Looking for global health-related Wikipedia contributors

In April 2016, I posted on the Effec­tive Altru­ism Fo­rum ask­ing for peo­ple in­ter­ested in con­tribut­ing to Wikipe­dia in some do­mains that might be of in­ter­est to effec­tive al­tru­ists. That helped a lot with the suc­cess of the pro­ject so far, and I’m now look­ing for more hands on deck to reach the next level of cov­er­age on top­ics re­lated to global health.

I’m look­ing for peo­ple who are:

  • in­ter­ested in and ca­pa­ble of re­search­ing and writ­ing on global health,

  • able to un­der­stand and deal with some of the bu­reau­cracy of Wikipe­dia edit­ing and/​or will­ing to learn how to get to that level of un­der­stand­ing, and

  • will­ing to ac­cept rel­a­tively low (though still cu­mu­la­tively sub­stan­tial) pay.

Not all the re­search will nec­es­sar­ily go on Wikipe­dia, but Wikipe­dia ar­ti­cles will still be an im­por­tant fo­cal point of efforts. Ad­di­tional in­sights that don’t nec­es­sar­ily fit on a Wikipe­dia page (such as those that fail Wikipe­dia’s no­ta­bil­ity , ver­ifi­a­bil­ity, and no origi­nal re­search crite­ria) can be shared in other venues such as Face­book posts and blog posts.

If you are in­ter­ested, con­tact me by email at vipul­naik1@gmail.com or get in touch with me on Face­book.


1. Global health back­ground: what we have done and where we’re headed

In 2015 and early 2016, I suc­cess­fully ex­per­i­mented with con­tent cre­ation with Alex K. Chen. Alex made a num­ber of Wikipe­dia pages, some of which I paid for di­rectly. A no­table type of page we had some suc­cess with was timeline pages. In­spired by my own work in 2014 work­ing on timelines of some tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies, I asked Alex to cre­ate many more timeline pages. He obliged. I liked how eye­bal­ling these timelines gave me a quick in­tu­ition of how com­pa­nies’ product, user­base, fi­nan­cial situ­a­tion, and com­pet­i­tive land­scape changed over time

In 2016, I sought to ap­ply this knowl­edge and ex­pe­rience el­se­where. In par­tic­u­lar, I was in­ter­ested in im­prov­ing cov­er­age of global health on Wikipe­dia. A lot of pri­vate, gov­ern­ment, and philan­thropic money is spent on health­care, health sys­tems, and med­i­cal re­search, and much is known about the field and its his­tory. How­ever, when try­ing to un­der­stand the land­scape, I had a lot of trou­ble keep­ing in my mind’s eye ba­sic facts about the cur­rent state of things and the his­tory. For in­stance, what is the rel­a­tive bur­den and foot­print of malaria, tu­ber­cu­lo­sis, cholera, and in­fluenza? How has the fight against malaria changed over time, and what can we rea­son­ably ex­pect will hap­pen in the next few decades? In the coun­tries where malaria (or tu­ber­cu­lo­sis, or measles) is ba­si­cally nonex­is­tent, how did it get erad­i­cated? And how do cur­rent an­ti­malaria ap­proaches com­pare with each other and with past ones?

Some of these ques­tions were easy to an­swer once I chose to for­mu­late them, some were hard. But I didn’t know of a one-stop shop where I could get an­swers to the easy ques­tions and get in­tu­ition that would help me in­tel­li­gently an­swer the harder ones. So I en­listed the help of Issa Rice (who’d been do­ing con­tract work for me for a while), Se­bas­tian Sanchez (a friend who re­con­nected with me on see­ing my Effec­tive Altru­ism Fo­rum post), and oth­ers, to help build a good global health knowl­edge base.

We worked on this in a va­ri­ety of ways.

1.1. Timelines

The first timeline we made re­lated to global health was the timeline of global health, origi­nally by Issa Rice, but with sub­se­quent ex­pan­sion by oth­ers, in­clud­ing Amy Zhang, Se­bas­tian Sanchez, and my­self. I per­son­ally find this timeline fairly valuable for get­ting a quick sense of how global health has evolved, though there’s a lot of po­ten­tial for ex­pan­sion of what things were like pre-1800. One of the in­ter­est­ing things I found in the timeline (but couldn’t ex­plic­itly men­tion there) was the clus­ter­ing of a large num­ber of events around 2000; it’s not clear to me if this is a se­lec­tion ar­ti­fact on our part or a gen­uine phe­nomenon.

Since then, Se­bas­tian Sanchez has worked on nu­mer­ous timelines of two ma­jor types as well as a few oth­ers.

  1. Disease-re­lated timelines (in­clud­ing malaria, cholera, tu­ber­cu­lo­sis, in­fluenza, car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease, stroke, Alzheimer’s dis­ease, and var­i­ous can­cers). The timelines of malaria and cholera, which were among the ear­liest, have re­cently been sig­nifi­cantly ex­panded and re­vamped. I find both these timelines quite in­for­ma­tive. I of­ten re­fer to the timeline of malaria when read­ing about pre­sent-day malaria in­ter­ven­tions. And I fre­quently referred to the timeline of cholera when watch­ing Jin (Wikipe­dia), a Ja­panese TV se­ries about a mod­ern-day doc­tor who time-trav­eled to 1860s Ja­pan and ap­plied mod­ern med­i­cal knowl­edge to com­bat dis­eases there.
    What’s miss­ing right now :

    1. We don’t have timelines for many dis­eases, such as measles, smal­l­pox, po­lio, and Cha­gas dis­ease. Our ini­tial fo­cus was on timelines for dis­eases that didn’t have ex­ist­ing his­tory pages and/​or had a huge death toll. I’m now in­ter­ested in finish­ing up timelines for the re­main­ing cur­rent and past ma­jor dis­eases.

    2. Ex­ist­ing timelines can be im­proved and ex­panded, par­tic­u­larly with in­for­ma­tion on data be­fore 1800 as well as a bet­ter sense of the chang­ing ge­o­graph­i­cal shape of the dis­ease. In ad­di­tion to cre­at­ing new timelines, I’m hop­ing to shore up all the ex­ist­ing dis­ease timelines to the level of the timelines of malaria and cholera.

  2. Coun­try health­care timelines have been in­ter­est­ing to look at to un­der­stand the evolu­tion of re­gional and na­tional health­care sys­tems and ac­com­plish­ments. I referred to the timeline of health­care in Ja­pan while watch­ing Jin.
    What’s miss­ing right now: A lot of coun­tries are miss­ing, in­clud­ing the United States. For large coun­tries, re­gional health­care sys­tems may also de­serve their own timelines. Pre-1900 data is sparse for many coun­tries, and de­serves im­prove­ment. In some cases, an­cient health­care sys­tems may de­serve sep­a­rate timelines. The timeline events can also be im­proved to give a bet­ter qual­i­ta­tive sense of how things were at var­i­ous points in time.

  3. Se­bas­tian worked on some one-off timelines, such as the timeline of hos­pi­tals. Other similar timelines we are con­sid­er­ing will cover top­ics such surgery, med­i­cal test­ing, med­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion, bac­te­ri­ol­ogy, vi­rol­ogy, and drug de­vel­op­ment.

1.2. Other deep pages

Fol­low­ing up on things he un­cov­ered while work­ing on the timeline of global health, Issa went on to make pages on top­ics such as the child sur­vival rev­olu­tion, health sys­tems strength­en­ing, and pri­or­ity-set­ting in global health. We’re look­ing to cre­ate more such pages, such as endgame (in­fec­tious dis­ease erad­i­ca­tion), se­lec­tive pri­mary health­care, and GOBI-FFF.

1.3. Or­ga­ni­za­tion and pro­gram pages

As we cre­ated the timelines, we found a lot of po­ten­tial for new page cre­ation. The timelines of global health and malaria spurred the cre­ation of pages such as the Rock­efel­ler San­i­tary Com­mis­sion, 3 by 5 Ini­ti­a­tive, The State of the World’s Chil­dren, Global Ini­ti­a­tive for Tra­di­tional Sys­tems of Health, Global Out­break Alert and Re­sponse Net­work, and Global Po­lio Erad­i­ca­tion Ini­ti­a­tive. In gen­eral, the flow was from timelines and deep pages to spe­cific or­ga­ni­za­tion and pro­gram pages. How­ever, some­times in­ves­ti­gat­ing a spe­cific pro­gram led us to iden­ti­fy­ing gen­eral con­cepts that de­served their own pages. In par­tic­u­lar, while try­ing to get in­for­ma­tion on some of the or­ga­ni­za­tions, Issa and I came across re­peated use of the term “pri­or­ity-set­ting” and this led Issa to cre­ate the page on pri­or­ity-set­ting in global health.

We have a lot of new or­ga­ni­za­tion and pro­gram pages we are look­ing to cre­ate. You can get a list from our new ar­ti­cle pool. But there are many other po­ten­tial pages to work on that we have not yet listed.

2. How you can help

2.1. Su­per-ca­sual help

If you are in­ter­ested in do­ing very small amounts of work, you can help im­prove some of the ex­ist­ing pages, such as adding new events to timelines, or helping im­prove refer­ences on ex­ist­ing pages. Th­ese are small tasks that you can perform as you get time. The main up­front cost here is fa­mil­iariz­ing your­self with Wikipe­dia’s norms as well as the sort of help we’d need. We’d be happy to provide as­sis­tance and guidance on this front.

2.2. Spo­radic chunks of solid work

If you think you can de­vote a few chunks of a few hours ev­ery month or two, then cre­at­ing an or­ga­ni­za­tion or pro­gram page when you get a chance can be a good use of the time. You ba­si­cally do some re­search and col­late the in­for­ma­tion in a Wikipe­dia page in your user space. With some help from us, you pol­ish that to some­thing that can be pub­lished to main space, and we then mi­grate it to main space. If you are un­able to finish it up, some­body else can still use your userspace draft as a start­ing point.

2.3. Deep work

If you think you can de­vote a few hours a week rea­son­ably reg­u­larly, you can con­tribute to the cre­ation of new timelines or other deep pages. Th­ese re­quire more up­front in­vest­ment and longer stretches of time, since you are piec­ing to­gether in­for­ma­tion from many di­verse sources.

Of course it’s pos­si­ble to tran­si­tion from any sort of work to any other.

3. Financial

3.1. Budget

In 2017, I ex­pect to spend some­where be­tween $5,000 and $15,000 on spon­sor­ing health-re­lated ma­te­rial, with much of it on Wikipe­dia. With the cur­rent pool of work­ers and com­mit­ments I have, I ex­pect to spend at least $5,000, and ap­prox­i­mately $10,000 if ev­ery­thing goes well. There­fore, I ex­pect to af­ford to be able to spend at least $5,000 more on ad­di­tional work­ers.

In 2016, I spent a lit­tle over $4,500 on health-re­lated con­tent cre­ation. In the year, I was also spon­sor­ing con­tent cre­ation in many other do­mains, in­clud­ing an­i­mal welfare and rights (a lit­tle over $2,500, much of it to Jesse Clif­ton for a lot of work on that on Wikipe­dia). Work on some of those other do­mains will be wind­ing down in 2017, since I want to give higher pri­or­ity to get­ting the health story straight first.

Also, in 2016, con­tent cre­ation started in earnest only in late April 2016, whereas for 2017 I have the whole year, so I ex­pect to be able to spend more.

This es­sen­tially means that for su­per-ca­sual help and spo­radic chunks of work, you don’t have to worry about ex­haust­ing my funds. If you’re do­ing deep work, I ex­pect to be able to fund your work fully. If it so hap­pens that I get way more in­ter­ested peo­ple than the funds I have available, that should also mean that I more quickly ac­com­plish the global health con­tent cre­ation goals I had, which is a great prob­lem to have!

3.2. Paid ver­sus un­paid work

If you are in­ter­ested in work­ing on some of the ma­te­rial from the list and would like guidance and sup­port but do not seek pay­ment, we wel­come that. How­ever, my im­pres­sion is that the act of get­ting paid helps set dis­ci­pline and ex­pec­ta­tions. This is so even though the mag­ni­tude of pay­ment it­self may be a lot smaller than what you could make in other jobs. There­fore, please do not be shy or hes­i­tant about re­ceiv­ing pay­ment. If you feel that you don’t want the money, you can ask for the cor­re­spond­ing amount to be donated to a char­ity of your choice in­stead, or sim­ply let me send you the money and donate it your­self.

If un­paid work re­ally ex­cites or at­tracts you more, you might want to con­sider host­ing a Wikiathon like Ju­lia Wise and Jeff Kauf­man did, as de­scribed later in this post.

3.3. Co-funding

If you’re in­ter­ested in co-fund­ing some of the con­tent cre­ation work, please get in touch with me as well! I didn’t fo­cus too much on co-fund­ing be­cause I am most ex­cited about get­ting con­tent cre­ated and can af­ford to spend for it in the short run. But co-fund­ing can help fur­ther in­crease the cred­i­bil­ity and the at­trac­tive­ness of the work, as well as provide di­verse in­put and in­crease ac­countabil­ity.

4. Learn more about con­tent creation

4.1. The con­tent cre­ation I have spon­sored and in­tend to sponsor

You can get a full list of all con­tract work spon­sored by me, as well as what I’ve paid for it, here. You can see only the health-re­lated work here, and only the global health-re­lated work (ex­clud­ing coun­try health­care and gen­eral health-re­lated biol­ogy) here. You can look at our new ar­ti­cle pool to get a list of ar­ti­cles we seek. To get a bet­ter sense of the on­board­ing pro­cess for con­tent cre­ators, see Issa Rice’s memo to new ed­i­tors.

4.2. Con­tent cre­ation ac­tivi­ties by others

You might also be in­ter­ested in the Re­search Wikiathon con­ducted by Ju­lia Wise and Jeff Kauf­man, where a bunch of peo­ple got to­gether and used my pool of ar­ti­cles to cre­ate con­tent. The work they did in­cluded up­dat­ing the timeline of de­worm­ing, cre­at­ing the ar­ti­cle on Pri­vacy Im­pact Assess­ment, and do­ing ini­tial re­search for (though not com­plet­ing) the ar­ti­cles on the Scien­tific Char­ity Move­ment and food fre­quency ques­tion­naire. Ju­lia Wise wrote a doc­u­ment with take­aways here. The Wikiathon is also refer­enced in Jeff’s blog post about the Scien­tific Char­ity Move­ment, which was in­spired by his re­search for the Wikipe­dia ar­ti­cle.

5. Li­cense and credits

The post is re­leased to the pub­lic do­main. Linked or refer­enced ma­te­rial may be sub­ject to its own copy­right re­stric­tions.

The post in­cor­po­rates feed­back from Issa Rice and Ethan Bashkan­sky. All er­rors and im­perfec­tions are my own.

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