Sooners will be adding to Wikipedia articles en masse Thursday as part of OU’s first Edit-A-Thon, which is open students, faculty, staff and community members.

Participants will gather on the main floor of Bizzell Memorial Library from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. to edit and add to articles about women in science.

Although event coordinators will provide computers, they encourage participants to bring their own laptops, said history of science lecturer John Stewart, who suggested the event after using Wikipedia in some of his classes.

“The idea is that people will be able to come, and we will provide them with the resources needed to work on articles that need to be improved,” Stewart said.

Wikipedia likes to partner with institutions that have direct access to the content, such as OU with the History of Science Collection, said Stacy Zemke, Open Education Resources coordinator for OU Libraries.

OU’s Edit-A-Thon is modeled after one that was done last semester at Brown University, Stewart said.

The topic, women in science, was chosen because it’s an area of study that doesn’t receive as much attention — especially on Wikipedia — Stewart said.

As part of its rules, Wikipedia asks that every article be significant enough to be placed on the website, Stewart said.

Wikipedia can be edited by anyone but in reality about 200 people do most of the editing and there is a large gender gap in that group. They are about 93 percent male and that creates a gender bias in the articles, Stewart said.

“We want to show that there are female role models in science even though we maybe don’t hear as much about them,” Stewart said.

The library has a 60-year-old history of science collection, said JoAnn Palmeri, assistant professor of bibliography and librarian for the history of science collections.

OU’s history of science program exists because of the library’s collection, Palmeri said.

“With women there are a lot of stories that are not told and part of doing [the event] is to uncover those stories,” Palmeri said.

Zemke said the event is a way to spread information from OU to the rest of the world.

“This is an opportunity to not just consume information but to be a part of making it,” Zemke said.    

Event participants can come and go as they like and don’t have to stay throughout the event, Zemke said.

Although Wikipedia, like any other dictionary or encyclopedia, is not necessarily a citable source, students should understand how to evaluate open sources by looking at who wrote them and what they cite — and that’s another goal of the event, Zemke said.

“We hope to teach students how to recognize the good from the bad on Wikipedia. As well as how to improve and evaluate the information so that they can properly use it,” Stewart said.

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