Wikipedia: helping to promote the art and science of civil engineering

The ICE's information systems panel has been helping the ICE add, expand and improve Wikipedia's civil engineering content and wants to encourage more ICE members to contribute. Panel vice chair Paul Wilkinson explains.

Civil Engineering - as seen on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Civil Engineering - as seen on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Wikipedia is the free online encyclopaedia anyone can edit. It is the world's fifth most visited website, with some 18 billion page views a month, over half of which relate to the English language version.

Content is created by volunteers and the English version has over 30 000 active editors or 'Wikipedians'. Through such enthusiastic and vigilant contributors, reference quality information is developed and maintained, helping share knowledge around the world.

Nature showed that a sample of Wikipedia's science articles were close to the level of accuracy of Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Wikipedians are now more insistent upon referencing reliable third-party sources of information.

Alongside Wikipedia, the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation also hosts several Wiki sister projects, including Wikimedia Commons – a repository of over 18 million freely available media files –including photographs, illustrations, videos and audio files – many of which are used to illustrate Wikipedia articles.

Civil engineering on Wikipedia

The English Wikipedia includes thousands of articles on civil engineering, notable civil engineers and related topics, yet there remains considerable scope to expand and improve the content of these and many other civil engineering-related articles.

To help, Wikipedia has an engineering portal; from this, users can find other portals on fields such as transport, bridges, infrastructure and aviation. These link to relevant content across all the Wiki sister projects – the bridges portal, for example, links to images of bridges in Wikimedia Commons.

Alongside most portals, collaborative 'Wikiprojects' enable groups to focus on improving Wikipedia's coverage of those areas. There is a civil engineering Wikiproject, with links to dedicated sub-projects including airports and dams.

Recognising Wikipedia's value in disseminating knowledge about civil engineering, the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) information systems panel organised a Wikipedia workshop in 2012. This was followed in July 2013 by a galleries, libraries, archives and museums event at the ICE, where new Wikipedians learned how to edit alongside experienced editors, and a dozen new civil engineering articles were added. A free-to-download briefing document was also produced.

Contributing to Wikipedia

The ICE membership has an enormous wealth of knowledge about civil engineering subjects, and Wikipedia presents a powerful global platform for some of this information to be shared and to help improve knowledge of the profession.

Interested ICE members are encouraged to contribute – but with care: the briefing document outlines the pitfalls to avoid. Specialist ICE groups can support a relevant Wikiproject, while regional groups could organise further galleries, libraries and museums-type events.

ICE members and their employers might also contribute to Wikimedia sister projects – for example, sharing photographs or old archives on an open 'creative commons' license so that they can be used as illustrations or references for articles. ICE is also exploring how notable engineers can also have their voices recorded as part of Wikipedia's 'Voice intro' audio-project.

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