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ETH Zurich-administered fund ends scientific anonymity
Date:8/27/2008

Reporting in Nature Genetics, and working in conjunction with Society in Science, the ETH Zurich-administered fund that is dedicated to exploring new avenues in the relationship between science and society, scientist Robert Hoffmann, has developed the first Wiki where authorship really matters. Based on a powerful authorship tracking technology, this next generation wiki links every word to its corresponding author. In this way readers can always know their sources and authors receive due credit.

The history of a collaborative wiki article can become extremely complex within a few editing cycles. Someone creates a paragraph; someone else deletes a sentence, inserts a word here and there, and so forth. - "How could the reader of such an article know who wrote what," asks Dr. Robert Hoffmann, Society in Science fellow and visiting scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT.

In first generation wikis, this information could theoretically be found in the archives, but in practice, it is impossible for a reader to reconstruct the authorship of specific texts from hundreds of previous versions. This has been the root cause of a lasting suspicion against wikis in academia and the business world, since the uncertainty as to the source of a single word can decrease the value of a collaborative text in its entirety.

Apart from being key information for the reader, authorship is often pivotal to a successful academic and professional career. Authorship provides an important basis on which to establish a priority of ideas and discoveries and to build a reputation among peers. "It is only fair to duly acknowledge authors, who invest time and knowledge in their contributions," Hoffmann says in his article.

Clear authorship attribution in this next generation wiki also makes it possible for users to rate each other based on their contributions. For the first time, collaborative publishing can therefore be enhanced with
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Contact: Robert Hoffmann
hoffmann@mememoir.org
646-852-4651
ETH Zurich/Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

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