Part of the excitement of this project is seeing, sometimes dimly, the enormous potential of the technology. While I list some benefits here I am sure the creative response from users will lead to additions.
The aim is to produce a hypertext textbook of the whole field of psychology primarily written, for an undergraduate/masters level, for academics and professionals but available to users and consumers of our services. The input would be provided by all and would be continually edited on a collective basis to ensure the highest academic standards are maintained. As new findings become available they can be integrated into the existing knowledge base so that it is always up-to-date. The advantages of this part of the enterprise are discussed in the following points:
It will make freely available, without charge, the corpus of up-to-date knowledge in our discipline to whoever has access to a modem.
This should be a real asset in developing counties where access to information and textbooks is problematic. Even students in the developed world have been enthusiastic at defraying their book costs!
The collective editorship opens up a wider international context to our work. In particular it is possible to make the site available for translation. This has been a big part of the success of Wikipedia (The online dictionary built on the same principles).
We need to be aware that the majority of our current corpus is a product of the Anglophone world and that much from other traditions can be integrated into our knowledge base to develop a more international perspective. For example what do we know about the findings of Russian psychologists, they presumably have an extensive literature that is unknown to most of us.
As a clinical psychologist I still have difficulty accessing a quick, reliable, cheap source of current academic thinking. Suppose I want to know the latest position on the relationship between memory and emotion. Even the internet gives me limited access and I often find myself sending for papers through interlibrary loan: which arrive, after my curiosity has been subverted by other interests; not actually containing the information required, and if they do, reflecting work that was conducted 18 months ago. Easy availability and timeliness of information for all workers in the field could be one of the main benefits of the new technology.
People can publish complete papers if they choose in the electronic journals on the site (work will need to be done here to ensure quality).
However producing information in a collective context clearly makes the process transparent and errors can be challenged and rectified. How many times have you followed up a reference in an article only to find it did not say what was being claimed? The fact that what is written in the Psychology Wiki is open to scrutiny by multiple editors elsewhere and we cannot get away with loose thinking, should in the long run become a force for proper quality control.
There is however disagreement about the nature of facts, and what can be inferred, and the discussion page accompanying each page gives room for these to be aired. So readers will get not only get a view of the content but some ideas of the issues around interpretation.
These discussion pages I hope can be used positively for developing fresh hypotheses, and experimental designs, to resolve disagreements. They can also be used for collaborative theory development.
My own experience is that putting of information up in a hypertext fashion changes ones perception of the field and I see the inputting of text and subsequent editing as a powerful, creative thinking tool. We can be freed from the linear thinking dictated by the printed page and encouraged to think in dynamic, joined up ways. While I am reading about emotion and memory I can quickly set up a page to discuss the clinical implication of these findings, linking it later to the depression page where it mentions memory impairment as a feature of depression, and to the page discussing cognitive therapy of depression. Recent developments in the US have seen a rift between pure and applied areas of the profession and this approach to a knowledge structure may help to bridge some of the gaps caused by ever more specialisation.
In this light it is a reasonable goal to try and consolidate the knowledge in the field at the beginning of a new century. To establish a baseline upon which we can build further.
Because of the software there is no theoretical limit to the size of the site and once it is established I hope it will spawn specialised sites that can build on the work collected. So that consolidation/increased specialiism dichotomy can be tamed and farmed. I see the relationship between this site, Wikipedia and eventual centralised specialist sites in the following way: