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Doing Science in the Open

8 Sep 2011

Michael will begin this talk by describing the Polymath Project, an ongoing experiment in “massively collaborative” mathematical problem solving. By combining the best ideas of many minds from all over the world through the use of online tools, the Polymath Project has made breakthroughs on important mathematical problems.

But this is much more than just solving a few mathematical problems. Rather, this project suggests that online tools can be used to transform the way we humans work together to make scientific discoveries. Online tools can be used to amplify our collective intelligence, in much the same way as for millenia physical tools have been used to amplify our strength. This has the potential to accelerate scientific discovery across all disciplines.

However, there is a major catch. Scientists have for the most part been extremely conservative in how they use the net, often using it for little more than email and passive web browsing. Projects like Polymath are the exception not the rule. Michael will discuss why this conservatism is so common, why it is so damaging, and how we can move to a more open scientific culture.