Wikimania, the annual global conference of the Wikimedia movement, brought together around a thousand Wikimedians in Hong Kong this August. This year, the movement at large gave out scholarships to individuals from over 65 countries to attend, with the goals of enriching the conference through diversity, and inspiring the Wikimedians in their work. This post reports some statistics about the scholarship process, including results from a survey that was sent to all who successfully applied for a scholarship from the Wikimedia Foundation.
Under the guidance of the Scholarship Review committee, consisting of nine experienced community members (see below), the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF), with financial contributions from Wikimedia Deutschland, made offers to attend to 103 individuals, ultimately sending 85 individuals from 54 countries. Though final numbers are still in the works, the total spent by WMF (including a ~$17K contribution from WMDE) was ~$141,000.
The Wikimedia Foundation offered two types of scholarships in 2013:
- Full Scholarships: covering round trip travel (and booking services), dorms accommodations, and registration costs, and
- Partial Scholarships: a lump-sum award for travel expenses to Wikimania, capped at an estimated 50% of the air fare from the recipients’ region to Hong Kong.
The Wikimania Review Committee worked hard to ensure a good mix of scholarship attendees. This year, about 68% of the total scholarship positions were given to individuals in the Global South: a big increase from only 57% in 2012. Many chapters throughout Europe sponsored individuals from their own geographies and language projects to attend. 2013 saw a wider spread in chapter sponsorship of individuals from outside of their geographies, resulting in higher acceptance rates of scholars from outside the European region than in 2012.
Compared to 2012, 2013 saw a higher attendance rate of Partial Scholars at Wikimania: 69% vs 51%. One anticipated reason for the slightly larger acceptance rate is the increase in the amount of money given to partial scholarship recipients. In 2012, the awarded amount was 300 Euros (~US$394). After feedback in 2012 that this was not a sufficient subsidy to travel costs, we increased the award in 2013 to cover ~50% of estimated travel cost by region. That said, ultimately fewer partial scholars actually attended Wikimania 2013, given we could not afford to send as many on the new award amount.
From the survey sent to WMF Scholarship recipients, we also learned that ~75% of scholars were members of a local chapter or local user group. It would perhaps be valuable to assess whether or not sufficient outreach promoting the scholarships program occurred directly on the Wikimedia projects themselves, rather than through meta-level avenues.
- Satisfaction and participation
In this survey, over 90% of WMF scholarship recipients said that following Wikimania they were somewhat or greatly motivated to increase participation in the online projects, within their local communities, and in future Wikimanias. Hopefully, the scholars do channel the energy from Wikimania into these future projects! Moreover, 93% of respondents indicated they were satisfied or very satisfied with the scholarship process.
About 40% of the scholars were attending Wikimania for the first time, and around 50% of the scholars applied to present at Wikimania (about 40% actually did). We hope to see the percentage of presentations increase in years to come, particularly for those scholars who have attended Wikimania in the past.
- Lessons Learned
For next year, the committee and WMF should think about a few augmentations to ensure a strong group of candidates has the best experience possible:
- Attendance rates: Look into ways to more fully help scholars secure visas; this seems to be the single biggest deterrent from attendance for those who are fully funded (the difference between the visa situations in the hosting countries likely contributed to the fact that attendance rates were lower in 2012 than 2013). For the Partial Scholarships, WMF and the Scholarships committee need to decide if the higher financial subsidy is indeed worth the tradeoff in gross individuals who are able to attend.
- Communication: While communication scores increased in 2013, overall WMF and the organizing team could benefit from more systematic ways of tracking scholarship processes
- Diversity of scholars: We are doing a good job promoting the scholarship program via the chapters channels, and we should consider how to recruit the vast number of online editors who are not a part of a local chapter. Moreover, we should continue to allow room for beginning editors or new Wikimania attendees, who are greatly encouraged by the event and motivated to edit.
- Scholarship involvement: While it is useful to promote attendance for newer contributors, we should also ensure that seasoned Wikimedians and Wikimaniacs can enrich the conference through their expertise. We should more actively recommend to those who have attended Wikimania in the past to submit a presentation to the Wikimania program.
- Ongoing evaluation: As the scholarship program (and Wikimania at large) continue to take up an increasing amount of the movement’s time and money, we should continue to assess the significance and impact of the program. While a satisfaction survey in conjunction with a review of acceptance demographics are an excellent first step to refining processes, they do not ultimately get to the impact of the scholarships program. It would be useful to track the scholars engagement in the wikis over time, to see if scholarships do result in more — or continued — engaged online contributors.
For more lessons and other statistics, please see the Wikimania 2013 Scholarships page.
- The process
The scholarship committee rated over 1200 applications to select the 2013 Wikimania Scholars. The rigorous process included rating across variety of selection criteria:
- Activity in Wikimedia movement (on-wiki and off-wiki) (50%)
- Activity outside of Wikimedia and other free knowledge/software projects (15%)
- Interest in Wikimania and the Wikimedia movement (25%)
- Fluency of English language (10%)
Committee members are split across seven world regions, in order to ensure consistency in scoring within a given region. The ratings are anonymously averaged to come up with the top candidates by region. See the 2013 Scholarships page for more information on the 2013 process.
Huge thanks goes out to the Scholarship Review Committee of 2013!
- Simon Shek (2013 local team)
- Deryck Chan (2013 local team)
- Martin Rulsch (WMDE, steward)
- Christopher Cooper (WMUK)
- Osmar Valdebenito (WMAR)
- Kudpung (Thailand WG)
- Katie Chan (WMUK, GAC)
- Nicholas Bashour (2012 local team, WMDC)
- Karthik Nadar (WMIN)
Jessie Wild, Senior Manager Learning & Evaluation, Wikimedia Foundation