The University of Edinburgh has announced plans to gather a team of students for web editing.
The team, led by a paid ‘Wikimedian in Residence’ or WiR, is to consist of Wikipedia editors who will help facilitate entries on the website associated with the institution, according to the University. The University hopes to connect members of the institution to the wider Wikipedia community of academic writers and researchers.
The overall aim of group is to develop students’ digital skills and engage them in a more open-sourced, information-sharing environment.
The initiative is largely unprecedented. Whilst a WiR program currently exists at the National Museums of Scotland, the University of Edinburgh is one of the first universities to advertise for one of its own.
In a statement provided to The Student, Melissa Highton, Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services at the University of Edinburgh, explained the purpose of having a “WiR”.
“There are shared areas of the internet, like Wikipedia, where we all have a civic responsibility to contribute and participate and the big Scottish cultural organizations such as the universities have a role to play,” she said.
“As a research and knowledge-creation organization, the university is very interested in ensuring that our research is as accessible as possible, as quickly and efficiently as possible, for the benefit of all.”
The University is offering a fixed-term, part-time position, including a salary ranging from £31,000 and £37,000. The job involves successful candidates working with a network of university staff, students, and members of the public to develop necessary digital skills in an increasingly knowledge-driven society.
Highton also told The Student that as candidates need to be well-skilled in open knowledge practice, the expertise needed for the post is quite rare.
Acknowledging the high salary being offered, she noted the importance of valuing knowledge professionals and expressed expectations for a good response to the job advert.
Highton also emphasised that Wikipedia is one of the first-sought sources of information on the Internet.
“It is full of facts – not always very correct,” she said.
“Helping to ensure that the facts in Wikipedia are supported by the best up-to-date research evidence and actively participating in the community of editors working in subject areas is an opportunity for the University to increase public engagement and share our openly published work.”
The Univesity intends the team to nurture key abilities in its students, including writing and conducting research in an unbiased way, identifying where knowledge shared online may be contested, and observing how they can change over time.
Wikipedia continues to be one of the largest internet-based encyclopaedia websites in the world, retaining about 330 million different visitors a month.
Highton conveyed her thoughts on the significant impact of the site towards student’s learning experiences in academia.
“Open science, open data, open knowledge, open access, open educational resources, open-mapping, open licensing are all changing the way we do our teaching and research. Wikipedia is changing rapidly too,” she told The Student.
“It is hard to keep up with all these technological and digital changes – that’s why we are recruiting an expert Wikimedian to help the University make the most of this rapidly changing area.”
Despite University enthusiasm, the plans have been met backlash from political figures of Scottish Parliament, notably Cameron Buchanan, Conservative MSP for Lothian.
“It sounds very much like a gimmick to try and inform people that they’re up to date with social media, but I don’t think it is a priority for the university – particularly with cuts to the education budget,” he said.
“The salary seems excessive – it’s very high. I think the money could be better spent on other things at the university”.
But Highton maintained that the project had value.
She said, “WiR”s are a worthwhile short-term strategic investment, claiming that “it’s an important role for public engagement and if the residency is successful, the institution will be better able, through our information services and libraries, to support ongoing world leading work in this area as a result”.
Image credit: Wikimedia