Icelandic Web of Science Dunhaga 5 107 Reykjavík

Email: visindavefur[at] Tel.: +354 525 4765

Editor in chief:
Jon Gunnar Thorsteinsson, M.A. in English literature (jongth[at]

Project managers:
Emilia Dagny Sveinbjornsdottir, geographer (emilia[at]

Emelia Eiriksdottir, chemist (emelia[at]

Ivar Dadi Thorvaldsson, student (ivardadi[at]

The Icelandic Web of Science was originally a project started when the

city of Reykjavik was appointed one of several "cities of culture" of

Europe in the year 2000. It was to be a sixmonth trial project, aimed

at raising social awareness of science among the general public by

allowing people to ask for knowledge as the questions arise in their

daily life. The sixmonth trial period was soon extended since interest

and excitement about scientific knowledge in this form, particularly

amongst young people, far exceeded the initial expectations.

One of Iceland's most popular websites

The Icelandic Web of Science is among the top 15-20 most popular

websites in Iceland. Weekly traffic amounts to 18.500 individual

users, or roughly 6% of the population of Iceland. Put in context this

means that a similar website in Belgium would receive more than

635.000 guests every week, a website in England three million guests

and a website in Germany nearly five million guests. The Icelandic Web

of Science receives on average 30 questions per day. Published answers

on our website are 7.200 (June 2008).

The questions and the inquirers

In the reception of questions we follow a simple and positive

policy. No questions are refused or directly bypassed as long as they

concern science and are sincere and serious. If needed, we amend

spelling and presentation of the questions so as to protect the

interests of the inquirer. In this way we seem to have managed to

build up an atmosphere of reciprocal trust between the website and the

public. Since we collect data on individuals asking questions we have

a clear picture of the querying group. It seems to be quite broad in

all respects, but the proportion of young people, between 10 and 20

years of age, is, relatively high and hence this group is in focus,

thus helping to increase science awareness and excitement among the

young generation.

The broad scope

Already in the beginning it was decided that the Science Web of the

University of Iceland would cover all scientific or scholarly

subjects, from the universe to the soul and from medicine to

philosophy. This seems to have been a wise decision. Among other

things it means that the visitor does not have to hesitate to think

about the discipline to which his or her question will belong to.

This has also helped to create a solidary support for the website

within the community of the University.

Editing policy

Our editing policy is also clear and simple. The answers should be

written in a language suitable for the general reader, preferably

according to the educational level and age of the inquirer. The length

of each answer should in general be between half a page and a couple

of pages, such that it contains a "complete thought" as opposed to

simple fact, and still is not too long for the general reader. From

the very beginning an eye was kept on the whole of the product that

was being accumulated. Thus, the style of the answers should indicate

that they are reliable and written by knowledgeable persons. Today

more than 700 authors have added material to the encyclopedia; the

majority of them are associated with the University of Iceland.

Sources and references are given when appropriate, although preferably

without disturbing the flow of the text. We also try to finalize

spelling, grammar and presentation to a level similar to that of a

printed book. In 2003 we published a book, where 200 of our most

popular answers were selected.

We have had weekly columns in three of Iceland's newspapers dedicated

to our latest answers. The material which has accumulated in the

web's database is now equivalent to some 6500 pages of printed text or

12 large volumes. However, modern web and database technology makes

the material in many ways much more useful than traditional printed

encyclopedias. With a single click the reader of a given answer can

browse through several related answers, explicitly shown in the text's

body. At the end of every answer he or she will also find a short list

of related subject items. By clicking on one of these, all related

questions will appear in a list, so the reader can easily continue his

reading on the subject. The sheer quantity and diversity of the

material has gradually increased the probability that we already have

an answer to a given question submitted today. We have experienced

this when we invite classes of pupils to send questions to us for

(almost) realtime answers. This has turned out to be easy for us,

since we now have the strong foundation of the database to work with.

Our answers in English are focused on material that relates to Iceland

and of interest to foreign readers. This includes for example

Icelandic nature, history or literature but we will not totally

exclude other things. By this we hope gradually to establish a contact

with interested visitors from all over the world.

Creating a dialogue

The Icelandic Web of Science tries to create an environment where the

public at large, especially young people, become enthusiastic about

scientific knowledge on their own premises. By encouraging a dialogue

between the scientific community and society at large, where science

matters to the individual, both policymakers and citizens are able to

make better informed choices from the range of options presented by

technological progress in modern society.

For further information on the Icelandic Web of Science please

contact: visindavefur[at]


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