Hands up if you've heard this before: An ambitious new project promises to create an online compendium of all 1.8 million or so described species. It can already claim participation by premier institutions, a wad of start-up cash, and huzzahs from biodiversity guru Edward O. Wilson. Although some confess to a wary sense of déjà vu, taxonomists hope that the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) can provide the long-awaited comprehensive species catalog. Even enthusiasts agree that it faces some tall hurdles, however, such as signing up curators and getting permission to use copyrighted material.
Déjà vu because the defunct All-Species Foundation -- also covered in Science (doi:10.1126/science.294.5543.769) -- had much the same ambitions six years ago. It is easy to be sceptical, but I think it was Rudi Giuliani who said "under promise, over deliver." Wise words.