Have you ever heard of a wikibomb? Wonder why one might be important? The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research is hoping to make a big impact with its wikibomb event and Christine Siddoway, professor of geology, is right in the middle of it.
By intentionally “bombing” Wikipedia with information about female researchers, Siddoway says the event helps to better capture the demographics that exist today in polar sciences. SCAR asked the Antarctic research community to nominate women and write their online biographies for the Wikipedia online encyclopedia. So far, about 100 women from 30 countries have been profiled, including Siddoway. About 75 Wikipedia biographies of Antarctic women researchers were launched during the wikibomb event at the annual SCAR conference this week. Siddoway’s was one of the biographies posted, drafted by colleague Trista Vick-Majors ’03, a microbiologist. This celebration of female Antarctic researchers, including Siddoway, aims to raise their profile to help provide more visible female role models for early career scientists.
“The contributions that women have made to Antarctic science are still under-represented on Wikipedia,” says Vick-Majors. “Many members of the public rely on Wikipedia as a source of information, and making sure that the wide breadth of Antarctic researchers are represented is key to furthering the public understanding of science.”
Siddoway traveled to Kuala Lumpur for the SCAR conference and coinciding wikibomb event Aug. 23. She says many more women are actively participating in – and leading – polar science research today than in what she calls the “heroic age of Exploration.”
“For example, my current Antarctic project, named ROSETTA-Ice, has five principal investigators from four academic or research institutions, and four of these are women. The women scientists all bring different expertise, and each has a strong funding and publication record that qualifies them to collaborate on this work. Just a couple of decades ago, a typical research program did not have that proportion of women in the position of scientific leadership and discovery – not just in United States research programs but in those of nations around the world.”
Vick-Majors, who was also featured in the wikibomb event, says Siddoway’s dedication to not only grow the scientific understanding of Antarctica, but also to share her experiences with others, makes her stand out. “It is rare for such a successful Antarctic researcher to simultaneously be a such a successful teacher, and [Siddoway] deserves to be recognized for her commitment,” says Vick-Majors.
Siddoway explains that there are stories worth telling about women students and women scientists, and plenty of achievements to be celebrated, though they’re stories not often told. “It’s beneficial to illuminate these personalities and weave women’s science into the fabric of human achievements now, when there is so much to celebrate,” she says. “Chances are that some aspect will lodge in the imagination of a student and at some stage that will aid the student’s ability to recognize a key question that provides direction or allows self-determination in life.”
Vick-Majors adds that while more women are working in Antarctica now than ever before, they are still often the minority in Antarctic research stations and that they must be prepared to meet a number of challenges – not just the scientific ones – in order to succeed.
“Antarctica is an amazing place to conduct scientific research. [But] field seasons are often long, with complicated logistics and less-than-desirable weather,” she says, “Antarctic scientists, especially the ones who choose to return year-after-year have to have a high level of dedication to their work, and an extraordinary amount of patience, in order to overcome the challenges of working on ‘the Ice.’”