffragettes who had been released from Holloway prison after hunger strikes. Many major people from the suffragette movement were invited to stay at Eagle house and to plant a tree to celebrate a prison sentence — at least 47 trees were planted between April 1909 and July 1911, including Emmeline PankhurstChristabel PankhurstAnnie KenneyCharlotte DespardMillicent Fawcett and Lady Constance Bulwer-Lytton

New Wikipedia pages telling the stories of the Scottish suffragettes were created including: Maude Edwards slashing the portrait of King George V at the Royal Scottish Academy and her defiance at trial; the force-feeding of Frances Gordon and Arabella Scott at Perth Prison by the doctor who was “emotionally hooked” to Arabella Scott and offered to escort her to Canada. Also, the attempted arson conducted by pioneer doctor Dorothea Chalmers Smith, the Aberdonian suffragette and organiser; Caroline Phillips, being sacked by telegram by Christabel Pankhurst, and the “energetic little woman from Stranraer” Jane Taylour who was a firebrand lecturer on Women’s Suffrage touring up and down Scotland and England. 

Black History Month Wikipedia Editathon
Black History Month Wikipedia Editathon

Diversithon - University of Edinburgh 

Our Diversithon event was a Wikipedia editing event held in a social and supportive setting to celebrate diversity for LGBT+ History Month 2019 and Black History Month and to improve Wikipedia's systemic under-representation.


Henry Dee and Tom Cunningham, PhD candidates from UncoverED, presented at the Diversithon outlining their student research project, which focused on the lives and contributions of the University of Edinburgh’s global alumni.

UncoverEd is a collaborative and decolonising research project, funded by Edinburgh Global, which aims to situate the ‘global’ status of the University of Edinburgh in its rightful imperial and colonial context. Led by PhD candidates Henry Dee and Tom Cunningham, the team of eight student researchers are creating a database of students from Africa, the Caribbean, Asia and the Americas from as early as 1700, and writing social histories of the marginalised student experience. The aim was to produce at least one biography each of a ‘notable’ alumnus, leading up to a website and exhibition in January 2019.

 - from the UncoverED website. 

Mangrove Nine - Black History Month 

Wikipedia has an important role in making history, especially of minority groups, visible and accessible. At a Black History Month editathon at the University of Edinburgh, a Wikipedia page was created for the Mangrove Nine and this page now has thousands of views per month. This demonstrates how students and lecturers can share their expertise and knowledge to further the goal of open knowledge.  

Wikipedia and History 

Tomas Sanders, History undergraduate at the School of History, Classics and Archaeology was interviewed in March 2018 about his motivation in running a Wikipedia editing event on Black History Month.

Video: Wikipedia and History - Tomas Sanders, History undergraduate at the School of History, Classics and Archaeology
Wikipedia and History - Tomas Sanders, History undergraduate at the School of History, Classics and Archaeology was interviewed in March 2018 about his motivation in running a Wikipedia editing event on Black History Month.
The residency is also here to support staff and students who would like to suggest a collaboration to improve representation online.

© Ewan McAndrew and Hannah Rothmann, University of Edinburgh, 2020, CC BY-SA 4.0, unless otherwise indicated.