Research:Research Community Vision and Strategy
One of the Wikimedia Foundation Research team’s programs is focused on Foundational Work. This includes supporting the network of researchers working on the Wikimedia projects and growing the tools and data that are available to encourage a greater diversity of projects and research questions. This document outlines our commitment to invest more in this space. The approach is based on conversations with Wikimedia Foundation staff as well as external researchers. We acknowledge that this is not the only way to support and grow the community. We welcome feedback and collaboration and encourage community members to feel empowered to take leadership in these initiatives and / or develop additional opportunities for community building.
This strategy is iterative and a work in progress, so please check back for regular updates.
We envision a world in which every researcher can effectively and joyfully contribute to Wikimedia projects.
Realizing this vision requires us to build a research community of practice based on the following principles:
- Diversity: we are representative of the global diversity present in the Wikimedia movement;
- Inclusiveness: we lower the barrier for newcomers to learn and contribute;
- Collaboration: members come together to learn from each other and recognize each other’s contributions to the field.
Why do we need a community?
- Wikimedia research follows open practices, but prior knowledge and experience are often necessary to know what data and tools are available and how to use them. Having a community allows for sharing of datasets, tutorials, and pipelines and using collective knowledge to make them better.
- Wikimedia research is rich and varied, but there currently are not many opportunities for sharing work in progress across disciplines. Having a community presents the opportunity for researchers to learn from each other and form new collaborations that can lead to innovative, multidisciplinary research. It also creates opportunities for peer recognition, which can increase incentives for engagement and contribution.
- The Wikimedia movement is global, but the research emphasis is still largely on English Wikipedia and on researchers from North America and Europe. We need to elevate the contributions and capacities of researchers from underrepresented geographies and provide opportunities for international collaboration.
Who is considered part of the community?
We define community as a group of individuals working toward a common goal under a shared set of values. We consider community members to be established or aspiring researchers as well as research enthusiasts or advocates. Enthusiasts and advocates can include individuals who support researchers (e.g., librarians) as well as contributors who use research results to improve their contributions. Members may engage with each other through participation in office hours, Wiki Workshop, the Research Showcase, Wikimania, and the Research Fund, or other community events.
Our goal is for community members to be able to:
- Give and receive technical guidance;
- Set the tone for how to engage in responsible, reproducible, and ethical research (See Research Direction 3);
- Engage in activities that allow them to gain new skills and knowledge and share their work;
- Overcome barriers to participation;
- Openly share information and resources;
- Self-identify as being part of the Wikimedia research community, through participation and leadership in community engagement;
- Feel safe in interactions with other community members;
- Contribute joyfully to research.
What follows is our approach to strengthen support for the research community and grow and diversify its membership. In this approach, the Foundation promotes a sustainable network of distributed researchers. The Research team provides programming and initiatives to bring researchers together and build technical skills; elevates important research questions; and builds resources to help people address them. We will work to identify the unique challenges researchers face around the world and help connect them with resources and local support. This strategy also includes community champions, who are emergent leaders who desire to take on additional activities to support the community. These individuals will co-create many of the initiatives described below with members of the WMF Research team.
The approach aligns with the Knowledge Equity aspect of the Movement Strategy: Knowledge Equity: Growing research capacities in communities that have been left out by structures of power and privilege
- We will welcome people from every background to build strong and diverse communities.
- We will break down the social, political, and technical barriers preventing people from accessing and contributing to knowledge.
It also aligns with the 2030 Movement Strategy Recommendations:
- Increase the sustainability of our movement: Take a people-centered approach to distribute financial resources.
- Improve user experience: Enable anyone to contribute to and consume knowledge. This includes resources for newcomers that are easy to find and understand and creating spaces for collaboration and mentoring.
- Invest in skills and leadership development: Enable individuals to develop diverse skills.
- Innovate in free knowledge: Include more diverse domains of knowledge beyond English-speaking communities and Western countries.
Our approach includes changes to our existing programming to make it more globally welcoming, inclusive and accessible, as well as the introduction of new initiatives.
Changes to existing programming
Wikimedia Research Office Hours have been running monthly since January 2020 to address questions from researchers about:
- Their proposed or in-progress work;
- How to access datasets or run an analysis;
- Ongoing work by the Wikimedia Research team;
- Programming and initiatives led by the Wikimedia Research team.
These sessions have also become opportunities for community building between researchers and team members and among researchers with similar interests.
Based on learnings from surveys of researchers about what they value from attending research community events and conversations with Wikimedia staff who lead outreach with other groups in the Wikimedia community, we will pilot the following changes to increase inclusion and maximize opportunities for community building:
- Host separate multilingual sessions, with support from Movement Communications;
- Host thematic sessions to bring together researchers with common interests. These sessions could align with an event, such as the release of a new white paper or that month’s Research Showcase and may be led by members of the Research team, or an external researcher who wants to share their expertise on a particular topic or work in progress;
- Hold two shorter (e.g., 30-40 minute) sessions per month at different times to welcome people in different time zones;
- Introduce regular opportunities for 1:1 consultations in addition to Office Hours to support individuals unable to attend scheduled sessions or who feel uncomfortable sharing in group sessions. See Product Analytics as an example.
Research Showcases are monthly opportunities for researchers to share their latest work. They began in 2013 and are live streamed to YouTube. We will continue to improve representation of speakers and topics. For example, in 2022, we featured our first speakers from Asia (India and South Korea). To further promote community and celebrate a diverse body of work, we will explore the following changes:
- Provide logistical and technical support for affiliate groups to host Showcases in their own languages;
- Promote offline discussions between presenters and audience members on Wiki;
- Encourage researchers to host watch parties at their institutions to promote community building, increase awareness of events, and increase support for presenters.
Wiki Workshop is the flagship event of the year for the Wikimedia research community and features a selection of the year’s most innovative research as well as opportunities for networking. Based on participant feedback, in the future we will strive to:
- Make stipends available for participants who need funds to purchase cellular data, or cover costs of childcare or audiovisual equipment;
- Include opportunities for thematic networking, including possibly a Birds of a Feather session that groups participants with similar interests or exercises that match researchers looking for particular areas of expertise;
- Ensure that the diversity of speakers and organizers is representative of the global community;
- Welcome those who are new to the research community and provide opportunities for them to form relationships with established researchers;
- Provide opportunities for researchers to showcase tools and tutorials;
- Make space for attendees to communicate in non-English languages and explore the potential for live translation into non-English languages;
- Increase transparency and community engagement in the process of deciding WMF-RAY recipients;
- Be intentional in deciding whether the event will be in-person, virtual, or hybrid, centering the decision on inclusivity and diversity of presenters and attendees;
- Consider how the Workshop fits in with the larger ecosystem of conferences, including WikiData Workshop and Wiki M3L.
The Research Fund was launched in Fall 2021. It provides grants up to 50K US$ to researchers who propose work that has a high potential for being impactful to one or more of the Wikimedia communities. The intent of the fund is to preferentially support researchers who do not have ready access to funding and are located in emerging communities. Our goal is for the grantees to form a cohort through regular interactions in Office Hours and peer support programs and to highlight their work in Research Showcases and / or Wiki Workshop. We will look for opportunities to continue to support beyond their funding period, for example through formal collaborations, co-organization of research sessions at community events, and continued involvement in the Fund, e.g., as reviewers.
Over the coming years, we aim to fund diverse portfolios of grantees, in terms of geography and topical area. These grantees have great potential to become champions of the global community, as well as leaders in their local communities. We aim to build their capacity to get local community members involved in research.
Introduction of new initiatives
Resources to connect researchers and community members
New researchers often need assistance understanding the culture and norms of the broader Wikimedia community and how to earn its trust, get buy-in for their research, find collaborators, and share their findings. This is particularly important when researchers want to work on multiple language editions and may need to understand the language as well as underlying culture. To help researchers develop good practices doing community-based or situated research, we will work with members of the research community to:
- Create resource guides that facilitate interactions between researchers and regional committee members, affiliate and user groups, and / or chapters;
- Use literature reviews and interviews with researchers to write up case studies representing good examples of community-based research;
- Use the Let’s Connect platform to match researchers and community members seeking particular interests / areas of expertise;
- Create guidelines for good practices in organizing conferences that can be adopted by community members interested in hosting their own events;
- Develop a mechanism for the creation of a community wishlist for research and data availability. For example, there is a history of building Python packages to simplify data analysis pipelines (e.g., https://techblog.wikimedia.org/2022/06/13/explore-wiki-project-data-faster-with-mwsql/). Having a wishlist would help us understand how to prioritize these efforts so that they meet researchers’ current needs and can serve as potential projects for interns.
Following the example of other Foundation teams, we will develop one or more courses to help researchers develop and hone their computational skills and understanding of the Wikimedia community ecosystem. The initial course(s) will likely be synchronous and piloted with a small group of students and then transition to asynchronous, openly available courses that can be accessed by anyone at any time. In the coming years, we hope to support researchers financially and programmatically who are interested in developing their own modules or courses to share on the platform. Much of the course content will consist of tutorials focused on packages developed by the team to help the research community streamline their work. The initial course(s) offered may cover some of the following themes:
- Building technical skills: how to process different kinds of data, including WikiData;
- How to get research done on the Wikimedia projects: focus on how to work effectively with communities;
- Introduction to Wikimedia data and resources: raise awareness about open tools and data to onboard researchers to the ecosystem and how to adopt FLOSS, FAIR, Open Science, and Open Data principles.
Formation of guiding principles
Values are mentioned throughout the Wikimedia movement, e.g., Foundation values, Movement Strategy, and the Open Access Policy. As a research community, it is important that we identify the values that shape the way we work. Over the coming year, the Research team plans to develop draft principles that the research community can contribute to through a structured feedback process.
Wikimedia research exists in three stages that increase in complexity and potential for impact:
- Short-term services consisting of straightforward analyses or consultations that support individual projects, languages, or regions;
- Long-term services that are investments in important topics to provide continuous support through new tools or collaborations;
- Research that will help shape the strategy and direction of the Wikimedia Movement, including changes to policy and new products and services.
Most researchers will start in the first stage, as they gain basic technical skills that allow them to take a data-driven approach to understanding their community and improving the impact of local contributors. With support from the Foundation and local communities, they may begin to take on longer term research projects and potentially ultimately contribute to work and collaborations with Wikimedians that help shape the direction of the movement. Researchers can move from one stage to another and potentially exist in multiple stages at once if they have different roles in multiple projects.
Metrics of Success
This strategy aims to provide regular opportunities for members of the research community to receive technical and professional training, get questions answered, build networks, get financial support, and build connections in their local communities.
The following metrics can help us understand if we are achieving our mission of elevating important research questions, providing data and resources that are used by researchers to answer novel research questions, increasing capacity, and growing and diversifying the number of researchers contributing to this work.
- Quality of experience when contributing to research on the Wikimedia projects (through surveys, focus groups, and interviews) tells us:
- What social and technological barriers researchers face;
- What resources are most valuable;
- Whether researchers feel that they can contribute safely and joyfully.
- Regular communication with developers tells us:
- How research informs development;
- How we can better connect researchers and developers;
- How we can support developers.
- Regular engagement in programming (e.g., office hours) tells us:
- How individual researchers are moving among different levels of impact (as described above);
- What persistent questions researchers face;
- The extent to which programming is building connections among researchers;
- What institutions are engaging in and supporting research;
- About our global reach and inclusivity.
- Numbers of submissions to Wikimedia research conferences (e.g., Wiki Workshop) and the Research Fund tell us:
- The level of interest in these initiatives;
- Areas of new, innovative research;
- Where research is being conducted.
|Initiative||Jul-Sep 2022||Oct-Dec 2022||Jan-Mar 2023||Apr-Jun 2023|
|WikiLearn||Plan the course structure||Create necessary materials||Build the shell||Launch and evaluate|
|WikiWorkshop||Reflect on previous Workshops, decide what changes to implement, and recruit planning committee||Begin planning program and release call for papers and
document outlining good practices in event organization
|Finalize schedule and open registration||Host the Workshop|
|Research Fund||Evaluate FY22 process and release RFP for FY23||Accept and review submissions||Select grantees||Announce FY23 grantees, reporting for FY22 grantees, and learning / evaluation for both rounds|
|Office Hours||On hold||On hold||Revisit the format||TBD|
|FAQ Space||Research options and develop a proposal||TBD||TBD||TBD|
|Resources to connect researchers with community members||Write up case studies demonstrating good practices in community-based research
and participate in Let’s Connect
In addition, we will continue to host monthly Research Showcases featuring both the latest work from the Research team as well as researchers from the community. We will also continue to release twice-yearly Research Reports that highlight progress on our team’s research and community outreach efforts.
Launching new initiatives requires our team to reprioritize our efforts. Because of the amount of time we anticipate investing in the development of the WikiLearn course, we will put Office Hours on hold at least until December 2022. If you have feedback on our strategy or would like to get involved in any of these initiatives, we encourage you to contact us or leave comments on the Talk Page.