NIH explores adding a wiki

The National Institutes of Health says it might want to incorporate a wiki into its information technology systems.

NIH’s Office of the Chief IT Architect posted a request for information May 9 on available Web collaboration technologies that could help NIH employees cooperate and foster teamwork within the agency and among its partners.

Wikipedia is the best-known example of a wiki. It is an evolving online encyclopedia that a community of users updates with the trust that the contributors have good intentions.

Unlike Wikipedia’s free-for-all format, NIH wants a system with authentication and authorization controls to accommodate the security and privacy requirements of the agency and its partners, which include universities, doctors, and advocacy groups.

The RFI states that NIH is looking for products that enable “users to collaborate in forming the content of a Web site. This domain includes hosting and/or application products that support wiki technologies."

Some federal agencies already use wikis. The CIO Council's Communities of Practice Web site is a wiki for revising a governmentwide federal document, the data reference model. The public contributes to the revisions.

NASA employees rely on a wiki to modify open-source code in NASA's World Wind, which is software for viewing satellite imagery. Anyone who downloads the World Wind program – and millions of people have – can use the wiki to suggest code modifications. A private organization unaffiliated with NASA operates the wiki.

According to NIH’s RFI, the agency is interested in applications that enable both highly structured and ad hoc types of collaboration.

Responses are due May 19.

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