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the internet has changed science drastically. Not only in terms of distributing knowledge e.g. via online encyclopedias as wikipedia and freely available sources of publications as arXiv but also as a tool for communication through email and lively discussions in forums, newsgroups and communities like StackExchange.

Scientific success nowadays greatly depends on the ability to build up teams with different scientific background and experience. To my mind, the ideal researcher has to seek for people helping him to tackle parts of his problems in which he is not an expert instead of spending months on something, someone else could have been done in days.

So, can't we be this ideal researcher, or: Can a community on a webpage do research by openly presenting ideas and working them out? Or is this not possible due to "stealing" of ideas, lacking institutional structures and the like?

What do you think?

Robert

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    $\begingroup$ This MO question addresses the basic issues about collaboration. $\endgroup$
    – Marek
    Commented Dec 3, 2010 at 22:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Robert: You probably need a clearly defined problems and some easier subtasks to start with, otherwise, there is a main person to solve problem and the other just offer 'little' help in which it should not be a community work. I would also be interested on how experiments can be tackled in days. $\endgroup$
    – unsym
    Commented Dec 4, 2010 at 2:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Marek: Thank you for the link. Of course, sharing ideas in, say, business science can be a lot like politics. You can fiend inspiring collaborations or see your idea published by someone the next days. What is the case for "community research"? Isn't it much more safe since it is clear who formulated an idea first? @hwlau: I agree, one might not be able to tackle all kinds of problems in this setup in the first place. Do you think this would be possible, after such a community has formed somehow? $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 4, 2010 at 7:25
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    $\begingroup$ @Sklivvz: no, this question is not about the site physics.SE but about physics. Well, about researches actually, but nonetheless I think this question belongs here $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 6, 2010 at 9:43
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, one of the most notable example I know: HoTT book. But it is underpopular now, as it should be. $\endgroup$
    – m0nhawk
    Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 17:59

2 Answers 2

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It's possible: see for instance the success of the various polymath projects http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polymath_project#Polymath_Project

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  • $\begingroup$ We have tried doing "Polystats" on CrossValidated.com, but it was a failure. $\endgroup$
    – user68
    Commented Dec 3, 2010 at 22:46
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    $\begingroup$ @mbq: Would you try to start a Polyphysics here :) $\endgroup$
    – unsym
    Commented Dec 4, 2010 at 2:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Anthony Leverrier: Thanks for the info! Something like this is exactly what I meant. @hwlau: And this is exactly the question I am concerned. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 4, 2010 at 7:05
  • $\begingroup$ @hwlau Well, to investigate what? Yet I think that there is an epsilon probability that something like Mpemba effect could rise from a site like this. $\endgroup$
    – user68
    Commented Dec 4, 2010 at 17:31
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    $\begingroup$ @mbq: I have no idea yet. The Mpemba effect you cited might be a fair one because everyone can do the experiments. It is harder for theoretical physics because it is difficult to gather a group of people with similar background for a topic. Currently, the community here is small and it may be a time to collect some topics. BTW: what is the reason that the "Polystats" fail? $\endgroup$
    – unsym
    Commented Dec 5, 2010 at 5:41
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Not quite an answer but in the same vein:

Many nuclear and high energy collaboration write papers in the name of the collaboration (and for that matter coordinate mostly over the intertubes). That is you'll see a paper by "the KamLAND collaboration". A list of the participants broken out by time can generally then be found in the collaboration's web space. This prevents the need for multiple page author lists.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the information. The point is if "the KamLand collaboration" is a community project which might not be the case. Judging from the kamland.lbl.gov website it looks more like a professional one hosted by Berkeley. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 4, 2010 at 7:08
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    $\begingroup$ @Robert: This would be why this is "not quite an answer", but my point is that group authorship is an accepted notion at least on the experimental side of particle physics. As for KamLAND, it is a professional organization (or at least an organization of professionals), and derives it funding from the US and Japanese governments. If you wanted to assign it a "center" the best choice would probably be Tohoku University (UCB and LBNL are the largest part of the US contribution). $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 4, 2010 at 17:32

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