Grants:Programs/Wikimedia Research Fund/The Impact of Wikipedia on Science

The Impact of Wikipedia on Science
start and end datesJanuary 2022 to December 2022
budget (USD)40,000-50,000 USD
applicant(s)• Kris Gulati

Overview edit


Applicant's Wikimedia username. If one is not provided, then the applicant's name will be provided for community review.

Kris Gulati

Project title

The Impact of Wikipedia on Science

Entity Receiving Funds

Provide the name of the individual or organization that would receive the funds.

Kris Gulati or University of California: Merced

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.

This project aims to investigate how Wikipedia shapes science. The main research question is: does adding profiles of eminent researchers on Wikipedia shape scientific research?

This study can be seen as a follow-up study to Thompson and Hanley (2017) who investigate how science is shaped by Wikipedia through the creation of new Wikipedia pages. However, the focus is different. We focus on creating new profiles for eminent scientists (see here for an example:

We think there are a few reasons focusing on academic profiles (rather than new concepts) is interesting:

Firstly, academics often search for peoples' names. For example, if I read an Acemoglu paper, I may not always search the specific theory behind the work. Instead, I search for the name on Google, which leads me to the Wikipedia page, which ultimately leads me to his body of work. Thus, this research question looks at an additional mechanism where Wikipedia may shape science.

Secondly, it could be the case that there are fewer female profiles of scientists than male profiles on Wikipedia. We would investigate this and see if adding female profile pages shapes how scientists interact with their work.

Finally, it could also be the case that many academics from developing countries or non-English speaking countries are less likely to be on Wikipedia. We would also investigate this by having a treatment arm, in which profile pages of these academics are created (in English and other languages) to see if this shapes scientific research.

To the best of my knowledge, these questions are novel. Economists are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of Wikipedia for the development of science (Hinnosaar 2016, Hinnosaar et al. 2021, Thompson and Hanley 2017).

We plan to randomly assign new academic profiles on Wikipedia in our Randomised Control Trial. We will then continue to track this information across a variety of metrics. We will also investigate if this has a larger effect for female, ethnic minority, and non-english speaking scientists.

We hope to contribute to the burgeoning literature on how Wikipedia is a powerful public good. In particular, we wish to further explore how Wikipedia can shape scientific research.

Budget edit

Approximate amount requested in USD.


Budget Description

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

The money will mostly be spent on my salary and potentially hiring a research assistant (perhaps a 70%/30% split). All other expenses will be covered by my PhD granting university.

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.

The research question deal closely with 'Knowledge Gaps'. The logic being that many people try to identify information on scientists by searching for scientists' names. Thus, perhaps the creation of these new profiles demonstrates how Wikipedia can shape science.

Additionally, the research project helps to deal with 'Representation Gaps'. Because our methodology is a randomized control trial, we can see whether there is a differential effect from the creation of new Wikipedia pages for women and ethnic minorities. Furthermore, we will implement our study in English and Spanish (and more languages if possible) to see if this shapes science across countries (and languages).

Dissemination edit

Plans for dissemination.

I'm very passionate about the public dissemination of knowledge. Although the main aim of the research is to publish in an academic journal, I would also aim to create accompanying blog posts to help further outreach. Any other potential sources of public outreach would be happily engaged with such as podcasts, Youtube videos, interviews, and non-English speaking blogs. I strongly believe in disseminating academic knowledge across a wide array of mediums and platforms.

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.

My research focuses on the economics of science, innovation, and innovation. I also look at long-run growth patterns. I'm currently working on three (early) papers:

1. With my advisor Professor Christian Fons-Rosen, I'm working on a paper on how why the entrepreneurial firm is more innovative than larger incumbent firms.

2. With my advisor Professor Justin Cook, I'm working on a paper that looks how certain agricultural changes led to the reduction in long-run conflict between 1700-1900.

3. With my colleague Jose Rosa (second year graduate student), I'm working on a paper that investigates the gender bias in teaching evaluations. We're deploying a very novel methodological tool to get to the heart of this research question.

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