The Wikimedia Foundation’s Research team has published a set of white papers that outline our plans and priorities for the next 5 years. These white papers, which were developed collaboratively by all members of the team, reflect our thinking about the kind of research that will be necessary to further the 2030 Wikimedia Strategic Direction of Knowledge Equity and Knowledge as a Service.
Altogether, these white papers define a set of recommended directions in three key areas—knowledge gaps, knowledge integrity, and foundations—where the Wikimedia Foundation, in partnership with affiliates and academic collaborators, can help the Movement address and anticipate challenges and take advantage of emerging technological opportunities. Example directions include:
- Developing a knowledge equity index to track progress towards removing barriers preventing people from accessing and contributing to free knowledge
- Identifying new methods and tools for characterizing bias, information quality, and trustworthiness in Wikimedia content
- Designing and testing machine learning technologies to assist contributors in identifying and filling knowledge gaps
Scholarship has played a vital role in our collective understanding Wikimedia projects. Academic research has yielded insights into familiar challenges such as the gender gap and systemic bias, as well as emerging issues around community health, the threat of disinformation, and the needs of traditionally underserved contributor and reader communities.
By publishing these white papers, we hope to encourage students, researchers, movement affiliates and academic institutions to join us in pursuing a research agenda that will help the Wikimedia Movement achieve its strategic goals. We invite you to share with us your feedback and questions on these directions.
The white papers
- Executive summary
- In 2030, the world’s population is projected to be 8.6 billion, almost 80% of which will live in Africa and Asia. Latin America’s population will continue to grow rapidly while population growth in Europe and Northern America—today’s largest sources of contributors and readership to Wikimedia projects—will plateau. How can we help Wikimedia projects thrive in a world that is becoming increasingly different from the one we are building for today, both in terms of production and consumption of content?
- The Wikimedia movement has identified as a strategic goal supporting “the knowledge and communities that have been left out by structures of power and privilege”. In order to meet this goal, we need to understand how to serve audiences, groups, and cultures that today are underrepresented in Wikipedia, Wikidata, Commons and other Wikimedia projects—in terms of participation, access, representation, and coverage.
- In 2018-2019, we have begun to advance knowledge equity with a research program to address knowledge gaps. This program aims to deliver citable, peer-reviewed knowledge and new technology in order to generate baseline data on the diversity of the Wikimedia contributor population, understand reader needs across languages, remove barriers for contribution by underrepresented groups, and help contributors identify and expand missing content across languages and topics. In this white paper, we propose research directions that expand this work over a longer time horizon.
Address Knowledge Gaps, 3 years On
In 2021, we came together to reflect on our original white paper on addressing knowledge gaps, and did a deep dive in the research conducted after its publication. Thinking about our work five years down the road, we published an update to the white paper with three main areas of developments and improvements:
- Guiding Principles. We list a set of principles guiding our research in knowledge gaps and beyond: our role in Knowledge Equity, the projects we focus on, and a methodology focusing on communities, inclusivity, privacy, and openness.
- Consolidated Research Areas. The original white paper identified five main areas of research: Identify, Measure, Bridge, Multimedia Gaps, and the Knowledge Gaps Index. Our updated version retains the three main directions: Identify, Measure, and Bridge knowledge gaps, and incorporates the remaining two into these three strategic directions. In the update, we cover our initial and current vision for each direction, as well as past and future work towards that vision.
- Ideas for Future Research. The lessons learned, and the large network of collaborators, encouraged us to think about big research questions, spanning a 5 to 10-year horizon, which we share in the update.
- Executive summary
- The strategic direction of “Knowledge as a Service” envisions a world in which platforms and tools are available to allies and partners to “organize and exchange free, trusted knowledge beyond Wikimedia”. Achieving this goal requires not only new infrastructure for representing, curating, linking, and disseminating knowledge, but also efficient and scalable strategies to preserve the reliability and integrity of this knowledge. Technology platforms across the web are looking at Wikipedia as the neutral arbiter of information, but as Wikimedia aspires to extend its scope and scale, the possibility that parties with special interests will manipulate content, or bias to go undetected, becomes material.
- In collaboration with multiple partners and collaborators, in 2018-2019 we have started laying foundations for a Knowledge Integrity program through research and development to help our communities represent, curate and understand information provenance in Wikimedia projects more efficiently. We are conducting novel research on why editors source information, and how readers access sources; we are developing algorithms to identify statements in need of sources and gaps in information provenance; we are designing data structures to represent, annotate and analyze source metadata in machine-readable formats as well as tools to monitor in real time changes made to references across the Wikimedia ecosystem. In this white paper, we propose a number of research directions to extend this work over the next 5 years and make progress towards the goals set by the strategic direction.
- Executive summary
- Wikimedia projects are created and maintained by a vast network of individual contributors and organizations with different roles and expertise. The Wikimedia Foundation, including Wikimedia Research, plays an important role in supporting these efforts, but our internal capacity and expertise will always be more limited than those of the Movement as a whole. Tackling the strategic challenges ahead requires an investment in foundational social and technical infrastructure that individuals, groups, and organizations across the Movement can use. In this paper, we identify several key capacity gaps that impede our shared ability to focus research efforts towards addressing Knowledge Equity and Knowledge as a Service effectively and at scale.
- We see an urgent need for increasing the development and dissemination of foundational resources to grow research capacities across the Movement. These foundational resources take many forms: new tools for developing scientific knowledge about projects and contributors; new open data resources and improved tools for working with them; new methods and guidance for mission-aligned research and technology development; and outreach activities designed to foster a healthy, diverse, and dynamic community of researchers to be part of the Wikimedia Movement.
- The Wikimedia Movement Strategic Direction
- Ethical and Human Centered AI at Wikimedia (supplementary Research white paper)
- research.wikimedia.org - the Wikimedia Foundation's Research team homepage