Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

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The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP) was designed so that each entry is maintained and kept up to date by an expert or group of experts in the field. All entries and substantive updates are refereed by the members of an Editorial Board before they are made public.

The SEP's Publishing Model

The combination of features exhibited by the SEP publishing model distinguishes it from other attempts to build scholarly resources on the web. Their open access model has the following features:

  • a password-protected web interface for authors, which allows them to download entry templates, submit private drafts for review, and remotely edit/update their entries;
  • a password-protected web interface for the subject editors, which allows them to add new topics, commission new entries, referee unpublished entries and updates (updates can be displayed with the original and updated versions side-by-side with the differences highlighted) and accept/reject entries and revisions;
  • a secure web server for the principal editor, by which the entire collaborative process can be managed with a very small staff (the principal editor can add people, add entries, assign entries to editors, issue invitations, track deadlines, publish entries and updates, etc.);
  • a tracking system which logs the actions taken at the web interfaces, monitors the state of every entry, determines who owes work and when, automatically sends occasional, friendly email reminders, and provides a summary to the principal editor;
  • software which dynamically cross-references the SEP when new entries are published, and which periodically checks for broken links throughout the content;
  • software which automatically creates an archive every quarter, providing the proper basis for scholarly citation; and
  • mirror sites at universities in other parts of the world, which provide faster access to readers worldwide, provide access when the Stanford server is down for maintenance, and safeguard the digital content as extra backups.


The SEP project began in September 1995 when John Perry was the Director of the Center for the Study of Language and Information (CSLI). Perry's suggestion that CSLI enhance its web presence by creating a (static) online dictionary of philosophy was taken up by Edward N. Zalta, who developed the idea into that of a dynamic reference work. Zalta then started designing the SEP to be an online encyclopedia that would satisfy the highest academic standards. After two years of support from CSLI, their prototype became a proof of concept that earned the first of a series of successful grant applications. (See the History of Grants below.) The addition of Colin Allen and Uri Nodelman to the project in 1998 resulted in significant enhancements to the design and implementation of their new academic publishing model. They introduced browser-based file-upload, workflow principles that categorized the state of every entry and possible state transitions, remote HTML editing, an engine which compares an original and revised entry side-by-side in the browser with the differences highlighted, etc. Paul Daniell programmed/developed the new search engine that the SEP brought online in September 2006.

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