Here are some questions that have been asked frequently since MendelWeb first appeared:
What is MendelWeb?
MendelWeb is a teaching and learning resource built upon Gregor Mendel's famous paper of 1865, and designed to show how primary texts can be used to anchor resources that take advantage of hypertext, the connectivity of the World Wide Web, and the collaborative possibilities of the Internet, to contribute to a distributed electronic curriculum. MendelWeb contains the texts of Mendel's original paper and an English translation, texts that can be viewed as plain or annotated html, or downloaded in a variety of formats. Also included are notes, homework sets, discussion questions, and glossaries, most of which are linked to content-rich resources (as opposed to "publicity" sites) around the world. In an effort to foster collaborative learning and teaching, there is also the Mendelroom, a Web-Moo environment, and collaborative hypertexts of both the German and English versions of Mendel's paper.
MendelWeb is designed in the hope that students, teachers and researchers from various disciplines, interested in Mendel's work, will use the resources at MendelWeb to supplement their own courses and studies, and will contribute to each other's work. Such collaborations will hopefully lead to other (better) collaborative resources on the Web, and to the design of a variety of interactive, distributed, text-centered webs.
The World Wide Web is sometimes described as a system of distributed hypermedia: distributed , because the documents, images, databases, audio and video files, etc. are stored on computers ("servers") throughout the world; hypermedia, because this data can be connected in ways that make "texts" resemble multi-dimensional (global) graphs more than leather-bound (local) volumes. A distributed curriculum comes about when the materials for a particular course, or course of study, are created and composed at various sites, by a variety of teachers, scholars and researchers, and are all available to students no matter how distant from the source of the materials. This allows content modules on the Web (e.g. MendelWeb) to be used by large numbers of students and teachers (whether in secondary schools, colleges, or independent study settings), whether or not they are enrolled in the similar sorts of courses, and regardless of the materials that are available to them "locally". Thus, I can imagine MendelWeb being used in distributed curricula for courses in elementary biology, genetics, the history of biology, the literature of science, or elementary data analysis and statistics. (For more on the idea of distributed curriculum as it might apply in science courses, see my article at the AAAS Nextwave site, and the Real Audio version of Kenneth Foote's recent presentation of the Virtual Department of Geography Project, at STG's Hypermedia, Teaching and Technology site).
Mendel's paper is an excellent introduction to the structure and style of the modern scientific article, his "results" are well-known and commonly taught in biology classrooms throughout the world, and the field of genetics, of which he is often considered the pioneer, continues to have an enormous impact on our lives. His paper presents an opportunity to learn not just about classical genetics and 19th century botany, but about techniques of data analysis, the rhetorical strategies of scientific literature, and a variety of topics in the history and philosophy of science. Furthermore, the paper has been controversial for nearly a century, as scientists, statisticians and historians have argued about what Mendel actually did, and what discoveries can be accurately attributed to him. It seems a shame that liberal arts students, those who study genetics, and students in the history and philosophy of science, rarely have the opportunity to read and discuss Mendel's paper.
Finally, in "As We May Think," Vannevar Bush's famous 1945 essay on the "Memex" machine (an essay some believe to be the ur-text of hypertext), the author writes:
"Professionally our methods of transmitting and reviewing the results of research are generations old and by now are totally inadequate for their purpose. ... Mendel's concept of the laws of genetics was lost to the world for a generation because his publication did not reach the few who were capable of grasping and extending it; and this sort of catastrophe is undoubtedly being repeated all about us, as truly significant attainments become lost in the mass of the inconsequential." (Nyce and Kahn , p. 89)
The passage is striking, not just because Mendel's paper is (mis)taken for a casualty of poor technology, but because it makes an excellent point about the need to transform the methods of learning and scholarship, even as it shows how the mythology of Mendel's "rediscovery" was deeply entrenched by the middle of the century. Perhaps this mythology, to which Bush and many others subscribed, was also an indication of the inadequacy of our methods, in research and in education.
Several of the documents at MendelWeb (e.g. the glossary and the timeline) will be expanded and completed in future editions, and I hope to add a number of documents, images, and interactive materials before I'm finished. But there is a sense in which MendelWeb will never be complete, because of the collaborative texts (which need your annotations!), because of the data page (a call for participation), and because I hope that someday soon other people will build a Darwin web, a Weismann web, a Morgan and Sturtevant web, a McClintock web, a Watson and Crick web, etc. etc., all of which will be connected to each other in interesting ways.
When are you in the Mendelroom?
I keep a few regular hours, to answer questions about Mendel and MendelWeb. See the MendelWeb Moo Information Page for the schedule, and information about logging into the Mendelroom. If you would like to get in touch with me, to make an appointment or set up hours for a virtual field trip, you can send me e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or leave me a message in the Mendelroom.
The question of how to cite electronic material in research papers, bibliographies, and general essays, remains a matter of considerable debate. If you are making a general reference to MendelWeb, I suggest that the citation should be similar to the way you would cite a published collection of essays and/or documents. I suggest that the citation should read:
MendelWeb, edited by Roger B. Blumberg. (http://www.mendelweb.org/, Edition 97.1 1997); or
Blumberg, Roger B. (ed.) MendelWeb. (http://www.mendelweb.org/, Edition 97.1 1997)
If you are making reference to MendelWeb at one of the mirror sites, you should of course use that mirror's URL. If you are citing a particular document or section of MendelWeb, then the citation should be similar to the way you cite an article or document in a published collection, with the url of the document, and anchor for the term, substituted for the page number. For example, if you are citing the entry for Pisum in the MendelWeb Glossary, the citation should read:
Blumberg, Roger B. "MendelWeb Glossary," in MendelWeb, edited by Roger B. Blumberg, (http://www.mendelweb.org/, Edition 97.1, 1997), http://www.mendelweb.org/MWgloss.html#pisum.
Similarly, if you want to make reference to the section of Jan Sapp's essay entitled "The Rhetorical Nature of Scientific Papers," the citation should read:
Sapp, Jan. "The Nine Lives of Gregor Mendel," in MendelWeb, edited by Roger B. Blumberg, (http://www.mendelweb.org/, Edition 97.1, 1997), http://www.mendelweb.org/MWsapp.html#s4.
Note that the bibliographic reference to Sapp's essay at MendelWeb should be somewhat different:
Sapp, Jan. "The Nine Lives of Gregor Mendel," in MendelWeb, edited by Roger B. Blumberg, (http://www.mendelweb.org/, Edition 97.1, 1997), http://www.mendelweb.org/MWsapp.html. First published in H.E. LeGrand (ed.) Experimental Inquiries (Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1990), pp. 137-166.
It should be clear from this suggested citation scheme that I think all Web sites, collections, and/or documents should contain both sufficient version information and the necessary anchors to allow for references to electronic material to be as clear (or clearer!) than to printed material. Finally, unless otherwise noted, all material at MendelWeb is authored by Blumberg.