|Eugene M. Izhikevich (2006), Scholarpedia, 1(2):1.||doi:10.4249/scholarpedia.1||revision #10668 [link to/cite this article]|
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 written by an expert (invited or elected by the public).
- 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.
Herein also lies the greatest differences between Scholarpedia and traditional print media: while the initial authorship and review processes are similar to a print journal, articles in Scholarpedia are not frozen and outdated, but dynamic, subject to an ongoing process of improvement moderated by their curators. This allows Scholarpedia to be up-to-date, yet maintain the highest quality of content.
In Scholarpedia, every article has a person who takes care of its content and whose reputation becomes associated with this content, the Curator. The job of a curator is to moderate revisions of an article, accepting those that are relevant and rejecting those that are 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’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. Each article may have one or more curators, and the same person may curate multiple articles.
Curators of Scholarpedia are leading experts in their respective fields, typically having Ph.D. or M.D., and affiliated with an academic or research organization. When an article is first accepted, its authors automatically become its curators. Over time the role will shift to other scholars, ensuring the continuing health of the article.
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 scientist to another, ensuring that no article is neglected. Each article keeps the history of its curators.
In the initial phase of Scholarpedia, the curators are invited by the editor-in-chief. Curators can then invite other scientists to become curators of Scholarpedia – a practice used by many professional societies, such as the Society for Neuroscience.
The process of curatorship makes Scholarpedia a unique project. Sigmund Freud wrote "Psychoanalysis" and Albert Einstein wrote "Space-Time" for the 13th edition of Encyclopedia Britannica almost 100 years ago. If Britannica had the feature of curatorship, the best experts of today would be competing with each other for the honor to be curators of Freud’s and Einstein’s articles. The goal of Scholarpedia is to identify and convince today’s Einsteins and Freuds to write articles on their fundamental discoveries, so that 100 years from now the best experts will be willing to maintain and update the articles through the process of curatorship.
Similar to Wikipedia, every registered user can revise and expand articles in Scholarpedia. The revision can be just a simple grammar fix, an attempt to rewrite an obscure paragraph, 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 user is a reviewer.
Each proposed 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 receives an index that measures reviewer’s contribution to the article. When the curatorship of an article becomes vacant, it is automatically offered to the reviewer with the highest index for the article. Thus, a reviewer with a sufficiently large Scholar Index can become a curator of Scholarpedia without being explicitly invited by another curator.
The sum of all such indices is the user’s Scholar Index. Users with non-zero Scholar Index are called scholars. The index measures scholar's overall impact on Scholarpedia, and it endows certain rights and privileges.
Authors of Scholarpedia articles are either invited by the Editor-in-Chief or other curators or they are elected by the public, thereby ensuring fairness in assigning articles to corresponding experts in each field. (The first elected author was Gyuri Buzsaki for Hippocampus.) Each finished article is submitted to the anonymous review forum for initial peer review. Upon acceptance, the author becomes its curator. While the names of current curators are placed at the top of the article, signifying their ongoing involvement with and responsibility for the article, the name of the original author of an article will appear at the bottom, and is permanently stored in the Scholarpedia archive. Curatorship can change, whereas authorship cannot.
How to cite a Scholarpedia article
Each article can be cited by its author or by its curator, e.g.,
- Izhikevich E. M. (2006) Bursting. Scholarpedia, p.1401.
- Somebody F. L. (2036) Bursting. Scholarpedia.
In the first case, the citation contains a link to the page identifier (p.1401) 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 the second case, the citation points to a current version of the article approved under the watch of the curator cited.
Each article forever maintains a history of all of its revisions, accessible via the 'revisions' menu. Each revision shows the unique page number at the top, so that it can be cited. We expect the history of revisions to be of interest in its own right, providing a window into the living process of peer review and progress of ideas that is hidden behind the scenes in traditional publications. Some revisions may well become classics much like a fine vintage of wine.
Knowing the page number is enough to retrieve the appropriate revision of the article using the search menu; just type in the number and press the 'Go' button.
The approach of Scholarpedia does not compete with, but rather complements that of Wikipedia: instead of covering a broad range of topics, Scholarpedia covers a few narrow fields, but does that exhaustively.
Currently, Scholarpedia hosts Encyclopedia of Computational Neuroscience, Encyclopedia of Dynamical Systems and Encyclopedia of Computational Intelligence. Although all three will eventually be published in a printed form, they will also remain freely available and modifiable online. (Producing a hard copy of each encyclopedia is important for archiving; besides, many academicians have a preconception that the prestige of an online article is not as high as that of a printed one.)
If there is enough interest and support from the public, Scholarpedia will grow in the following directions:
- The neuroscience chapter of Encyclopedia of Computational Neuroscience will be a seed to start Encyclopedia of Cognitive Neuroscience, and then Encyclopedia of Neuroscience
- Encyclopedia of Dynamical Systems will be a seed to start Encyclopedia of Applied Mathematics, and then Encyclopedia of Mathematics.
- Encyclopedia of Computational Intelligence will be a seed to start Encyclopedia of Computer Science.
Currently, only curators of Scholarpedia (who are elected, invited by the Editor-in-Chief or other curators) and scholars with high Scholar Index can author and curate articles in Scholarpedia. This invitation-only policy is implemented so that prominent scientists have the priority to write on their discoveries: Benoit Mandelbrot on Mandelbrot Set and Fractals, Lotfi Zadeh on Fuzzy Logic, Edward Lorenz on Butterfly Effect, John Conway on Game of Life, Richard Karp on NP Completeness, and so on.
Articles in Scholarpedia, as in most printed journals, are protected by copyright (otherwise no publisher will print the three encyclopedias).