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Jess Wade on Rewriting Wikipedia

In this episode we talk to British physicist Jess Wade about the 1923 Wikipedia pages (and counting) she’s created and edited in her aim to put more women and more people of colour onto the online encyclopaedia.  


 Jess Wade is an Imperial College Research Fellow investigating spin selective charge transport through chiral systems in the Department of Materials. Broadly speaking, her research considers new materials for optoelectronic devices, with a focus on chiral organic semiconductors. She currently works in SPIN-Lab at Imperial, which is led by Professor Sandrine Heutz. She previously worked as a postdoctoral researcher in the Fuchter and Campbell groups at Imperial College London, where she optimised these chiral systems such that can absorb/emit circularly polarised (CP) light for CP OLEDs and OPDs. For her PhD Jess concentrated on organic photovoltaics and the development of advanced characterisation techniques to better understand molecular packing under the supervision of Dr Ji-Seon Kim. Outside of the lab, Jess is involved with several science communication and outreach initiatives. She is committed to improving diversity in science, both online and offline, and since the start of 2018 has written the Wikipedia biographies of women and people of colour scientists every single day.

Reading List:


Go to Wikipedia and look up any of the incredible female scientists Jess has added!


Transcript:


KERRY MCINERNEY:

Hi! I’m Dr Kerry McInerney. Dr Eleanor Drage and I are the hosts of The Good Robot podcast. Join us as we ask the experts: what is good technology? Is it even possible? And how can feminism help us work towards it? If you want to learn more about today's topic, head over to our website, www.thegoodrobot.co.uk, where we've got a full transcript of the episode and a specially curated reading list by every guest. We love hearing from listeners, so feel free to tweet or email us, and we’d also so appreciate you leaving us a review on the podcast app. But until then, sit back, relax, and enjoy the episode!


ELEANOR DRAGE:

In this episode we talk to British physicist Jess Wade about the 1923 Wikipedia pages (and counting) she’s created and edited in her aim to put more women and more people of colour onto the online encyclopaedia.  


KERRY MCINERNEY:

Thank you so much for joining us here today. We've been really looking forward to the chance to talk to you. And so just to kick us off, could you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do, and what's brought you to the topics of feminism, gender science, and technology?


JESS WADE:

Sure. So my name is Jess Wade. I'm a research fellow at Imperial College London, and I look at new materials for electronic devices. So they might be devices like LEDs or photovoltaic solar cells. I'm particularly interested in controlling the shape of those materials and using that to give the devices some new functionality.


So they might be able to twist the light they emit or absorb twisted light or even transport spin polarized electrons., So that's kind of my day job. But I also think I have kind of the best job in the world. So it's so fun. You guys know from working in a university how incredibly inspiring that is, you know, to be around such bright and excited coworkers, but also the fantastic students we have.


I absolutely love studying and working in this field and I feel like everyone should have the opportunity to be able to. Obviously that's not the case. And when you look at subjects like physics or engineering, we have absolutely massive imbalances both in, in terms of gender and also ethnicity.


They're extraordinarily male dominated subjects and extraordinarily white subjects. And actually also privilege, you know, there's a lot of these different protected characteristics that come in. So, so as soon as I realized a how fun these subjects. But kind of be how uninclusive they were.


I was trying to think about ways that I could try and change that and, yeah, I guess I've had a few different thoughts on it kind of throughout my career so far.


ELEANOR DRAGE:

Amazing. Your drive and excitement is so wonderful. It's a shame that engineering maths, and physics really funnel through to AI and so the imbalances and gender and lack of diversity there impacts AI disproportionately


JESS WADE:

Yeah, I think, I think, I think you're right. I think it's more just like, you know, the skills that you get from studying these subjects, even just at high school, computer science, maths, advanced maths physics they set you up for so many exciting careers and so many exciting careers where you're really shaping society.


And because we do such a terrible job of making sure everyone's involved in that conversation really early on. We have these huge technologies that are created without trying to think about who they're serving. And, and I think it's a shameful international situation that we've gotten ourselves into.


ELEANOR DRAGE:

Totally. So from that perspective then, what the technologies look like, what is good technology to you? Because we often ask people this question and usually they're philosophers and they talk about technology in the abstract of what, what happens when social justice meets technology or why technologies can't be good.


But I really like your opinion on it because I think that I really like technology in lots of ways and I think that something that you use every day is kind of wonderful and can bring new things to your life. So when you're finding new materials or developing different kinds of technologies or structures for technologies what does good technology look like to you?


JESS WADE:

I suppose from a kind of very granular perspective and from my day job perspective, I want them to be, you know, sustainable. I don't want the energy budget or the kind of footprint that we use to kind of design and fabricate them to outweigh the benefits you get from using this new technology. So you don't just want to create some extraordinarily bright, wonderful, brilliant screen if it's simultaneously destroying the world because you're mining for particularly rare materials or whatever.


So I think that sustainability, low power, thinking about the environment and what we are doing from a material science and a physics and engineering perspective does impact how good I think a technology is. For people who are listening, I put good in speech marks cuz I know good isn't a very clear word.


But I think beyond that it's, who's been involved with the discussion about designing that technology? You know, the diversity of the team that are in the room, who are coming up with it, whether it's a solar panel or you know, the facial recognition software who's actually there coming up and having those conversations and whether it's something society actually needs.


Obviously that would come into that kind of discussion. So, so thinking about sustainability, thinking about the environmental impact, thinking about who's designing it and thinking about what the purpose of that technology is. And I guess that we've started to think a lot in the last few years about whether some of these technologies that have been bought in to make our lives more efficient are actually, you know, quote unquote good.


You know, whether that is something that compromising our mental health because of these, you know, huge abilities of these things to draw our attention. So, so I think it's a really complicated question to say what makes a good technology. But it's a really, really interesting one. And yeah, I think probably has a lot more philosophy in it than it does physics.


JESS WADE:

I really love that answer though, and I particularly love how you kind of started at the granular and then kind of zoomed out. Cause I do think this question of sustainability is so crucial when we are thinking about, you know, the costs and benefits and trade on. Of these technologies. And I think it's a really interesting moment right now with ChatGPT and large language models having such a huge public moment right now.


While at the same time we know that these large language models are incredibly environmentally costly and u use huge amounts of compute power. And so, you know, I think it's a really important corrective to that narrative to say like, This exciting new product like is not free in any way. You know, it might seem free to the average user, but there's all kinds of different financial and ecological costs bound into it.


JESS WADE:

And what comes next, right? How many people lose their job because search stops happening? You don't need a team of people working on search engines if you've got ChatGPT and the implications of that and all of the layoffs that these huge technology companies have made, if we get to a point where actually you see this and you think about it from an educational perspective and a, you know, literature and whatever, I'm sure impacts law in every other aspect of society.


If you see it, as net efficiency gains and actually it's beneficial to reprogram all those people who were working and such. Maybe it is a net useful thing and a net good thing. But it's really hard to say and we get so over enthusiastic and carried away by that first point. That I, I don't think anyone's thinking about the joined up 'is it good or not?'


ELEANOR DRAGE:

They're kind of tech bro podcasts that I occasionally listen to, you know, just for compulsory research, their emphasis on net gains is really interesting because it's there's a certainty that an increase in productivity is only a good thing for the global economy, but it's really hard to contest.


I think that's one of the things I find most difficult to, to answer to.


JESS WADE:

It's really interesting when you think about the future of work as. Because if you're just producing and endlessly producing more and more and people are getting paid less and less, the idea of retirement for our generation is basically gone. So, so I just think if you're defined by your productivity and that's the only thing that ever matters and it's ever important, and that's the only thing that these pros talk about on their podcasts then it makes the future look pretty bleak.


And, and I dunno if that's a place that we want to be as a society


KERRY MCINERNEY:

Definitely, and I think like one of the important reasons why we think it's key to have these kinds of conversations is to say like, this is an an inevitability. This is a deliberate choice that, you know, we are making at the moment societally. And so it's really important that we're making that intentionally and with.


You know, adequate knowledge and understanding of these systems rather than kind of just being told like, this is new and really exciting and it's going to be transformative and it's going to make you more productive in all these ways. So yeah, something I'm definitely very passionate about. But I actually wanted to come back to what you mentioned at the very beginning of this episode, which is that you absolutely love your job and the work that you do in material science.


But that you were distressed, and concerned about the fact that a lot of people don't get these opportunities and that there's these huge gender and ethnic gaps when we are thinking about STEM subjects broadly. And so we actually came across you and your work through this fantastic project where you add female scientists to Wikipedia.


So could you tell us a little bit about the background to this project? So what gave you the idea and why did you decide to do it?


JESS WADE:

Yeah. Thanks. It is, it's a good question ,one I still ask myself, even though I've been doing it for five years, I think probably, you know, the buildup to it is I've been doing an awful lot of advocacy work going out, you know, public engagement and outreach around physics and science and going to high schools and getting high schools to come to universities and going to speak to teachers and parents and thinking, you know, physics is actually super fantastic even if what you are learning in high school is quite dry and look at all the great things we're doing.


And you realize when you do all of that you kind of feel great, right? You come away from it feeling like, oh yeah, I'm so inspiring and amazing, and they probably have a nice, like lunch hour or whatever. But actually the impact is really tiny. You know, people have been doing this kind of outreach for decades and absolutely nothing's changed from a numbers perspective.


And also you, you're basically preaching to the people who are already going to study science anyway. Anyone in that audience who's quite enthusiastic was probably already gonna do it. So, so you're just going out and talking to them really instead of changing anything. And so I was thinking how can you connect more with a broader audience?


And actually that's where I think parents and particularly non-specialist science teachers are really critical. You know, the number of high schools who don't have a computer scientist, you know, their PE teachers teach coding or their chemistry teacher has to teach physics. Going to connect to those audiences is key, but complicated. And so I started thinking a lot more about the ways people find an access information. Wikipedia is obviously an incredibly knowledge sharing platform. You know, completely non-partisan, used by 15 billion, or it gets 15 billion views a month, who pretty much span every sector of society.


You know, parents, children, teachers, politicians journalists, scientists, everyone uses Wikipedia. Actually, it informs things like Amazon Alexa and Google Home because when they search for a question they go to Wikipedia to find the answer. So obviously, if you want to get information to a huge number of people in a really cost effective way from your laptop at home late at night editing Wikipedia is a really great way to do that.


But Wikipedia, despite feeling complete and being immense in size has huge content gaps, it's been around since the early two thousands, so it's really beginning of the internet kind of platform. And the majority of people who edit it are white North American men, you know, between 80 and 90%. And they create content about things that they're kind of interested in, right?


Like battleships and like weird football clubs and, you know, obscure musicians who played in tudor courts but not pages about fantastic women and not pages about fantastic people of color. And, and so when you look at the statistics of who's on Wikipedia, there's, there's huge holes in who's not there.


And, and invariably that impacts public perception of science and public perception of engineering. You know, if your main go-to point and source of information has this huge inadequacy in who's on documented on the. And who we celebrate then, then you think those people aren't there. You know, it's like picking up a history book of science.


And in that history book you'll see a bunch of old privileged white guys and because that's who history told or celebrated for doing science. And Wikipedia is the contemporary version of that. But the only difference is that we can edit and change Wikipedia. So I guess I hadn't ever really thought about Wikipedia as being biased.


I just used it all the time. And then in like 20, late 2017, I started Thinking a lot more about what's not on Wikipedia and thinking a lot more about how, how many voices are left out of that conversation. And as a result, we don't celebrate their breakthroughs. We don't teach about them. Parents don't know about them.


Kids don't see them. You know, I remember, and probably lots of people listening, you go to look up your high school or your university and you look at who the kind of famous alumni are on there, and they're pretty much always a bunch of really, you know, well supported, well connected white men.


So I think anything we can do to disrupt or break that cycle is obviously key. And so I started at the beginning of 2018, writing these Wikipedia pages around, well, I actually started writing around women physicists because I was a woman physicist in the uk. And then you realize very quickly, pretty much every senior woman physicist in the UK is white.


They're all from quite privileged backgrounds and you're not, you know, you're doing that very white woman feminism that isn't particularly inclusive. So, so I had to start, you know, really broadening and going to America and writing about crazy things like chemists. But actually it's given me a really incredible perspective of just how many awesome women scientists and engineers and scientists of color there are but also these amazing journeys that people go on to be able to have the careers that they really want to pursue. You know, moving continents, moving fields, joining in different industry programs.


And so you get that fantastic thing from researching and writing these pages. So I started at the beginning of 2018 and then I just kept going kinda every day since then. And, and I really love writing Wikipedia pages. I love it because I love learning these things just like you hosting this podcast.


But I also love people getting recognition. I love when, you know, you see someone who, because you've put the time in to get their story on a platform that people actually read they start to get more acknowledgement and recognition, or it's easier to nominate them for a prize because you've got this nice little biography summary of them already.

So it's, it's this beautiful thing. And, and yeah, and now I've started going, I have so much momentum, I just can't stop.


ELEANOR DRAGE:

I wish I had that much energy. You are totally right. It's those second order effects that are really important as well. It's not just the fact of having a Wikipedia page, it's, you can get a recommendation because of it. You can get a promotion, people will know about you. Publishers can reach out via those pages.


Or as Kerry and I discovered, when we were interviewing engineers at a big tech firm, they were unaware that the Wikipedia data that they were using to program systems was so skewed towards young, white males. And they hadn't thought for a second that it might be biased data because to them, biased data is data about people.


But Wikipedia of course, is about people. It's totally about people, but not sort of literally in the sense of having people's kind of personal characteristics that they might put at risk customers characteristics, for example. So they totally didn't connect biased data and data about people with Wikipedia data.


JESS WADE:

Yeah, it's so interesting and, and I think probably you don't, cuz you think of it as being like an encyclopedia and why would an encyclopedia be biased? Because it's not a clinical trial or whatever like that. Whereas obviously it's biased because you wrote that encyclopedia, and Wikipedia is this amazing version of an encyclopedia in that it's immediately self-correcting. You know? And I often speak to people who think like, oh, but can you really trust what's on Wikipedia? And actually, if someone's written something that's kind of abjectly false it gets removed almost instantly, and you have to cite every single, single thing that you add to Wikipedia because there's so much fastidious editing.


So it's actually very verifiable, trustworthy content, which is why all of these downstream places use it. Why the tech companies use it, why Google and am Amazon and all of their home assistants use it. But actually, despite using that immense amount of data and trusting that data, you don't see those content gaps, because they're not gonna write about it on the front page of Wikipedia.


KERRY MCINERNEY:

And it's so hard to see an absence if you are not already, I think like attuned to that absence as well, like, and that's where I think people like you kind of do this really important work, not only in actively working to try and fill those gaps. But like, yeah, showing to people that these gaps exist in the first place.


My cousin used to have a game that she used to play, which was she'd just try and find something that wasn't on the internet and that was her goal. And she'd think of more and more absurd things. So for example, one of them that she unfortunately found was, Temple Run fan fiction. I dunno if you guys remember the Game Temple Run, but she was like, that's too much of a niche.


And so, and someone had hit that niche. But then I think it's actually very distressing that, you know, we think of the internet, this is huge, expansive library of knowledge. And yet, yeah, key places like Wikipedia will be absent. Kind of the most basic information about women in science and people of color in science.


JESS WADE:

Yeah. It's so interesting though cuz it's not just women in science. I mean, that's my focus because that's like what I do, right? But it's women across all fields. So if, of all of the biographies on English language, Wikipedia, there are 300, almost 300 language Wikipedias. But on English language, of all the biographies 19 and a half percent - 1 9 and a half percent are about women so it's really not science's issue. It's actually society's issue at celebrating, recognizing women, which makes it even a bigger deal, right? And then also you have all of those other challenges in the types of industry that society values. And actually the types of roles that women take on in society are not ones that are necessarily valued.


So my brother's fiance is a casting director, casting directors in films and tv are pretty much the most important part of making a television show or a film work, you know? Who's actually in the cast makes the magic happen. They're almost all women. Marvel James Bond, every single big franchise you can imagine, it's a woman who's the casting director. They get next to no professional recognition. They only just got a BAFTA in 2020. They still don't have an Oscar, and they're absent from Wikipedia because society doesn't deem that notable or an important profession despite it obviously being one. So, so you've partly got this issue that's unique to science, that science is already sexist and, you know, exclusive and, but then you've also got this issue that society itself is really not ready to recognize these professions where, where women are really active and, and kind of leading.

Yeah, I must be really telling what's on there and what's not, and you discover more and more things that aren't there and it tells you more and more. Things that

and, and.

excluded from society.


Not valued and kind of internationally it's so different, you know, language-wise, you can all imagine, or if you're listening, you can look up a Wikipedia page, but Wikipedia pages have this kind of info box on the side which summarizes key facts about that person, and that would pull out, you know, a PhD thesis where they went to school, their birthday, if you can find it, and all, almost all of that information is what populates a Google Knowledge panel.

So if someone has a Google Knowledge panel, that's because they've got a Wikipedia page. So it's kind of critical that what's on there is right. But like German language, Wikipedia has a particular nuance that only athletes are allowed a knowledge panel, which is just like, why is that a particular thing?


Like you see all of these weird little country specific things and language specific things when you get into editing Wikipedia in Israel, which is quite fascinating.


Has the response been really crazy, I've seen you on YouTube and on the news and stuff, have people really responded to it?.


JESS WADE:

I think in general, no one wanted to talk about it. I was like editing away. I was like just texting my dad, like, here's a cool neurologist you should know about her, or whatever. And then someone from The Guardian, Hannah Devlin, a journalist, came to write about it in, in 2018 when I really just got started.


And then for like a week, I couldn't, everyone in the world wanted to talk about Wikipedia, and then no one, no one spoke to me about it for about two more years. I just kept going. And you know, I train a bunch of people in how to edit, so I have to go, actually tonight, I'm helping run a workshop.


Particularly to improve content around women's health and, and abortion, on Wikipedia to improve that kind of information in a bunch of different languages. So I do that kind of activity all the time, and I was doing that in the background. And then suddenly late last year, a journalist decided, oh, now's the time.


Let's, let's rerun this story of Jess editing Wikipedia, because I write these Wikipedia pages every day, so the number just goes up. Right? And I think the internet needs good things and the world is such a horrid place that sometimes if you can have a good story on the internet, people go a bit wild for it.


I suppose the nice thing that comes from that you already mentioned it before, but it's this opportunity to kind of discuss bias and discuss representation because if someone invites you to teach them how to edit Wikipedia, you invariably have that discussion. But also people send you such interesting things, you know, they're like, can you write the Wikipedia page of my great-aunt?


Or like, you know, these incredible, incredible kind of contribution. And you get a bunch of weirdos being like, can you write my Wikipedia page? Or men being like, I'll pay you to write my Wikipedia page. And I think beautiful things come from it. I don't like, I find attention like that really difficult.


So when, when all these funny news companies are like, will you come on the Weather Channel. I'm like, ugh. But yeah, it's, it's fantastic to get this story out. You know exactly what this podcast is about and you know, that this bias is there and we need to learn about it and acknowledge it before we start to create any kind of technology or platform.


KERRY MCINERNEY:

That's so fantastic and yeah, I mean, I can't even imagine what it must be like to have these kind of waves of like sudden extraordinary interest in your project and then just kind of be ticking along with it and doing this discovery work and doing this platforming work. I was wondering, actually, we've talked a bit about people in passing.


I love that story about people emailing you and saying, can you open your page of my great-aunt? I was wondering if there were like any stories of individual scientists who you have found or explored in this project who you'd like to tell us a bit about and share with our audience.


JESS WADE:

I mean the kind of most fantastic, just for the impact that it had retrospectively after adding a Wikipedia page with someone called Gladys West. She's a mathematician and she was born in 1930 in Virginia. So she's, you know, over. 90 now. And she's studied maths at a historically black college and university, which, you know, I never knew about HBCUs and so I started editing Wikipedia, amid my own kind of complete inadequacy in that. So, so historically black colleges and universities are in America. North America have a bunch of them and they're kind of universities that focus on the training of African Americans and other black members of the American population. They are extraordinarily successful at generating incredibly highly skilled scientists and engineers.


If you look at the proportion of black scientists and engineers who went through those HBCUs as opposed to General American universities and colleges which obviously recruit a lot more cuz they're far more of them. It's exceptional. So they're, they're, you know, they're, they're scenarios where people have recognized inequity, imbalance and injustice and they're really thinking in their teaching approach about how you train leaders who can take those on. They're amazing. Anyway, Gladys West went to wait, went to one. She then ended up working as a math teacher in a high school before working for the US government on the calculations that enabled GPS, so she did the maths to say how Non perfectly spherical planet Earth was so that you could put satellites around planet Earth and track navigation and, and provide, you know, Google Maps and everything like that.


She is an African American woman. She must have experienced such extraordinary racism and segregation when she first started working in this role. But I put up her Wikipedia page in, in February 2018. When there was very little about her on the internet, you know, there was no celebration of her, she wasn't winning awards. She was this awesome woman who'd done an incredible thing. And then time had just happened and no one was saying her name. And, and I wrote her Wikipedia page, I pulled it together. She's very active in her community. As you find that lots of these awesome people are, they're not only awesome in their niche thing, but they're awesome in a bunch of other ways.


I wrote her Wikipedia page by, by May that year, the BBC had put her in their top 100 women in the world. Which means that the number of page views on her page is like popping, like it was like thousands of page views an hour. And then everywhere started covering her. So she was inducted to the US Air Force Hall of Fame at the age of like 89.

In 2020, the Guardian wrote a huge article about her. In 2021, the Royal Academy of Engineering in the UK awarded her the Prince Philip Medel Prize, which had never before gone to a woman, let alone a mathematician in America. So , just these extraordinary things happen. The people themselves are extraordinary.


Everyone you write about, everyone you discover, the research they do that's amazing. But actually getting people that recognition and then finally, you know, then you have to go back and start adding all these awards to Wikipedia page. That's what I love the most.


ELEANOR DRAGE:

That's amazing. It's extraordinary. It does make me feel so sad that we have to participate in these exclusionary forms of documentation in order to kind of reap the rewards of existing in society.


JESS WADE:

Yeah, it's really hard, isn't it? I think we have to kind of disrupt the system from like all aspects of it. So if there's a really awesome person who, it's very hard to prove they're notable. Wikipedia is a general interest in encyclopedia, so I can't just write about Everyone I think is cool because they have to be of general interest.


So, you know, my little dog, he's very sweet, but he's not worthy of a Wikipedia page. Despite, I think he's of general interest to every other dog lover, but but that may not be true. So, so proving notability is a big aspect of Wikipedia. It's obviously harder to prove women are notable, as notable as their male counterparts because society does such a bad job of telling them that.


So, so you know how many articles are written about them, how many awards they've won, how many honors they've. That's all very bias metric for defining notability. So sometimes you have to kind of break it and nominate people for prizes or write to journalists and say, this would be a fantastic person to cover, or this is a great story, or fantastic name of someone who's an expert in.


So you've kind of got both sides of it. You've got the. You know, using Wikipedia to correct this really terrible celebration and recognition that we've had of women and people of color and people from other historically marginalized groups. But also saying, actually we need to try and fix the other side of it as well, that we have to start recognizing more in society. So it's easier for Jess to write the Wikipedia page.


ELEANOR DRAGE:

Yeah, that's really interesting that there's all these other elements. It's not just writing the page, it's advocacy work in many respects. It's kind of the, the non-technical side of things that you need to do in order to include people online. I wanted to ask what comes next and what do you want to come out of this?


You're, you're continuing to teach, right? You teach other people. Do you have other kind of projects around this?


JESS WADE:

Yeah, that's a good question too. I think I, I'll keep editing Wikipedia because I love it. Because obviously it's important and cuz I'm at like 1,923 pages. So nearly I'll be at 2000 and that feels like a good milestone that you should get to generally with everything. But I I'll keep teaching people to edit.


I'm particularly interested in growing other language versions of, of you know, translating pages out of English. You know, all of these fantastic women scientists that I write about and that other people write about, everyone in the world should be aware of them. And actually translating is a huge contribution to Wikipedia that may feel like a less daunting first edit than just creating.


So to try and encourage people to translate as much as possible. As I mentioned, I spend a lot of time nominating for people for prizes and awards. I think that lots of the big awards that our society starts to really recognize, you know, fellowship of the Royal Society, or just the Royal Society Awards or the Royal Academy of Engineering Awards, they're incredibly important both for the image of the field but also in that person's career. So nominating people for prizes and awards I think is key. I guess I have Two big things that I'm thinking about a lot, kind of making sure, opening access for people early in their careers.


I think we do a lot to try and encourage young women to go into these subjects and, and you know, I've focused a lot on trying to celebrate these complete legends and pioneers that we have, but actually there's that kind of middle part, where there's huge inequity in the types of resource and support people get.


And so you have fantastic women and other historically marginalized groups leaving really critical fields. So I'm trying to think more about what, what ways we can better support early career people in physics and materials, in in computing, AI, whatever you. But I think that, you know, working in the types of universities we work in, we have access to a lot of privileged networks that other people don't have access to.


So I'm, I'm thinking about that a lot. And then, and then, yeah, more creative ways to meaningfully engage young people and their families with this, cuz I think. The last few years, Have shown us how important it is to have a scientifically and a technologically literate population. And I don't think our school curriculum is set up to provide that.

So we probably need to think more creatively about how we do that. I wrote, and I love children's books. I think children's books are a really great way to communicate complex information with children and their families. They have to be quite beautiful. But, but they can, they can do it.


But I think that kind of access is something that really interests me as well, how you connect. With a generation who are desperately gonna need this, understanding both of bias and of the technical aspects of what we all do. Yeah, I'm, I'm really interested in new ways we can do that cuz Yeah, I'm a bit an annoyed with the school curriculum and the way the government supports teachers and all of that. I think we need to, we need to work collectively around it.


KERRY MCINERNEY:

Absolutely. And I mean, I think the work that you, you are doing as a science communicator, as an advocate, somehow on top of your day job as a very successful scientist is just amazing to me. And like I completely agree with you about needing to kind of work with schools and work with teachers and try not only combat you know, the systemic underfunding and issues to do with teaching in this country, but also yeah, like something that actually Eleanor and I are doing with Nomi, who is our youth inclusion consultant on the podcast, is that we are actually working with the OCR, the UK exam board to be bringing in sort AI ethics syllabus and bringing work around tech ethics to a school level kind of age group and population. So that we can hopefully yeah, work towards kind of building this super digitally ethical kind of literate group of students as the kind of next cohort in the uk.


JESS WADE:

Can I ask one more, one more question. I know our time is nearly up, but on that side, do you also think about it from a university perspective? Because I, I went on I went on a panel a couple of weeks ago and it was talking about like, you know ethics and science and, you know, whether science was political, whether it could ever be neutral. And I think it's very hard to criticize people in computing for not considering it if you've never told them it's important to consider. So, is it an undergrad thing as well? It's not just a high school thing?


ELEANOR DRAGE:

Undergrad's Really hard to change. I think we got so lucky with this OCR thing. So they're in an exam board and we're working with them, particularly on the English language syllabus, which is where they wanted new texts. But to reach out to the exam boards who are doing computer science. The thing is it's, it is now still a module for most computer science courses, there'll be like one week of AI ethics, you know, and all the undergrads I talked to are like, yeah, we did our like ethics week and now we're ethical and just kind of make fun of it. So that's a real shame and that's really something we'd like to look into because we can't just rely on stuff like this podcast or the stuff we put out there or people writing or other kinds of resources that you can engage with if you are already interested.

And then as you say, criticize engineers later down the line for not thinking about these kinds of things when they were never taught to.


JESS WADE:

I think that sounds fantastic. Yeah. We need it to be part of the accreditation. I think if you're going to teach computer science or physics, it needs to be that this whole systems approach is part of the way that we accredit degrees, that universities can't deliver them unless they're considering it more than just, you know, I have my ethics day. Yeah, I have spoken to so many students who are like, yeah, we had that professor, we had the ethics day, like, I'm ethical now. Like I'm not cheating.


KERRY MCINERNEY:

It's been genuinely just such a pleasure to get to talk to you. And I certainly know I'm going to be going onto Wikipedia and doing a deep dive into lots of people's pages tonight. Maybe instead of watching tv, maybe as well as watching tv. But yeah, thank you so much for all the work that you do, and it's really been such a joy to get to.


JESS WADE:

Oh yeah, it was so much fun. Thank you for taking the time and for inviting me on, and I look forward to listening to it, along with the others.


ELEANOR DRAGE:

This episode was made possible thanks to our previous funder, Christina Gaw, and our current funder Mercator Stiftung, a private and independent foundation promoting science, education and international understanding. It was written and produced by Dr Eleanor Drage and Dr Kerry Mackereth, and edited by Laura Samulionyte.


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