Did you know that people consult Wikipedia more often than trusted National Institutes 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 (NNLM) 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 more reliable 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 explained 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 much fun it was! I loved following our hashtag (check out #CiteNLM2018!) and seeing the various articles our participants were improving. The second was how easy it was to edit articles and add citations. 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 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 plan to host the next one in October, and then another 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 these events. After all, we know that people aren’t likely to stop using Wikipedia, so we might as well continue improving the content available there!