Friday, October 17, 2014

Scholarpedia – another online reference work

I just discovered the Scholarpedia ("the peer-reviewed open-access encyclopedia, where knowledge is curated by communities of experts") through an article by Michael Arbib (a neuroscientist & something of a polymath). Haven't had time to investigate. Here's a section from the "about" page:
Scholarpedia is a peer-reviewed open-access encyclopedia written and maintained by scholarly experts from around the world. Scholarpedia is inspired by Wikipedia and aims to complement it by providing in-depth scholarly treatments of academic topics.

Scholarpedia and Wikipedia are alike in many respects:
  • both allow anyone to propose revisions to almost any article
  • both are "wikis" and use the familiar MediaWiki software designed for Wikipedia
  • both allow considerable freedom within each article's "Talk" pages
  • both are committed to the goal of making the world's knowledge freely available to all
Nonetheless, Scholarpedia is best understood by how it is unlike most wikis, differences arising from Scholarpedia's academic origins, goals, and audience. The most significant is Scholarpedia's process of peer-reviewed publication: all articles in Scholarpedia are either in the process of being written by a team of authors, or have already been published and are subject to expert curation.

Prior to publication,
  • all new articles must first receive sponsorship to validate the identity, authority, and ability of the authors who propose to write it
  • each article undergoes scholarly peer-review, requiring public approval from at least two scholarly experts
After publication,
  • articles appear within the Scholarpedia Journal and can be cited like any other scholarly article
  • the visibility of future revisions to an article is controlled by the article's Curator, usually the article's (most) established expert at time of publication
  • as soon as any individual's revision to an article is accepted, the individual joins a community of recognized (non-author) article contributors
  • the team of article contributors may from time to time act in the Curator's stead
  • when an article curator resigns or is otherwise unable to serve, a new Curator is elected
This hybrid model allows Scholarpedia articles to serve as a bridge between traditional peer-reviewed journals and more dynamic and up-to-date wikis without compromising quality or trustworthiness. It aims to remove the disincentives that discourage academics from participating in online publication and productive discussion on the topics they know best.
Current emphasis seems to be on the sciences rather than the arts and humanities. I don't know whether that's a matter of deliberate policy or an artifact of who the prime organizers are and thus of what they're interested in and who they know. I'd guess the latter.

Here's a list of of the main topic areas:
  • Encyclopedia of Applied Mathematics
  • Encyclopedia of Astrophysics
  • Encyclopedia of Celestial mechanics
  • Encyclopedia of Computational intelligence
  • Encyclopedia of Computational neuroscience
  • Encyclopedia of Condensed matter
  • Encyclopedia of Dynamical systems
  • Encyclopedia of Experimental high energy physics
  • Encyclopedia of Fluid dynamics
  • Encyclopedia of Models of brain disorders
  • Encyclopedia of Motor Control
  • Encyclopedia of Neuroscience
  • Encyclopedia of Nuclear physics
  • Encyclopedia of Physics
  • Encyclopedia of Play Science
  • Encyclopedia of Quantum and statistical field theory
  • Encyclopedia of Space-time and gravitation
  • Encyclopedia of Theoretical high energy physics
  • Encyclopedia of Touch
The Play Science section looks especially promising for humanists:
  • ADHD and Play (Jaak Panksepp and Sheri Six)
  • Rough and Tumble Play (Sergio Pellis and Vivien Pellis)
  • Definitions of Play (Peter Gray)
  • Evolution of American Playgrounds (Joe Frost)
  • Hunter-Gatherers and Play (Peter Gray)
  • Adult Play and Sexual Selection (Garry Chick)
  • Technology and Play (Jeffrey H. Goldstein)
  • Consequences of Play Deprivation (Stuart Brown)
  • Movement as a Way of Knowing (Maxine Sheets-Johnstone)
  • The Benefits of Recess in Primary School (Catherine M. Bohn-Gettler and Anthony D. Pellegrini)
  • Children's Play and Culture (Robyn M. Holmes)

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