Grants:Programs/Wikimedia Research Fund/Representation of Non-Western Cultures on Wikimedia Projects

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statusnot funded
Representation of Non-Western Cultures on Wikimedia Projects
start and end datesJune to November 2022
budget (USD)40,000-50,000 USD
applicant(s)• MartinPoulter



Applicant's Wikimedia username. If one is not provided, then the applicant's name will be provided for community review.


Project title

Representation of Non-Western Cultures on Wikimedia Projects

Entity Receiving Funds

Provide the name of the individual or organization that would receive the funds.

Waqas Ahmed

Research proposal[edit]


Description of the proposed project, including aims and approach. Be sure to clearly state the problem, why it is important, why previous approaches (if any) have been insufficient, and your methods to address it.

Wikipedia is the world's leading website through which people learn about history and culture. While cultural gaps have been identified as one kind of bias within Wikimedia sites, the scale and characteristics of these gaps is not well understood. This research aims to gain clarity on the characteristics and specific areas of underrepresentation and assist the global Wikimedia community in addressing this cultural bias. Following the successful completion of our research on a culture gap in visual arts, we propose a series of papers to investigate imbalances and identify under-represented topics in six aspects of culture: Literature/Writers, Treatises/Scholars, Inventions/Scientists, Music/Musicians, Filmmakers/Films, Political figures/events. OBJECTIVE: To identify areas in Wikipedia’s coverage of cultural knowledge where there are significant imbalances; To ascertain the scale and nature of these imbalances; To assess why these imbalances exist and the biases underlying them; To suggest ways in which these imbalances might be addressed; To publish this research in a reputable open access journal, describing concrete steps to address the imbalance; To mobilise a task force of wiki contributors and practitioners from the wider cultural sector to create change. HYPOTHESIS: Wikipedia significantly prioritises a Western canon in its cultural content, even in non-Western languages. RESEARCH DESIGN For each of the above identified cultural topics we will:
  • Identify regional experts, curators, academics and cultural attachés with knowledge of non-Western culture;
  • Identify 100 leading Western figures and 100 leading Western achievements in the relevant field using existing sources such as Vital Article lists;
  • Identify 100 non-Western figures and 100 non-Western achievements of comparable calibre/stature, with diversity across cultures and eras;
  • Make a quantitative comparison, assessing the ratio of coverage between the target groups across Wikimedia projects;
  • Make a qualitative comparison, illustrating with a few examples how people and topics outside a Western canon are represented;
  • Assess variations by historical period, geography and language; * Assess variation among Wikimedia platforms;
  • Write up the research into academic paper style for publishing in relevant open access journal;
  • Generate red lists of non-Western people and topics that have no or very little representation in Wikipedias;
  • Set up a scholarly and cultural Task Force


Approximate amount requested in USD.


Budget Description

Briefly describe what you expect to spend money on (specific budgets and details are not necessary at this time).

Fee per day: £125. Each of the 6 research areas:

Outreach: 8 days = £1,000 Data Analysis: 8 days = £1,000 Qualitative (Case Study) Analysis: 6 days = £750 Writing and Editing: 12 days = £1,500 WMUK review and response: 2 days = £250

Component Total: £4,500 Research total: £27,000 Contingency £3,000

Implementation: WMUK dissemination of research: 5 days = £625 Task Force engagement: 10 days = £1,250 Task Force meetings: 10 days = £1,250 WMUK support for impact delivery: 25 days = £3,125


Address the impact and relevance to the Wikimedia projects, including the degree to which the research will address the 2030 Wikimedia Strategic Direction and/or support the work of Wikimedia user groups, affiliates, and developer communities. If your work relates to knowledge gaps, please directly relate it to the knowledge gaps taxonomy.

The theme strongly resonates with the global Wikimedia movement strategy, in particular the emphasis on knowledge equity in the overall strategic direction, and Recommendation 8 - Identify Topics for Impact - which includes initiatives focused on bridging content gaps and developing content initiatives with underrepresented communities. A key element of that initiative stipulates that we must better understand current content gaps that are a barrier to reaching knowledge equity. Of those, the gender gap is well understood, but others are not - this research aims to address and identify these content gaps, and engage user groups, affiliates and the wider open knowledge community in ways to address the imbalance.


Plans for dissemination.

Raise awareness of the research through blogs, press releases and posts in relevant communities.

Set up a Task Force with interested individuals from relevant scholarly and cultural organisations, wiki editor communities and underrepresented communities. Create “red lists” of articles for creation and sharing sources that can be used to create or improve articles. Using Wikidata and related tools to monitor progress and to report in relevant form on- and off-wiki.

Past Contributions[edit]

Prior contributions to related academic and/or research projects and/or the Wikimedia and free culture communities. If you do not have prior experience, please explain your planned contributions.

Ahmed and Poulter: ""Representation of Non-Western Cultural Knowledge on Wikipedia: The Case of the Visual Arts."" Preprint

Waqas Ahmed:

  • Visiting Fellow (Human Diversity), The Open University
  • Author, The Polymath (Wiley 2019)
  • Editor, UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity: Marking the 20th Anniversary (2021)
  • Global Citizenship Education expert (The Prince’s Trust, The Commonwealth)
  • Head of Khalili Collections Open Access projects (Wikimedia, Europeana)

Martin Poulter:

I agree to license the information I entered in this form excluding the pronouns, countries of residence, and email addresses under the terms of Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0. I understand that the decision to fund this Research Fund application, the application itself along with all the information entered by my in this form excluding the pronouns, country of residences, and email addresses of the personnel will be published on Wikimedia Foundation Funds pages on Meta-Wiki and will be made available to the public in perpetuity. To make the results of your research actionable and reusable by the Wikimedia volunteer communities, affiliates and Foundation, I agree that any output of my research will comply with the WMF Open Access Policy. I also confirm that I have read the privacy statement and agree to abide by the WMF Friendly Space Policy and Universal Code of Conduct.