Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Criticisms of Encyclopedia of Life.

When I first heard E.O. Wilson's TED prize wish (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-txR1WSPBs) I too applauded the endevour to create an online "encyclopedia" with a webpage for every species, where research could be uploaded and shared openly with the world. Such a resource would be to the benefit of every person. As a comparative biologist I appreciate synthetic resources of information on life, whereas most species descriptions now are spread far and wide in the literature.

However, after two years the Encyclopedia of Life database is no closer to it's ten year goal. If there are 1.8 described species, then contributors must write 500 species pages a day! This is hardly occurring. Even the so called exemplar pages have little information, mostly taken from other web pages such as Wikipedia. It seems the database is mostly a vehicular framework for flicker photos of wildlife, from what little is available. And even that, the mere task of uploading photographs, is difficult and requires a Flicker account.

It is not only that there are few people uploading information, it's also that each piece requires curation from an "expert", meaning it takes even longer for a page to be complete.

I cannot help but be cynical, even with Wilson giving his full support. People just don't have the time to provide to such a project to make it useful. I hope I am wrong.

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