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Britannica’s academic wikification: If you can’t beat the wiki . .

This week trusted reference publisher Britannica announced its upcoming further movement into the 2.0 information landscape in a blog announcement: Britannica’s New Site: More Participation, Collaboration from Experts and Readers"

Like Wikipedia and other wiki reference, Britannica is going participative, soliciting reader, as well as expert, contirbution.  While not officially launched, the new site is available for beta preview.

According to Britannica blog, the site will undergo:

A complete redesign, editing tools, and incentive programs will give expert contributors and users the means to take part in the further improvement of Encyclopaedia Britannica and in the creation and publication of their own work.

These efforts not only will improve the scope and quality of Encyclopaedia Britannica, but they’ll also allow expert contributors and readers to supplement this content with their own. The result will be a place with broader and more relevant coverage for information seekers and a welcoming community for scholars, experts, and lay contributors.

The project plans include maintaining high academic standards through a Britannica Checked seal of approval, distinguishing expert material from material on the site for which Britannica editors are not responsible.

All contributions will be checked and vetted by Britannica’s editorial staff prior to Web publication.

So, why would scholars and experts agree to play in a wiki sandbox? 

Balancing the value of academic publication over casual Web input, an academic might understandably shun no-credit wiki efforts. 

But Britannica is banking on its long standing relationships with scholars. This project will encourage academics to sign their contributed content. 

The publisher also promises to help author-scholars enhance their online work with a variety of media, with easy editing tools, and by taking care of attribution issues.  Authors will also maintain control of their contributed content.

And Britannica promises incentives designed to reach beyond the reference source itself to impact academic writing, sharing, and connections in a broader, more immediate sense:

To elicit their participation in our new online community of scholars, we will provide our contributors with a reward system and a rich online home that will enable them to promote themselves, their work, and their services; allow them to showcase and publish their various works-in-progress in front of the Britannica audience; and help them find and interact with colleagues around the world. In this way our online community of scholars not only will be able to interact with our editors and content in a more effective manner; they will also be able to share directly with Britannica’s visitors content that they may have created outside  

This is what excites me about the project. If Britannica is able to attract scholars to its portal, if it is able to connect academic collaborators, if it is able to make breaking research available, as well as protected, if it is able to avoid the lengthy delay of formal academic publication, then everyone benefits.  I’ll keep you posted!


Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza

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