Grants:IdeaLab/Simple English for Science articles

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
IdeaLab beaker and flask.svg
Simple English for Science articles
Invite the Simple English community to contribute to improvement of scientific articles, which are often too technical (to a point of being incomprehensible).
Hex icon with lightning white.svg
idea creator
Hex icon with star white.svg
project manager
Hex icon with flask white.svg
S L Happy
this project needs...
Hex icon with bee black.svg
community organizer
Hex icon with lightning black.svg
Hex icon with hand black.svg
created on09:43, 29 February 2016 (UTC)

Project idea[edit]

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

As this excellent article on Ars Technica put it, "Wikipedia fails as an encyclopedia, to science’s detriment..." because "...entries are excessively technical and provide almost no context, making them effectively incomprehensible".

In other words, you can understand a scientific article on WP only if you are a scientist in the field, but then you don't need the article, do you? And if you are not a scientist, the article provides zero value to you. In some cases, this might cause aversion to science or, more specifically, to Wikipedia being a source for scientific knowledge (as opposed to e.g. pop-culture, trivia, history, etc)

A lot of articles on economics, physics, computer algorithms, medical subjects are really hard to read. You probably know this quote, "Any scientist who couldn't explain to an eight-year-old what he was doing was a charlatan". Well, currently Wikipedia is more of a charlatan-pedia when it comes to scientific subjects.

What is your solution?[edit]

I suggest inviting the Simple English community (and everyone else) to create a sort of "Simple English" digest section in the scientific articles as well as cleaning up the articles for readability (for us, laymen).


  • Identify "Simple English" writing guides
  • Link to them on Simple English Wikipedia
  • Partner with en:WP:Year of Science

Get Involved[edit]

About the idea creator[edit]

I edit RU wiki and read EN wiki a lot. IRL I am an e-learning developer turned software entrepreneur. I love tech and UI/UX challenges.


  • Project manager I like science very much. Therefore joining this project. Mahusha (talk) 14:52, 15 March 2016 (UTC)
  • Researcher It is true that some articles are very technical and difficult to understand in the first run. However, technical stuff has their own advantages as well as disadvantages. But making an article easy to read and understand is always preferable. S L Happy (talk) 17:44, 15 March 2016 (UTC)
  • Volunteer I think it would be great if there was a technical option and a simple option. For me, as a 10th grader, I thoroughly enjoy the struggle of getting through a technical article, and the time I have spent to understand it gives me a solid grasp of concepts. However, for concepts such as spin (quantum physics), I had to refer to external sources. Potentially this simple option could give readers a starting point or an article summary, in which with this grasp they could go onto the more complex details. A current alternative is simple English. JoshMuirWikipedia (talk) 09:18, 16 March 2016 (UTC)
  • Volunteer I would love to volunteer for this idea, writing down science articles in simple English, a fluent medium of communication for me, speaking and writing it more often than I would with my native language, growing up as a child. I suggest that the technical aspect of Science articles may be broken down into bits and pieces and integrated to articles, just like processes and vocabulary, so users may grasp and learn a whole new Science article without any loopholes, like a word unfamiliar to the ordinary reader. K CMS (talk) 12:49, 17 March 2016 (UTC)
  • Volunteer I lack technical background but am interested in science and would be willing to help in whatever way I can. Rotideypoc41352 (talk) 17:19, 19 March 2016 (UTC)
  • Volunteer I've noticed this problem myself so, I think I could be of some assistance to this idea. I can help in simplifying articles. Bsumantb (talk) 15:32, 20 March 2016 (UTC)


  • I like this idea, but I would frame it as changing how we think of the lede section of the article (which should summarize the contents and their importance clearly). There can be a place for both a clear and simple explanation and technical details, I think. -- phoebe | talk 20:47, 1 March 2016 (UTC)
    • I agree and think it is an urgent matter. I work mostly in swwiki and when starting science topics I usually cannot even go for translating the article lede sections as they are often way too complicated. I usually switch between several languages (incl. simple) to get an idea how to go ahead. Specially frustrating is a number of the medical articles we got from the Medical Translation Project as the translators often went word-by-word resulting in difficult English coming out completely incomprehensibly in translation. Kipala (talk) 09:44, 2 March 2016 (UTC)
      • User:Kipala yes we realized that this was a problem so we switched to only translating the leads and only once the leads were in simpler English. We specifically encourage the translators to use simple language but not sure if we always succeed. Writing in simple language is a real skill and takes time to learn. Would be happy to organized a lecture on simplification by a company that works in this area if people are interested. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 03:22, 19 March 2016 (UTC)
Doc James DocJames, I would like to point out that I appreciate your project very much. I just see sometimes that it is a pity to see some outcome after the effort which has been made. I keep on putting in an hour again and again to rewrite. For a language like Swahili an obvious detail problem is the lack of agreed terms which means that references vary wildly and red links popup where it would not be neccessary as the topic is already there but with a different word or just spelling. Kipala (talk) 13:19, 4 April 2016 (UTC)
Translations into Swahili mostly occured before we started only translating simplier and shorter content. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 19:31, 15 April 2016 (UTC)
    • +please very much! EllenCT (talk) 02:46, 21 March 2016 (UTC)
  • My recommendation would be to run a competition with amazon voucher prizes for converting STEM articles to Simple Casliber (talk) 02:53, 3 March 2016 (UTC)
  • you could have a technical version and a basic version both in the standard english wiki
  • excellent idea by the way Nemoanon (talk) 03:40, 15 March 2016 (UTC)
  • I've read many pages like this and it has often stopped me from making any progress with the material. JoeH93 (talk) 15:50, 15 March 2016 (UTC)
  • One of the fundamental drawbacks of science articles on Wikipedia that needs to be urgently addressed Chrisl1991 (talk) 15:01, 16 March 2016 (UTC)
  • I completely agree that the lede of many articles needs needs to be significantly clearer. Stuartyeates (talk) 02:16, 18 March 2016 (UTC)
  • This is a great idea and excellent suggestion, especially for the junior internet community (grade and middle school students) who may benefit from more straightforward explanations. 921red (talk) 01:15, 19 March 2016 (UTC)
  • I have spent much of my time over the last two years working to improve and simplify the leads of EN Wikipedians medical articles. I have done about 330 so far as listed here. Agree doing this in other topic areas is important. It is a bit of an uphill battle. I repeated changed "orally" to "by mouth", renal to kidney, endemic to areas where the disease is common, "prevalence" to "percentage of people with" etc. People change it back sometimes as they feel it is "dumbing down" our content. But the more people support this the easier it will become. Also for math we should collaborate with the likes of the Khan Academy (tried to get their interest but failed so far) Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 03:19, 19 March 2016 (UTC)
  • This is a great idea, as there are many enwiki articles that it seems only professors in that field can understand. I have seen a few articles on enwiki in a sort of simple version which start with Introduction to... as the title. Eg en:w:Introduction to quantum mechanics and en:w:Introduction to evolution, which may be of interest to this idea. Good luck anyway! Seagull123 (talk) 20:11, 27 March 2016 (UTC)

Expand your idea[edit]

Would a grant from the Wikimedia Foundation help make your idea happen? You can expand this idea into a grant proposal.

Expand into a Rapid Grant
Expand into a Project Grant