Wikimedia Foundation Research Award of the Year

The Wikimedia Foundation Research team established the Wikimedia Foundation Research Award of the Year in 2021 to recognize recent research that has the potential to have significant impact on the Wikimedia projects or research in this space.

2021

Content Growth and Attention Contagion in Information Networks: Addressing Information Poverty on Wikipedia (paper)

This innovative research demonstrates causal evidence of the relationship between increases in content quality in English Wikipedia articles and subsequent increases in attention. The researchers conduct a natural experiment using edits done on English Wikipedia via the Wiki Education Foundation program. The paper shows that English Wikipedia articles that were improved by students in the program gained more viewers than a group of otherwise similar articles. It also found that this effect spills over into a range of articles linked to from the improved articles.

The Wikimedia Foundation’s mission has two parts: (1) disseminating knowledge and (2) encouraging people to engage in the production of new knowledge. This work provides new evidence that links these goals in an exciting way. From the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia movement’s perspective, this research provides strong evidence to support a range of content improvement efforts. Although it might seem that there is a tension between focusing resources on improving content that is poorly developed (but also currently unpopular) and putting efforts toward articles that have more viewers and higher audiences already, this work suggests that content improvement efforts focused on content gaps and areas of information poverty can create new audiences for that content.

Participatory Research for Low-resourced Machine Translation: A Case Study in African Languages (paper) and the Masakhane Community (learn more)

This paper and the Masakhane community have attempted to fundamentally change how we approach the challenge of "low-resourced languages" in Africa. The research describes a novel approach for participatory research around machine translation for African languages. The authors show how this approach can overcome the challenges these languages face to join the Web and some of the technologies other languages benefit from today.

The work of the authors and the community is an inspiring example of work towards Knowledge Equity, one of the two main pillars of the 2030 Wikimedia Movement Strategy. "As a social movement, we will focus our efforts on the knowledge and communities that have been left out by structures of power and privilege. We will welcome people from every background to build strong and diverse communities. We will break down the social, political, and technical barriers preventing people from accessing and contributing to free knowledge."

We cannot think of a better or more inspiring example of a project from the last year seeking to achieve these goals. Additionally, we see the success of this project as something that will directly support a range of Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia Movement goals including the newly-announced Abstract Wikipedia which will rely heavily on machine translation tools.