Expanding Reach of Occupational Health Knowledge: Contributing Subject-Matter Expertise to Wikipedia as a Class Assignment

Inquiry. 2021 Jan-Dec;58:469580211035735. doi: 10.1177/00469580211035735.


The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and several university programs have collaborated on a large effort to expand and improve occupational safety and health content in Wikipedia using a platform developed by Wiki Education. This article describes the initiative, student contributions, and evaluations of this effort by instructors from two universities between 2016 and 2020. The Wiki Education platform allowed instructors to set timelines and track students’ progress throughout the semester while students accessed training to best expand health content in Wikipedia. Students chose topics in occupational health based on their interests and by a set of topics deemed as a priority by the “WikiProject Occupational Safety and Health.” Students’ contributions were peer-reviewed by instructors, NIOSH Wikipedians-in-Residence, and traditional Wikipedians. Students presented their projects in class at the end of the semester. Students from both schools expanded 55 articles, created 8 new articles, and translated 2 articles to Spanish, adding 1270 references; these articles were viewed over 8 million times by May 2020. Feedback received from the implementation suggested that students learned about science communication and digital literacy-providing valuable content on occupational health while reducing misinformation in the public domain. The process of identifying and addressing gaps in occupational health in Wikipedia requires participation and engagement toward improving access to information that otherwise would be restricted to the scientific literature, often behind a paywall. The Wikipedia assignment proved to be an engaging approach for instruction and information literacy. It helped students improve their science communication skills and digital literacy, tools that are likely to be critical for successful communication of science in their future careers.

PMID:34595964 | DOI:10.1177/00469580211035735

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