WikiProteins – are a million minds listening?

A couple of days ago Barend Mons and colleagues published an article in Genome Biology about WikiProteins – a new way of asking a “million minds to annotate a million [biomedical] concepts”. On the face of it, it seems like an fine idea: combine text mining and other database trawling (Medline, GO, UniProt and others), distill some concept maps from that (Knowlets, they call them) and invite scientists to chip in via a wiki.

The Genome Biology article has a stellar author list, with big names in scientific databases and wikis. That said, they’re taking on a tricky task in getting scientists to contribute to a scientific wiki. Of course scientists do contribute to Wikipedia heartily, but I don’t know of any specialized wikis (or Professional wikis, to slip into WikiProtein’s terminology) that are burning rubber on the information highways.

WikiProteins is a product of KnewCo, and it’s not clear what their business model is. You’d have to guess that some level of paid-for services are planned. I could imagine that working — if the user interface is easy enough for non-informaticians, and the Knowlets prove genuinely useful, people might pay to get automatic Knowlet Updates or to see reviews from commissioned experts. Maybe I’m wrong and Knewco has other plans. Let’s hope they stay around long enough for us to find out.

Now, anybody who has read this far down this post must have at least a passing interest in literature services, so some of you might like to know about a job going at the EBI for a Team Leader in the Literature Service Development.


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