Next Generation Wiki [Engine] Links Every Word To Its Author
Reporting in Nature Genetics, scientist Robert Hoffmann develops the first Wiki where authorship really matters. Based on a powerful authorship tracking technology, this next generation wiki links every word to its corresponding author. This way readers can always know their sources and authors receive due credit.
The history of a collaborative wiki article can become extremely complex within a few editing cycles. Someone creates a paragraph; someone else deletes a sentence, inserts a word here and there, and so forth. - "How could the reader of such an article know who wrote what," asks Dr. Robert Hoffmann, Society in Science fellow and visiting scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT.
In first generation wikis, this information could theoretically be found in the archives, but in practice, it is impossible for a reader to reconstruct the authorship of specific texts from hundreds of previous versions. This has been the root cause of a lasting suspicion against wikis in academia and the business world, since the uncertainty as to the source of a single word can decrease the value of a collaborative text in its entirety.
Apart from being an important guidance to the reader, authorship is often key to a successful academic and professional career. Authorship provides an important basis to establish priority of ideas and discoveries and to build a reputation among peers. "It is only fair to duly acknowledge authors, who invest time and knowledge in their contributions," Hoffmann says in his article.
Clear authorship attribution in this next generation wiki makes it also possible that users can rate each other based on their contributions. For the first time, collaborative publishing can therefore be enhanced with the advantages of a reputation system. Hoffmann describes how a self-regulating reputation system can help to settle editing conflicts, which were an important problem in first generation wikis and used to depend on slow and refutable top-down decisions.
The scientific wiki project, introduced in the September issue of Nature Genetics and released online today, is the first of its kind and a milestone in the Mememoir project. "This release is an important proof of principle, but our ambitious aim with the Mememoir project is to revolutionize publishing in all of science," says Dr. Hoffmann, "with a knowledge base that is open access, interdisciplinary and combines the altruistic possibilities of wikis with explicit authorship."
The first scientific wiki system of the Mememoir project has been released online today at WikiGenes.
Robert Hoffman /A Wiki for the Life Sciences Where Authorship Matters / Nature Genetics / volume 40 / number 9 / 1047 - 1051 /September 2008 / Published online 27 August 2008 / doi:10.1038/ng.f.217
WikiGenes is a collaborative knowledge resource for the life sciences, which is based on the general wiki idea but employs specifically developed technology to serve as a rigorous scientific tool. The rationale behind WikiGenes is to provide a platform for the scientific community to collect, communicate and evaluate knowledge about genes, chemicals, diseases and other biomedical concepts in a bottom-up process.
In WikiGenes, authorship tracking technology is used to link every contribution unambiguously to its author, creating the first hybrid of traditional, scientific and collaborative, dynamic publishing ... . This technical innovation in WikiGenes also supports the other central function of authorship as guidance for the reader. Authorship is essential to appraise origin, authority and reliability of information. This is especially important in the wiki model, with its dynamic content and large number of authors.
How could the reader of such an article know who wrote what? In first generation wikis, this information can theoretically be found in the archives and attempts have been made to establish reliability measures, but in practice, it is impossible for a user to reconstruct the authorship of specific text passages from hundreds of previous versions.
The uncertainty as to the source of specific texts is therefore an important problem in dynamic publications and decreases the value of articles in their entirety. In WikiGenes, on the contrary, new contributions are identified with every editing step and attributed to their authors. Thus readers can always know the corresponding author of any part of a WikiGenes article.
The technological innovation in WikiGenes is central to the attempt to turn the wiki model into a rigorous scientific tool. To this aim it is also important to provide a framework that supports the contribution of novel and original research. Clear authorship attribution facilitates this essentially, but the integrative and harmonizing forces in dynamic publications tend to work against original and novel views. In WikiGenes, authors are therefore provided with the option to create protected articles with a limited number of selected co-authors. These articles cannot be edited by others, but they can still be linked to the encyclopedic core and discussed and rated by everyone. This way, it would be possible in the near future to publish original research and establish priority of discoveries and theories.
[http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/v40/n9/full/ng.f.217.html] (Subscriber Access)
[http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/v40/n9/pdf/ng.f.217.pdf] (Subscriber Access)
WikiGenes Introduction & Tutorial
Sample 'Author' Contribution Page
Sample 'Author' Contribution
Thanks / Bernie Sloan / Sora Associates / Bloomington, Indiana / For The HeadsUp