Progress

Progress Report of the World History of Science Online: A Project of the International Union for the History and Philosophy of Science/Division of the History of Science and Technology: Progress to September 2008

The World History of Science Online (WHSO) was initiated by the Secretary General of IUHPS/DHS Juan José Saldaña after the Mexico City Congress with an expert meeting held in Paris in 2003. The project was reorganized in 2007 with a new organizational structure and the appointment of a governing board, consisting of Stephen P. Weldon (USA), Yasu Furukawa (Japan), S. Irfan Habib (India), Rod Home (Australia), Roberto de Andrade Martins (Brazil), Michel Blay (France), and Peter Harper (UK), and two commission chairs, Alfredo Tolmasquim (Brazil) and Gavan McCarthy (Australia).

The WHSO website (http://www.dhst-whso.org), the centerpiece of the project, is being completely rebuilt by McCarthy. McCarthy has hired staff members at the University of Melbourne to help integrate it with a robust content management system that he has used successfully with several other historically oriented information databases (notably, the Australian scientific biography resource, Bright Sparcs).

The moneys that are being spent on the project are being stretched as far as possible. After the initial $2,000 provided by WHSO to McCarthy to develop the website, he was able to get further funding from the Australian national committee who has promised another $2,000. In addition to the technical website development work in Australia, we are soon hiring an assistant in Brazil under Tolmasquim’s supervision to update the current website’s content and find new material. Currently, the site hosts information on projects from over twelve countries; with the new Brazilian assistant, the content will be dramatically expanded.

Weldon and Harper have proposed a symposium topic for the 2009 meeting in Budapest: “History of Science and the New Media: Resources for Connecting the Global Community of Scholars,” a topic that will include discussion of WHSO, but also seeks to make contact with others doing important work on the Web. The issues we will be exploring are how the new media is transforming our discipline, and how commercial, governmental, and non-profit institutional factors both facilitate and impede access to scholarly resources around the world.

The long-term goal of WHSO, though still several years from completion, is an integrated search engine that will find citations to both published sources and archival content. WHSO addresses one of the most serious problems faced by the international history of science community – the uneven worldwide access to first-rate scholarly tools, a serious problem for independent scholars, scholars in small institutions, and scholars in developing countries.