Help:Frequently Asked Questions
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What is Scholarpedia?
By integrating itself into existing traditions of scholarly communication, Scholarpedia brings together the world's most widely-recognized subject experts to write and curate living topic reviews.
Scholarpedia is written by and for scholars and scientists, and as such aims to complement, rather than replace, Wikipedia.
Why should I devote time and energy to Scholarpedia rather than Wikipedia?
The year 2012 saw nearly 2 million scholarly articles written. Practically all were by smart, knowledgeable, and well-meaning experts, individuals who were happy to give their research away because their primary goal has been to get noticed and read. More than 80,000 of these were comprehensive examinations of the state of the art on a topic within the scholarly literature. After usually months of editorial back-and-forth, these reviews were published and then immediately became outdated and inaccessible to the people who funded their writing.
At the same time as academics have literally been giving away their life's work, the public struggles to get access to up-to-date expert-vetted information. And thus the state of the art in, for example, medical topics, economics, politics, and legal fields is diffusely distributed and available only to a privileged few. The expert consensus on a range of topics of vital importance has been hidden, allowing special interest groups and public relations firms to fill the void.
One might hope, given most scholars' motivations for joining the academy, that Wikipedia would be a natural venue for scholarly communication. But Wikipedia has not succeeded in this regard. We believe the reasons this is the case are two-fold: (1) academics participate in a prestige-based economy, and in order to survive professionally we must devote our limited time to pursuits for which we can get professional credit. And (2), despite a lifetime spent in serious and critical study, the credibility and reputation academics have earned is worth nothing when contributing in non-scholarly forums.
By contrast, Scholarpedia employs the same basic workflow that academics will be familiar with: a scholarly review article gets written, undergoes peer-review, and is subsequently published. Via curatorship, author expertise is recognized by having an author curate the article over the longer term, ensuring that the article remains an accurate reflection of the field as it develops.
Furthermore, thanks to Scholarpedia's prominence, an article here is usually highly ranked in search results whenever its title is queried (e.g. try hemineglect or Bayesian statistics). Articles at Scholarpedia thus serve a valuable role online, providing information to the public from those most qualified to disseminate it.
What does it mean for a Scholarpedia article to get "published"?
Publication, in Scholarpedia, occurs once an article has passed peer-review. It involves approving a particular version of the article (which, because all versions are saved, will be always available). When it is published it is assigned a DOI, and will then appear in that month's Scholarpedia Journal (ISSN 1941-6016). Subsequent revisions are then vetted by the article's Curator (an established expert on the topic).
Scholarpedia's publication model aims to provide flexibility, allowing the process to be driven either by Editors (the method traditionally used within scholarly publishing), or driven by the article's authors themselves, or even by some combination of both parties. What makes this possible is Scholarpedia's use of "semi-anonymous peer review", in which the identities of whomever approves an article for publication is public, while article rejection is done anonymously and with plausible deniability.
How does semi-anonymous peer-review work?
Reviewer anonymity is a key aspect of traditional peer-review, permitting reviewers to criticize freely without fear of retribution. However, in order to allow us to avoid the constraints of a "top down" Editor-driven encyclopedia, Scholarpedia relies on Curators publicly vouching for article topics and contents. Our challenge has been to develop a system that allows reviewers to comment anonymously and reject articles when necessary without requiring the involvement of an editor.
Thus, all reviewer involvement is, by default, public and fully attributed. When the need arises for anonymous criticism or article rejection, the following provides reviewers with plausible deniability:
- Article rejection is anonymous.
- Article rejection can be performed by any Scholarpedia editor, as well as any individual invited to review an article.
- Any individual invited to review an article can invite any other individual to review the same article.
- If a reviewer (or any person, for that matter) should like to comment anonymously on an article, they need only contact a Scholarpedia Editor and have this person relay the reviewer's comments.
Is Scholarpedia an encyclopedia or a journal?
As a gradually compiled encyclopedia, it is both. Like a journal, it has review articles that are published on a particular date. Like an encyclopedia, its articles are intended to be durable and unique within Scholarpedia. It is by being both an encyclopedia and journal that Scholarpedia is able to bridge traditional scholarly publishing with wiki-style collaboration and continuous incremental development.
What license is my article licensed under?
How is Scholarpedia funded?
Scholarpedia currently runs on a limited budget that covers basic maintenance and server costs. This funding is currently provided by Brain Corporation, which benefits from Scholarpedia's extensive coverage of topics in computational neuroscience.
How does article "Curatorship" work? What if I don't have time to maintain an article?
After publication, articles can be revised to reflect advances in the field, with revisions ultimately under the control of the article's Curator. Articles can still be edited by any Scholarpedia user, however these edits are only visible once they have been approved.
All those who have successfully edited an article become Contributors to the article. After publication, edits need the unanimous approval of at least two of the article contributors, or approval from the article's Curator. If a Curator rejects a revision, the revision remains hidden, visible within the article's history but not appearing in the article's main text.
Whether article Curators choose to engage frequently or rarely to article maintenance, the article's community of Contributors is motivated to as closely as possible reflect the judgment of the Curator: Contributors receive credit whenever their evaluation of an article matches the final evaluation of the revision (by the Curator or community), and a Contributor receives a small penalty when their evaluation is at odds with that of the Curator. Thus, even a Curator who engages only rarely with an article can be assured that his or her influence nonetheless persists.
How can I start a new article?
In order to avoid the editorial bottlenecks associated with traditional scholarly publication, Scholarpedia employs a more flexible publishing model. Articles can begin with either the express invitation of an Editor, or an author can propose to write an article him or herself.
In the self-proposing scenario, the procedure is as follows:
- Propose the title of the article by pressing 'propose a new article'.
- (optional) recruit co-authors -- this may be necessary if the proposer is not yet an established expert on the topic.
- Find a Sponsor from among the base of Curators. This Sponsor agrees that the topic proposed is scholarly and encyclopedic, the intended authors are credible, and the work does not duplicate work already found in Scholarpedia. Once your sponsor agrees, the article title is reserved for two months.
- When your article is ready for publication, it must be approved by two Scholarpedia Curators -- it is up to the article authors to solicit these approvals. By approving the article, reviewers attest to its quality and accuracy.
Wait, anyone can approve an edit to a Scholarpedia article?
Yes -- new Scholarpedia uses a "What Would Curator Do?" (WWCD) philosophy for each article. Anyone who successfully contributes to an article becomes a contributor and is able to approve or reject proposed article revisions. Contributors are ranked for correctly predicting whether a revision is eventually approved or rejected -- and the article Curator has the final say. If a contributor's predictions of edit outcome are wrong more often than right, then the contributor loses the ability to approve or reject future revisions. Contributor status can be regained by submitting an edit to the article that ends up being approved.
How can I contribute to the source code?
Because this project is still very experimental, source code development (PHP, MySQL, MediaWiki) is proceeding privately, but we hope to open development to the public at some point in the future.
What is a Curator?
A Curator is the individual ultimately responsible for an article's accuracy. This person is a recognized authority on the topic, but need not necessarily have written the article himself/herself. At time of publication, the authors must choose the most established expert among them to act as an article Curator. Only authors that become Curators gain the ability to Sponsor other new articles in Scholarpedia.
What is an Author?
An Author is an individual who made a substantive contribution to the writing of the article -- all authors' names appear in the article's official citation and in the article's entry in the Scholarpedia Journal. The person who proposed the article and all the people who agreed to co-author the article are its authors.
What is an Article Contributor?
Any user who has contributed to article, either by writing, sponsoring, reviewing, or successfully editing it, immediately becomes an Article Contributor (or simply "contributor") if they are not already the article's Curator. As an article contributor, the user can vote on proposed revisions (including their own). Because of this, any edits to an article by one of its contributors requires only one additional approval in order for the edit to eventually become visible to the public.
What is a Sponsor?
Before an article is written, authors can request "Sponsorship" from the existing body of Curators in order to reserve the topic involved. By acting as an article Sponsor, the Curator vouches that (1) the article topic is within the Curator's area of expertise, (2) at least one of the authors is an established expert in the field, and (3) the topic is encyclopedic and does not duplicate work done elsewhere in Scholarpedia.
Who decides which articles will be accepted?
Article acceptance is decided, essentially, by the existing base of Scholarpedia Curators. The article is accepted if two curators accept it and no editors or invited reviewers reject it.
I understand that there are no longer categories. Is this true?
No, categories remain, and Editors remain responsible for them, however formal Editor privileges are no longer tied to a particular category. Rather than impose restrictions, we have decide to trust our Editors to respect each other's projects.
Won't public reviewers be biased in favor of article approval?
Those invited to review and approve an article can see the article before they agree to participate, and thus if they believe an article is not of sufficient quality, they can graciously decline to review it instead of rejecting it. If they do choose to reject it, they can do so anonymously, and since "rejection" consists only of reverting the article to its pre-Sponsored stage, the consequences of rejection are relatively minor, minimizing disincentives to do so. Article reviewers are also free to invite any individual whom they trust to participate in the review process anonymously, and by doing so, give this other individual the ability to reject the article, too.
Indeed, public approval usefully constrains both authors and reviewers: article authors are incentivized to only invite reviewers who will add credibility to the authors' work, and article reviewers are incentivized to avoid approving articles that are poor by a desire to preserve their reputation.
How do we prevent non-notable articles from being accepted?
The requirement of sponsorship and review helps assure article notability, which is strengthened by the possibility that an article may be rejected anonymously. Notability is further assured through accountability: article sponsors and authors are listed at the bottom of each article, so that their reputation validates the article.
What prevents Curators from colluding with each other and producing dozens of potentially bad articles?
For the time being, it is the responsibility of Scholarpedia Editors to prevent this from occurring. In the longer-term, a number of different possible mechanisms can be employed to mitigate such problems.
Why does my MathJax look bad/weird/italicized?
If you're using OS X and Lion, this is a known problem. The easiest way to fix it is to open Font Book in OS X, select all the STIX fonts, disable them, and then restart your browser. The equations will then look beautiful.
FAQ for Assistant Editors
You may only write biographies of authors who have published an article in Scholarpedia.
If I have a problem, doubt, or question, whom should I contact?
When you first receive email confirmation that you are officially an Assistant Editor, you should also have been told the name and email of your supervisor. This person will be able to advise you on any matter. If you have forgotten the name of your supervisor or do not know who to contact, you may send an email to email@example.com.
How do I log in to my Scholarpedia email?
There is no more Scholarpedia email. All communications regarding Scholarpedia should preferably be made through your academic email.
How do I correct a typo or make a minor edit?
Click on the "Edit" button, above the article and to the left of the Scholarpedia search bar and edit the text appropriately. When finished, tick "this is a minor edit" at the bottom and then "show preview". Once you are happy with the way things look, scroll down again and click "save page". Click "view history", next to the search bar, and then "request approval" next to your modification.
How do I add an article to my watchlist?
To quickly add an article to your watchlist, go to the article and click on the blue star located in the upper right of the page (next to the search box). To manage your watchlist either click on the "My watchlist" link located above the blue button, or navigate to http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Special:Watchlist. Next, click on either the "View and edit watchlist" link (http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Special:EditWatchlist), or the "Edit raw watchlist" link (http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Special:EditWatchlist/raw).
What is the "My talk" page for?
Currently, the page is being used for the posting of reviews, and for the occasional proposed correction.
Hopefully, however, the talk pages will be made much more useful, and perhaps even serve as a platform of scholarly discussion regarding the current state of knowledge on a particular topic.
If I correct a typo or suggest a minor edit, how long will it take for the change to happen? What happens if I never get a response?
Also, it's important to keep in mind that research is a social enterprise: if the Curator doesn't notice a revision, and you think it's an important one, you should feel free to contact other people who have contributed to the article's development. For example, you might contact the article's Sponsor or Reviewer with your concern.