10 Wikipedians partnering with medical organizations to improve online health information

Dorothy Howard

Wiki Project Med Foundation is a group

Wikipedia is the world’s most consulted source of health information, so it only makes sense that some of the leading health and medicine organizations share their information and expertise in Wikipedia. From the National Institutes of Health, the Cochrane Collaboration, and to major public universities worldwide, Wikipedia is becoming more popular as a communication partner for people doing public health education outreach and medical research dissemination.

When an organization wishes to share information on Wikipedia, the first challenge to address is compliance with Wikipedia’s community rules. Whereas many people imagine Wikipedia to be a volunteer project to which anyone may contribute, the practical precedent has been that Wikipedia partnerships are managed by designated Wikipedian staff at the organization.

Relationships between Wikipedia and organizations are often facilitated by Wikipedians, the regular contributors to the encyclopedia. This collaboration usually includes a cultural exchange in which the staff of an organization learns about online volunteer collaboration and Wikipedians help curate the organization’s media offerings into Wikipedia’s content, image, and data collections. Wikipedia is the only website which can claim a history of consistently delivering health information on demand to people who prefer high-ranking search engine listings, so there is value here for the organization which will join the Wikipedia editing community.

A Wikipedian on staff at an organization is comparable to social media and communications staff, except that instead of presenting advertisements to direct people to read health information in an organization’s own website, the Wikipedian integrates information from the organization’s field of expertise into Wikipedia. Here are 10 Wikipedians who have been liaisons between health organizations and Wikipedia:

1. Amin Azzam: University of California, San Francisco

Amin Azzam

Amin Azzam (using the name “AminMDMA” on Wikipedia) has engaged in an ongoing project for University of San Francisco Joint Medical Program, where medical students to contribute to Wikiproject Medicine while earning academic credit for that work. This work has involved working with the Wiki Education Foundation to design guidelines for other medical school and/or health-professional school faculty members who wish to design similar Wikipedia-editing assignments for their health-professional students.

“By far this is the most important work I’m doing as a health-professional educator. Our students are learning how to become digital contributors not merely digital consumers.”

2. Ashley Van Haeften: Independent enthusiast

Ashley Van Haeften

Ashley Van Haeften (“Fae”) is the most active uploader of images to Wikimedia Commons, the Wikimedia Foundation image project from which Wikipedia’s images are sourced. Fae facilitates image donations to Wikimedia Commons with a wide range of institutions including: a large medical, zoological and botanical history batch upload of the Wellcome Trust, images from the LGBT Free Media Collective, images from the Biodiversity Heritage Library, and photographs by the United States National Library of Medicine. Van Haeften has uploaded over 1,000,000 high quality images for public reuse.

3. James Heilman: University of British Columbia, East Kootenay Regional Hospital, Board Member of the Wikimedia Foundation, prior President of Wiki Project Med Foundation

James Heilman

James Heilman (“Doc James”) is working to create a base set of short, high quality, simple language overviews of healthcare topics for translation into other languages on Wikipedia. As the prior President of Wiki Project Med Foundation, he helped set up the organization, and has facilitated Wikipedia collaboration between the Wiki Project Med Foundation and Translators without Borders, the World Health Organization, Cancer Research UK, the United States Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, and the Cochrane Collaboration. Heilman has also published academic research relating to health, medicine, and Wikipedia.

“We believe that language should not be a barrier when accessing quality health information.”

4. Netha Hussain: Wikimedian-in-Residence, Calicut Medical College

Netha Hussain

Netha Hussain has participated as a Wikipedian-in-Residence at the Department of Pathology, Calicut Medical College in collaboration with the Centre for Internet and Society’s “Access to Knowledge” program. Her work includes uploading and annotating pathology images to Wikimedia Commons. These images are being used to illustrate Wikipedia articles. Netha also participates in 100wikidays, with the goal of creating 100 new Wikipedia articles related to medicine and healthcare in Malayalam language by January 1, 2016.

“I believe that access to health information is a human right. I’m working towards providing free and reliable healthcare information to everyone.”

5. Daniel Mietchen: National Institutes of Health (NIH), Open Knowledge

Daniel Mietchen

Daniel Mietchen is a biophysicist working for the National Institutes of Health and a participant in Wikiproject Open Access. In both of these roles he facilitates the reuse of materials from open access and open science resources in Wikimedia projects. With Open Knowledge his work on Wikipedia has included the Signalling Open Access project and the automated import of text, images, and other media from open access publications into Wikipedia. Daniel has also been active on incorporating full-text open, scientific research onto Wikimedia platforms, as well as on authority controls in Wikidata.

6. Sydney Poore: Cochrane Collaboration

Sydney Poore

Sydney Poore (“FloNight”) is the Wikipedian-in-Residence at the Cochrane Collaboration, an independent medical nonprofit organization that conducts systematic reviews of randomized controlled trials of health-care interventions. Sydney has worked to improve the citation of systematic reviews and open scientific research on Wikipedia to support its current information about healthcare treatments and tests. Sydney has also been an active voice in addressing Wikipedia’s gender gap.

7. Lane Rasberry: Consumer Reports

Lane Rasberry

Lane Rasberry (“Blue Rasberry”) is Wikipedian in Residence at Consumer Reports, a United States-based nonprofit consumer organization. At Consumer Reports he incorporates health messages from medical professional societies into Wikipedia’s health articles and encourages medical and public health students to do the same.

“Wikipedia is the world’s most consulted source of health information. Anyone who wants to distribute the best information to the largest audience should support Wikipedia.”

8. Carl Fredrik Sjöland: Translators Without Borders

Carl Fredrik Sjöland

Carl Fredrik Sjöland (“CFCF”) is a medical student from Gothenburg, Sweden who since 2014 helps facilitate partnerships between WikiProject Medicine and Translators Without Borders as part of the Wikipedia ‘Translation Task Force’. The goal is to identify top priority Wikipedia articles to be translated. Since the collaboration was started, WikiProject Medicine, Wiki Project Med Foundation, Translators Without Borders have translated over 600 articles on medicine in over 100 different languages.

9. Emily Temple-Wood: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

Emily Temple-Wood

Emily Temple-Wood (“Keilana”) improves Wikimedia content using the resources available at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. This has included: adding in epidemiological research, chemical safety data and permissible exposure limits to Wikipedia articles. Temple-Wood has also facilitated image donations from NIOSH’s collection.

10. John Cummings: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

John Cummings

John Cummings is the Wikimedian in Residence at UNESCO, based at the Sector for External Relations and Public Information. He is working to make UNESCO health related content available under an open license and train staff to contribute to Wikimedia projects including Wikipedia.

I hope more organisations will begin to work with Wikimedia by making their content available under an open license and engaging with the Wikimedia community.”

The best way to get information about how Wikipedia curates health information is to join the conversation at WikiProject Medicine. Read the Wikipedia article “Health information on Wikipedia” to get started!

See also: bibliography of academic research on Wikipedia’s health information.

Acknowledgement to Lane Rasberry in the research of this article.