Outline for Online Scholar Database

Wanting to find a database of academics, I did some extensive searching and found some database of study-specific scholars, but not a general one. I did, however, find a lot of databases, including Google Scholar, of scholarly material. I realize that it is still in a beta phase, but from what it is now, Google Scholar needs a major facelift.

Why do we need a database of academics? Well, as the world is becoming more globalized and studies are increasingly crossing over traditional academic borderlines, there is a need to find people who are doing studies in a certain field. Whether that demand be from academics themselves when wanting to collaborate, or from people like journalists, lawyers, or politicians, who want to find an expert on a very specific subject, current academic publication databases aren’t enough to locate these people.

The existing databases can be a pain because many of the scholarly journals are subscription-based and won’t let search engines crawl them. They also only cover those studies released in prominent journals, disregarding shorter papers or articles in newspapers written by scholars. They also discriminate information from non-English speaking countries.

What I propose is an open database of scholars that is fundamentally based on profile pages. (Though the term ‘scholar’ may be confusing, I am thinking more of professors and researchers) They would be categorized under general categories pertaining to their department, but the articles or papers they published can be put in different categories, making it easy to search. I am not saying the papers themselves should be put into the database, just the links.

For instance, a sociologist doing studies about teen use of Facebook may rarely have the opportunity to meet with a lawyer of cyber law simply because their studies generally never coincide.

In addition to automatic crawling done through search engines, user participation will be key factor in the building of this database, which makes It essential that it be open and accessible to change, somewhat like a Wiki, so that people can add new scholars or make changes to profiles of existing ones. This is important because not many academics are Internet-savvy or are shy or ignorant about publicizing their work. My father, for instance, doesn’t even have a website, and when I try to tell him that representation on the Internet is becoming on par with actual reputation, he argues that “people who are supposed to know, know.”

That argument may have worked in the past, but it won’t in the future. Most academics tend to work in their own tight-knit circles and are blind to similar or related studies being done elsewhere because they don’t see the need to expand their horizons, or reluctant to do so. This results in the invitation of the same speakers at all related panels, and the meeting of the same people at the same conferences. One may argue that this is because those people are the leaders in their field- but I think it is also because those circles don’t make enough effort (or find it difficult) to seek other people because it is always so much more convenient in keeping circles small.

-yvette wohn

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