Life as we know it for Avenue A/Razorfish

Tomorrow will see the release of the first draft of an ambitious collaborative encyclopedia project, designed by US consultancy Avenue A/Razorfish.

The Encyclopedia of Life, for which the Royal Society, the Natural History Museum, Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and Washington’s Smithsonian Institution have pooled together data and records, aims to detail everything known about all living organisms.

If successful, this will be the first time that a project has been able to detail all the Earth’s 1.8 million known plant and animal species.

Twenty four of the encyclopedia’s species pages have already been fully worked out, while 30 000 pages are still in development, according to a spokeswoman for the Natural History Museum.

There are also one million minimal pages containing a list of species names and basic facts, and these will be added to in the future. The ultimate aim is to have 1.8 million pages ready by 2017.

The first pages will focus on fish, amphibia, large mammals and birds. The plan is that each species will have its own Web page in the on-line archive.

Databasing is being produced by the Biodiversity Informatics Group, which is working with the Encyclopedia of Life.

About 2.5 million pages of ancient academic journals, drawings and photographs have been scanned, ready for publication.

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