Category Archives: Outreach and Education

Wikipedia, women, and science

Every second, 6000 people across the world access Wikipedia. The opportunity to reach humans of the world is enormous. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many eminent scientists, especially eminent female scientists, don’t have pages!

Melissa Highton is on a mission to fix this. Her first step was bringing together a group of students and librarians for an Edit-a-thon to update the page of the first female students matriculated in the UK, who started studying medicine at the University of Edinburgh. They’re known as the Edinburgh Seven.

Not only do Edit-a-thons provide information for the world, the Edinburgh Seven serve as role models for current students studying medicine at the University of Edinburgh.

Melissa shines light on Wikipedia being skewed towards men, and also on structural inequalities that lead to so few women having pages. Women are often written out of history; they are the wives of famous someones who get recognised instead, they get lost in records because they change their last name, or they juggle raising a family, meaning they don’t work for as long or publish as much.


Having a forum to talk openly and transparently about these inequalities is one of the steps to closing the gap. Our event for Physiology Friday 2017 did just that, and we hope participants will continue the conversation. Listen to Melissa’s talk here.


10 Epic Physiology Cakes

It’s that time of year again! Great British Bake-Off time Bio-Bodies Bake-Off time! To celebrate the return of the baking season, staff at The Physiological Society have been reminiscing about past entries to our annual hunger-inducing competition. From muscle to kidneys, representing health or disease, grossly graphic or detailed to the molecular level, check out our 10 favourites, in no particular order. If you haven’t quite decided what area of physiology you would like to cover in this year’s competition, these delicious treats might give you some inspiration!

  1. Operation Indigestion: Stomacake, by Anousha Chandran, Kujani Wanniarachchi, Susannah Watson and Anna Higgins

Rosie 1

Rosie Waterton, our Governance Manager, admits to having limited physiology knowledge, but confesses to a somewhat higher than average level of cake eating experience. “This cake is probably my favourite,” she explains. “There is something darkly ironic about demonstrating indigestion through something so delicious and tempting! I also just love a good pun.”

  1. Anatomy of the Face, by Sophia Rothewell

Rosie couldn’t help picking a second choice when she saw Anatomy of the Face. She was struck by its uncanny resemblance to a Game of Thrones white walker…. only colourful.



  1. Not Kidneying Around, by Carlotta Meyer


Jen Brammer, our Membership Engagement Manager, another pun fan, loved this delicious masterpiece, Not Kidneying Around. Whilst unsure about the anatomical accuracy, she did enjoy debating whether the appendages were pickled onions or grapes!

  1. Upper Leg, by Jack Croft

Bobby Harrop, our summer intern and a keen cyclist, was immediately struck when seeing the cake titled Upper Leg.

Jack Croft Biobakes_Bobby

He commented: “when cycling, I rely heavily on the input of my upper legs and I was fascinated to see this submission highlighting the complexity of the Rectus Femoris and Vastus muscle group whilst including real detail in the muscular tone. Plus in terms of parts of the body to eat, muscle is probably the most appetising as it is mostly protein!”

  1. The Effects of Drug Abuse on the Human Body, by Amy Yang

Anisha Tailor, our Outreach Officer, has probably spent the most time browsing through the #Biobakes entries. Each year, she develops a minor obsession with the hashtag and eagerly awaits the first entry!


“I think my favourite cake of all time has to be the one titled The Effects of Drug Abuse on the Human Body. It was a bit of a shock to find it in my inbox at first, but it became one of my firm favourites of 2016: it’s visceral, yet educational, although perhaps not very appetising”.

  1. Guts, by the students from Tiverton High School


Hannah Woolley, Editorial Assistant, spent far too long deciding which one was her favourite. She finally decided she liked this one the most because it looked gross.  “It’s a compliment! I particularly liked the attention to detail that went into the blood splatter.”

  1. A Tasty Great Cake, by Katie Pennington


Daïmona Kounde, our Communications Officer, loves picking yummy cake photos for our social media. “I have a soft spot for the DNA-themed cakes,” she says. “My favourite, A Tasty Great Cake, is not just beautiful and colourful, but it also has the A, T, C and G bases paired correctly, with a colour key to boot. The ‘base necessities’ pun in the cake description was just… icing on the cake (sorry)!”

  1. Synapse, by Nicola Armstrong

Angela Breslin, our Education Manager, has been following the BioBakes competition ever since it started, and continues to be amazed by the high standard of entries each year.

“It’s a difficult choice but if I had to choose just one, it would be the cake titled simply Synapse, for the sheer amount of detail and the elegant way in which it shows how an action potential travels between nerves – somehow managing to show physiology in a single snapshot. It’s also a beautiful bake!”


  1. Louis’s Lungs, by Louis Christofi


Samantha Chan, Events & Marketing Officer, has tried baking different cakes and biscuits in the past, but has never attempted a BioBakes cake. Sadly, staff aren’t allowed to enter, so she will just have to make do with all your entries – or make some cakes for the office! Her favourite was Louis’s Lungs, which shows the structure of the lungs.

  1. Your baking masterpiece!

We can’t wait to be amazed by this year’s entries. Maybe yours will make it to our next round of favourites! If you’re still a bit stuck for ideas for BioBakes 2017, browse our Twitter hashtag #Biobakes, read about one of our previous winners, or take a look at our 2014, 2015 and 2016 Facebook albums!

All you’ve got left to do is bake! For full terms and conditions visit our competition page. Entries are due in by 5pm, Friday 6 October, and photos must include the #Biobakes photo entry form to be considered.

Top ten reasons why your Wikipedia edits get reverted

andy_mabbett_glamcamp_amsterdam_netherlands_img_1324_edit.jpgby Andy Mabbett, The Society’s Wikimedian in Residence.

Wikipedia’s great, isn’t it? All that free information, about the TV star whose name you can’t quite remember, the little fishing village where you’re spending your holiday, and the early singles history of the band you’ve just discovered and love to bits.

Wikipedia’s rubbish, isn’t it? Any fool can edit it, and put in anything they want. Not like a journal, with peer review and an editor. Only a fool would use it!

As a Wikipedia contributor since 2003, I’ve heard both of these things, many, many times. They can’t both be true, can they?

Of course they can’t, and it’s the latter that is a gross misrepresentation. Everyone who edits Wikipedia (in the sense of making any changes) is both a peer reviewer, and an editor (in the sense of exercising editorial oversight). It’s been said that Wikipedia is like a bumblebee – it doesn’t work in theory, only in practice.

Wikipedia needs subject experts, who know what should be in an article, and where to find that information. And when it comes to physiology, that might mean you. Spotted something wrong? You can fix it! Found something missing? You can add it. And please do!


© Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

However, some new contributors do find Wikipedia unwelcoming. Sometimes the changes they make are summarily undone (or “reverted” in the jargon). Here are ten reasons why that happens, and what you can do to avoid it:

  1. You didn’t cite your source — The Wikipedia community (of which you’re a part!) wants people who read its articles to know where the information comes from. As with a journal article, what you assert to be true should be cited to an independent, reliable, source. By reliable, we mean something in good standing, with its own editorial process: a respected journal, not a parasitic one; not a tabloid newspaper; and not your own blog. There are two areas where this policy is applied most rigorously, namely claims about living people, and matters related to medicine and healthcare.
  2. You wrote about someone (or something) who isn’t “notable” — Wikipedia doesn’t want an article about everyone, nor everything. The determining factor is what Wikipedia calls “notability.” Ask yourself: has society at large noticed this entity? Have there been press articles, biographies, television documentaries etc. about the subject? Note the plural.
  3. You didn’t sign in — Anyone can edit Wikipedia, and that includes people who don’t create an account and sign in. For small changes, that’s not usually an issue, but if you’re making significant changes, people are instinctively less trusting of “anonymous” edits. It shouldn’t be like that, of course, but people are people, and so it is. Also, signing in makes additional tools and editing rights available to you, and it actually gives you more privacy, as it hides your IP address. It’s best to create an account.
  4. You repeated an edit that had already been reverted — To many Wikipedia contributors, this (called “edit warring”) is a real no-no. If your edit is reverted, consider why and whether you can do it again, but better. Maybe one of the other reasons in this post applies. If you’re unsure, start a discussion on the article’s associated talk page.
  5. You pushed a fringe theory — Wikipedia aims to maintain a neutral point of view, and to be balanced, but not to give every esoteric view equal weight. So, while it mentions that some people believe the Earth is flat, or believe that vaccines cause autism, or suchlike, there is no requirement to give such views equal weight, and Wikipedia reflects that the scientific consensus is otherwise.

©20th Century Fox

  1. You published original research — Have you just discovered a cure for cancer? Or proven beyond any doubt that a politician’s expenses have been fiddled with? That’s great, but please don’t put anything in Wikipedia until the discovery has been published in the kind of reliable sources mentioned above. Because getting information on medical matters right is so important, Wikipedia has special guidance on finding suitable sources. For instance, review literature is preferred to new primary research, and single papers based on in-vitro or animal testing should not be used in an attempt to debunk the established scientific consensus of secondary sources.
  2. You had a conflict of interest — CoI editing on Wikipedia isn’t prohibited, but should be declared. If you do edit in such areas, only do so with great caution. And please don’t edit Wikipedia solely to cite your own work – that will be noticed!
  3. You didn’t declare that you were paid to edit — This form of CoI is one of the few things on Wikipedia where there is a hard-line rule, rather than guidance. Any edit for which you are paid – whether with money or in kind – must be declared.
  4. You edited an article “owned” by someone else — (don’t worry, you did nothing wrong!) It’s good that some contributors are dedicated enough to “steward” an article, and keep an eye on it, but sometimes they overstep the mark, and will let no one else (or only their friends) change it. If that happens, don’t panic, and don’t get into an edit war (see number four above). Instead, start a discussion, following Wikipedia’s dispute resolution process.
  5. You were wrong! — Yes, I know that this is highly unlikely, but maybe you simply misunderstood the subject, or the tone of the article, or a Wikipedia policy. Please don’t dig in – it’s a sure way to frustration – but instead listen to what people tell you in talk page discussions, and try to come to agreement with them as to how best to proceed.

By encouraging all editors to avoid these pitfalls and adhere to the policies and guidelines to which this post links, Wikipedia seeks to make its content more reliable and useful to its readers, and to make the process of contributing more accessible and welcoming to everyone So what are you waiting for? Be bold!

Andy Mabbett – – is the Society’s Wikimedian in Residence. He is also Wikimedian in Residence at Queen Mary London University’s History of Modern Biomedicine Research Group, and with ORCID. He has previously held similar positions with the Royal Society of Chemistry, TED Talks, and a number of museums and art galleries.