Last month, the English Wikipedia community-written newsletter Wikipedia Signpost ran a feature on WikiProject Neuroscience, a project which began in September of 2005. It currently boasts fourteen Featured Articles (FAs) among the 1,700 total articles under its umbrella, including topics like areas of the brain, stimulants and the central nervous system. It counts some highly-qualified editors among their ranks, including no fewer than three PhD holders.
The Signpost spoke to Looie496, Mark viking and Tryptofish, three editors who are active participants in the project. Looie has been a member since 2008 and holds a doctorate in neuroscience. He has more than 22,500 total edits, a large proportion of which have been on articles under this topic. Most of the articles covered by the WikiProject have been primarily his work.
“My first motivation was the poor condition of the article on the hippocampus, the brain area that I worked on,” he said. “I started editing it very tentatively, and then when nothing bad happened, I ended up doing more and more, until eventually the article was completely rewritten.”
Mark Viking is no slouch either. A scientist by trade, his work revolves around theoretical physics — a subject in which he holds a PhD in — and computational neuroscience. Much of his editing has been in the background but he still performs a vital role in the running of the project.
Despite a PhD in biochemistry, Tryptofish considers himself “a sort of second-fiddle” in the running of the project, though he by no means doesn’t contribute. He has been involved with efforts to attract more experts into the project and into the world of Wikipedia editing. “A couple of years ago, the Society for Neuroscience started an initiative to get more of its members to become editors ,” he explained. “A couple of us spoke at their convention. I wish we could get more editors in that way, but most academics either don’t have the time to edit, or only want to make edits about themselves.”
He insists that more editors, particularly students in the field, are needed for the project to continue to be a success. “Some of my happiest editing experiences have been interactions with student editors who decided that editing was fun,” he said. “Too few students stick around after a class is over, and I wish that more of them would.”
For more info on WikiProject Neuroscience, read the full interview on the Signpost.
Report by Joe Sutherland, Wikimedia Foundation communications volunteer