Jump to content

Grants:IdeaLab/Reddit Science AMA + PLOS + Wikimedia

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki
Reddit Science AMA + PLOS + Wikimedia
/r/science of Reddit, and PLOS, and a Wiki-team partner to cross-promote content
contact emailbluerasberry
idea creator
this project needs...
created on15:46, 17 April 2015 (UTC)

Project idea[edit]

What is the problem you're trying to solve?[edit]

At /r/science, a community in the crowdsourced media platform Reddit, people discuss newly published academic papers in the science. A popular daily feature of this forum is an "AMA", or "ask me anything" session, which is an event in which one of the authors of a new paper appears to discuss their paper with anyone who wishes to ask questions on that day.

By April 2015 the AMA series had become so popular that PLOS has partnered with this forum to direct scientists to it and help them have an effective presentation there. See the announcement on reddit or the one at PLOS.

There is no problem with this, but considering that PLOS is open source and reddit is a crowdsourced community promoting access to information, there is an opportunity for partnership with Wikipedia in this, and a lost opportunity for not capturing information from this even in Wikipedia. Some of the information which could be shared in Wikipedia includes information from the papers being discussed, a link on relevant Wikipedia articles to the AMA, and perhaps this could be an opportunity to ask the scientists interviewed for their photographs and some assistance in making biographies for them, when appropriate.

Besides sharing content, if a Wikipedia team were involved in this, then there would be continual opportunity to offer Wikipedia assistance to high-profile scientists who are being featured in multiple media channels. If any of the people doing AMAs could actually find a use for Wikipedia to share information in their field of expertise, then it seems likely that a collaboration between Reddit, PLOS, and Wikipedia would be a good opportunity to offer them Wikipedia's crowdsourced infrastructure and demonstrate how PLOS publishes the papers, Reddit promotes them, and Wikipedia summarizes and archives them for general audiences.

What is your solution?[edit]

It would be nice if someone would apply for grant funding to manage the reddit/PLOS/Wikipedia relationship, whatever that might be.

An ideal applicant to manage this project would be from either the reddit, PLOS, or Wikipedia communities, but be willing to learn all three communities, and try to interface with them all.

For any given AMA, the ideal convergence of actions might be that some facts from the PLOS article go into a Wikipedia article, and when relevant some Wikipedia article links to the AMA, and someone coaches the scientists on using reddit and Wikipedia effectively.

Project goals[edit]

  • Increased profile of Wikipedia among scientists
  • Wikipedia gets a steady stream of updates from the latest science papers thanks to the screening at /r/science
  • exchange of community participation between /r/science and Wikipedia
  • import of anything from PLOS articles, including text, images, other media, or data, as PLOS is open access
  • greater introduction for Wikipedians to research standards

Ongoing talks in series[edit]

Bongard, Josh C.; Ellefsen, Kai Olav; Mouret, Jean-Baptiste; Clune, Jeff (2015). "Neural Modularity Helps Organisms Evolve to Learn New Skills without Forgetting Old Skills". PLOS Computational Biology 11 (4): e1004128. ISSN 1553-7358. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004128. 
As of 18 May 2015, the conversations seemed finished at 1082 comments.
Wilf, Peter; Farke, Andrew A.; Maxwell, W. Desmond; Cifelli, Richard L.; Wedel, Mathew J. (2014). "A Ceratopsian Dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of Western North America, and the Biogeography of Neoceratopsia". PLoS ONE 9 (12): e112055. ISSN 1932-6203. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0112055. 
As of 18 May 2015, the conversations seemed finished at 115 comments.
Baden, Tom; Chagas, Andre Maia; Gage, Greg; Marzullo, Timothy; Prieto-Godino, Lucia L.; Euler, Thomas (2015). "Open Labware: 3-D Printing Your Own Lab Equipment". PLOS Biology 13 (3): e1002086. ISSN 1545-7885. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1002086. 
As of 18 May 2015, the conversations seemed finished at 52 comments.

Draft Proposal[edit]


Wikipedia and Reddit are very large internet communities which both place in the top 50 most viewed websites in the world and when you look at their respective models it becomes apparent they complement each other in many regards. Wikipedia is a website designed to provide people with free knowledge about subjects, where Reddit is a website to share and discuss issues and events with other like-minded users. By integrating Wikipedia with Reddit, not only would we be gaining access to a new channel of distribution, but also one that is more focused on the youth demographic.

According to statistics collected by the Wikimedia Foundation, over 40% of Wikipedians are over the age of 39. Reddit on the other hand tends to be more popular with youths, yet, it also has a large group of people who use it with higher educational experience according to a Pew Survey. If a collaboration is implemented between these two websites, it stands to reason that both sites will have something to gain: those on Reddit will stand to learn something they did not know before, and those who then go on to edit articles might themselves improve upon the content that is already there.

The issue with Reddit is that, it is where intellectuals go to waste some time while also learning something else. It seems reasonable to assume that because of that, these users would be receptive to an alternate way to spend their time, and Wikipedia could fill that need. There are many forms that this collaboration could exist in, and it might be a good idea to explore alternate forms of outreach. Regardless of how it is undertaken, this collaboration needs to be taken very delicately to ensure that members of each community are able to find benefit from this and to alleviate any concerns that some parties might have.

The problem with how we normally do things[edit]

The typical approach of an outreach program is to quickly convert people to becoming a member of the Wikipedia community by exposing them to editing. To anyone with any familiarity to editing Wikipedia must know that there is a steep learning curve which has been attributed to the tools they have for learning exactly how to edit, the policies of the site, and even being able to conform to a standardized manual of style. All of this could leave something to be desired, and given the fact there are many already existing projects that are aimed at encouraging people to become editors, and retaining those same people, it seems like a good idea to look at a non-traditional form of outreach.

Despite the fact that Wikipedia is one of the top ten websites globally (#1 in medical content), many people have a certain unease about its factuality and do not know about the behind the scenes interactions on articles. There is a mentality that we need to simply “get more edits” similar to how an open source project vies for coders to contribute to it, perhaps we should change our perspective. It has been stated multiple times that we should try to treat Wikipedia more as if it is a publishing platform, than a crowdsourced project. By showing the end user the high level of effort that is put into articles it would improve the Wikipedia brand and potentially solidify more web traffic coming in if people put more trust into it. It might seem sort of silly to want to try to increase web traffic of one of the largest global websites, but this is something we need to do to secure the future of our medical content. Colloquially people use Wikipedia to describe something they see as unreliable information (ie. “Where did you get that, Wikipedia?”) and if we want to improve the way people see us, we need to work actively to do so.

The solution[edit]

By instead working on improving how people interact with this content, and hopefully encouraging to want them to edit, instead of telling them to do so, we will need to change our approach. What we can instead do is generate content that is relevant to our mission to “empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally.” Here are simple ideas:

  • Videos about the use and importance of Wikipedia – There is a lot of content that has been created for the purpose of sharing at conferences and other professional events. It would be amazing if we could create 5-10 minute cuts of these, professionally, that we could share with others to educate the public unlimitedly. This could also be used to share stories such as the way Wikipedia responded to the Ebola epidemic. These might seem a bit “fluffy” but they would really help show the way that Wikipedia can help in many different ways.
  • Reddit Ask Me Anything posts (AMAs) – Wikipedia editors really have little exposure to the public. It might be beneficial if a few contributors were to perform a QA session online where anyone can ask questions. These could be risky however as we cannot control what people say and how the community acts towards it.
  • Share content that would otherwise go unnoticed – There are a lot of articles that might go otherwise unnoticed unless we direct them toward it. An example of an article would be, water fluoridation, a featured article which gets comparably little views to other articles of its class, even though it provides interesting information. This idea could also be expanded for article improvement. For example, we could revive the Collaboration of the Month and when they are completed, the article would be circulated.

These ideas on outreach are obviously a bit different then has been done in the past, but the ideas presented here are worth pandering as at the very least it would help close the rift between the public and Wikipedia editors and bring awareness to what we do. To start out this project would rely on smaller “subreddits” to simply test the waters before to delve into anything deeper. Some places where this project could take hold is on /r/medicine, /r/emergencymedicine, and /r/medicalschool for a period to be determined, and then evaluate its performance.

Performance metrics[edit]

For this project to work, the Wikipedia community will need to work on ways to quantify the success of it. Unlike other outreach projects where users are encouraged to sign up and edit, these users will be given no reason to sign up and contribute. Instead we will need to rely on the impressions each post on Reddit receives and how many hits there is to each individual page. This will be hard to accurately measure as there is no automated way to track hits from a website source available to us. There also would likely need to be some sort of survey conducted to see what end users think about our outreach to see if it is viable. If it is, I can see this expanding to other parts of Reddit and being adopted by other WikiProjects.


While this proposal is very ambitious about what it aims to achieve, any potential issues that are present are outweighed by the benefit. The main reason we want funding is to generate content that anyone will be able to share with other people meaning that any money spent on this project will not simply be a one time expenditure as it can be used again. If this project is successful it also would serve as a template for other people to use in their Wikipedia outreach.

Get involved[edit]


  • Community organizer I have a lot of experience with working with the Reddit community and think I would be able to effectively convert some Redditors to Wikipedians. In the past I have written on various subreddits about Wikipedia which have sparked interest from people willing to help. Overall, people seem willing to contribute but have issues finding out how. Peter.C (talk) 18:47, 17 April 2015 (UTC)
  • Project manager I am already on Reddit and find it quite a nice place. I could help out if needed. QEDK (talk) 17:54, 22 April 2015 (UTC)
  • Similar principle to what discussed in it:Wikipedia:Bar/Discussioni/Chiedere il parere di esperti su LinkedIn. It is a possible strategy for the future, interacting with experts on "social media", it is after all worth trying.--Alexmar983 (talk) 09:00, 24 April 2015 (UTC)


  • I am a scientist, and I know both PLOS and Wikimedia fairly well, while I have yet to grasp Reddit. Would be interested in helping with an "AMA + PLOS + Wikimedia" (so not just Wikipedia) if someone were to guide me on Reddit matters. Would especially like to bring Media from PLOS journals and their use across Wikimedia platforms into the discussion. -- Daniel Mietchen (talk) 13:34, 11 May 2015 (UTC)