Digital Workflow Concepts for Dynamic Reference Works

Edward N. Zalta
Center for the Study of Language and Information, Stanford University


A problem often faced by the members of an academic discipline is how to find the most comprehensive, up-to-date, and authoritative information about an important topic in one's discipline. If one wants an introduction to a topic that is organized by an expert, a summary of the current state of research, or a bibliography of print and online works that has been filtered on the basis of informed human judgment, there are few places to turn other than standard reference works. But standard reference works go out of date even before they are published and aren't responsive to advances in research. In response to this problem, we have developed and implemented the concept of a `dynamic reference work'. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy ( is a dynamic reference work in which each entry is written and maintained by an expert or group of experts in the field, and the authors can update their entries at any time to reflect advances in research. However, the entries and subsequent updates are not made publically available on the web until they are refereed by the members of an Editorial Board. Dynamic reference works therefore require a highly customized work-flow system, mediated by password-protected web interfaces through which authors and editors can conduct such transactions as uploading and remotely-editing entries, refereeing entries, comparing updated entries with originals, etc. In this way, a dynamic reference work organizes an academic discipline so that it can collaboratively maintain an up-to-date reference work.


Edward N. Zalta (Ph.D./Philosophy) is a Senior Research Scholar at the Center for the Study of Language and Information, at Stanford University. His primary research interests include metaphysics and formal ontology, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mathematics, and he has published two books and numerous articles on these subjects. He has taught courses in the philosophy departments here at Stanford and at universities elsewhere in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. Recently, he has developed the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which was just awarded a $528,000 grant under the NSF Digital Libraries Initiative (Phase 2).