Thursday, July 10, 2008

Why isn't EOL using Wikipedia?

Interesting paper by Huss et al. in PLoS Biology entitled "A Gene Wiki for Community Annotation of Gene Function" (doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0060175). Essentially, the paper describes using Wikipedia to create a comprehensive gene wiki:
In principle, a comprehensive gene wiki could have naturally evolved out of the existing Wikipedia framework, and as described above, the beginnings of this process were already underway. However, we hypothesized that growth could be greatly accelerated by systematic creation of gene page stubs, each of which would contain a basal level of gene annotation harvested from authoritative sources. Here we describe an effort to automatically create such a foundation for a comprehensive gene wiki. Moreover, we demonstrate that this effort has begun the positive-feedback loop between readers, contributors, and page utility, which will promote its long-term success.
Given that the EOL project seems stalled (i.e., the current content hasn't changed), and the existing Wikipedia content is often much richer than EOL's, one has to ask why EOL doesn't give up it's current model and make use of Wikipedia? In other words, create all its taxon pages in Wikipedia.


Kevin Zelnio said...

Is it because EOL wants to be viewed as the proprietor of the species pages in order to guard the gate of information? It makes sense from that standpoint. But if they are slightly more idealistic and do not care about being the authority, Wikipedia would be nice. There are many species pages there already. But those pages can be edited by anyone. For instance, if Stephen Colbert can tell his viewers to change the wikipedia entry for elephants to state he is responsible for their increase in numbers. Anyone can go in and change things.

One taxonomist can go in and change an entry that (s)he synonymizes without a record in the literature! Or someone can go in and change the conservation status of an endangered species, or generally play practical jokes on entries. It seems to me that EOL seeks to lend sme authority and structure to the pages which I support. Unfortunately, the implementation and creation of new pages is crawling at a snail's pace.

Anonymous said...

Do you think EOL would have really gotten so much funding if instead of building EOL, they built content that went into wikipedia? Its not about providing species information to the world, its about getting a big grant and making a big name for yourself. Sad to say, but the scientific community will always be too slow to keep things current until different publishing, recognition and promotion models exist.