Fancy that, I’m more notable than a Nobel Prize winner

Or rather, I’m more notable than a Nobel Prize winner before she gains her Nobel:

When the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm announced the Nobel prize for physics this week, anyone wanting to find out more about one of the three winners would have drawn a blank on Wikipedia.

Until around an hour and a half after the award was announced on Tuesday, the Canadian physicist Donna Strickland was not deemed significant enough to merit her own page on the user-edited encyclopedia.

The oversight has once again highlighted the marginalization of women in science and gender bias at Wikipedia.

Strickland is an associate professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Waterloo and former president of the Optical Society, but when a Wikipedia user attempted to create a profile for her in March, the page was denied by a moderator.

“This submission’s references do not show that the subject qualifies for a Wikipedia article,” said the moderator.

Soon after Tuesday’s announcement, however, the Wikipedia community scrambled to build up a profile, completing sections on her research, biography and – most critically – her awards.

But the belated recognition contrasted with that afforded to Strickland’s colleague Gérard Mourou – with whom she shared the award – who had a Wikipedia page in 2005.

As to why, no, I don’t think this is gender bias although it quite obviously is bias. It isn’t – objectively – true that some blogger and writer upon the internets is more important than an associate professor, male or female. But among those who inhabit the internets that inhabitant of the same milieu is perhaps more visible, possibly even better known in that particular community. While everyone in optics would be “Who the fuck is that Worstall bloke*?”

Bias, yes, but not gender such.

*Except the couple who work with scandium oxide thin film coatings but that’s another matter.

18 thoughts on “Fancy that, I’m more notable than a Nobel Prize winner”

  1. NO – you are just important to Wikipedia.
    The internet seems to thinks that I am more important than my father (to which the response is “the other leg has bells on”).

  2. I note that your Wikipedia entry, Tim, mentions nothing about scandium. As such, I rather think that your thin film scandium oxide customers might, instead, be asking, “who is this other Worstall bloke?” 😉

    DK

  3. Tim

    Your nemesis has a much longer Wikipedia entry than yours although is seriously out of date:

    “Personal life

    Murphy is a Quaker.[27][41] He lives with his wife, a GP, and two children in Downham Market.[3]”

  4. Surreptitious Evil

    In other (and scandalously co-incidental) news, I fixed the “citation needed” for CT on your wiki page this morning.

  5. Wasn’t the person who had an entry her mentor and supervisor so not exactly gender bias that he was on there and she wasn’t just a case of where the cutoff line is.
    Would be like complaining that all the kids on the same U-10 football team as someone who went on to play premier league don’t have their own entries

  6. @ BniC
    And the only reason that most people know that he was her mentor is that she told the interviewer and praised him.
    Donna Strickland deserves bonus points.

  7. ‘would have drawn a blank on Wikipedia’

    And?

    ‘Site moderator rejected submission for Donna Strickland, the first female physics winner in 55 years, in March’

    So March was BEFORE she won. Dumbass.

    So if she had an actual right to have a Wiki page, whose the bad guy? I submit the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. In fact, how the heck can they give a Nobel to someone who doesn’t even have a Wiki page?

    ‘The oversight has once again highlighted the marginalization of women in science and gender bias at Wikipedia.’

    She was a nobody. She won a Nobel. Now she is somebody. Wiki’s failure to predict the future is an affront to women.

    This is Guardian crap journalism.

  8. @ Gamecock
    She was NOT a nobody – she is and was brilliant scientist but Wikipedia didn’t hire someone capable of discerning that.
    Journalist employed by Wiki is a “dumbass” and so is whoever hired him/her/them.

  9. Dear Mr Worstall

    Why weren’t the people complaining about this young lady not having a Wikipedia page not complaining about her not having a Wikipedia page before she got a Nobel prize?

    DP

  10. Johnny, I was a brilliant computer scientist. I never got a Wiki page.

    Being brilliant doesn’t make you a somebody. Winning a Nobel prize does.

  11. Winning a Nobel doesn’t necessarily demonstrate genius – see, for example, Penzias & Wilson, a couple of smart guys who were in the right place at the right time.

  12. “Winning a Nobel doesn’t necessarily demonstrate genius”: in the US apparently doing well at High School makes you a genius.

  13. @ Gamecock
    Being a somebody doesn’t necessarily get you a wiki page, nor does getting a wiki page make you a somebody.

  14. “Why weren’t the people complaining about this young lady not having a Wikipedia page not complaining about her not having a Wikipedia page before she got a Nobel prize?”

    The person who tried to give her a Wikipedia page and was told “No” was presumably complaining.

    But presumably others are now complaining because they’ve now got some harder-to-deny evidence to back their complaints.

    “Being brilliant doesn’t make you a somebody. Winning a Nobel prize does.”

    Isn’t that credentialism? But the Nobel prize committee in the main gives Nobel prizes to people who don’t yet have one, but who they still think are ‘somebody’.

    A Nobel prize would not be worth anything if it was not given to people who deserved it for reasons other than having been given a Nobel prize. If the Nobel prize committee can recognise the significance of your work, then so can Wikipedia.

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