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Hackathon - ISCB Wikipedia

SCS Wikipedia Hackathon 2021: Connecting COSIs to Wikipedia

July 23, 2021 at 16:00 - 18:00 UTC

Hackathon RegistrationCheck your local time

The main goals of this hackathon are:

  • To better connect ISCB Communities of Special Interest (COSIs) to relevant Wikipedia articles by conducting a wide scale review of current computational biology/bioinformatics-related articles.
  • To foster a community of editors with an interest in improving coverage of computational biology topics on Wikipedia.


Open access to scientific information is a core principle of the ISCB. This is a principle shared by the Wikimedia Foundation, with its primary goal to collect, develop and disseminate free and open-access educational content. Consequently, ISCB has and continues to foster strong links with several Wikimedia projects, particularly Wikipedia. The Computational Biology taskforce of WikiProject Molecular Biology has existed in some form since 2007 and is a group of editors overseeing over 1,500 Wikipedia articles relating to computational biology and bioinformatics. Throughout its history, the taskforce has had a number of collaborative efforts with ISCB, including PLOS Topic Pages, an annual Wikipedia competition and events at ISCB conferences.

Despite the efforts of workforce members, the increasingly fast pace of the computational biology field means that many important Wikipedia articles are outdated or incomplete: more than 70% of relevant articles are marked as “start class” (developing but essentially incomplete) or lower. We firmly believe that improving relevant Wikipedia articles and therefore improving public access to information about our field is a professional responsibility for ISCB members.

ISCB Communities of Special Interest (COSIs) are self-organising communities of ISCB members focused on topics within computational biology. Connecting COSIs with relevant Wikipedia articles will: i) illuminate the current state of Wikipedia articles which COSI members will have a keen interest and specialised knowledge in; ii) provide a sense of ‘ownership’ of articles relevant to each COSI with COSI members particularly motivated to improve ‘their’ articles; iii) kickstart a wider push to improve coverage of computational biology on Wikipedia.


We propose two major tasks for the hackathon.

  • Our priority task is to conduct a review of the ~1,500 articles identified by the Computational Biology workforce, determining ISCB COSIs relevant to each article. This will allow a list of relevant articles for each COSI to be produced; each COSI can then focus on improving these articles using their specialist knowledge.
  • A secondary task of the hackathon is to review the quality and relevance ratings of each article, based on Wikipedia’s content assessment guidelines. The last wide scale review of this type was conducted in 2011 and many articles have been modified without a corresponding change in their ratings.

Further ‘stretch goals’ of the hackathon may include identifying missing articles, and improvement of relevant articles tagged as requiring attention (currently around 40%)

We intend to spend some time discussing coordination with COSIs and planning follow-up events.


The hackathon is open with no associated registration fee. The detailed zoom join-in link will be posted on this page, on ISCB Student Council Symposium 2021 and social media channels two days prior to the event. For any question please email the organisers at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Who can attend, required skills?

We invite all interested SCS attendees, student delegates of ISMB and student members of ISCB to attend.

Our priority task (1) will not require Wikipedia editing, so no previous editing background is required. Our secondary task (2) would benefit from familiarity with the Wikipedia content assessment guidelines but again will not require previous editing background.


We plan to generate a list of Wikipedia articles that can be distributed to each COSI, so that they can identify areas for improvement or missing articles. Depending on the progress on the secondary goal, we also plan to generate quantitative data on article quality by COSI, with a view to monitoring future improvements in quality.

We will publish an article reporting the outcomes of the hackathon in a science journal. The top contributors will be invited to co-author the paper with the organisers.


Harvard Medical School Master of Biomedical Informatics (HMS-BI) Program and the ISCB Student Council have kindly sponsored five $100 prizes, which will be awarded based on a drawing to be held at the conclusion of the session.

To be eligible for the award, participants must attend the full hackathon session and demonstrate substantial high-quality contributions to the tasks.

Pre Reading

We suggest that attendees familiarise themselves with the list of ISCB COSIs (https://www.iscb.org/cms_addon/cosi_reporting_system/COSIs/). For the secondary task, familiarity with Wikipedia’s content assessment grades for article quality (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Content_assessment) and article importance (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Version_1.0_Editorial_Team/Release_Version_Criteria#WikiProject_priority_assessments) would be useful.

Technical support

Logistical support and Zoom meeting facilities will be provided by ISCB. Participants will be invited to a Slack channel for further discussion with each other and the organisers.