Samuel’s work is chronicled in an article he wrote - published in The Washington Post “Wikipedia’s political science coverage is biased. I tried to fix it“. In it, he explains that the amount of biographies of female political scientists on Wikipedia are significantly less than the percentage of female political scientists estimated to exist in reality. As Samuel states:
These disparities matter.. .. Groups that are underrepresented in academia tend to be missing at an even higher rate on Wikipedia. And there is growing evidence that Wikipedia articles have tangible effects, including the power to influence the contents of scientific papers. Wikipedia does not just passively reflect biases. It amplifies and reinforces them.
Samuel discusses issues with citations as well as the biographies being disproportionately lower for women than those of their male counterparts, and he also delves into the serious bias based on national wealth and political science coverage: politicians from wealthy countries receive more coverage compared to others.
To try to reduce these biases, every day of 2020, I created or expanded a political-science-related Wikipedia article, writing new pages about political scientists from groups underrepresented on Wikipedia.
I asked Samuel what it was like for a busy Graduate student, to take time every day for 364* days to add to Wikipedia (*since the full year he chose was 2020 - a leap year - there were actually 365 days- no wonder it felt so long!):
In January 2020 when I started making one contribution every day, I thought I would have so many great stories about all the weird places where I wrote my daily Wikipedia page -- like, that time I had to write a page on the bus, or at the pub, or on the beach. Sadly, that's not exactly how things turned out! But I was really glad that, during lockdown, I had a way to do a bit of volunteering without leaving my house. If anyone is interested in learning interesting facts and making the world a little bit more fair, I think quarantine is the perfect time to start contributing to Wikipedia.
Which brings us back to something I missed when first reading Sam’s article “I was building on almost a decade of work by activists who have tried to correct the gender ratio in Wikipedia’s pages about scientists.” He is focusing on political science but “there's actually a huge and highly organized ecosystem of people working on this stuff! I was pitching in on the political science side of things, but there are people working on reducing bias in coverage all over Wikipedia. The biggest group is WikiProject Women in Red, and they've been around for a few years”
Samuel goes on to further detail why the work is important and how it can make a larger impact, in the Washington Post article.
An interesting volunteer project during an interesting year.