User:Project Osprey

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This Wikipedian joined Wikipedia on September 28, 2012 (5 years, 9 months, 3 weeks and 1 day ago).
Nuvola apps edu science.svgThis user contributes to the WikiProject Chemistry.
ScienceDirectThis user has access to Elsevier's ScienceDirect through The Wikipedia Library

Osprey Projects[edit]


I tend to build new pages (or re-writes of existing ones) in sandboxes. Depending on what I'm doing they can see a lot of activity, or hold old drafts from months ago. If you want precise information on what I'm actually up to then you're better off checking my edit log

Planned activity[edit]

A to-do-list of things that I've been meaning to start for ages but have never gotten around to doing and am now afraid I'll forget the spellings for:

To Do Major re-writes or expansions
  • Phenol-oxazoline ligands
  • Bis(oxazolinato)/semicorrin ligands
  • Rotational symmetry in ligands
  • Kemp-elimination
  • Interesterification
  • Arsonic acid (R-ASO(OH)2

Useful links[edit]

Nuvola apps edu science.svg
Recent changes in
WP:Chemistry and WP:Chemicals
List overview · Updated: 2017-05-20 (infobox articles) · This box:

Wikipedia has all sorts of useful templates and guides, which it seems are always hidden and can take you half-an-hour to find even when you know what you're looking for. As such a list of bookmarks becomes handy:



Work lists:

And off-site:

Wiki tools


Book citations and templates[edit]

About me[edit]

I like chemistry; predominately small molecules and named-reactions but any bit of elegant chemistry can catch my fancy. I got into Wikipedia shortly after finishing my PhD thesis. I'd written a long chapter on oxazolines and I knew that it would likely just sit on a shelf and never be read again. The existing page was pretty basic and I figured I could improve it very easily by just copy-and-pasting across some general information, I've been carrying on ever since.

... I do sometimes reflect that if I'd put this much effort into being a Youtuber I'd probably be able to retire by now.

About Wikipedia[edit]

Frankly, life at Wikipedia isn't anything like what I expected.

On the outside you imagine there to be legions of editors; the worlds a big place after all and there must be 100,000's of chemists. You would expect wikipedia to appeal: we all use it and we're a pretty geeky bunch for the most part. So yeah, I expected there to be a legion of chemistry editors.

Instead WikiProject Chem has perhaps a dozen really active members - maybe 20 at the outside - plus, admittedly, some irregular or cross-disciplinary editors. It really isn't that many when you think about it, especially as many of us don't have free access to journals. Chemistry is vast and somedays I’m impressed that we manage to hold things together – sometimes I’m not sure we are holding things together.

I also worry that we've become a clique. I feel that the activation energy to becoming a new chemistry editor is too high. There are several reasons for this, some of which we're to blame for and some we aren't.

  • Editing Wikipedia is very different from scientific journal or essay writing, in particular the need to be general, easily-graspable and ideally secondary sourced. New editors almost always need to have their work extensively copy-edited, which is also very different from what they're use to and (for some of them at least) initially unsettling, vexing and unwanted.
  • Our interactions with new performers is very often negative. We see lots of undeclared class assignments were 20-30 unsuitable essays suddenly appear and eventually have to be deleted because we can't make contact with anyone. There's plenty of vanity editing with people coming here to cite their own work or maintain a page about themselves and who drag any attempts to modifiy their work through every possible form of arbitration.
  • Due to lots of the above we've become jaded (or some of us at least) and reluctant to engage with new editors.

It's a little maddening because chemists often criticise Wikipedia for being rubbish, yet I've never met one who doesn't use it.

The trouble with students...[edit]

WikiProject Chem increasingly finds itself dealing with student editing assignments. These should good for both parties; the students gain new experiences and we get to interact with potential new editors. The reality however is largely negative:

  • No warning and little or no communication. Thus far I've never known us to be contacted in advance. Even once we've realised that we're dealing with a class assignment trying to get in contact with anyone is typically fruitless (ironically for a community-based editing project). A common sub-group are class assignments with no identifiable supervisor, so we don't even know who to try and contact.
  • A whole class appears. One quite day 30 or more new articles will appear. Wikipedia:Wiki_Ed/Hunter_College/Chemistry_378_(Spring_2017) is a particularly stark example, with approximately 120 student editors. That is significantly more than the current chemistry editing community. As we've had no forewarning we are normally not ready to respond.
  • Really inappropriate topics. Too often the article topics are either far too broad or far too niche. Students shouldn't be asked to write an encyclopedia article on DNA (too vast!) but 'Environmental Concerns of Headphone Disposal' really isn't much better (will they be able to find any secondary references?.. probably not). Sadly, I've seen both of those examples. Another form encountered are rewrites of already existing articles (or significant overlaps).
  • Inappropriate writing styles. The issue is essays. Supervisors are accustomed to setting essays and students are accustomed to writing them. If you ask them to write you an encyclopedia article they will write you an essay - I'm sure they know the difference but they don't know how to enact it, so we get 5,000 words in one massive brick of text.
  • Epic drama. The above problems lead to articles which require heavy editing at best, but most often produce articles which need to be deleted or merged. The students are being marked on these articles and are of course resistant to any of that. This is annoying on two fronts, firstly we're already overloaded by the shear number of unexpected essays and having to fight through changes tooth and nail on each one is a real slog, secondly these student assignments are notionally supposed to be bringing us new editors but the threat of us effectively lowering their course marks must surely turn them off.

It's easy for that to sound like I'm blaming the students, but my ire here is really targeted at the trained educators behind all this. They rarely have any experience of editing Wikipedia but don't seem to think this is a barrier to them training others to do so. They fail to engage with what is well-known to be a community-based project. There is also clearly an assumption that so long as content is generated then Wikipedia's needs are being satisfied. None of this is helpful or considerate. We are very willing to work with educators and students, but we do have standards and its difficult to work constructively with people who don't talk to you.


Class assignments should explicitly state that one purpose of the assignment is that students should learn to write in an encyclopedic tone, and that they will be graded on this. This will help steer the students efforts but will only go so far, because if the titles they’re given to write about are naturally essays then I can see students defaulting to essay writing. What I mean by this is titles that can be generalised as ‘X about Y’

These are all topics from class assignments and they are, to my mind, naturally essays. You’d start by writing an introduction and a conclusion is clearly needed somewhere and so before you know it you have an essay. Article selection is therefore key. I think distinct small molecules would be a good area to recommend:

  • There’s a large list of these in the waiting Wikipedia:Requested_articles/Natural_sciences/Chemistry#Chemical_compounds
  • They can be broken down into obvious sections (chembox, lead, synthesis, structure and properties, reactions etc) this disfavours essay writing, plus all students can be given the same guidance.
  • It still involves a good range of skills – primary references for chembox, reviews for the lead, planning, writing, making images etc (Required: prominent links to Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Chemistry)
  • There are lots of articles for the students to compare their work against - this should help then write in the desired style and also means that there's is no excuse if they do not.

Most importantly prior contact and ongoing communication needs to be fostered. I'd rather spend a day wrangling over course set-up than have to figure what to do with another article of the environmental effects of used condoms. Properly directed students can generate useful content for Wikipedia and be motivated by seeing their work be immediately accessible to an audience of millions.

Colour keys for graphics[edit]

Lead(II,IV) oxide      Pb3+      O2−

Many pages on inorganic compounds contain computer generated images of their structures. In these depictions different elements have different colours, however a key is almost never included. This probably isn't a problem if you know the CPK coloring system off-by-heart but for most people (chemists included) it limits their usefulness. Take for example the totally obvious cell of Lead(II,IV) oxide (on the right). Even someone with a reasonable level of chemical knowledge may be confused by this.

Thankfully key's can be incorporated with a minimum of fuss. The key (     Pb3+      O2−) can be added using the following code:

{{colorbox|#575961}} [[Lead|Pb]]<sup>3+</sup> {{colorbox|#ee2010}} [[Oxygen|O]]<sup>2−</sup>

The colours are hexadecimal and can be found by trawling the code of the CPK coloring page or here if they've been made by User:Benjah-bmm27, who produces rather a lot of our 3D images.

Key's may also be added into the Chembox by exploiting the ImageCaption tag:

| ImageCaption = {{colorbox|#bd80e3}} [[Arsenic|Ar]]<sup>3+</sup> {{colorbox|#ee2010}} [[Oxygen|O]]<sup>2−</sup>