Wiki Education Foundation/Monthly Reports/2020-03
- As a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, Wiki Education closed its office in the Presidio and moved all its operations online. In order to deal with the new situation, staff created a contingency and a crisis communications plan for each program. We also instituted a weekly COVID-19 briefing aimed at creating a shared understanding of how the pandemic affects our organization. A “Friday virtual social hour” helps staff deal with being isolated at home.
- March 2020 also saw dramatic changes to the higher education landscape as the vast majority of courses in the U.S. moved to online platforms as a result of the outbreak of COVID-19. It was a chaotic time for our instructors and students as they all adjusted to this new mode of learning, and Wiki Education was there to help. Wikipedia Student Program Manager Helaine Blumenthal checked in on courses to see if they needed additional help and to let them know that Wiki Education's support would remain uninterrupted. We were truly heartened to hear from so many of our instructors as we all adjust to these new circumstances both in our professional and personal lives. We are grateful that we can continue to work with our instructors and students during this challenging time, and hope we can provide our students with a meaningful educational experience whether they are on or off campus.
- We launched the third Scholars & Scientists course in partnership with the Society of Family Planning (SFP) to improve Wikipedia articles related to abortion and contraception. We know that Wikipedia plays a significant role in the research people do about health and medicine, and we are happy to work with SFP to ensure the public has access to the highest quality information about family planning.
Wikipedia Student Program
Status of the Wikipedia Student Program for Spring 2020 in numbers, as of March 31:
- 396 Wiki Education-supported courses were in progress (258, or 65%, were led by returning instructors).
- 6,769 student editors were enrolled.
- 53% of students were up to date with their assigned training modules.
- Students edited 3,180 articles, created 196 new entries, and added 1.76 million words and 19,000 references.
March 2020 saw dramatic changes to the higher education landscape as the vast majority of courses in the U.S. moved to online platforms as a result of the outbreak of COVID-19. It was a chaotic time for our instructors and students as they all adjusted to this new mode of learning, and Wiki Education was there to help. Wikipedia Student Program Manager Helaine Blumenthal checked in on courses to see if they needed additional help and to let them know that Wiki Education's support would remain uninterrupted. We were truly heartened to hear from so many of our instructors as we all adjust to these new circumstances both in our professional and personal lives.
Despite these rapid changes, students continued to work on their Wikipedia assignments in March. They forged forward with their drafts and began moving work to the article mainspace. We are grateful that we can continue to work with our instructors and students during this challenging time, and hope we can provide our students with a meaningful educational experience whether they are on or off campus.
Student work highlights:
Calliphora vomitoria was promoted to Good Article status on January 18. Good Articles represent a tremendous effort from an editor, and it's especially impressive that the student from Joan Strassman's Behavioural Ecology course kept editing after the Fall term ended to see the article through the peer review process.
The name "Monopoly" has been applied to more than just a game where you can play as a little Scottie dog — it's also been applied to things such as Operation Monopoly, a covert plan by the FBI to build a tunnel underneath the new Soviet Embassy in Washington, D.C., in order to gather secret intelligence. In 1977, the embassy of the Soviet Union was relocated to a new building complex. There were fears that with the new location, the Soviets would be able to use new technology to pick up conversations in the White House and the Capitol building. In response to this, United States intelligence launched surveillance of their own. The FBI purchased a home that was across the street to set up a spy operation on the Soviet Embassy, and they began to dig the tunnel that would go underneath it. Yet the operation was poorly planned and construction of the tunnel encountered many problems. Leaks, technical issues, and insufficient knowledge of the Embassy’s layout caused the operation to fail. FBI assistant director John F. Lewis has noted that the tunnel produced “no information of any kind.” The failure of the project is also partially explained by the revelation in 2001 that a double agent in the FBI, Robert Hanssen, had disclosed the construction of the tunnel to the Soviets while it was being built. Prior to March, there was no article on this embarrassing operation but it's thanks to a student in Heidi Tworek's International Relations in the 20th Century class at the University of British Columbia that it now exists.
In United States law, national injunctions are judgements that would be applied throughout the entire country. Also known as “universal injunctions,” “cosmic injunctions,” or “nationwide injunctions”, these are an equitable remedy employed by courts to bind the federal government in its relations with nonparties. In their prototypical form, national injunctions are used to restrict the federal government from enforcing a statute or regulation. National injunctions have come into prominent use and controversy during the Obama and Trump Administrations, when they have been used by federal judges to enjoin the enforcement of significant policies, including the implementation of the Deferred Actions for Parents of Americans policy and the rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. There have been questions about whether national injunctions are lawful and while some Justices have criticized the practice, there has been no official decision by the Supreme Court. Samuel Bray has argued that the current practice could lead to "conflicting injunctions," a situation where multiple parties bring suit, one court orders a defendant not to apply a statute or regulation against anyone, and another court orders the same defendant to ignore the first injunction or to continue to implement the statute or regulation. In contrast, Mila Sohoni has argued that national injunctions are both constitutional and good, stating that national injunctions were recognized as a valid remedial power of federal courts for almost all of the twentieth century, and perhaps even earlier. No matter whether or not this is lawful, the fact that this is notable is undeniable and it's thanks to an enterprising Stanford Law student in Taryn Marks's Advanced Legal Research class that we now have this article.
If looking at the media coverage of missing women, many social scientists would say that the majority of disappearances covered tend to be of upper-class white women and that the cases concerning people of color tend to focus on whether or not the woman had a troubled home life or past. Studies have shown this to be a very real problem in many places throughout the world. Campaigns and programs have been created to draw attention to these underrepresented cases, such as the Sisters in Spirit initiative that was created by the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC). This program, which was initially intended to last for a full year, had the goal of researching and documenting the statistics of violence against Indigenous women in Canada, a group that was often subjected to unequal and unfair treatment. It also sought to heighten awareness and education regarding the treatment of Indigenous women, and ultimately influence policy to address these issues through documenting the lived experience of Indigenous women and highlighting the underlying causes of this violence. The program was funded by the Status of Women Canada, which gave NWAC CAD$5 million. This program remained funded until 2010, when the government announced that it would not allocate any new funding to the initiative. In February 2011, the federal government reached a new funding agreement with the NWAC, providing just under two million dollars over three years for a new project called "Evidence to Action." Critics of the changes highlighted the funding shortfall and a watering down of the Sisters in Spirit initiative's breadth of work. While the Sisters in Spirit program may have officially ended, its legacy is still ongoing and every October 4th Sisters in Spirit vigils and walks are held throughout the country. It is thanks to a Mount Royal University in Jessie Loyer's North American Indigenous Literatures class that this program has an article, giving readers the opportunity to read more about it.
The next time you go to the dentist's office and sit down in the chair, spare a thought for dental aerosols, a new Wikipedia article created by a student in the Occupational Epidemiology class at University of Cincinnati. The same instruments that dentists use to probe and clean your teeth create aerosols that can pose a risk to clinicians and other patients. These dental aerosols even have the possibility to transmit diseases by spreading viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19. This is why on 16 March 2020, the American Dental Association advised dentists to postpone all elective procedures. The student's work has already been viewed more than 1,300 times, showing that even seemingly obscure topics can fill the information needs of many.
The firefly squid is a species of tiny bioluminescent squid that grows to a length of about 7.5 cm (3 inches) and lives in Japan's coastal waters. Before students in Heather Olins's Deep Sea Biology class started working on that article it was short, had limited sources, and talked mostly about bioluminescence. Students in the class expanded substantially, adding information about the species anatomy, distribution, and its role as both predators and prey. The Siphonophorae are an order of hydrozoans, marine animals related to jellyfish and corals. Students in the class took a fairly basic article about these articles and expanded it into a lengthy, fairly comprehensive one. Other students in the class made major expansions to a number of other marine organisms, including Regalecus russelii, a species of oarfish which can grow up to 8 m (26 ft), the West Indian Ocean coelacanth and the 3.7 m (12 ft) Japanese spider crab.
Scholars & Scientists Program
This month we were excited to launch a new course in partnership with the Society of Family Planning (SFP). This is our third course training SFP members to improve Wikipedia articles related to abortion and contraception. We know that Wikipedia plays a significant role in the personal research people do about health and medicine, and we are happy to work with SFP to ensure the public has access to the highest quality information about family planning.
Last month we started a course focused on disability-related articles, sponsored by the WITH Foundation. At this stage, while some work is still in sandboxes, the Wiki Scientists in the course have begun moving their contributions into articles. Here are a few highlights so far:
- A significant expansion and improvement to the spastic cerebral palsy article, adding to the lead and several sections, including adding an image and multiple sources.
- The article on the Civil Rights Act of 1968 did not cover how its Fair Housing Act applies to people with disabilities. A Wiki Scientist added a sub-section devoted to the subject.
- Expanded and improved the lead section of the Mitrofanoff procedure article, a surgical procedure also known as the Mitrofanoff appendicovesicostomy.
Wiki Scientists in our American Physical Society Wiki Scientists course have begun publishing their biographies of women in physics. Participants have shown a lot of enthusiasm for improving the representation of women on Wikipedia, including creating multiple new biographies.
- A new article about Silke Bühler-Paschen, a solid-state physicist at TU Wien.
- Petra Schwille is a biophysicist who received the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize in 2010. Her biography was a two-sentence stub until a Wiki Scientist expanded it five-fold.
- Gillian R. Knapp is an astronomical science professor at Princeton involved with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and the International Astronomical Union. Her biography is now almost three times as long as it was before the course started.
Wiki Scholars in the #Envision2030 course we are running with Keene State College have been moving material from sandboxes to mainspace, with several good outcomes so far:
- A major expansion to the Russian honey bee article. The bees were imported to the US to address declining existing bee populations. The Wiki Scholar is now responsible for 69.1% of the content on the page.
- The Black Queen Hypothesis is a theory of reductive evolution. The article had been tagged as needing more sources since last year, until a Wiki Scholar expanded it with multiple sections and several references, accounting for almost three-quarters of the current content.
- The history section of the article on San Blas, Nayarit in Mexico was tagged as needing more sources for six years until a Wiki Scholar expanded the section and added those sources.
This month we launched two new Wikidata courses – one beginner and one intermediate. We are excited to get to know and work with these 16 new participants. Similar to past courses, these participants represent a diverse set of organizations. This includes the Chicago History Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), University of Manitoba, and the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. We're looking forward to learning how they want to use Wikidata and see the impact they will have on the project. You can follow their progress on the Dashboards here and here.
We also continued to work on a self-directed Wikidata course experience. Currently we are building a set of demos and modules to test and refine over the coming weeks and months. It is our hope that this kind of learning experience will speak to a whole new community of Wikidata enthusiasts.
Visiting Scholars Program
Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight, Wikipedia Visiting Scholar at Northeastern University in the Women Writers Project, has been hard at work creating and improving biographies of 19th century women writers. Regular readers of our monthly reports will be used to seeing great new articles from Rosie every month, but March was particularly productive even by her standards, developing 18 biographies! Here are some of the highlights:
- Sarah Lanman Smith (1802-1836), a Christian missionary, memoirist, and school founder who established the American School for Girls.
- Mary Ann Lyth (1811-1890), British missionary, translator, and teacher known for work she did in Tonga and Fiji.
- Flora E. Lowry (1879-1933), American anthologist affiliated with the American Literary Association. She had a notably extensive collection of books by authors from Wisconsin as well as data about those authors.
- Rosa Miller Avery (1830-1894), American abolitionist, political reformer, suffragist, and writer. Her childhood home was a station on the underground railroad, and as an adult she organized an early anti-slavery society in Ohio.
Paul Carroll continued to onboard as Director, Institutional Funding, met with fellow staff members to learn about aspects of our work, and participated in the Advancement Team's offsite planning retreat. He also communicated with colleagues in his network to begin laying the groundwork for relationships with potential funders and connections to prospects. Paul had conversations with former Chief Advancement Officer TJ Bliss to help complete the transition into Wiki Education. And he assisted Executive Director Frank Schulenburg with ideas and thought regarding his outreach to a key supporter. No formal grant proposals or letters of inquiry were submitted this month.
This month, we officially began our third Wiki Scholars course in partnership with the Society of Family Planning (SFP). With the COVID-19 pandemic, we know even more people are looking to Wikipedia for free and unbiased information. We're very happy to be able to train subject-matter experts how to add to Wikipedia, and we look forward to seeing how SFP's members improve Wikipedia's scientific coverage of contraception and abortion.
We also spent time recruiting individual participants into several Scholars & Scientists courses, including two Wikidata courses beginning in April and another April course focused on adding women in STEM to Wikipedia.
March was the first month when we experienced a conference cancellation with one of our partners, and many of our original plans to recruit more institutions and participants into our initiatives were disrupted by the pandemic. We checked in with several partners in our community to learn how higher education and other knowledge institutions are taking a hit during this time, and we began looking into ways we could support our partners through these times.
We featured some great new voices on our blog this month.
Dr. Lydia Le Page took our Wiki Scientists course sponsored by the National Science Policy Network and was excited to improve Wikipedia pages that will help voters and policy-makers make the best use of research when voting on or developing policies. You can read her perspective here.
Dr. Weininger began teaching a Wikipedia writing assignment in her course, Sex and Gender in Modern Jewish Culture, at Rice University last fall. Through it, students discussed issues of inequity in Wikipedia’s content and the importance of access to accurate, verifiable information. She and one of her students were interviewed on the radio this month about their progress.
After three terms in a row teaching a Wikipedia writing assignment, Dr. Jennifer Glass of Georgia Tech shared with her fellow faculty what she finds so valuable about it. Read more here.
- Everyone can help build one of the wonders of the modern world (March 4)
- Teaching students that their words have power (March 5)
- Representing accomplishments of elite Indigenous athletes on Wikipedia (March 6)
- Wikipedia as a teaching tool that empowers students (March 10)
- In solidarity: continuing to share knowledge amidst a global pandemic (March 25)
- Monthly Report, January 2020 (March 26)
- Monthly Report, February 2020 (March 31)
In March, we focused on improving the Students tab of course pages to improve the grading and evaluation process for instructors. We conducted user tests with a number of instructors to learn about their grading processes and how the Dashboard fits into their workflows, and identified several high-priority improvements to make to the Students tab based on what we learned. In particular, since courses vary widely in the instructions given to students about where to draft their work — and a number of courses do not use the 'Assign' feature to keep track of which articles students are working on — the Students tab needs to provide convenient access to student sandboxes and full contribution history alongside the article-specific sandboxes that we introduced this term. We also identified several common points of confusion in the workflow for students to complete exercise modules. Software Developer Wes Reid worked on a major set of further changes for the Students tab based on what we learned, which will be ready in early April.
Finance & Administration
The total expenditures for the month of March were $192K, $15K above the budget of $177K. The Board was over by $1K due to an increase in payroll. Fundraising was over budget by $6K due to a personnel change, creating a need for $2K of consulting work and additional employment costs of $3K. General & Administrative were over by $15K due to indirect overhead allocation change of $3K, accounting fees of $5K, recruitment fees of $4K, and a payroll increase of $1K. Programs were under by $5K. The total includes an overage in Payroll of $5K, while under in Travel by $5K, Communications by $2K, and Indirect costs by $3K.
The Year-to-date expenses $1.7K were $6K under the budget of $1.706K. The Board was over budget by $1K due to a combination of an additional $3K in payroll costs while under by $2K in Board Meeting expenses. Fundraising was over by $6K due to interim consulting work. General & Administrative were over $100K: An additional $102K in Indirect Cost allocations, $5K in payroll, $7K in Travel while under budget, $10K in Professional Fees, and $4K in Occupancy Costs. Programs were under by $113K, of which $101K were Indirect Costs, $41K in Travel, $16K Communications, 3K in Office Supplies while showing overages of an additional $43K spent in payroll and $5K in Professional Fees.
Office of the ED
- Current priorities:
- Providing guidance and oversight during the annual planning cycle
- Dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our organization
- Ensuring funding for a capacity-building project
In early March, Frank, Paul, Director of Partnerships Jami Mathewson, Customer Success Manager Samantha Weald, and Outreach and Communications Associate Cassidy Villeneuve gathered in Sea Ranch, Sonoma County, for a two-day Advancement Team retreat. The team discussed learnings from year one of Selling Services and engaged in an in-depth process-mapping exercise. With our efforts at building a second revenue stream being the precondition for growing our Student Program again, the activities at the retreat focused on improving effectiveness and efficiency and prepared the team for creating a plan for fiscal year 2020–21.
The month of March has been overshadowed by the global COVID-19 pandemic and the consequences it had on the United States in general and on Bay Area businesses near Wiki Education headquarters. After we had already taken the first steps to ensure staff health in late February, Frank decided on March 12th to close the office and move all our operations online. On March 16th, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a shelter-in-place order that is still in place at the time this report is getting published. The shelter-in-place order affects everybody working out of our California office and has already had deep consequences on the unemployment rate in the Bay Area. Compared to other organizations and businesses, our switch to 100% remote work was comparatively easy, given that we have a very tech-savvy staff and video conferences and instant messaging services like Slack have been a part of our daily work for years.
In order to deal with the new and evolving situation, staff created a contingency and a crisis communications plan for each program. We also instituted a weekly COVID-19 briefing (attending: ED, Programs, Partnerships, Fundraising) aimed at creating a shared understanding of how the pandemic affects our organization. In order to deal with the new situation of being isolated at home, we started a “Friday virtual social hour” that has been popular among staff. Frank also sent updates to Wiki Education’s board to keep them informed about how Wiki Education was dealing with the effects of the global health crisis.
Visitors and guests
- Krishna Chaitanya Velaga, Wikipedia editor from India