Scholarpedia

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Eugene M. Izhikevich (2006), Scholarpedia, 1(2):1. doi:10.4249/scholarpedia.1 revision #128026 [link to/cite this article]
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Scholarpedia is a peer-reviewed open-access encyclopedia written and maintained by scholarly experts from around the world. Scholarpedia is inspired by Wikipedia and aims to complement it by providing in-depth scholarly treatments of academic topics.

Scholarpedia and Wikipedia are alike in many respects:

  • both allow anyone to propose revisions to almost any article
  • both are "wikis" and use the familiar MediaWiki software designed for Wikipedia
  • both allow considerable freedom within each article's "Talk" pages
  • both are committed to the goal of making the world's knowledge freely available to all

Nonetheless, Scholarpedia is best understood by how it is unlike most wikis, differences arising from Scholarpedia's academic origins, goals, and audience. The most significant is Scholarpedia's process of peer-reviewed publication: all articles in Scholarpedia are either in the process of being written by a team of authors, or have already been published and are subject to expert curation.

Prior to publication,

  • all new articles must first receive sponsorship to validate the identity, authority, and ability of the authors who propose to write it
  • each article undergoes scholarly peer-review, requiring public approval from at least two scholarly experts

After publication,

  • articles appear within the Scholarpedia Journal and can be cited like any other scholarly article
  • the visibility of future revisions to an article is controlled by the article's Curator, usually the article's (most) established expert at time of publication
  • as soon as any individual's revision to an article is accepted, the individual joins a community of recognized (non-author) article contributors
  • the team of article contributors may from time to time act in the Curator's stead
  • when an article curator resigns or is otherwise unable to serve, a new Curator is elected

This hybrid model allows Scholarpedia articles to serve as a bridge between traditional peer-reviewed journals and more dynamic and up-to-date wikis without compromising quality or trustworthiness. It aims to remove the disincentives that discourage academics from participating in online publication and productive discussion on the topics they know best.

Contents

Writing style

As a scholarly encyclopedia, Scholarpedia does not aim to publish original "research" or "position" papers. The focus, rather, is on "living reviews": encyclopedia articles written once but maintained over time by current and future generations of experts; reviews that track the development of the topics they summarize.

Articles are meant to be accessible to a wide range of scholarly readers, but also to be useful to any reader who desires deeper knowledge of a topic after having exhausted other online resources.

Scholarpedia articles are at their best when they are concise but not abstruse; when they are accessible to advanced undergraduates familiar with the area, as well as to graduate students in adjacent fields.

Open access principles

Article sponsorship and review

All published articles in Scholarpedia are first sponsored and reviewed. Each step serves a critical purpose in the development of a scholarly resource.

Sponsorship

When an article is Sponsored, it means a trusted member of Scholarpedia (a Curator or Editor) has publicly vouched that:

  1. the proposed article's authors are, in fact, whom they claim to be
  2. within the team of authors is an individual widely recognized as a leading expert on the topic
  3. the proposed topic is scholarly and does not duplicate another published or already sponsored article

Once an article is sponsored, the proposed article's authors have an exclusive right to the authorship of the proposed topic in Scholarpedia for a limited time. If the article is not published by its deadline, the article reverts back to its pre-sponsorship stage.

Review

Once the final draft of an article is complete, both the article's authors and its sponsor are eligible to invite any Scholarpedia Curator to review it. Note that, in Scholarpedia, peer-review is (by default) non-anonymous, however any user wishing to provide feedback on an article is welcome to ask a trustworthy user (e.g. an Editor) to comment on his or her behalf. In the same vein, while article approval is non-anonymous, article rejection is, and can be performed by any Editor, or indeed anyone invited to review an article.

At present, article publication requires public approval of the article by two Scholarpedia Curators, Editors, or Scholars.

By approving an article for publication, the user is publicly affirming that the article is an encyclopedic and scholarly treatment of the topic.

Once published, the original identities of the authors are recorded and presented immediately beside the article title.

Article maintenance

Once an article is published, its (most) established expert becomes the article's Curator. As Curator, he or she has the final say over accepting future revisions to the article, and the ability to sponsor or review other in-progress articles.

Any registered user can propose a modification of a published article, however the modification does not appear within the article until either (1) it is approved by the article Curator or until (2) it receives unanimous approval from at least two other members of the article community (if any member of the article community disagrees, the revision remains unapproved until the article Curator approves or rejects it).

The article's sponsors, reviewers, and non-Curator authors automatically join the community of article contributors when the article is published. This community exists in part to relieve the Curator from needing to evaluate trivial revisions. Because the Scholarpedia system evaluates each contributor noting how often the contributor's revision judgments matched the final outcomes for each revision, to the extent that the community participates in evaluating revisions, it will imitate the Curator's judgment -- when contributors disagree too frequently with the verdicts of the Curator, they lose the ability to approve or reject future revisions.

In the 13th edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica (published 1926), Sigmund Freud wrote "Psychoanalysis" and Albert Einstein wrote "Space-Time". Had this venerable publication employed a curatorship model, the maintenance of Freud's and Einstein's articles would today be seen as positions of honor and responsibility. The goal of Scholarpedia is to recruit today’s Einsteins and Freuds to write and maintain encyclopedic articles concerning their own fundamental discoveries.

How to cite Scholarpedia articles

Upon approval, articles in Scholarpedia are archived in a journal (ISSN 1941-6016). They can thus be cited as any other peer-reviewed article. For example,

Izhikevich E. M. (2006) Bursting. Scholarpedia, 1(3):1300

This citation, found below the article's title, always refers to the latest approved version of the article that is shown to visitors by default. Any particular approved revision of the article can also be cited. For example,

Izhikevich E. M. (2006) Bursting. Scholarpedia, 1(3):1300, revision 1401

Each article maintains a permanent history of its revisions, accessible via the 'revisions' tab, providing a window into the process of review and the progress of ideas.

History

Scholarpedia was conceived by Dr. Eugene M. Izhikevich at the end of 2005, while he was contributing to Wikipedia.

Up until October 20, 2011, Scholarpedia relied on its editors to identify and convince the top leading experts to contribute encyclopedic articles, and on its assistant editors to help the top experts with their articles. This resulted in nearly a thousand peer-reviewed articles in the field of dynamical systems, computational neuroscience, and physics. After October 20, 2011, a second method for articles to be created was deployed, allowing anyone to propose an article, but requiring that articles receive sponsorship to both reserve their topic and to publish it. Only Scholarpedia Editors and Curators are permitted to act as article sponsors.

See also

Wikipedia, Open access

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