Centre for Internet & Society

Wikipedia edit-a-thon attempts to raise awareness of the contribution of Indian women to science.

The article by Renuka Phadnis was published in the Hindu on October 19, 2014. T. Vishnu Vardhan gave his inputs.

Ask anyone to name an Indian scientist and the answer is likely to be a man, and not a woman scientist. To let more people know about the unsung heroines of science in India, a workshop called the Ada Lovelace Edit-a-thon 2014 was held here recently. At least 15 participants added content about women scientists over two days to Wikipedia as the first step in bringing public awareness about them.

The edit-a-thon (a large number of people adding or modifying content on Wikipedia at once) concluded on October 14, which was Ada Lovelace Day, an international day to celebrate the achievements of women in science, technology and maths. The event was organised by BioScienceIndia Programme, a non-profit science outreach initiative, and Bangalore-based Centre for Internet and Society.

Participants added information about at least 40 women scientists. Information on 80 more would be added in a year’s time, said Nandini Rajamani, Co-director, BioScienceIndia Programme.

The aim, however, is to go beyond edit-a-thons, to examine issues that have not received the attention they deserve. Women scientists in India are not on par with men for several reasons (see info box) and the “leaky pipeline” theory is used to describe their decreasing visibility. Vishnu Vardhan, Director, Access to Knowledge team, CIS, said the aim is to motivate a new and younger generation of women scientists.

Karthik Ramaswamy, visiting scientist at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and a participant in the edit-a-thon, said science in India has a ‘diversity problem’ with Indian women and minorities represented inadequately. “There are very few women scientists among faculty of science institutions because they have no role models. Hopefully, this (presence on Wikipedia) will provide them with role models,” he added.