The New Scientist this week reports on the Encyclopedia of Life, a new, massive, collaborative, evolving resource to catalogue the 1.8 million known species of life on the planet. Although this is a biology resource and so, for example, has access to greater funding sources than most of us in the humanities dream of (E. O. Wilson has apparently already reaised $50 million in set-up funds), a lot of the issues of collaborative research and publication, of evolving content, of citability, of authority, of copyright, of free access, and of winning the engagement of the research community as a whole are exactly the same as we face. It would serve us well to watch how this resource develops.
It is a truism that we can learn a lot from the way scientists conduct their research, as they are better-funded than we are. But, dare I say it, the builders of this project could also do worse than to consult and engage with digital humanists who have spent a lot of time thinking about innovative and robust solutions to these problems in ways that scientists have not necessarily had to.