Grants:Programs/Wikimedia Research Fund/Digital Role Models: Can Wikipedia diversify science

statusnot funded
Digital Role Models: Can Wikipedia diversify science?
start and end datesJuly 2023 - July 2024
budget (USD)35,000 USD
fiscal year2022-23
applicant(s)• Kris Gulati, Vishnu Kant and Jose Rosa

Overview edit


Kris Gulati, Vishnu Kant and Jose Rosa

Affiliation or grant type

Harvard Business School; The University of California Merced; Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad


Kris Gulati, Vishnu Kant and Jose Rosa

Wikimedia username(s)

Project title

Digital Role Models: Can Wikipedia diversify science?

Research proposal edit

Description edit

Description of the proposed project, including aims and approach. Be sure to clearly state the problem, why it is important, why previous approaches (if any) have been insufficient, and your methods to address it.

Can Wikipedia serve as a digital role model?

Wikipedia arguably has the largest collection of scientific role-models available on the internet. At the same time, there has been an emerging literature on the importance of role-model effects. For example, Gershenson et al. (2022) find that Black students randomly assigned to at least one Black teacher are more likely to graduate from high school and college. Riise et al. (2022) find that girls who are exposed to female general practitioners are more likely to enter STEM. Finally, Porter and Serra (2020) find that bringing in charismatic female alumni to speak to students for approximately one hour leads to increased female students’ enrolment and likelihood to major in economics.

These results are both startling and fascinating. If even small role model interventions can increase neglected groups into science and diversify science, we should be trying to adapt these interventions so as many groups as possible can access role models.

Our research project hopes to see if Wikipedia can pose as a digital role model, thus providing a cheap and widely available way of increasing diversity in science. We aim to conduct an experiment in classrooms where children come from diverse backgrounds: females, lower socio-economic status, non-white, and ‘low caste’ individuals to see if we can use Wikipedia as a digital role model to encourage them into scientific careers.

Our proposed experiment will be a very low-cost nudge to see if this mechanism works. We plan to randomly assign some students mandatory reading of Wikipedia profiles of famous scientists from diverse backgrounds, coupled with short Youtube clips of famous scientists.

The first experiment will be in India on ‘low-caste’ students. We aim to randomly assign some of these classrooms Wikipedia pages and Youtube videos of ‘low-caste’ scientists to see if we can incentivize these students into pursuing or persisting in STEM majors at college.

The second experiment will focus on female, non-white, and low socio-economic status students.

We believe that our study has two important features. Firstly, we potentially highlight a new mechanism - digital role model effects - and Wikipedia combined with other online mediums can be used to nudge individuals into science. Secondly, we believe that our findings are an extremely low-cost intervention that could be easily adopted into curricula across the world in efforts to create diversity in science.

Personnel edit

  • We will hire another PhD Student to implement the experiment in India

Budget edit

Approximate amount requested in USD.

35,000 USD

Budget Description

Briefly describe what you expect to spend money on (specific budgets and details are not necessary at this time).

$20,000 - Costs associated with hiring a PhD student for the duration of the project (including costs like benefits, insurance, etc.) to ensure the completion of the project in a timely manner

$2,000 - Open access fees

$4,000 - Conference fees for the dissemination of the project and presentations to receive feedback on the experimental design.

$9,000 - Costs for PIs to work on the project.

Impact edit

Address the impact and relevance to the Wikimedia projects, including the degree to which the research will address the 2030 Wikimedia Strategic Direction and/or support the work of Wikimedia user groups, affiliates, and developer communities. If your work relates to knowledge gaps, please directly relate it to the knowledge gaps taxonomy.

Firstly, we believe that we highlight a potentially new way Wikipedia acts as a “Knowledge as a Service”. We believe we could be one of the first studies demonstrating that Wikipedia adds value to science by acting as a digital role model (Evaluate, Iterate, and Adapt).

Furthermore, if the proposed study has an effect, it provides a direction and motivation in which Wikipedia may expand further (Identify Topics for Impact).

Secondly, we believe that the proposed study can potentially improve knowledge equity (equity and empowerment). Our proposed study aims to see if we can create a very cheap digital role model that can be adopted by any teacher or instructor in the world in attempts to diversify science.

Dissemination edit

Plans for dissemination.

We will ensure our findings are published in a journal that has an open-access option. Furthermore, we will endeavour to post a preprint of the paper on websites that allow people to access the academic paper without having to pay.

Alongside the academic paper, we hope to have a more digestible accompanying blog post that synthesizes the core results to a general audience.

Finally, we will be happy to engage in any other media requests.

Past Contributions edit

Prior contributions to related academic and/or research projects and/or the Wikimedia and free culture communities. If you do not have prior experience, please explain your planned contributions.

Kris is working on the economics of science and innovation and his research focuses on how to improve and diversify science. He is currently working on papers with Professor Christian Helmers (Santa Clara) on uncertainty in scientific funding and Professor Christian Fons-Rosen (UC Merced) on novelty in innovation. He is currently spending two semesters at Harvard Business School working on a large randomised control trial on the scientific management of labs.

Vishnu Kant is currently interested in applied microeconomics and microeconomic theory.

Jose Rosa is actively working on the economics of education, with a special interest on students working in STEM. He is currently working with Professor Briana Ballis (UC Merced) on a paper that looks changes in special education laws and how that spills over to siblings.

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