On Wikipedia, bringing scholars out of the shadows, page by page

On Wikipedia, bringing scholars out of the shadows, page by page

“Not only can we invite more female scientists,” she explains, “we need to honor and celebrate them. Writing their stories. Making sure the world knows what you’ve done is a very important way to do that.” To AFP on the London campus where she has worked since 2016.

This 34-year-old physicist is involved in developing the next generation of carbon semiconductors for the manufacture of optical or electronic devices (TVs, solar panels, etc.) that are more efficient and consume less energy.

She leads a team of five people, combined into a group of 15 researchers, of whom only two are women.

Jessica Wade notes that science is “still very much dominated by men,” lamenting the lack of interest in young girls whose fathers are not scientists.

“When I entered the physics department, which was mostly made up of men and people from privileged white backgrounds, I realized that not everyone had the same opportunity to study physics,” he adds.

“This lack of diversity has consequences for research, for the questions we ask ourselves, for the directions we are taking, for how innovations affect society and (…) who benefits from them,” she insists.

Almost 2,000 biographies

Seeking to broaden the audience of science, I noticed “holes” in the collaborative and free online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

“Only 19% of resumes in English are for resumes,” says Jessica Wade, who sees a correlation with the fact that “90%” of the platform’s contributors are men.

So, since 2018, she’s been working on this and she’s already written nearly 2,000 pages, due one in the evening at her house after dinner.

“It takes over an hour for every hour, which is already too many hours of my life,” she laughs, adding that she “can’t see herself stopping” in the short term.

The first biography I wrote was of the American climatologist Kim Cobb, after listening to it during a lecture and finding that it was not listed in Wikipedia.


Having a person and their work online means they have a chance to be known to all, stresses the researcher, who is now involved in a network of writers and leads workshops on how to write on Wikipedia.

“Little girls who googling, say, sea urchins,” she explains, “will go from clicking to clicking on the Wikipedia page of a wonderful scientist who has contributed” to the knowledge of the species.

At the same time, having a bio on Wikipedia can increase women’s visibility and recognition within the scientific community.

And Jessica Wade in particular evokes African-American mathematician Gladys West, 92, one of the first women I looked up to.

Since 1956, it has worked for more than 40 years in marine navigation systems and its calculations have contributed to the development of the Global Positioning System (GPS).

“I looked up Gladys to write her autobiography and there was very little. She was almost 90 and no one was praising her. I put her on Wikipedia in February 2018 and in May 2018 she appeared in the BBC’s ranking of the 100 most important women in the world,” he testifies. on it.

Since then, the scientist has been honored by the US Air Force and awarded the British Royal Academy of Engineering Medal, a first for a woman.

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