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Sep 23 2015

ICE joins DBwiki supporters

Designing Buildings infographicThe Institution of Civil Engineers has become the latest supporter of the Designing Buildings Wiki.*

Launched in 2012 (see my November 2012 post and February 2013 follow-up), Designing Buildings Wiki is an industry-wide endeavor to share best practice, promote innovation and break down single-discipline barriers. Just like Wikipedia, anyone can access, create and edit articles, free of charge, on the site, which is also now supported by the BRE Trust, BSRIA, CIOB, Buro Happold, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and Development Securities.

The site grew to over 700 articles and achieved over half a million page impressions in its first year, and now includes more than 2,400 articles and is used by 170,000 people per month, making it one of the most popular construction industry websites.

ICE’s Director of Engineering Knowledge Nathan Baker said:

“ICE is the world’s oldest engineering institution, established nearly 200 years ago. We have over 86,000 members based in 150 different countries. Our knowledge base is rich and diverse, and as a Leaned Society, fostering and sharing this knowledge through a variety of resources sits at the heart of what we do. It encourages innovation and excellence in the industry – and ultimately benefits society.

“Working with Designing Buildings Wiki will help to ensure this knowledge is integrated with other content created by many other disciplines. By collaborating like this we can reach the widest possible audience.”

DBwiki or Wikipedia – why not both!?

Of course, Designing Buildings will always lag a long way behind Wikipedia in terms of its sheer breadth and popularity. The English edition of Wikipedia alone currently features over 4,972,000 articles across every area of human interest, and also includes a huge array of articles on architecture, engineering and construction-related topics: the Wikipedia Architecture WikiProject alone links to over 44,000 articles, while there are over 1,700 and 4,300 linked from the civil engineering and engineering Wikiprojects respectively

With me, the ICE has actively encouraged contributions to Wikipedia, hosting a workshop in April 2012 (From dead pigeons and a statue of King Kong to civil engineering) and an editathon in July 2013 (see Raising civil engineering awareness via Wikipedia), and publishing a briefing sheet about the Wikimedia projects.

Other institutions have supported projects to boost the extent and quality of articles about their disciplines in Wikipedia. A recent Wikimedia Science Communications conference in London, for example, heard from Wikimedians-in-Residence from the Royal Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry and Cancer Research, and heard impassioned debates about Open Access to knowledge.

If organisations are keen to share information about the discipline, perhaps they should follow the examples set by the ICE and such bodies: hold editathons and appoint Wikimedians-in-Residence, share images and content via the Wikimedia Commons (which already holds over 28m images and other media files). Colleges and universities could challenge students to write objective and well-referenced Wikipedia (or DBwiki) articles about relevant subjects – indeed, why not write a Wikipedia article and then reuse the content in Designing Buildings?

And there are always efforts to increase the volume of content about under-represented subjects – on 15 October 2015, for example, events around the world will be taking place to improve Wikipedia content about women in architecture.

[* Disclosure: Designing Buildings is a past client of pwcom.co.uk Ltd; I am deputy chair of the ICE’s information systems panel.]

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