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Meet the biologist using sexist trolling to raise the profile of women in science

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Emily Temple-Wood, a molecular biology student at Loyola University, Chicago, is waging war on internet trolls in a incredibly original way. She’s turning their venom into the fuel behind a project which aims to raise the profile of women in science.

Having been vocal about the underrepresentation of female scientists, specifically on Wikipedia, Temple-Wood has unfortunately opened herself up to trolling, namely in the form of harassing emails.

But now, for each trolling email received, she and her collaborators are creating a brand new Wikipedia article profiling a female scientist.

There's a backlog, but the bittersweet outcome has been that WikiProject Women Scientists, a Wikipedia project which Temple-Wood co-founded in 212, is now flourishing.

Emily Temple-Wood

Emily Temple-Wood, a molecular biology student and co-founder of WikiProject Women Scientists (Image courtesy of Wikipedia)

The project began when, in her second year of university, Temple-Wood was made aware that very few female fellows belonging to revered scientific community, The Royal Society, had Wikipedia articles written about them.

Talking to Wikimedia, she says: “I got [angry] and wrote an article that night … I literally sat in the hallway in the dorm until 2am writing [my] first women in science article.”

Since then, the project has grown to include 77 contributors, who have collectively seen 376 female scientists featured on Wikipedia’s homepage.

Describing the trolling Temple-Wood, who progresses to medical school this autumn, faces on a daily basis, Wikimedia writes: “Unfortunately, [she] has been targeted by a significant amount of harassment based on her gender.”

“Throwaway email addresses frequently send her requests for dates, condescendingly discuss her body, insinuate that she got to where she is through sexual favours, ask her to reserve those favours for themselves, and when she doesn’t reply, they spew profanities.”

Wikipedia page for Barbara McClintock

Wikipedia page for Barbara McClintock, an American scientist and cytogeneticist, created by Temple-Wood

None of that is getting in the way of Temple-Wood’s project however, which has successfully published biographies of women from Polish neuroscientist Liliana Lubinska to Russian physician and chemist Adelaida Lukanina.

Despite juggling her studies with a host of other commitments, and bearing the emotional burden of constant harassment, Temple-Wood has continued to hosted campus edit-a-thons to get more content live, and has also hooked up with other WikiProject teams to pool resources.

In her mission to close what's becoming known as the 'content gender gap', she is unstoppable.

“Someday we’ll be writing a biography about her and her scientific discoveries, mark my word,” says Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight, editor of Women in Red, a WikiProject which also works to close the internet's content gender gap.

“I wonder what her harassers and detractors will think about that, especially if Emily’s scientific discoveries help heal their mum or sister.”

If you'd like to contribute to WikiProject Women Scientists, sign-up here.

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