Elaina Vitale, Academic Coordinator
Did you know that more people use Wikipedia than use trusted National Institute of Health and National Library of Medicine resources to look for health information? Studies even suggest that our healthcare providers and students in health professions turn to Wikipedia for much of their health research. Recognizing this, a group of National Network of Libraries of Medicine coordinators recently organized a virtual Wikipedia Edit-a-thon to improve citations and pages on various health topics. Our goal was to work towards making Wikipedia a better, evidence-based resource by incorporating citations from trusted resources like PubMed, MedlinePlus, Genetics Home Reference, and the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center. We held a public, virtual training session with a physician and active WikiProject Medicine editor, Dr. James Heilman. Dr. Heilman walked attendees through the importance of providing evidence-based citations to Wikipedia and showed attendees how to add citations, and improve existing content.
We held our Edit-a-thon a few weeks after our initial training session. It was my first time participating in an Edit-a-thon, and a few things surprised me. The first: how fun it was! I loved following our hashtag (check out #CiteNLM2018!) and seeing the various articles our participants were hard at work improving. The second was how easy editing articles and adding citations was. I plan to continue editing and improving articles as I come across them–it really doesn’t take more than a few minutes.
What are future plans for NNLM and Wikipedia? While we encourage all of our partners to continue improving articles on an ongoing basis, we all enjoyed the Edit-a-thon so much that we hope to hold them routinely. We’re looking to host another one in October, and then six months after that. We learned a lot from our first one and have a few tweaks to implement moving forward. We had a few participants host in-person Edit-a-thons, and we’d love to have more participating libraries host in-person events. After all, we know our users aren’t likely to stop using Wikipedia, so we might as well continue improving the content available there!