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Old 02-26-2008, 07:47 AM   #1
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Default Encyclopedia of Life (web site)

According to “The Encyclopedia of Life, No Bookshelf Required,” an article in the New York Times Science section today, an international team of scientists is collaborating on a wiki for science that is to contain at least a one-page “description of every species known to science.” They expect that more information will be added over time, but the first 30,000 pages go online on Thursday, February 28. These pages will come “mainly from databases of fish, amphibians and plants,” the Times article says.

The project is being funded by contributions from the MacArthur Foundation, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and others to universities and other scientific institutions. The budget for the first five years is “about $50 million.”

This is not the first time scientists have attempted to catalog all the plants and creatures of the earth, but it does seem as if this attempt will have a pretty good chance of success. If it only consolidates all the odds and ends of knowledge in a single searchable site, it will be doing something important (it seems to me, anyway). The site will be accessible to scientists and ordinary visitors as well — there is to be a slider that lets you state how much detail you want.

I think this is pretty cool, and wish them well with it. (Do wonder a little about turf wars among the scientists, but suppose there can be a lot of information amassed before they get into that.)

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