Over the last 10 months Martin Poulter, Jisc’s Wikimedian Ambassador, has been exploring, in some detail, how Wikimedia platforms can be employed to openly disseminate academic information, help develop students’ digital literacy and allow collaboration.
To this end Martin has run a number of editathons such as the Ada Lovelace Day at the University of Oxford and another at Wellcome Library, focused on medicine and health (see image below*). Martin also ran some training workshops for academics, for example at the University of Sheffield‘s Humanities Research Institute.
Each of these events has allowed participants to look at the use of Wikimedia tools as a means of changing and improving their own practice. These tools can open up a whole new avenue of dissemination and sharing, and the events sought to provide the sector with a deeper understanding of the applications of platforms such as Wikidata and Wikicommons.
Most recently Martin has investigated the possibilities of academics using Wikipedia to publish scholarly papers, perhaps in parallel with publication on their institutional repository or in an online journal.
The partnership between Wikimedia UK and Jisc which led to the engagement of the Wikimedian Ambassador has allowed those active in teaching, learning and research to test the opportunities afforded by a massively open platform. We now need to consider how to gain further benefits from this work by actively taking new approaches to scholarly communications. There has been much debate about reliability, verifiability and permanence; some of the watchwords for traditional forms of dissemination. These watchwords may be less applicable when it comes to collaborative platforms, but there are other notions which spring to mind such as: sharing, cooperating, global access, joint effort and openness.
This initiative has demonstrated that Wikimedia platforms can take their place alongside more traditional processes of dissemination. They offer the prospect for wider dissemination and perhaps for new opportunities to work collaboratively, which surely, in a globalised education environment, must make sense.