In 2009 I started an online physiotherapy encyclopaedia called OpenPhysio. It was a space for me to run a few assignments with my 4th year students at the time, as well as a bit of an experiment to see what would happen i.e. would physiotherapists and physiotherapy students automatically create and edit an online physiotherapy encyclopaedia. At the time I was unaware of the excellent Physiopedia that had been started a few months before by a physiotherapist in the UK (@rachaellowe).
Looking back, I think that the two projects had different goals (I stand under correction here. Rachael, feel free to set me straight in the comments). OpenPhysio was always meant to be a bit chaotic and informal, while Physiopedia was more structured and rigorous in who was allowed to edit the content. I was thinking “interesting playground”, while Rachael was probably thinking “evidence-based resource”. Here’s an excerpt from the OpenPhysio About page:
“OpenPhysio is an attempt to create a database of high-quality, physiotherapy specific content that is free for clinicians, students and educators to use, modify and improve……Hopefully, in time, OpenPhysio will become a useful resource, not only for accessing free, high quality content, but also as a teaching tool. For example, by giving students feedback on each contribution they make. The usual concerns about the quality of the content (issues around references and credibility) and plagiarism apply but these obstacles should not be prohibitive and in fact could also be seen as teaching opportunities to educate students with regards improving their academic writing skills.”
A few weeks ago Rachael contacted me to let me know that OpenPhysio was getting heavily spammed and it dawned on me that I haven’t really paid much attention to the wiki over the past few years, besides writing up the experience for publication and as a conference presentation. By coincidence, the domain name renewal came up a few days later and I decided to pull the plug on the project. We’re doing some things with social networks and clinical learning right now and I can always embed a wiki there if we need one. When I told Rachael that I was going to let the domain expire, she asked if she could port some of the content from OpenPhysio to Physiopedia, which I thought was a wonderful offer from her. And, because all content on OpenPhysio was licensed with a creative commons license, I didn’t have to get permission from contributors to “give away” their content.
OpenPhysio will go offline at the end of June, 2011 when the domain name expires but happily the content that has been contributed during the past few years has found a home at Physiopedia. Which is why I think that when we make use of IP licenses that allow and promote openness, we get to more easily share and build on what we know and understand about the world.