May 19th, 2015 7:55 am ET - Emily Temple-Wood
For the past four months, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has been doing something new and exciting for a government agency: they have been employing a Wikipedian-in-Residence. This collaboration with Wikipedia makes NIOSH only the second federal agency, and the first federal scientific agency, to engage with the encyclopedia project in this fashion; it is a collaboration that has the potential to spark many more. Wikipedia, the fifth-biggest website in the world, reaches far more members of the public each day than NIOSH ever could; lending NIOSH’s resources to the enormous encyclopedia gives us the opportunity to disseminate occupational safety and health information to a far greater group of people than NIOSH could alone.
As Wikipedian-in-Residence, I am focusing primarily on directly improving Wikimedia content using the vast resources available at NIOSH. NIOSH has a wide body of research and experts available to it, and the organization regularly produces high-quality content of the type that is ideal for improving under-developed areas of Wikipedia. Some of the NIOSH resources I’ve been able to use during this period include Cochrane reviews conducted by NIOSH researchers or associated groups, a variety of literature reviews, and epidemiological research and chemical data, just to name a few. Right now, we are in the process of updating the English Wikipedia with United States-based chemical safety data, including recommended and permissible exposure limits, but don’t worry: we will soon be expanding our collaboration to use data from OSH agencies around the world!
Images from NIOSH’s collection, covering a wide variety of occupational safety and health topics, are already available at Category: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health on Wikimedia Commons, a free image repository. We will be continuing to add to the collection there during my remaining time in this position.
In addition to expanding current English Wikipedia articles, I have also been creating new articles in my time with NIOSH. My first two creations, covering the previously unrecognized occupational lung diseases indium lung and flock worker’s lung, appeared on the “Did You Know” section of the project’s Main Page. NIOSH was deeply involved in discovering and characterizing both of these diseases, and their resources were instrumental in my being able to write encyclopedia articles about them.
Resources like NIOSH’s make a real difference to our ability to cover these topics; although articles on occupational safety and health are quite heavily viewed by the English Wikipedia’s readers, there are nevertheless no Featured Articles or Good Articles in the topic area as far as I know. When a recent paper specifically mentioned Wikipedia’s article on occupational lung disease as needing serious work I was able to use my access to high-quality NIOSH resources to fill that need. Though still very much a work in progress (collaborators welcome!) it is now a fairly comprehensive overview of occupational lung diseases and pathogenic agents.
Dr. John Howard, director of NIOSH, said “The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is pleased to partner with Wikipedia to extend our reach in communicating our research findings and recommendations to the vast audience of Wikipedia readers. It is incumbent upon us, as the agency designated by law to lead national research for preventing work-related injury, illness, and death, to share our rich information with as many people as we can so they can make informed opinions about their workplace health and safety. Wikipedia provides a trusted, popular resource to do so in today’s national, indeed global, virtual community.” NIOSH is committed to sharing excellent occupational health information with the world and has a mission very much aligned with Wikipedia. As Wikipedian-in-Residence I am excited to be participating in a collaboration that lets me work simultaneously on two things I love: building Wikipedia’s articles and the improving the public’s access to reliable medical information!
For more information about the Wikipedian-in-Residence program click here.
Emily Temple-Wood, Wikipedian-in-Residence