The Scholarpedia 2 system
In October 2011, a major upgrade of Scholarpedia (SP2) has been launched. Below we discuss some of the new features, together with their implications for editors.
SP2: new features
- A new workflow for article publication has been introduced, in parallel to the usual one based on editors' invitation. Any registered user can spontaneously propose to author any new article, via the "propose a new article" link in the left menu. The candidate article-author combination is accepted if a curator (or an editor) agrees to act as its sponsor. In doing so, the curator certifies the appropriateness of the topic and the expertise of the authors. To automatize and speed-up the process, after sponsorship the self-proposed authors have by default two months to write the article, to find two reviewers, and to get their approval.
- For a candidate author to get a sponsor for an article, he or she generates a special URL from the page associated to the proposed article (a subpage of his user page) and emails it (via a private email) to an existing curator of Scholarpedia, asking for his sponsorship (and defending his candidacy). The "secret sponsorship URL" is generated by a logged-in candidate author by clicking the button "request sponsorship" on the flowchart in the page of the proposed article, see Figure 1. The sponsorship URL looks like:
- To sponsor the proposal, the sponsor has to follow the sponsorship URL in his browser and press the "agree" button. The secret URL allows potential sponsors to verify the email addresses of the candidate authors (to aid in verifying the authors' identity) and to delete the article completely if the candidate authors are not top experts of the proposed topic. When the sponsor agrees on a proposed article, the article page is moved to the main name space, and the candidate author is officially named as author of the article.
- After the completion of the article, its authors can themselves invite their own reviewers, in the same way as editors do (see below). Of course, editors can always invite supplementary reviewers, if needed.
- Only registered, qualified users (scholars, curators, or editors) may approve an article, possibly on behalf of another, anonymous reviewer. This approval action triggers the automatic addition to the article of a line explicitly mentioning the name of the person who approved, hence approval is always public. On the other hand, anyone in possession of the secret URL (even someone not currently a Scholarpedia user) may anonymously reject the article. Thus, for the first time since 2006, articles in Scholarpedia can be rejected.
- For an article to be completely approved, two qualified users must publicly approve it. Any rejection immediately reverts the article to pre-sponsorship status. The article is rejected implicitly if it is not fully approved before the article's deadline.
- After reviewer approval the article enters a 14 day cool-off period during which editors' rejection/freeze is still possible. This is an final safety control that allows any editor to monitor what's going on.
- After the cool-off period, if the article has not been rejected or frozen by some editor, the future article curator (see below) is allowed to approve the first official version of the article, and the article is deemed to be published. To approve the article its future curator must click on the button "senior curator approves the article" <<check wording>> in the last step of the flowchart visible in the article page.
- A curator is associated with each article at time of the article's publication. The curator carries full responsibility for the article and its contents, in view of future improvements.
For other features (including the post-publication life of an article under the responsibility of its curator) see Help:Frequently Asked Questions.
As might be evident, these modifications add a "bottom-up" recruitment process for expert recruitment and peer-review, in addition to the "top-down" editor-managed mechanism that already exists. The goal is to provide a way for younger researchers to seek out expert co-authors (as they will not be able to get sponsored on their own), and to speed-up the publication process, while preserving article and expert quality. This is done by having our existing base of trusted curators publicly vouch for each article's quality and the authority of each article's expert.
SP2: the different actors and their responsibilities
Here's a short summary of the different actors in Scholarpedia.
The following persons are associated to each single article.
- "Sponsor" -- A curator or editor who, after the article's proposal, publicly agrees that the topic and the authors of the article satisfy the Scholarpedia's standards, thus triggering the official acceptance of the author's candidacy.
- "Author" -- An individual who was added to the list of the article's authors prior to its publication, due to his or her participation in the article's initial writing. Prior to publication, authors have the ability to invite any Scholarpedia Scholar to act as a reviewer. After publication, the article's authors appear within citations of the article.
- "Reviewer" -- An expert who reviews an article and, by virtue of his or her qualifications, judges if the article deserves publication. Approval is always transparent and not anonymous. To be able to approve an article, a reviewer must have the Scholarpedia status of scholar, curator, or editor, or ask somebody with this status to publicly approve on "behalf of anonymous". Any invited person can, in principle, anonymously reject an article.
- "Curator" -- The individual who as the responsibility of the article after its publication, and has the final say regarding the article's contents. By default the curator (which is unique) is initially chosen from among the authors of the article.
- "Contributor" -- Any registered Scholarpedia user who has successfully contributed to the improvement of a published article (signalling/correcting misprints, ...)
- "Action editor" -- (Optional but frequently employed) An editor who invited the authors of the article, sponsored them, and supervised reviewers' invitations and article's approval.
At a Scholarpedia-wide global level, we thus have the following actors, in order of increasing responsibility.
- "Scholar" -- Experts with the ability to review and approve an article for publication. Scholars can only be created by an editor.
- "Author" -- Expert which has authored one or more articles in Scholarpedia.
- "Curator" -- Expert which is curator of at least one article in Scholarpedia (there are some exceptions, but this is the intent). They can review and approve articles, as well as sponsor them.
- "Editor" -- Expert with extra privileges (and responsibilities) for creating and supervising the writing of articles; they can sponsor articles for publication, review-and-approve articles, invite reviewers from outside of Scholarpedia, and promote persons to Scholars.
Obsolete features of SP1
- In SP1, editors were restricted to acting within a particular category -- now editors can act on all unpublished articles, irrespective of category.
- It is no longer possible for editors to log-in as a different user (contact the editor-in-chief if you believe this will be required for any reason).
- It is no longer possible for editors to (modify and) approve published articles and have modifications displayed without the (implicit or explicit) curator approval.
In Scholarpedia, the role of editors in finding good authors and in supervising the quality of the authors/articles is vital.
In the usual editor-mediated work-flow,
- the editor invites an author. See Section #Authorship.
- at the completion of the article, the editor invites reviewers. See Section #Reviewers.
In addition to this work-flow, editors in SP2 have the responsibility of monitoring the publication of articles originated by spontaneous candidatures, see Section #Monitoring.
To ensure that Scholarpedia remains (and is perceived as) authoritative, at least one of the authors of an article must be a world-wide acknowledged top expert in the field addressed by the article. It is editor's duty to try to invite the best possible experts: this is difficult, but, we believe, helpful on the long term.
Editors can use the "Propose a new article" link to reserve an article for either an existing Scholarpedia user or a new one. See the Section "Inviting an author" for further details. By doing so, editors can select an arbitrary deadline for the expert; we advise editors to avoid deadlines longer than one year. If an article is not published before its deadline, it is automatically reverted to the pre-sponsorship status. To prevent article expiration, the editor can at any time change the article deadline by proceeding as explained in Section "#Update a deadline for an article"
As an alternative to editorial invitation, registered experts are free to propose themselves as candidate authors and find a curator/editor to act as an article Sponsor. To sponsor a proposed article, the editor must go to the article page, click on the button request sponsorship (see Figure 1), an obtain the sponsorship secret URL for that article and follow the secret URL (or send the URL to another existing curator for sponsorship).
When the article has been completed, the authors notify the editor who invites reviewers (authors are able to do so as well, however it's often faster and simpler for the editor to perform this function). See the Section on "Inviting a reviewer" for more detail. Only qualified users (scholars, curators, and editors) may approve an article. To do so, they need to get a formal invitation email from the server or to otherwise receive (e.g. from a private email) the "secret approval/rejection URL" associated to the article. Anyone, formally invited as a reviewer or possessing the secret URL can anonymously reject the article, without even needing a Scholarpedia account. To be published, an article must be publicly approved by two qualified persons (scholars, curators or editors). When formally invited (by an editor), a reviewer is automatically promoted to scholar, so that s/he has the qualification to publicly approve the author. If the reviewer approves the article, but does not want to reveal her/his identity, the editor must find a qualified person that could publicly apply in behalf of the anonymous reviewer. (The editor can do that, but only for one reviewer. For two anonymous reviewers a colleague must be asked.) A single rejection or lack of approval within the due time reverts the article to its pre-sponsoring state. Note that in SP1, there was no mechanism to reject an article; now, there is.
Editors also play a vital role in monitoring the independently-proposed candidate articles and authors. At any point, from sponsorship of an article to the end of the cool-off period, editors can generate approval/rejection URLs and solicit the advice of external experts. In extreme cases they can themselves use the approval/rejection URL to anonymously reject a poor article.
Editors are strongly encouraged to convince experts in domains not yet covered by Scholarpedia to join the Scholarpedia editorial board. To avoid diplomatic incidents, before contacting the candidate-editors, inform the editor in chief or a senior colleague of your intentions.
For many reasons your engagement with Scholarpedia might see an end one day or another. This is not a problem at all, as your contributions to the project have no doubt had a lasting, global impact. To ensure an orderly succession, please inform the editor in chief of your intentions as soon as you decide to quit. This will allow us to find a replacing expert to continue the work you have started. Falling in a yearly inactivity will slow down the project and compromise everybody's efforts.
Detailed workflow of an editor-invited article
An editor can start a new article by following the "Propose a new article" link in the left menu. A page asking for the title and a tentative deadline for the article then appears. Once the proposed title is submitted, the editor chooses to invite another individual to author it by writing the potential author's name in the corresponding edit box (see Figure 2).
- If an existing user is chosen as author, a draft invitation email is presented (see Figure 4). The editor may modify the text, and when happy with its wording sends the invitation by clicking on "Submit". (A copy of the email is sent to the editor's email address)
- If the "invite new user" option is chosen, you are prompted to add identifying information of the author (including affiliation and email), see Figure 3. (An editor can arrive directly to this point by clicking "invite user" in the left menu.) After the editor fills in the form and clicks "create account", the account of the future author is created and an email with the account information sent to them, and the process continues as above.
At the end of this stage an article page with the given title is created, the invited persons are registered as its authors, and the editor as its sponsor.
For inviting co-authors, the process is different: the editor visits the article they have helped propose, and then select the "invite co-author" link.
Inviting a reviewer
To be a completed article must be publicly approved by two qualified persons, which must have the status of scholar, curator, or editors. Each qualified person person may approve as a reviewer of the article or approve in behalf of a real reviewer of the article, which stays anonymous. In this sense many cases are possible, and dealt with by the editors as explained below.
As a first step, the best practice is that the editor privately contact a reviewer and ask her/him to review the article.
If the reviewer wants to reject the article, well this means that there is a scientific problem that the editor must mediate. If the rejection is unavoidable, the editor should
- click the button "submit for peer-review" in the flow-cart in the page of the article, see Figure 1
- click the button "get secret URL Token" in the window that appears, see Figure 6 to generate an "approval/rejection secret URL"
- a windows opens and the editor can copy the approval/rejection secret URL, which looks something like:
- Anybody possessing the approval/rejection secret URL will then be considered a reviewer and allowed to anonymously reject the article.
If the reviewer approves the article but wants to stay anonymous, the editor must generate the approval/rejection secret URL and give it to a qualified user (scholar, curator or editor) to publicly approve on behalf of the anonymous reviewer. Any qualified person is allowed to approve (even on behalf of an anonymous reviewer) just once, hence if two reviewers approve and want to stay anonymous, the editor may approve one of them and look for e.g. a colleague editor to approve on behalf of the other reviewer.
If a reviewer approves the article and agrees to publicly approve it, the editor must formally invite her/him (and give her/him the qualification to approve). This is easily done via the "tracked reviewer invitation":
- click the button "submit for peer-review" in the flow-cart in the page of the article, see Figure 1
- click the button "send tracked reviewer invitation" in the window that appears, see Figure 6
- a window asking for the full name of the reviewer prompts, and a list of existing users matching the query is shown, see
- if the chosen reviewer is already registered as a Scholarpedia user, clicking "next" will open an editable window proposing a draft invitation email, to be customized by the editor, and then sent
to the reviewer by clicking the "send tracked reviewer invitation" . Note that, if necessary, the invited reviewer will be promoted to "scholar", in order to give her/him the ability to approve.
- if, instead, the reviewer is not registered as a Scholarpedia user, the editor must click on "create a reviewer". A window asking for the necessary data to create a user account will prompt, see Figure 10. After correctly filling the data (full name, affiliation, email ...) and clicking on "create account", the account of the future author is created and an email with the account information sent to him <<True?>>; then, the process continues as above.
The workflow detailed above is indicative, and the editor may prefer a different one. The advantage of the "tracked reviewer invitation" over the "approval/rejection secret URL" is that the creation of the user account and its promotion to scholar is automatic and that the list of invited reviewers is available in the "My associated articles" page of the editor (follow the corresponding link at the top right of each page).
Cool-off period and publication
After being approved by two qualified users, each article enters in a 14 day cool off period. In this period, supposed to be a severe quality control tool, any editor may reject or freeze the article if it does not comply with the Scholarpedia standards.
<<How to reject>> <<how to freeze >>
After the 14 days publication period the article is published as soon as its (most) established expert approves it. <<true?>>
The point of the cool off period is to check that the order of the authors as listed at the top of the article is correct. <<How to reorder authors>><<How to change curator>>
Each article in Scholarpedia belongs to one or more categories (i.e., major topics), which are listed at the bottom of the article. For example, the article "Bursting" belongs to categories "Neuroscience", "Computational Neuroscience", and "Dynamical Systems" because its wikitext contains
- [[Category:Neuroscience]], [[Category:Computational Neuroscience]], [[Category:Dynamical Systems]]
(at the bottom).
Choose a good title
First, you need to partition your field into (ideally) non-overlapping topics. Each topic must have a brief and descriptive title (e.g., "Brain", "Neuron", "Hippocampus"). Scholarpedia has an autolinker option that creates automatic links between articles. For example, every article containing the word "neuron" has an automatic link to the article "Neuron".
Then, you need to verify that the topics do not already exist in Scholarpedia. Type the topic name in the search window and search existing articles. Watch out for synonyms like "Neural oscillators" vs. "Neuronal oscillators" vs. "Neuronal oscillator". You do not want to invite an author for an article just to learn a few months later that essentially the same article with a similar title had been written by somebody else.
You can also create additional titles, synonyms (e.g., 'neurone', 'neurons', 'neural', 'neuronal'), and redirect them to the main title "Neuron", so that mentioning any of these words would result in the automatic link to "Neuron". For example, to redirect 'Neurone' to "Neuron", create a new article "Neurone" with only one line of text:
The 13th edition of Encyclopædia Britannica has the "Space-Time" entry written by Albert Einstein and the "Psychoanalysis" entry written by Sigmund Freud. If Britannica had the feature of curatorship, physicists and psychologists of today would be fighting each other for the honor to be curators of these articles. It does not matter whether the original articles were good or bad; what matters is that they were written by Einstein and Freud.
The goal of Scholarpedia is to invite today's Einsteins and Freuds to write entries on their major discoveries so that future generation of experts would be willing to maintain these articles via the process of curatorship. The editor-in-Chief has spent quite a substantial amount of his time creating the initial seed of legendary participants of Scholarpedia. Your goal as an editor is to maintain such an elite group of participants.
Thus, if an entry describes a result or a phenomenon and the person who discovered the phenomenon is still alive, start with that person regardless of his/her age. Be bold and ambitious.
If the original author is not available, invite the person who has made the most fundamental contribution to the topic. Contact existing authors and other experts in the field and ask them to suggest the names. If all of them focus on the same individual, then invite this individual. Start your invitation letter with something like "A. Einstein, N. Bohr, and M. Planck suggested that you would be the best expert to invite to write a short entry ..." (change the names to whoever your advisers are provided that the invitee knows these advisers).
Remember that the goal of Scholarpedia is not to fill in all the articles as quickly as possible, but to get to the original inventors/discoverers. This is why the invitation process is slow, involving research and communication with other experts.
Quite often the best person for an article is a senior or retired scientist who has limit access to Internet and limited knowledge of wiki-technology or who is no longer active in the field. In this case, you need to arrange for a co-author for that person who is actively engaged in the field. This worked well for Otto Rossler (Rossler Attractor), Richard FitzHugh (FitzHugh-Nagumo Model), Richard Plant (Plant Model), and many other legendary experts.
Maintain your category page
Your category page should contain a short summary paragraph and the alphabetical list of all articles, see, e.g., Category:Computational Neuroscience or Category:Algorithmic Information Theory. The list is compiled automatically as new articles appear, but the summary paragraph must be written by you. Just go to your category page, press 'edit this article' button, write the text, then press 'save page' button.
"Encyclopedia of" pages
For advertisement's sake editors may be invited to act as authors of an "encyclopedia of" page, in which they must manually write a list of the published articles, and other information relevant for the category. The main difference with the category pages is the fact that encyclopedia of pages are manually maintained. See e.g. Encyclopedia_of_Physics.
Getting started (for new editors)
The workload of a Scholarpedia editor depends on the number of articles the editor is actively dealing with. An editor with a reasonable amount of activity spends, say, 1 hour per week in her/his tasks. If you are a candidate editor and you are in doubt whether to accept the charge or not, we advise you to try it for a while, and resign if you do not like the experience.
Make-up you user page
The credibility of editors is a good advertisement for Scholarpedia: take the time to prepare a professional looking user page. It is a good idea to put some information into your userpage in Scholarpedia, including your photo, so that the authors can get to know you better. To edit your userpage, click your username at the top-right corner.
Define the scope of your editorship
Each editor deals with one or more categories. Consult with the editor-in-chief on what articles should and should not be in your category. Look for existing articles in Scholarpedia that are pertinent to your category and add them to your category by adding the line [[Category:your category name]] at the end.
In case a title you want to invite is in overlap among different categories, prepare the invitation with the editors of the other categories.
Prepare a list of titles
The starting point for a beginner editor should be the preparation of a list of titles (say 10) and, for each title of the best world acknowledged expert of the topic. Before preparing the list have a look on the existing articles in Scholarpedia: some title might already exist.
Start with the easiest invitations and when the first articles will be published reiterate the invitation phase, using the articles you have to advertise the project.
Do not give up at the first refusals! YES, it is hard to invite the top experts, we know that, but we believe that having world acknowledged experts is strategical for the long term survival. In case of need ask a senior colleague for her/his advice.
Ask for help
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org detailing your problem.
Update a deadline for an article
An editor can update the deadline for an article by logging in, going to the article page, clicking on the update link in the gray box on the top right of each unpublished article (see Figure 12), by choosing a new deadline in the "update deadline" form and by clicking on the Update deadline button (see Figure 13).