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Guerilla Skepticism on Wikipedia
Edinburgh Skeptics: Skeptics on the Fringe
The Good Thinking Society
Sense About Science


Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia (GSoW) was founded by Susan Gerbic in 2011 and is a sinister cabal of 100 editors dedicated to improving skeptical content on Wikipedia by writing and editing pages for notable scientists, rationalists, science communicators and skeptics. The team also provides skeptical content on pages about psychics, the paranormal and urban myths.

The domain wikipedia.org, consistently appears in the top 10 domains visited on the internet, and contains over 30 million pages in 287 languages. Wikipedia reaches the screen of every person who uses Google; a page’s lede features in Google’s potted summary and our work finds its way into the consciousness of the great unwashed without anyone noticing.

Pages for skeptical groups and spokespeople are watched, improved, maintained and linked to other relevant pages. We prepare for peaks in page views like conferences and paranormal TV series. The team recently wrote and edited pages for the notable speakers at the European Skeptics’ Congress in Wroclaw. The pages have been translated into Polish especially for the event.

Journalists search Wikipedia for information and to find people for rational comment. Many news articles are based on the content. This is where our work comes to life and reaches readers beyond Wikipedia.

GSoW has written 231 new pages and rewritten 242 existing pages in 11 languages with almost 14 million views. The spontaneous human combustion page has over 1.5 million views since we rewrote it in August 2013.

Since the March for Science on April 22, 2017, GSoW has written or rewritten 49 Pages in many languages about science, scientific skepticism, and the paranormal; accounting for 413,000 views.

Our work reaches more people globally than any other skeptical organisation. We’ve got the back of every skeptic on Wikipedia – including our competitors for this award.

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A brief summary of what the event is/does

Skeptics at the Fringe is a month’s long series of free talks staged as part of the world’s largest arts festival – The Edinburgh Fringe – created and run by The Edinburgh Skeptics Society. We have been doing the Fringe run now for eight years and we were honoured to have won an Ockham previously under an earlier regime.

The format is mostly the tried and tested Skeptics in the Pub arrangement, arranging for a speaker to give a presentation on their subject. We have the added pressures of a limited time slot, managing volunteers and speakers, and the day to day logistics of putting on 21 talks over 23 nights. For two nights, we arrange for other like-minded acts to do 10 minutes to promote their shows in exchange for attracting their audiences to us.

The free SotF events are aimed at attracting many of the eager fringe-going audience by offering them a wide and varied selection of talks. This year we had talks on ghost hunting, the Earth’s magnetic field and doping in professional sport. We arranged a panel on forensics with Dame Prof. Sue Black, Prof Niamh Nic Daid and best-selling crime writer Val McDarmid.

“Two middle-aged women wittering on about forensics” was how Niamh described it (Dame Black had to attend a murder at the last minute) but they held a room of 65 people spellbound for an hour.

We interview each speaker for our podcast and if they allow, we release the talks over the rest of the year.

How it reaches out beyond the traditional channels and audience

As a necessary part of being at the Fringe and getting publicity, we need to ‘flyer’ a list of our events. Our self-designed flyer also explains about skepticsm and directs them to local skeptics groups in their area (I have attached a copy). We printed and handed out over 2400 of these to the Festival-going public.

Our audience this year totalled nearly 800 people over the whole run. Though we have some regulars and interested locals who are familiar with us, a large amount were new attendees pulled from the visitors and locals who seek out something different at the Fringe. One anecdote will suffice, when flyering for Lydia Finch’s talk on growing up in a religious cult, a passing English couple overheard us calling out the title and abruptly stopped. The lady told me she had also grown up in the Jehovah’s Witnesses and after answering a few of their questions they attended the talk. As a result, she and the speaker were able to share experiences.

We love it when that happens.

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A brief summary of what the event is/does

Good Thinking is a charity dedicated to promoting science and skepticism. In the past year, we have made major progress in the following areas:

Homeopathy Blacklisting – We secured a consultation by NHS England on NHS prescriptions for homeopathy, and encouraged engagement by skeptics. The consultation is a response to our 2015 legal challenge. When the consultation was first announced, it focused on other non-evidence-based prescriptions; conversations we had with the body running the consultation led to homeopathy being prioritised and included in this consultation.

NHS Homeopathy CCG consultations – Public consultations on ending homeopathy took place in Bristol, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire and Enfield. When explaining why they are holding these consultations, CCGs cited previous NHS consultations (largely prompted by Good Thinking) and media coverage of homeopathy (again, largely prompted by Good Thinking).

Charity Commission – As a result of our correspondence, the Charity Commission assessed the validity of pseudoscience charities . That review closed in May and the outcome is due later in the year.

Black Salve on sale on ebay/Argos – We spotted the dangerous cancer ‘cure’ Black Salve on sale on eBay with a ‘Click and Collect’ agreement with Argos/Sainsbury’s, so we purchased an item and took the story to the media. As a result of that coverage, eBay removed listings for Black Salve in the UK.

How it reaches out beyond the traditional channels and audience

Much of our work has been featured in the national print and online media, including coverage by the BBC, Guardian, The Times, Daily Mail, Telegraph, Mirror, The Sun, Metro, and Buzzfeed; plus, specialist coverage including the BMJ, Pharmaceutical Journal, Pulse, Civil Society, New Scientist and Times Higher Education. As part of our projects to increase engagement in consultations we created lists of 700+ GPs and 1500+ academics, contacting them to encourage them to submit their expert views.

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Didn’t submit anything – I’m nagging!

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