Nobel Wikipedia lapse points to the holes in science journalism

This story from Marina Koren in The Atlantic about new Nobel laureate Donna Strickland has an important message: “One Wikipedia Page Is a Metaphor for the Nobel Prize’s Record With Women”.

Unlike her fellow winners, Strickland did not have a Wikipedia page at the time of the announcement. A Wikipedia user tried to set up a page in May, but it was denied by a moderator with the message: “This submission’s references do not show that the subject qualifies for a Wikipedia article.” Strickland, it was determined, had not received enough dedicated coverage elsewhere on the internet to warrant a page.

As a science writer friend pointed out, this is a hole in science journalism. Here we have Nobel-Prize-winning work, and before the Prize was awarded this week, there were not enough stories to justify a page.

The vast majority of wonderful and important work in science will never win a Nobel. Far more good science, I’m sure, than there are writers who write about science. To have a Nobel-winning area that hasn’t been covered in depth by science writers since the 1980s is far from an unthinkable circumstance.

But clearly in this case the science press has had different priorities from physicists who judge the long-term significance of research. That means the public isn’t seeing the spectrum of highly-significant work. How many pages have been printed, and internet virtual ink spilled, on string theorists and untestable ideas? In the meantime, how much of the real empirical record of physics has gone unheralded by any journalists at all?

This is equally true in most fields of science, probably all of them. There are amazing, rich discoveries in human evolution that I think are really cool that don’t get the attention they should. I do what I can to bring attention to many of them, and I’ll keep on trying to do so.