example pageThe world’s scientists plan to document all 1.8 million named species on a web site for all to see.

The project, called the Encyclopedia of Life, will provide written information and, when available, photographs, video, sound, location maps and other multimedia information on each species. Built on the scientific integrity of thousands of experts around the globe, the Encyclopedia will be a moderated wiki-style environment, freely available to all users everywhere.

To provide depth behind the portal page for each species, the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), a consortium that holds most of the relevant scientific literature, will scan and digitize tens of millions of pages of the scientific literature that will offer open access to detailed knowledge. In fact, the BHL now has scanning centers operating in London, Boston, and Washington DC, and has scanned the first 1.25 million pages for the Encyclopedia. They estimate that some species pages will be available by 2008, but the full Encyclopedia will take around 10 years.

“The Encyclopedia of Life will be a vital tool for scientists, researchers, and educators across the globe, providing easy access to the latest and best information on all known species,” said Jonathan F. Fanton, President of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. “Technology is allowing science to grasp the immense complexity of life on this planet. Sharing what we know, we can protect Earth’s biodiversity and better conserve our natural heritage.”

Further Reading: THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF LIFE

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