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September 04, 2012

European Environment Agency Partners with SFW for River Restoration Wiki



SFW has created a River Wiki to enable the collection and sharing of river restoration project information around Europe. The wiki is funded by the Europe’s RESTORE partnership for river restoration, which is managed jointly by Italy, Romania, Finland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

RESTORE entities are using the wiki to handle communication and to share best practices regarding nature conservation and river restoration. The project, built on open source technology, will be collaboratively used by planners, ecologists, engineers and government agencies as a project management tool for European river restoration.

“This system is key to allowing policy makers, river basin managers, river restoration practitioners and experts to develop the tools and skills to restore rivers and create sustainable river environments,” explained Toni Scarr, the Environment Agency’s RESTORE project manager. “The creation of this public website will allow users, for the first time, to share information on river restoration projects from around Europe.”

The River Wiki showcases a current trend among many organizations to utilize wikis to coordinate large projects. Wikis can be used for collaboration and project management, and they can also serve as a document repository and knowledge management database.

Wikis also come with disadvantages, according to Ephraim Schwartz of CIO.com. In some cases, wikis can become an all-consuming IT department version of whack-a-mole. “Everyone is putting in data,” said Scott Griffin, a project manager for Dell (News - Alert). “You end up in a mess.”

In addition to managing the constant influx and aging of data, IT staff often faces the burden of training staff to use a wiki interface. Intranet sites like Microsoft (News - Alert) SharePoint, which has a familiar interface, tend to be easier for workers to grasp initially.

Wikis also lack security and can’t be used for editing sensitive documents. Additionally, solutions for importing or exporting data from wikis are minimal.

However, wikis can be employed successfully as vehicles for information sharing and accountability. For example, any document edits in a wiki are public. “Members of a team have to justify the changes because everybody can see it,” said Brady Brim-Deforest of Data Portability.

Wikis also have additional advantages including low start-up costs. They offer remote accessibility and eliminate long threads of “Reply All” e-mails.

For RESTORE, the key purpose of River Wiki is collaboration. “It is great to be delivering something that will not only facilitate knowledge sharing and skills development but, hopefully, also indirectly assist in improving the ecological quality of Europe’s rivers,” stated Peter Hornsby, Director of SFW.

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Edited by Brooke Neuman

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