Thursday, May 10, 2007

Life on Earth

An ambitious internet Encyclopedia of Life was announced yesterday which will list information on all the 1.8m known species of animals, plants and other forms of life.

An international consortium, which includes; the US Field Museum, Harvard University, Marine Biological Laboratory (Woods Hole), Smithsonian Institution, Biodiversity Heritage Library, the Natural History Museum in London and the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew are behind which aims to give open access to all, in any language, and develop into a focal point for biodiversity and conservation.

The project has already been in the planning for 3 years and could take another 10 to finish and they have already £30 million in grants to complete the project. The consortium of 10 major natural history museum libraries, botanical libraries, and research institutions have already scanned 1.25 million pages and plan to scan and digitize tens of millions of pages more.

Once complete it could prove a fascinating insight to vanishing species and conservation and will be a must for every educational establishment. It will again raise the issue of open social access versus commercial publishing but should prove a huge source of information to all.