ASCB Newsletter Nov 2013 - page 16

Now that you have an established research
career with a good number of publications
under your belt, should you have a professional
profile on Wikipedia? You may be
thinking that this would be a great
way to bump up your ratings in
a Google search, and you would
be correct. A Wikipedia page is
typically ranked in one of the top
five sites returned in a routine
search. Officially launched in
2001, Wikipedia averages 460
million visits per month and has an
international audience for its 27.8
million articles in 286 languages.
Recent surveys have ranked the
online encyclopedia as the seventh most popular
website in the world, receiving 85 million
unique visitors per month from the United
States alone.
2, 3, 4
The popularity of Wikipedia
has especially gained the interest of educators
and professional societies, who feel responsible
for monitoring and enhancing articles on topics
specific to their discipline.
Who Should Have a
Wikipedia Profile?
There will always be
controversy about
when a person’s life and
accomplishments should
be added to the “official
historic record” and appear
in textbooks or other
references. Historically, a
scientist may not receive
recognition until after his
or her death, but should
that continue to be the
standard? Online culture
has enhanced our ability to recognize individual
accomplishments. Scientific achievement can be
visualized as more than just a list of publications
and is now expressed through dynamic websites,
online videos, webinars, and podcasts, to name
just a few venues. This freedom of expression
has made it even more complicated to determine
whether an individual has achieved enough to
be worthy of recognition. Are you good enough
to have a Wikipedia profile?
Because Wikipedia is one of
the first places that people look for
information, there is increasing
concern about who is
For example, as part of a reaction to
the underrepresentation of women
scientists in Wikipedia, in 2012 the
Royal Society hosted a group “edit-a-
thon” aimed at improving Wikipedia
articles about women in science.
Volunteers were asked to review, edit,
or create sections that highlighted the
scientific contributions of women.
Efforts like these continued this year with an
edit-a-thon hosted on October 15 at Brown
These and related events have created
a heightened interest on the part of those
in academia and other science, technology,
engineering, and mathematics professions to
create a Wikipedia profile page to
certify their expertise within the
community. It is not uncommon
to find cell biology students who
have created Wikipedia pages for
their mentors as well as profiles of
their favorite scientists. There has
been such a rush of interest in self-
promotion through Wikipedia that
companies such as and will write, update,
or translate your profile for as little
as $300.
However, spokespeople
from Wikipedia strongly recommend
that you not use such services and
that you pay close attention to the
Wikipedia guidelines, specifically
that Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia, not a
forum for advertising or self-promotion.
If you do decide to create a profile for
yourself, improve the representation of historic
scientists, or acknowledge the contributions of
recent scholars, there are some good tutorials
available to assist you.
In addition to what is
Science and Self in Wikipedia
Because Wikipedia
is one of the
first places that
people look for
information, there
is increasing
concern about who
Career Adv i ce for
Women and Men
in Cell Biology
Page Baluch
Is Creating a Wikipedia Profile a Useful Professional
Development Strategy?
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