Encyclopedia of World Problems - Archived Information

Status message

You are currently in UIA's online document archive. These pages are no longer maintained. To search the full archive click here.

The Encyclopedia is currently undergoing redevelopment !

Participative Encyclopedia: Processing specific user feedback

Given that no source of information is considered an absolute authority that may not be challenged, and because the Encyclopedia is a participative project, users are encouraged to present counter-claims to views that they consider inappropriately presented. A feedback facility is integrated for that purpose to encourage recognition of the dynamics of the controversey that is often associated with this kind of information. Users can respond interactively to the profiles in the various databases by sending general comments on all or individual databases, or by sending specific comments about individual entries relating to a specific part of a profile or about the entry as a whole, by contacting us. However, before doing this please make sure you consult the points detailed below.

How to provide feedback:

Users can respond interactively to the profiles in the various databases in the following ways:

  • Send general comments on all databases by sending us an e-mail
  • Send general comments on individual databases (as indicated on any profile page from a database)
  • Send specific comments about individual entries (as indicated on any profile page)
  • Registered users can supply on-line feedback on any profile entry through the comment facility (enabling another users to view those comments immediately from the relevant profile):

    • Comments may be specific to any part of a profile
    • Comments may be about the entry as a whole
  • Qualified user-editors can edit entries on-line (resulting in modified texts that overlay earlier versions when other users access a given profile)

Clearly the challenge is to find ways to work with this flow of information, bearing in mind the difficulties of editorial style, quality of content, quantity, and the constraints on ability to process whatever is received.

Additional information is provided in a summary of editorial methods and guidelines, as well as a warning to users. An extensive commentary on the scope of each database is available from any profile page.

Obviously the less intervention required to put text into shape, the easier it is to transfer it from "comment" form into the database profile. On the other hand the comment facility does allow users to express views about a text (for other users to see), even if resources are not available to integrate it into the database. How the facility is opened up to on-line editing remains to be explored experimentally. In depends a great deal on the editorial discipline of those who choose to collaborate in this more constrained mode and how their capacity is demonstrated and assessed.



Considerations before providing feedback

You may want to consider the following before formulating your reply. The editors welcome users of these databases to assist in the provision of information which can improve both the quantity and quality of existing individual entries and their relationships, or describe new entries.

  • The Encyclopedia is a work in progress: It is the product of a project which commenced in 1972. Major refinements have been made, and will continue to be made, to the descriptive text and to the pattern of cross-references, especially in response to feedback on inadequacies. In this sense the Encyclopedia is an unfinished product.
  • A wide variety of disparate sources has been used: These include: international organization documents, academic papers and conference proceedings, periodicals and reviews, newspapers, journals, books and book lists. In this sense the information may be viewed as factual. However, such disparate sources reflect many levels of insight and expertise, as well as many cultures, ideologies, beliefs, priorities and biases. No attempt has been made to eliminate inconsistencies, although incompatible items have been treated as separate entries where appropriate. This is a deliberate editorial policy.
  • International bodies and other constituencies around the world effectively function as editorial partners: The Encyclopedia's "neutral" information gathering function means that international bodies and other constituencies around the world effectively function as editorial partners in progressively refining information relating to their concerns in every field of activity. The databases are at no time considered complete, rather they reflect "work in progress" to clarify the complexity of the international community and its actions. A good deal of the material in the Encyclopedia has come directly from information provided by international organizations, particularly extracts from documents of the United Nations and other intergovernmental agencies. One of the great merits of working with such sources is that the material is either in the public domain or that the organizations are pleased to authorize wider use of it. It is hoped that the new avenues of access to the Encyclopedia made possible by electronic publication will initiate an even more comprehensive feedback of information from its users.
  • Editorial Policy and Practice: The preparation of Encyclopedia entries is a true editorial process, ideally accomplished with minimal intervention. The editorial intent is not to provide a final "judgement" or "definition" of a world problem, strategy or path of human development; it is to provide a "description" which allows the arguments of diverse constituencies, as advocates for a particular initiative, problem, or approach, to speak for themselves. This involves gleaning material from different documents and combining elements in a suitable manner.
  • The editors are not attempting to present "the objective truth", by making editorial judgements on what is factual and what is not: The aim is to present phenomena as they are perceived, from the framework or "mindset" within which each is experienced as significant, using whatever "facts" are considered most appropriate by those working within that framework. This is especially the case with the Claim and Counter-claim paragraphs. These paragraphs provide a means of reflecting, most explicitly, the contrast between advocates and detractors of particular concerns. The existence of such dynamics with the international community is, of course, implicit in the juxtaposition of strategies and problems, human values and human awareness; entries which appear at first glance to be mutually exclusive or irrelevant to each other, may on closer examination reveal interrelationships which can deepen understandings of the world "problematique" and "resolutique".
  • Limitation of Existing Information: The production of this CD-Rom publication has been feasible only because of an extremely pragmatic approach to the collection and processing of information. The editors have deliberately set out to "open up" (through hyperlinks) and to highlight neglected categories of information. The intention has been to provide as broad a coverage as feasible, fleshing out the content to the extent possible. By deliberately sacrificing content to structure at this stage, it is hoped that even where the information supplied is inadequate, users will still be oriented to new features of the global system which others stress as meriting their attention -- and be more stimulated to contribute their own information to remedy deficiencies in the content of entries.
  • Inclusion of information in this publication implies only that the editors considered the source reflecting the views of an international constituency: Such logistical restrictions on the comprehensiveness of research mean that the amount of information given for any entry does not reflect an editorial evaluation of its importance. Issues commonly accepted as important may be documented only briefly. This may be because of resource limitations, because of a profusion of relatively diffuse material available on them, because they are extremely well-documented elsewhere, or because they can be more effectively described through their "narrower" expressions. Little-known problems may be given relatively extensive coverage precisely because their existence is not well-recognized. Inclusion of information in this publication implies only that the editors considered the source from which it derived sensitive to and capable of reflecting the views of an international constituency, and therefore as being of significance to a wider audience.
  • The quality of descriptions also varies: Some entries reflect an understanding carefully articulated by an international organization. Others are based on information assembled from a variety of sources. However, still others are based on what in intelligence circles is described as "low grade information". This is because the editorial bias is towards inclusion (rather than exclusion) of dubious or poor quality entries in order at least to acknowledge the sensitivity of some constituency to that issue. Once established in this way, and appropriately indexed, higher quality information may become available to improve the description.


Concerns relating to feedback

Issues and procedures relating to user feedback received in response to database entries and paragraphs within entries:

  • Copyright and copyleft (for received and published materials): To the extent possible, the profiles are based on public domain information, especially that received from international organizations. Such information has often been very carefully prepared to filter out particular biases. Extensive use is made of other sources in weaving new phrases, sentences, or larger amounts of text into existing problem and strategy profiles. Since no profile is considered static or definitive, material from many sources will be combined in the continuing process of developing profiles.
  • Interactive editorial participation: An important emphasis of the editorial process is to transform users in user editors, wherever this is consistent with improvement of the scope and quality of the material. This calls for innovation both on the software side as well as in the management of information flows in relation to resource constraints.
  • User access and accreditation: These issues will be subject to constant review and experimentation.
  • Editorial delays: The on-line comment facility is one way to reduce the backlog in making comments. Use of on-line editors will hopefully offer means of integrating comments into database profiles.
  • Excluded materials: This concern will remain one of continuing review and experimentation.
  • Errors of ommission and commission: See disclaimer and warning to users.
  • Controversial and defamatory material: This concern will remain one of continuing review and experimentation. It is to be expected that most "problem" profiles will be experienced by some as questioning the validity of the "strategies" they favour. One group's strategy will always tend to be another constituency's problem. The "counter-claim" paragraph will continue to be developed to hold such challenges.