Collaboration with researchers inside and outside of the Wikimedia Foundation – be it from academia or industry – is what keeps our research environment vibrant. The Wikimedia Foundation's Research team is part of a broader community of scholars and students of Wikimedia projects and online collaboration in general: Wikipedia research would not exist without the joint effort of the academic community, our volunteers and contributors, and the Wikimedia Foundation.
Although at the Foundation we engage in several informal research collaborations, there are times when we see a need for a more formal process to ensure that each party is committed and empowered to work on a mutually agreed problem. Below, we explain when we enter formal research collaborations, what they entail, and the process around them.
What is a formal research collaboration?
A formal research collaboration is a collaboration agreement between researchers from within and without the Wikimedia Foundation. A formal collaboration typically involves support from the Research team or the Wikimedia Foundation in the form of:
- letters of endorsement
- equipment, hosting or office space
- access to non-public data or special API privileges for research purposes
- other forms of support under an agreement between researchers and the Research team.
What commitments are made under a formal collaboration agreement?
All formal collaborations are subject to the Wikimedia Foundation's Open Access policy: a policy ensuring that the output of the collaboration be made available and released in the open without restrictions to the benefit of our volunteer community and other researchers. The policy also covers practical aspects such as the coverage of APCs to meet the open access requirements and other related questions that are addressed in detail in our FAQs. When entering a formal collaboration, the Foundation commits to supporting their collaborators by providing resources and support needed to achieve the goals of the collaboration, as described in the proposal. Depending on the nature and effort required, a formal collaboration may be captured as one of the team's quarterly goals.
How are formal research collaborations created?
Formal research collaborations are created when one or more members of the Wikimedia Research team work with other researchers to identify common areas of interests aligning with the priorities of the team and the strategic directions of the organization. If such common areas of interests are identified, the parties involved work jointly to scope a short proposal enumerating the expected deliverables and describe the type of support requested from the Foundation. From this point on the following steps should be followed:
- A research project page on Metawiki is created. The page includes an overview of the project, the list of researchers who will be participating in the project and any other collaborator.
- A memorandum of understanding (MOU) is signed by the researcher, the member of the Wikimedia Research team acting as the main point of contact (POC) for this proposal, and a C-level manager at the Wikimedia Foundation.
- A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is signed between the researcher and the Foundation, with an added signature by the POC in the Research team, limited to those proposals requiring access to non-public data.
- Based on the nature of the request, an additional volunteer agreement form may need to be signed by the researcher and the C-level manager who signs the MOU and NDA.
As of the time of this writing, all formal collaborations are valid for six months. They can be extended if the parties see the need and are interested in continuing the research.
What's the role of the point of contact at Wikimedia?
Each collaboration designates a point of contact who's the person responsible for the project on Wikimedia's end. The point of contact is named on the MOU, on the project page, and on the list of collaborations below. They are responsible for:
- providing the specific type of support the collaboration is about (access to data, a letter of support, technical advice etc.)
- clearing any internal dependency (for example, a privacy review with the Wikimedia Legal team, or an instrumentation request with the Analytics team) and sensitivity prior to committing to the collaboration
- shaping the research collaboration proposal with the collaborators in a way that aligns with the organization's existing goals and priorities
- ensuring that the reporting of the project on-wiki happens in a timely and accurate way
- checking in regularly with the collaborators to monitor progress on the proposal and discuss any unexpected blockers or deviation from the original plan
- facilitating communication with other WMF teams, volunteers or movement affiliates
- ensuring that the researchers understand the terms of the open access policy and making sure its requirements are met
The Wikimedia Research team conducts a quarterly review of all open collaborations and coordinates with the Legal and TechOps teams on NDAs/MOUs that should be terminated or extended.
When is the right time to pitch a formal collaboration and how long does it take to set one up?
At Wikimedia Foundation's Research team we establish our goals on an annual basis (see the Wikimedia Foundation's annual plan). In response to Wikimedia's 2030 Strategic Direction, the Research team has published three white papers that capture the direction of the team in the coming years. Unless under exceptional circumstances, we only seek collaborations where there is alignment between the research pitch and one or more of the directions stated in our whitepapers.
Collaborations that become part of our official goals and require substantial involvement of the team are typically reviewed and planned on a quarterly basis. We do, however, receive several requests for other types of support (letters of endorsement, technical advice, access to private data), which we review outside of our quarterly cycle. Please be aware that due to the number of requests we receive and the process involved (a formal collaboration requires Legal and Privacy/Security audits as well as approvals from an executive) we are not in a position to respond to requests that need to be completed in less than 15 calendar days.
|Akhil Arora||EPFL||Y||Martin Gerlach|
|Tiziano Piccardi||Stanford University||Y||Martin Gerlach
|Robert West||EPFL||Y||Leila Zia
|Daniele Rama||University of Turin||Y||Miriam Redi|
|Mo Houtti||University of Minnesota||N||Isaac Johnson|
|Loren Terveen||University of Minnesota||N||Isaac Johnson|
|Dani S. Bassett||University of Pennsylvania||Y||Martin Gerlach|
|David Lydon-Staley||University of Pennsylvania||Y||Martin Gerlach|
|Shubhankar Patankar||University of Pennsylvania||Y||Martin Gerlach|
|Dale Zhou||University of Pennsylvania||Y||Martin Gerlach|
|Perry Zurn||American University||Y||Martin Gerlach|
|Meeyoung Cha||Institute for Basic Science (South Korea)||N||Diego Sáez|
|Jaehyeon Myung||Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)||N||Diego Sáez|
|Aitolkyn Baigutanova||Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)||Y||Diego Sáez|
|Indira Sen||GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences||Y||Martin Gerlach|
|Katrin Weller||GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences||Y||Martin Gerlach|
|Mareike Wieland||GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences||Y||Martin Gerlach|
For viewing the list of or past collaborators and the projects they've been involved in, please visit: Wikimedia_Research/Collaborators/Archive.