Plans announced to create the Encyclopedia of Life

source: San Jose Mercury News

The Encyclopedia of Life ( will take approximately 10 years to create according to its founders, who will announce the effort in Washington DC today. Who are they? Some of the world's leading scientific institutions and universities in the world.

They plan to catalog and share information on all of the species of animals and will allow information on SIGHTINGS from “amateurs.”

Projected to take 300 million pages, “The MacArthur and Sloan foundations have given a total $12.5 million to pay for the first 2 1/2 years of the massive effort, but it will be free and accessible to everyone.”

From the great article over at the San Jose Mercury News,

“”It could be a very big leap in the way we do science,” said Cristian Samper, acting secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, one of seven museums, universities and labs to launch the encyclopedia. “This is a project that is so big, not even the Smithsonian could do it by itself. It is a global effort.”

Other institutions helping head the undertaking include Harvard University, Chicago's Field Museum, the Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts, the Biodiversity Heritage Library Consortium, the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Atlas of Living Australia.”

Of course, as an idealist, I wish these scientists would sign up to contribute to wikipedia, the mechanism is already in place. And who is going to define “amateur?”

My Mixed Emotions

I applaud that scientists are now seeing that the online creation of content is a valid form of scholarship. I am saddened that another behemoth is going to be created when perhaps we could take the wikipedia entries already in place and edit them.

However, perhaps this is just the answer to those skeptics out there who dismiss wikipedia as a valid source of information, they won't be able to dispute this one and perhaps will be forced to unblock this resource although it will be edited by man!

I just found out about it. What do you think?

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Steve May 9, 2007 - 3:19 pm

I have to admit, I’ve never heard of it and when I read your blog article, I was all set to step up on the soapbox and denounce it. But then, after looking at their mock ups of what they expect it to look like, I think it’s a pretty worthwhile project. It looks to contain for more multimedia and dynamic content than Wikipedia. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if it linked Wikipedia in.

Did you see the screenshots? If not, check those out. Looks fascinating.

I’m tenatively optimistic about it, so long as they build in enough catches so that the data doesn’t get out of date even as they create it!

Bud Hunt May 9, 2007 - 5:16 pm


I don’t think it makes sense for this project to be folded into Wikipedia for all sorts of reasons. I alternate in my frustration with fragmentation and centralization, but I don’t believe that all the information eggs should be sitting in any one basket. Wikipedia no more has the corner on knowledge and user-created content and community than do you or I or anyone else has the corner on the educational blogosphere.
More and more, there is no “one mechanism” for all this stuff, and while it makes sense to look for existing projects to connect to before starting fresh, I don’t know that this project fits in anyone else’s scope.
Thanks for the pointer to this resource — looks pretty interesting.

Jane May 9, 2007 - 9:07 pm

With 1.8 mllion known species, and probably at last double that for unknown species, I believe the EOL site will be huge enough to have earned its own place outside of Wikipedia.

What I find interesting (and compelling) is that a top-flight firm, Avenue A-Razorfish, pro bono, not only created the website in 3 weeks, but according to the announcement email, “were able to visualize a stunning design for the Encyclopedia and incorporate it in a video that is the centerpiece of the newly launched website.”

This, to me, demonstrates the power of a good idea!

leon's web3d blog May 10, 2007 - 1:42 pm

why not they just do it in wikipedia. Do they think that the wiki is made by “amateurs”?

Graham Wegner May 13, 2007 - 11:37 am

I think this sort of project goes beyond wikipedia. When in Adelaide recently, Jimmy Wales himself said that wikipedia was just an encyclopedia, and should not be treated as anything more than that – providing overviews of topics well established and verifiable. Bud’s comment is right on the money and this project might get those people on board who only believe in credentialed expertise, and embracing the concept of “online creation of content.”

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