Have you heard of the Encylopedia of Life? If not, get out from under the rock, dude. Seriously. The hype machine has been going at full steam. This is supposed to be a database of all known species of organisms on earth. It’s the incarnation of E.O. Wilson’s call for a database of all species. It’s a database of all species! All species! Every species!! Hooray!!

Rod Page, the best biological databases blogger, isn’t all that enthusiastic. He doesn’t like the layout. He’s seen similar ventures fail in the past. And then there’s the whole issue that the EoL doesn’t even exist yet. It’s just a bunch of demo pages and videos. We can’t actually evaluate the sucker until they give us something to, you know, evaluate.

PZ Myers is also skeptical.


  1. #1 Jonathan Badger
    May 13, 2007

    Yeah, there have been similar projects in the past that have failed, and so there is reason to be skeptical, but I don’t understand the fear (suggested by PZ) that it will be a failure if it’s a publicly edited wiki. I think quite the opposite — it will be doomed to failure if it is just a top-down controlled system by E. O. Wilson and cronies as it appears it will be.

    Consider the alphaproteobacterial species Hyphomonas neptunium. This is a pretty obscure species even by the standards of bacterial species. If I don’t create the entry for this organism, who will? But am I just supposed to wait until Ed calls me up personally to request the article? Is he even aware that H. neptunium exists? It’s easy to mock wikis for the possibility of vandalism, etc., but I don’t see anything other than a public wiki succeeding, unless only a few hundred “popular” species will be included.

  2. #2 Simon G.
    May 13, 2007

    It’s great to see Rod get some publicity – he’s got two of the best blogs out there on biological databases (don’t forget iSpecies!)

  3. #3 Myrmecos
    May 14, 2007

    There’s a lively discussion, both pro and con, among some professional taxonomists about the EoL project on the taxacom listserv.

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