by Michael
Nielsen on May 1, 2010

Full Article: http://michaelnielsen.org/blog/introduction-to-the-polymath-project-and-density-hales-jewett-and-moser-numbers/

In January of
2009, Tim Gowers initiated an experiment in massively collaborative
mathematics, the Polymath Project. The initial stage of this project was
extremely successful, and led to two scientific papers: “A new proof of the
density Hales-Jewett theorem” and “Density Hales-Jewett and Moser numbers”. The
second of these papers will soon appear in a birthday volume in honour of Endre
Szemeredi. The editor of the Szemeredi birthday volume, Jozsef Solymosi,
invited me to submit an introduction to that paper, and to the Polymath Project
more generally. The following is a draft of my introductory piece. I’d be very
interested in hearing feedback. Note that the early parts of the article
briefly discuss some mathematics, but if you’re not mathematically inclined the
remainder of the article should be comprehensible. Many of the themes of the
article will be discussed at much greater length in my book about open science,
“Reinventing Discovery”, to be published early in 2011.

At first
appearance, the paper which follows this essay appears to be a typical
mathematical paper. It poses and partially answers several combinatorial
questions, and follows the standard forms of mathematical discourse, with
theorems, proofs, conjectures, and so on. Appearances are deceiving, however,
for the paper has an………..

……. Linux is just
one project in a much broader ecosystem of open source projects. Deshpande
and Riehle have conservatively
estimated that more than a billion lines of open source software have been
written, and more than 300 million lines are being added each year. Many of
these are single-person projects, often abandoned soon after being initiated.
But there are hundreds and perhaps thousands of projects with many active
developers.

……………… A similar
process is beginning today. Will pseudonyms such as D. H. J. Polymath become a
commonplace? How should young scientists report their role in such
collaborations, for purposes of job and grant applications? How should new
types of scientific contribution – contributions such as data or blog comments
or lab notebook entries – be valued by other scientists? All these questions
and many more will need answers, if we are to take full advantage of the
potential of new ways of working together to generate knowledge.

Full Article: http://michaelnielsen.org/blog/introduction-to-the-polymath-project-and-density-hales-jewett-and-moser-numbers/

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