Elsevier has launched WiserWiki, a wiki on medical research aimed at both practicing physicians and lay readers. (Thanks to Graham Steel.) From the site:
This website was originally started with content from the “Textbook of Primary Care Medicine” (3rd Edition) by John Noble – a leading figure in primary care medicine. It is evolving to become a key source of authoritative, online medical information.
Like most Wikis on the internet (such as Wikipedia), WiserWiki can be read by anyone who has internet access. However, unlike most Wikis, WiserWiki can only be edited by board certified doctors to ensure that the information is as trustworthy and reliable as possible. Doctors can also use WiserWiki as a valuable resource to collaborate with each other and to determine best practices by group consensus....
As WiserWiki is currently in beta version, we are experimenting with various ways to make it a better site for you as a user. We hope that users will continually evolve the site to best suit their needs. Therefore, we welcome your feedback and suggestions! Please check back often as we hope to add additional features and functionality....
WiserWiki is provided as a free service by Elsevier....
Frequently Asked Questions...
Q: I see that there are ads on this site. Where does the revenue from these ads go?
A: We do not currently expect to generate a significant amount of revenue on WiserWiki and hope to use the proceeds to recover the costs of operating and managing the site....
Q: How accurate is the information on this site?
A: As WiserWiki is a collaborative project, it is up to the contributors to substantiate the accuracy of the information. Elsevier does not validate the accuracy of submissions. However, we hope to maintain a high level of relevancy and trustworthiness by ensuring that editorial privileges are restricted to medical professionals only....
Q: Does this site cost anything to access?
A: No. The site is free to users.
Q: Who holds the copyright to the information submitted on this site?
A: Contributors retain the copyright to information they contribute to WiserWiki. Please read our Terms & Conditions....
In light of Elsevier's OncologySTAT (see my blog comments), I shouldn't be surprised. But I admit that I am. Elsevier is continuing to experiment in interesting ways with free online access. WiserWiki isn't as free as it could be (more below), but I commend the company for the experiment.
Note that Elsevier did more than launch a medical wiki. It provided free online access to John Noble's textbook, published by Mosby (an Elsevier imprint). Should we expect more professional wikis from Elsevier? More free online books?
The FAQ doesn't say whether contributions will be anonymous or attributed, and the site is so new that we can't learn the answer by looking at sample contributions. Either there are no user contributions yet or they are invisibly mixed in with the rest of the content.
The FAQ says that contributors retain copyright. But the terms and conditions page starts by asserting that "All content in this Site...is the property of Elsevier...." Eventually it adds, "We do not claim ownership of any material that you provide to us...." The second clause qualifies the first and I wouldn't normally quibble. But there's more at stake here than asserting A and not-A when Elsevier could have asserted A and not-B. If we can't tell by looking which parts are owned by Elsevier and which parts are owned by contributors, then we don't know whom to contact for re-use permissions. We don't even know (yet) whether the site will provide contact info for the contributors. Elsevier could solve this problem by acknowledging that this is a wiki, not a textbook, put the whole thing under an open license, and tell contributors that posting content will be construed as consent for the content to be covered by the open license.
Peter Suber at 11/16/2007 09:21:00 AM.
The open access movement:
Putting peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly literature
on the internet. Making it available free of charge and
free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.
Removing the barriers to serious research.