Grants:Project/Rapid/ISMB 2017 Computational Biology Editathon/Report

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Report accepted
This report for a Rapid Grant approved in FY 2016-17 has been reviewed and accepted by the Wikimedia Foundation.
  • To read the approved grant submission describing the plan for this project, please visit Grants:Project/Rapid/ISMB 2017 Computational Biology Editathon.
  • You may still comment on this report on its discussion page, or visit the discussion page to read the discussion about this report.
  • You are welcome to Email rapidgrants at wikimedia dot org at any time if you have questions or concerns about this report.


Did you meet your goals? Are you happy with how the project went?

The editathon had the following two goals as outlined in the grant proposal:

  1. Add or improve content (by bringing Wikipedia to the experts)
  2. Recruit new editors (among the people with the most knowledge in this field)

We feel that the editathon did achieve these goals.

The event added three new Wikipedia articles relating to computational biology, two of which were substantial enough to submit DYK nominations. A number of other articles were improved substantially. For example, the article on wikipedia:Read (biology) was expanded by three different editors over the course of the event and is now referenced properly with no outstanding issues. The article on the wikipedia:HMMER computational biology software was also significantly expanded during the event, resulting in an improvement from 'Start' to 'B' class. A number of editors also made additions to Wikipedia items relating to computational biology.

Of the 15 editors who added their names to the editathon participants list, four were brand new editors recruited from the conference attendees; attendees of the ISMB conference are particularly knowledgable in the fields of bioinformatics and computational biology, and in science in general. We hope that these editors will be encouraged to use more of their expertise to improve articles relevant to WikiProject Computational Biology in particular, and Wikipedia as a whole more generally.

As a result, we are happy with how the editathon went. Besides the article improvements outlined above, we learned a lot about how to improve similar events in the future. A key part of the ISCB's mission to further the scientific understanding of living systems through computation is the communication of this knowledge to the public at large. Over the course of the conference we spoke to a number of ISCB board members who, although not participating in the editathon, are now convinced that Wikipedia will play an important role in the communication of that knowledge and that the improvement of relevant articles is urgently required.


Please report on your original project targets.

Target outcome Achieved outcome Explanation
30 participants 15 recorded We believe the attendance was closer to 20 or more, but some attendees forgot to sign up on the list.
60 articles created or improved 25 unique Wikipedia articles and 5 Wikidata entries edited. Three new articles were created: OpenAPS, Christoph Bock and Single cell epigenomics. In retrospect, our target may have been over-ambitious; we underestimated the number of new editors who needed more help to get started. There were also a number of non-article space edits which have not been included in the total; these included the reassessing of article quality for WikiProject Computational Biology and an editor who spent significant time coding to integrate research databases with Wikidata. The new Christoph Bock and Single cell epigenomics articles were submitted to DYK during the day. The Christoph Bock article appeared as a DYK on 31st July, gaining 1,205 views that day. The Margaret Oakley Dayhoff article was submitted for Good Article review.

Busy editors! 2pm


Projects do not always go according to plan. Sharing what you learned can help you and others plan similar projects in the future. Help the movement learn from your experience by answering the following questions:

What worked well?[edit]

  • Providing laptops was an excellent idea -- more than half the participants did not bring their own, and were extremely glad to have these available.
  • Round tables in the room increased the amount of interaction and was an improvement on previous editathons, where the seats in the room were set up in rows.
  • Having food and drink available was also a huge plus. We realised (unfortunately a little too late) that we actually had the best coffee at the conference, and could have used that as an even bigger draw than just having extra coffee.
  • Running the event throughout the day worked really well. We had a steady stream of participants from the start at 10am until the last talks around 6pm.

What did not work so well?[edit]

  • We had planned to continue until 9pm, and kept the room available until 8:30pm (when the convention centre staff basically kicked us out). However, nobody actually attended much after 6pm.

What would you do differently next time?[edit]

  • There is scope for greater integration with the Bioinformatics Open Source Conference (BOSC) and ISCB Education Committee. BOSC is run as one of the tracks within the main conference and there is likely to be a significant number of BOSC attendees who would be interested in editing Wikipedia; however, the concurrent sessions may have reduced attendance at our event. BOSC hosted similar hackathon sessions (both formal and informal) so it would be helpful to coordinate future editathons with the BOSC organizers to ensure good attendance at both. The ISCB Education Committee is keen to include Wikipedia editing as part of bioinformatics training courses and may take a greater role in organizing future sessions.
  • Some people found the room which we were assigned was difficult to find within the conference centre. The room also had no windows, which may have reduced the time that attendees spent at the editathon. For future editathons, it would be helpful to coordinate with the conference organizers earlier in the allocation process to find a more suitable location.
  • Given our experience, next time we will plan to run the editathon from the morning until around 6pm, but not into the evening.


Grant funds spent[edit]

Please describe how much grant money you spent for approved expenses, and tell us what you spent it on.

Item Cost (CZK) Cost (USD) Budgeted (USD)
Room rental (with furnishings) 19,851 896 900
Laptop rental 11,000 496 475
Food and drink 2,500 113 150
Prizes 150 150
Miscellaneous supplies 0 0 100
Total 1,655 1,775

Remaining funds[edit]

Do you have any remaining grant funds?

We have approximately US$120 remaining. This was factored into the payment made by WMF, and only the amount we spent was disbursed.

Anything else[edit]

  • The editathon was covered by GenomeWeb, an online publication targeted at workers in the genomic technology industry. (Unfortunately the article is paywalled, but the news coverage was positive and encouraging.)
  • In a follow up mail to event participants, we requested comments about the editathon. Comments from the participants are here.