I predict that this wiki will be none to sticky

Reed Elsevier and other big scientific and medical publishers have had a hard time adjusting to the electronic age. Their expensive journals are taking a drubbing from open source alternatives like Public Library of Science (PLoS) –co-founded by my junior high school lab partner, Mike Eisen. And despite the fact that the Health Business Blog itself is delivered to Elsevier clients thanks to an agreement between Elsevier subsidiary LexisNexis and Newstex, Elsevier is still in rather deep trouble.

Unfortunately for them, their latest innovation WiserWiki, isn’t going to bail them out. From Information World Review:

Scientific and medical information giant Elsevier, has announced the beta launch of WiserWiki, a medical wiki open to contributions from board-certified physicians.

Open to the viewing public and free to use, WiserWiki sources its content from one of Elsevier’s leading medical journals, The Textbook of Primary Care Medicine, an out of print title. However, Elsevier say they want the wiki to maintain a high level of relevancy and trustworthiness. This will be achieved by ensuring that editorial privileges remain restricted to only specific certified medical professionals.

The initial content fits a bit awkwardly into the wiki format. For example the headache article is signed by the original authors and the figures are numbered in a way that evokes the history as chapter 160 of a book. Also, the base content is both old and sparse, which may be a tough hurdle to overcome in getting people to contribute.

A wider question is what type of organization should be the sponsor and owner of such a resource. My guess is that the answer will be a professional society or consortium of professional societies, since the wiki technology is so generic and all that is new here is restricting authorship to doctors. Another advantage of a professional society being the host is that they can open authorship to all members of the society, including residents and fellows, who are typically the ones to write much of the content for these sorts of things.

Restricting contributions to board certified doctors is not the tried-and-true approach used for the medical literature.

February 11, 2008

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