The World History of Science Online: Toward an Open-Access Global Bibliographical and Archival Database
The World History of Science Online (WHSO) is a relatively recent project with a goal of creating an open-internet Web site where researchers can access primary and secondary source bibliographical information, as well as archival locator data, related to history of science around the world (see www.dhs-whso.org). It is a project of the Division of History of Science and Technology of the International Union of History and Philosophy of Science (IUHPS/DHST). Initiated by the Secretary-General, Juan José Saldaña, after the Mexico City international history of science congress, WHSO was taken forward at a meeting of experts in Paris in 2003. It received statements of support from the Conseil International de la Philosophie et des Sciences Humaines (CIPSH) and International Social Science Council, and some financial support from the International Council of Sciences (ICSU), CIPSH, and the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, Paris. The 2005 Beijing meeting of IUHPS featured a symposium on WHSO that included presenters involved in archival or bibliographical projects from around the world.
This past spring a governing board was established along with a formal organizational structure. Stephen P. Weldon (University of Oklahoma, USA, Editor of the History of Science Society’s Isis Current Bibliography) agreed to chair the governing board, which also includes representatives from Australia, Brazil, France, India, Japan, and the UK. The global scope of this project is quite ambitious, and it is still in its early stages. One quickly realizable goal will be to make sure that the Web site provides continually updated links and information about major online tools for researchers. A central aspect of WHSO is to promote bibliographic and archival work that can be integrated with a web-based search engine. To that end, a Commission on National Bibliographies was created that will be working to find ways to locate and promote such work through volunteer efforts, grants, and collaboration. There are plans to hold a meeting sometime next year that will bring people together to work on both the technical and human aspects of the problem. The goal is to have an integrated search engine functioning on a basic level with some core data sets within a couple of years.
The great value of this project is that it addresses one of the most serious problems faced by the international history of science community—the lack of access by scholars in developing countries to first-rate scholarly tools, like those many of us in the West take for granted. This inequality extends even into wealthy Europe, where many countries have limited access to tools such as the HSTM online bibliographical database, which includes four major secondary-source bibliographies updated annually (see www.hssonline.org/teach_res/hst/ mf_hst.html). With the proliferation of web-based tools and online data and with the increasing access to the Internet around the world, we may hope that WHSO will become a major resource for scholars worldwide.