Sunday, January 12, 2020

Science and Africa - what colloboration exists and how do we know?

As I am adding large amount of African scientists to Wikidata, I find that I have moved into a green field. A green field as far as Wikipedia and Wikidata are concerned.

To learn about how the information about African science evolves in Wikidata, I created Listeria lists that inform about universities by country, fellows/member of academies of science and members of African young science organisations.

What I produce is a scaffolding; basic information that enables. The information that I use from the Royal Society of South Africa for its fellows includes dates, other awards, employers and even dates of death. Slowly but surely more information is being added for these people and consequently you will also find for, for instance Rhodes University, more employees and additional papers (currently only 1385 papers for its 84 scholars are known).

A scholar like Tebello Nyokong, a Rhodes scholar, has 637 papers to her name. She is a world class scientist and has four Wikipedia articles to her name. All kinds of questions may be queried for her co-authors; the gender distribution, the organisations they represent, the nationality of the co-authors.

Obviously, African science is not well represented at this time. This is a reflection of how people perceive and value African science... In essence it reflects a bias of regular Wikimedia editors. The regular Wikimedia editors are in the west, they have no reason to consider African science but this is a bias. It is highly likely that it will be hard to get Wikipedia articles accepted for African scientists because of a lack of sources and probably a lack of this perceived Western relevance.

Adding one scientist at a time does not make much of a difference. When scientists are added as part of a SourceMD process, any and all scientists who have a public ORCiD profile are likely to get included in Wikidata. This is why so many African scientist are already known. When a notable scientist is then recognised as a recipient of an award, we may already know about the papers they authored.

The SourceMD process is no longer available. It coincides with a lack of resources at Wikidata so any and all resources used for science papers are now available to something else. Understandable, but the result is that I am no longer motivated to seek ORCiD identifiers and consequently, the process is increasingly broken.

1 comment:

Joca said...


tbh wikipedia has gotten so big that its even hard to fathom how it works on the inside

just came across ur blog through simple english wiki -> SE deletion attempts -> LanCom -> You

thanks for shouldering the burden for all of humanity! I don't think you guys even get paid for it??? Though I hope you do, and if you do, I hope it becomes public knowledge sometime. i swear, yall do more than politicians