The early ideas for EthicShare project came about following a 2004 Scholarly Communications Institute hosted by the University of Virginia, faculty and librarians from several institutions. This group was engaged in the issues surrounding new online possibilities for discourse and exchange. This dialogue resulted in a proposal prepared by the University of Minnesota Center for Bioethics and the University Libraries, which was submitted to the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The proposal sought support for the development of a prototype of EthicShare, a sustainable online research and collaboration environment for the practical ethics community.
The original partners in the University of Minnesota’s efforts—Georgetown University; Indiana University‐Bloomington; Indiana University‐Purdue University, Indianapolis; the University of Virginia— envisioned a multi‐phase effort, beginning with a foundational planning grant to specify the requirements for such an environment. Funding received from CLIR (with additional support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation) in late 2006 initiated a six‐month planning phase.
At the outset of the project, the EthicShare team crafted a framework for a virtual community for ethics scholars that encompassed high quality content and resources; effective access and discovery systems; mechanisms for collaboration and community engagement; and governance structures that support sustainable models of collection building, technological development, and community participation. This framework, created during the initial EthicShare Planning Phase (January 2007 through June 2007) and developed in response to systematic engagement with the community of ethics scholars, has guided the development process of EthicShare and is a potential model for other scholarly communities.
In January of 2008, after the successful submission of a new proposal to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, EthicShare began its eighteen month Pilot Implementation Phase to build both a collection of bibliographic references and a work space to allow researchers the ability to share, discuss and collaborate online. The aggregation of bibliographic and reference data from disparate sources represents different scholarly perspectives and material types. The social features that have been implemented allow scholars to discover and organize materials not only for themselves but also in collaboration with their peers. In
this respect, EthicShare provides a test-bed for assessing and realizing the potential of collaborative social technologies employed within a humanities-based scholarly community. The production website launched in May of 2009.
A third phase of the EthicShare project began in November 2009 with an award of a 14-month implementation grant from the Mellon Foundation. The EthicShare team expanded the system’s data model and functionality.