Welcome to Scholarpedia, the free peer reviewed encyclopedia written by scholars from all around the world.
Scholarpedia feels and looks like Wikipedia - the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Indeed, both are powered by the same program - MediaWiki. Both allow visitors to review and modify articles simply by clicking on the edit this article link.
However, Scholarpedia differs from Wikipedia in some very important ways:
- Each article is anonymously peer reviewed to ensure accurate and reliable information.
- Each article has a curator - typically its author -- who is responsible for its content.
- Any modification of the article needs to be approved by the curator before it appears in the final, approved version.
This allows Scholarpedia to be up-to-date, yet maintain the highest quality of its content.
All participants of Scholarpedia – scholars – can play one or more of the following roles: curator, author, or reviewer.
Curators of Scholarpedia are leading experts in their respective fields, typically having Ph.D. or M.D., and affiliated with a university or some other academic or research center. Initially, curators are invited by the editor-in-chief. Curators can elect other scholars to become curators of Scholarpedia – a practice used by many professional societies, such as the Society for Neuroscience. A scholar could become a curator without having to be explicitly invited, as explained below.
Curators of Scholarpedia can curate none, one, or many articles. Each article may have co-curators. Curator’s name and affiliation is clearly stated below the title of an article, so that his or her reputation guarantees the accuracy of the article.
The job of a curator is to moderate revisions of an article, accepting those that pass the highest scientific standards and rejecting those that do not. In some sense, a curator of an article in Scholarpedia is like a curator of a museum: He/she has to evaluate all new additions and decide which are worth public exhibition and which are not.
A curator may voluntarily resign from curatorship, or may lose the curatorship of an article if he or she does not evaluate new revisions within a reasonable period of time. In this case, the curatorship is offered to the scholar who has made most contributions to the article. Thus, curatorship of an article can be transferred from one scholar to another, ensuring that no article is neglected; that is, every article has a person who takes care of its content and whose reputation becomes associated with this content. In this sense, curatorship is an ongoing responsibility and it is different from the authorship.
Any scholar can author an article in Scholarpedia and submit it to the anonymous review forum. When the article is accepted by reviewers, the scholar becomes its author and curator. Each article keeps the history of its curators, but only the very first curator is considered to be its author. Current curator name is at the top of the article, while the author's name is at the bottom, and it is permanently stored in the Scholarpedia archive. Curatorship can change, whereas authorship cannot.
Each article can be cited by its author or by its curator, e.g.,
- Izhikevich E. M. (2006) Neural excitability. Scholarpedia, 12345.
- Somebody F. L. (2036) Neural excitability. Scholarpedia.
In the first case, the citation contains a link to the page identifier that permanently stores the very first copy of the article that was approved by reviewers and by the author, as in any printed journal. In fact, knowing number is enough to retrieve the article. In the second case, there is no link, so the citation points to the most recently ‘’approved’’ copy of the article.
Similarly to Wikipedia, every registered visitor – scholar – can revise articles in Scholarpedia. The revision can be just a simple grammar fix, a suggestion on how to improve the quality of the article, or an in-depth review of the article with major additions and modifications. In this sense, every scholar is a reviewer. The identity of reviewers is kept anonymous, as in peer reviewed journals.
Each revision is evaluated by the curators on the scale from ‘mostly wrong’ to ‘improvement’ to ‘major contribution’. According to the evaluation, each reviewer of an article has an index that measures reviewer’s contribution to the article. When curatorship of an article becomes vacant, it is offered to the reviewer with the highest index.
The sum of all such indices is the reviewer’s Scholar index. It measures his/her overall impact on Scholarpedia. A reviewer with a sufficiently large scholar index becomes a curator of Scholarpedia without having to be explicitly invited.
Anonymous peer review process
The review process of Scholarpedia articles is anonymous, and it consists of two stages:
- Initial review is similar to that of peer reviewed journals. Upon completion, a new article is reviewed by 2 curators or reviewers with high scholar index. For the article to be accepted, its authors need to address all reviewers' concerns. This ensures the article accuracy and reliability.
- Lifelong review is similar to that of Wikipedia with the exception that it is anonymous. Any scholar can revise the article, add new content, improve its readability, etc. All these revisions undergo curator's approval before they appear in the final, approved version, thereby solving the biggest problem of Wikipedia – incompetence and vandalism.
This set of rules ensures that articles in Scholarpedia are not frozen and outdated, but undergo a constant process of improvement moderated by their curators.
- The job of reviewer is simplified. If a reviewer of a journal article finds an error, he writes something like "on page 12, paragraph 3, line 4 from the top, second equation, numerator, a minus sign is missing in the exp function...", whereas in Scholarpedia, the reviewer just puts the minus sign where it belongs. Similarly, instead of explaining why a statement is wrong and how to fix it, the reviewer just fixes it.
- The job of the curator is simplified too. Indeed, instead of getting a review of a journal article with something like "The statement on page 14, paragraph 2, describing the properties of the function f is not clear; please rewrite it...", and then figuring out what is not clear and how to rewrite it, the curator gets the statement already rewritten by the reviewer, and all he has to do is either agree with it, disagree, or further revise it.
- Of course, the reviewer may communicate his concerns directly to the curator the old-fashioned way: Incorporating suggestions and criticism into the <review> </review> brackets (located at the top of the edit page), which will make the suggestions visible to the curator.
The period February 4, 2006 to August 1, 2006 is invitation-only. That is, only curators of Scholarpedia, who are invited by the Editor-in-Chief or other curators, can author and curate articles in Scholarpedia. After August 1, 2006, any registered visitor can author and subsequently curate articles in Scholarpedia.
The official opening of Scholarpedia to other scientific subjects is January 3, 2007.
Articles in Scholarpedia, as in most printed journals, are protected by copyright.