Wikimania Scholarship Committee
The scholarship Committee is crucial for Wikimania, since the awarding of scholarships allows people from all over the world to attend the conference. In years past, scholarships have been open to anyone, and can either be a full or partial scholarship. Full scholarships include all travel expenses, dorm accommodation and payment of registration fees. Partial scholarships, which were introduced in 2011, subsidise travel up to 300 Euros. In 2013, it was a lump-sum award for travel expenses to Wikimania, capped at 50% of the estimated air fare from the applicant's nearest international airport to Hong Kong. Partial scholarships were eliminated in 2014, due to the low acceptance rate of partial scholarships and the overhead in reimbursing partial scholarships.
The amount of individual scholarships may be fixed or variable depending on individual needs. Based on aggregate data, the organizations (the Wikimedia Foundation, the chapters, and any other grant-making organizations) can decide to whom they will award scholarships. The Wikimedia Foundation sets aside money every year explicitly to fund the costs of select volunteers to attend Wikimania. The number of scholarships has varied year to year, based on funding as well as location of Wikimania, as well as the designation of full versus partial scholarships.
The scholarship process starts towards the end of the year before Wikimania with the establishment a scholarship review committee. Scholarship applications and funding needs to be done well in advance of the conference and be coordinated with the registration and program processes and timelines. The scholarship committee must keep to a tight schedule or risk causing delays for the rest of the conference planning team.
Calendar and tasks
- (Oct-Jan) Participate in periodic online meetings with scholarships program manager and other committee members
- (Nov-Jan) Review and edit communications material (e.g., Scholarship wiki, application questions)
- (Jan-Feb) Screen scholarship applications for spam
- (Feb-Mar) Rate final round of scholarship applicants
|October - December||
|January - March||
|April - May||
|May - June||
|May - August||
The committee consists of 8-10 individuals from various Wikimedia communities around the world. One should be from the Wikimedia Foundation; one should be from the chapter hosting Wikimania; and one should also be the technical adviser (i.e., run the application system). Typically, members from last year's scholarship committee are invited to remain and additional recruitment is done as needed. The planning team should set aside one individual to be involved on the scholarship team. If possible, this person should also provide technical support for the team, including maintaining the online application. The benefits of having this individual be the technical lead is to facilitate coordination between the scholarship applications, Wikimania registration, and Wikimania presentation applications.
Committee members can undertake the role online.
The Wikimedia Foundation generally takes the lead in coordinating the general funding for scholarships with the help of a very dedicated committee of volunteers. It typically takes a dedicated coordinator and committee to coordinate the scholarship process and review applications.
The chief contact at the Wikimedia Foundation for the scholarship process is the The Scholarship Program Manager. The manager is in charge of selecting and organizing the review committee and ensuring the scholarship sites and communications are all coordinated and executed. The manager will receive the applicant scores from the review committee and is responsible for the final selection of scholarship recipients. The manager will also work with recipients in coordinating travel to/from Wikimania.
Role of the committee
The Committee's role is to:
- seek to create a unified scholarship form for all scholarships so that applicants only need to fill out one form;
- ensure that the form is translated into many different languages by using translatewiki.net;
- contact the staff in advance for suggestions, such as on what format to use and choose one already supported by the Translate extension.
The criteria for granting a scholarship can vary. For instance, individuals may be selected for scholarships based on participation in the Wikimedia movement (e.g., a chapter officer or long-time editor), a role in the Wikimania conference (e.g., organizer or program presenter), geography or other demographics (e.g., developing countries or women), or need (e.g., students).
The Wikimedia Foundation's criteria are:
- to make Wikimania a successful and productive international conference
- to support the Wikimedia projects by encouraging participation
- to enrich the conference with attendance by a diverse group of participants in the Wikimedia movement.
The review process
The review process consists of two parts: the first step filters credible applications from the non-credible applications (such as spam or where important fields are left blank), and the second step reviews the applications for their merit. Each year the scholarship committee decides on a set of criteria, including current and likely future involvement in the Wikimedia movement, as well as what the geographic distribution of scholarship recipients should be. The selection criteria used in 2012 are available to committee members.
Some chapters contribute toward the Wikimedia Foundation scholarship fund. This is quite simple and straightforward; nothing special needs to be done. However, chapters that do this will not be able to exert special influence who is getting scholarships.
Chapters that provide their own scholarships can influence who receives them. This can be useful if a chapter wants to enhance participation from its own country. It could also help the WMF scholarship committee, as chapters might know their local Wikimedians better to be able to rank them. These kinds of scholarships needs to be coordinated with the scholarship team, with all applications following a certain criteria to be forwarded to the chapter. The chapter decides and informs the scholarship team which applications it will accept and fund. The other applications will go back to the WMF pool and may be funded by the regular scholarship program. The Wikimania organizers can decide to invoice the chapter directly for these scholarships while providing discount codes for the registration, so scholarship recipients don't have to pay in advance.
Chapters run their own independent scholarship program, with very little or no involvement from the Wikimedia Foundation or the Wikimania organizing team. This should be avoided, as it creates duplication of effort and can be cumbersome on scholarship applicants.
Sometimes outside organizations volunteer to sponsor attendance to Wikimania. For example, in 2012, the Soros Foundation and ROSEdu both offered scholarships to qualified individuals upon the recommendation of the Wikimania Scholarships Review Committee. These scholarships are typically administered by the organization itself, and their recipients go through the same selection process as other scholarship recipients.
There are the additional complications in the scholarships process for Wikimania that come with running a global conference. These complications include:
- scholarship recipients may need visas to enter the country
- scholarship committee may need to purchase airfare directly for many recipients
- a major time investment is required of people answering questions, historically via OTRS. Such people are ideally situated to answer such questions given their (1) local knowledge (e.g., visa questions), (2) close interaction with the Wikimania planning team (e.g., timing, accommodations), and (3) familiarity with scholarship rules (e.g., expenses covered)
- the scholarships and registration software are not integrated. you should instead consider creating a scholarship application system that is integrated with registration, such that applicants can submit a conditional registration for the conference while also applying for the scholarship. In other words, it would prevent duplication of data collection;
- the form is translated but to attend the conference a knowledge of English is often requested.
- For the scholarship application software used for Wikimania 2012, contact User:Aude.
- Is it possible to get the number of scholarships for each Wikimania?