Campus - 30.11.2023 - 08:29 

HSG students write Wikipedia articles on the sustainable transformation of the financial system

The flow of global finances have an important influence on the fight against climate change. Because the topic is not widely publicised, HSG students have written Wikipedia articles on "Climate Finance". 

"The financial system has an large influence on how and whether climate change is combated," says Anna Stünzi. Among other things, she researches and teaches at HSG on ecological aspects of the financial and economic system and on the influence of state regulation on climate change. However, the central importance of the financial system tends to be less present in the public debate. This is one of the reasons why Stünzi held a Master's course entitled "Governing Finance for Tackling Climate Change" at HSG this autumn semester. Part of it involved students writing, updating and expanding Wikipedia articles on this topic. 

"Wikpedia is an opportunity for us researchers to report, and piece together the public discourse," says Stünzi. Although a great deal of knowledge is processed and newly produced at universities, a large part of it hardly reaches beyond a specialised group.

"Wikipedia is an important channel for scientific topics"

Stünzi and her co-faculty member Florian Egli, a researcher at ETH Zurich, worked together with the Science et Cité Foundation for this course. The Foundation has been promoting dialogue between science and society in Switzerland for 25 years. One of its programmes is "Wiki goes HoCHschule", which coaches students in writing Wikipedia articles in regular courses. The non-profit organisation Wikimedia CH supports the project. 

There is also "ResearCH goes Wiki", which organises workshops and consultations for university members on editing Wikipedia articles. "We want to encourage researchers in Switzerland to make their expertise accessible to a wide audience via Wikipedia," says project manager Flurin Beuggert. Various studies have shown that Wikipedia is an important channel for many people to find out about scientific topics, says Beuggert. "It is therefore crucial that there are reliable and understandable Wikipedia articles on as many scientific topics as possible."

Communicating complex topics in an understandable way

In the three-day block course, HSG students read current studies and texts on "climate finance" topics such as green bonds (bonds for financing climate protection activities), Green Investment Bank (state bank for investments in ecological projects) and investments in fossil fuels. "Based on this, they suggested aspects that they thought would fit into Wikipedia articles," says Stünzi. 

According to ETH researcher Florian Egli, the learning experience for the students was extraordinary: "On the one hand, they had to summarise complex knowledge in a few sentences and show different results depending on the state of research. On the other hand, they were aware that their text would have a large public audience afterwards." Beuggert says: "By writing for Wikipedia, the students gain a different perspective on the topic and practise communicating complex scientific topics in an understandable way."

Raising awareness of the importance of climate financing

The course took place as part of the HSG Contextual Studies programme. This complements the core study programme with historical, ethical and Humanities & Social Sciences courses. "It is important that students who later work in banks, for example, are aware of the leverage the financial system can have in the area of climate protection," says Stünzi.
On the last day of the course, the students spent an afternoon working on nine articles with the support of Science et Cité. They also wrote a new article on the "Vulnerable 20 Group". This includes 68 countries that are particularly exposed to the risks of climate change. "As far as we can see, the students' revisions were all well accepted by the Wikipedia community," says Anna Stünzi. 

Beuggert adds: "I was delighted by the students' great motivation and openness towards Wikipedia. They also seemed to me to be sensitised to the reasonable use of digital platforms." Without the support of Science et Cité, all the groups in the course would have found areas for improvement or gaps that they could revise. Beuggert as well as Stünzi and Egli can imagine working together again next year. "There is still a lot to do on Wikipedia when it comes to the topic of climate finance," says Beuggert.

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