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A collaboration market?

I don't know how many of you read Michael Nielsen's blog or have had a chance to read his 2008 essay: The Future of Science—which he is expanding into a book, Reinventing Discovery—but I thought it was relevant to the Azimuth Project since the problem he highlights will be especially common when trying to tackle something as big as saving the planet.

In particular, consider this excerpt from the second part:

Part II: Collaboration Markets: building a collective working memory for science

The problem of collaboration

Even Albert Einstein needed help occasionally. Einstein’s greatest contribution to science was his theory of gravity, often called the general theory of relativity. He worked on and off on this theory between 1907 and 1915, often running into great difficulties. By 1912, he had come to the astonishing conclusion that our ordinary conception of geometry, in which the angles of a triangle add up to 180 degrees, is only approximately correct, and a new kind of geometry is needed to correctly describe space and time. This was a great surprise to Einstein, and also a great challenge, since such geometric ideas were outside his expertise. Fortunately for Einstein and for posterity, he described his difficulties to a mathematician friend, Marcel Grossman. Grossman said that many of the ideas Einstein needed had already been developed by the mathematician Bernhard Riemann. It took Einstein three more years of work, but Grossman was right, and this was a critical point in the development of general relativity.

Einstein’s conundrum is familiar to any scientist. When doing research, subproblems constantly arise in unexpected areas. No-one can be expert in all those areas. Most of us instead stumble along, picking up the skills necessary to make progress towards our larger goals, grateful when the zeitgeist of our research occasionally throws up a subproblem in which we are already truly expert. Like Einstein, we have a small group of trusted collaborators with whom we exchange questions and ideas when we are stuck. Unfortunately, most of the time even our collaborators aren’t that much help. They may point us in the right direction, but rarely do they have exactly the expertise we need. Is it possible to scale up this conversational model, and build an online collaboration market [4] to exchange questions and ideas, a sort of collective working memory for the scientific community?

It is natural to be skeptical of this idea, but an extremely demanding creative culture already exists which shows that such a collaboration market is feasible – the culture of free and open source software.

(emphasis mine)

Helping others collaborate is a big part of the goals of the Azimuth Project. It might be good to establish some mechanism for scientists to solicit needed help, even if it is just a section of the Wiki for now. It doesn't need to be technically complex just functional with some level of formal protocols even if they are just established by convention and copying the style of what came before in Wiki text.

This also might be an opportunity to get some of the scientists that John is interviewing more involved in the Azimuth Project. We could find out one or two things that they'd like to know about, or get them to toss out needs that fall outside their normal collaboration circle's expertise and we could see if we can find people who can help with those questions, issues, or collaborations.

Comments

  • 1.

    I think this is a one cause for not being able to address the climate warming issues on a larger scale earlier. (just think about the closed proprietary knowledge that is paid by tax payers and then we have to pay to get a copy of that. so that is maybe a minor issue but its responsible for a lot of lost windows of opportunities (imaging u jump and hit the window frame). But the open access to data, information, scientifically created knowledge should be publicly available. John B has also been very active on this matter. Here in Sweden a few government research authorities requires open source as a requirement for funding software development research projects. but far too few!

    i think we need to recognize that this collaboration breakdown has happened in global politics, economy, sciences and technologies. it is also important too recognize that one has to be humble when talking to people from other disciplines.I think Azimuth is a wonderful activity so far and I love the interdisciplinary approach which is needed, to find ways to research and innovate faster than traditional channels allows.

    Also see how carbon trading has not worked as expected: - which i added to Carbon trading

    Carbon trading lies at the centre of global climate policy and is projected to become one of the world’s largest commodities markets, yet it has a disastrous track record since its adoption as part of the Kyoto Protocol. Carbon Trading: how it works and why it fails outlines the limitations of an approach to tackling climate change which redefines the problem to fit the assumptions of neoliberal economics. It demonstrates that the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, the world’s largest carbon market, has consistently failed to ´cap´ emissions, while the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) routinely favours environmentally ineffective and socially unjust projects. This is illustrated with case studies of CDM projects in Brazil, Indonesia, India and Thailand

    UN climate talks in Copenhagen are discussing ways to expand the trading experiment, but the evidence suggests it should be abandoned. From subsidy shifting to regulation, there is a plethora of ways forward without carbon trading – but there are no short cuts around situated local knowledge and political organising if climate change is to be addressed in a just and fair manner

    So long live Riemann and Minkowski who found space-time for Einstein and us :-)

    Comment Source:I think this is a one cause for not being able to address the climate warming issues on a larger scale earlier. (just think about the closed proprietary knowledge that is paid by tax payers and then we have to pay to get a copy of that. so that is maybe a minor issue but its responsible for a lot of lost windows of opportunities (imaging u jump and hit the window frame). But the open access to data, information, scientifically created knowledge should be publicly available. John B has also been very active [on this matter](http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/journals.html). Here in Sweden a few government research authorities requires open source as a requirement for funding software development research projects. but far too few! i think we need to recognize that this collaboration breakdown has happened in global politics, economy, sciences and technologies. it is also important too recognize that one has to be humble when talking to people from other disciplines.I think Azimuth is a wonderful activity so far and I love the interdisciplinary approach which is needed, to find ways to research and innovate faster than traditional channels allows. Also see how carbon trading has not worked as expected: - which i added to [[Carbon trading]] _Carbon trading lies at the centre of global climate policy and is projected to become one of the world’s largest commodities markets, yet it has a disastrous track record since its adoption as part of the Kyoto Protocol. Carbon Trading: how it works and why it fails outlines the limitations of an approach to tackling climate change which redefines the problem to fit the assumptions of neoliberal economics. It demonstrates that the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, the world’s largest carbon market, has consistently failed to ´cap´ emissions, while the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) routinely favours environmentally ineffective and socially unjust projects. This is illustrated with case studies of CDM projects in Brazil, Indonesia, India and Thailand_ _UN climate talks in Copenhagen are discussing ways to expand the trading experiment, but the evidence suggests it should be abandoned. From subsidy shifting to regulation, there is a plethora of ways forward without carbon trading – but there are no short cuts around situated local knowledge and political organising if climate change is to be addressed in a just and fair manner_ So long live Riemann and Minkowski who found space-time for Einstein and us :-)
  • 2.

    I don't like the idea of adding to the Azimuth Project claims that

    "carbon trading has a disastrous track record"

    "the evidence suggests it should be abandoned"

    and

    "UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) routinely favours environmentally ineffective and socially unjust projects"

    I would much prefer to add the evidence that is making somebody say this! Then the reader can make up their own minds on these controversial issues.

    Less opinion and rhetoric, more facts!

    Comment Source:I don't like the idea of adding to the Azimuth Project claims that "carbon trading has a disastrous track record" "the evidence suggests it should be abandoned" and "UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) routinely favours environmentally ineffective and socially unjust projects" I would much prefer to add the evidence that is making somebody say this! Then the reader can make up their own minds on these controversial issues. Less opinion and rhetoric, more facts!
  • 3.
    edited January 2011

    Helping others collaborate is a big part of the goals of the Azimuth Project. It might be good to establish some mechanism for scientists to solicit needed help, even if it is just a section of the Wiki for now. It doesn't need to be technically complex just functional with some level of formal protocols even if they are just established by convention and copying the style of what came before in Wiki text.

    I agree! Please start up something! I could help this get going by putting some questions there - I always have lots of questions.

    I have been rather disappointed so far in the slowness with which academic scientists have taken to contributing to the Azimuth Project, but probably there are very good reasons for that, and perhaps with thought we can change that a bit. I think it will gradually change as the Azimuth Project continues to get bigger and better, but there could also be clever ways to hasten the process.

    Please, everyone, think of some and try to implement them!

    Comment Source:>Helping others collaborate is a big part of the goals of the Azimuth Project. It might be good to establish some mechanism for scientists to solicit needed help, even if it is just a section of the Wiki for now. It doesn't need to be technically complex just functional with some level of formal protocols even if they are just established by convention and copying the style of what came before in Wiki text. I agree! Please start up something! I could help this get going by putting some questions there - I always have lots of questions. I have been rather disappointed so far in the slowness with which academic scientists have taken to contributing to the Azimuth Project, but probably there are very good reasons for that, and perhaps with thought we can change that a bit. I think it will gradually change as the Azimuth Project continues to get bigger and better, but there could also be clever ways to hasten the process. Please, everyone, think of some and try to implement them!
  • 4.

    I think I added this to carbon trading too hastily but I did browse through it just briefly . I´ll do it again and check stick to facts.

    Comment Source:I think I added this to carbon trading too hastily but I did browse through it just briefly . I´ll do it again and check stick to facts.
  • 5.

    Curtis wrote:

    Helping others collaborate is a big part of the goals of the Azimuth Project. It might be good to establish some mechanism for scientists to solicit needed help, even if it is just a section of the Wiki for now.

    I could hardly agree with you more, I'll just mention two examples of similar efforts:

    The nLab is a Wiki used for collaboration and was an archetype for the Azimuth project: nLab.

    There is a questions&answers project for mathematicians called mathoverflow that is fairly successful, the archetype for this site is of course stackoverflow for programmers.

    John said:

    I have been rather disappointed so far in the slowness with which academic scientists have taken to contributing to the Azimuth Project, but probably there are very good reasons for that, and perhaps with thought we can change that a bit.

    Why did you expect more interest in the first place? Academic scientists are trained to reserve the spare time they have to spent on their research and avoid any diversion. So far, Azimuth will be perceived by most physicists and mathematicians as a diversion. I think we can get more people interested by helping them with their research.

    Here is a dream of mine: Write a simulation of the Navier-Stokes equations in a box with periodic boundary conditions and external forcing, find a way to visualize the results as a 3dim colored animated graphic. Structure the software in a way that is easily understood and extended, and tell people that they can use it to extend the simulation to domains that they are interested in. Tell people that it is even enough to describe what they would like to see and some experienced developer with scientific background will see that it is done. I think this would get some people working on turbulence interested, and it could be used to validate certain modules of GCMs.

    Comment Source:Curtis wrote: <blockquote> <p> Helping others collaborate is a big part of the goals of the Azimuth Project. It might be good to establish some mechanism for scientists to solicit needed help, even if it is just a section of the Wiki for now. </p> </blockquote> I could hardly agree with you more, I'll just mention two examples of similar efforts: The nLab is a Wiki used for collaboration and was an archetype for the Azimuth project: <a href="http://ncatlab.org/nlab/show/HomePage">nLab</a>. There is a questions&answers project for mathematicians called <a href="http://mathoverflow.net/questions">mathoverflow</a> that is fairly successful, the archetype for this site is of course stackoverflow for programmers. John said: <blockquote> <p> I have been rather disappointed so far in the slowness with which academic scientists have taken to contributing to the Azimuth Project, but probably there are very good reasons for that, and perhaps with thought we can change that a bit. </p> </blockquote> Why did you expect more interest in the first place? Academic scientists are trained to reserve the spare time they have to spent on their research and avoid any diversion. So far, Azimuth will be perceived by most physicists and mathematicians as a diversion. I think we can get more people interested by helping them with their research. Here is a dream of mine: Write a simulation of the Navier-Stokes equations in a box with periodic boundary conditions and external forcing, find a way to visualize the results as a 3dim colored animated graphic. Structure the software in a way that is easily understood and extended, and tell people that they can use it to extend the simulation to domains that they are interested in. Tell people that it is even enough to describe what they would like to see and some experienced developer with scientific background will see that it is done. I think this would get some people working on turbulence interested, and it could be used to validate certain modules of GCMs.
  • 6.

    I think it's slightly more complicated than that: Azimuth is clearly a public outlet of some sort, but equally it's not a recognised conference venue. I know in my field you're told you can't submit work that has already been "published" to a conference (some people do, of course), so putting anything close to cutting edge here may "burn" that research. (I don't know how this works on the arxiv: I know theoreticians in various disciplines publish there, but I've seen less from data-based areas.)

    Comment Source:I think it's slightly more complicated than that: Azimuth is clearly a public outlet of some sort, but equally it's not a recognised conference venue. I know in my field you're told you can't submit work that has already been "published" to a conference (some people do, of course), so putting anything close to cutting edge here may "burn" that research. (I don't know how this works on the arxiv: I know theoreticians in various disciplines publish there, but I've seen less from data-based areas.)
  • 7.

    Tims dream: did you see what Besnarda, J.-R. de Dreuzy, P. Davya and L. Aquilina, did with Active walker ?

    Comment Source:Tims dream: did you see what Besnarda, J.-R. de Dreuzy, P. Davya and L. Aquilina, did with [[Active walker]] ?
  • 8.

    Tim wrote:

    Academic scientists are trained to reserve the spare time they have to spent on their research and avoid any diversion.

    Hmm, I must have missed that training session. I went into academia precisely so I could think about whatever I want. And now you're telling me I was supposed to be avoiding diversions?

    Seriously, lots of academic scientists I know spend lots of time engaged in diversions of all sorts. But perhaps anything related to "saving the planet" sounds more like "hard work, but without an ensuing publication".

    I think we can get more people interested by helping them with their research.

    I agree. I also think that posing solvable problems with publishable answers is a good idea.

    I'm getting pretty close to being able to explain lots of fun problems relating category theory, quantum field theory, control theory, "systems biology", and "systems ecology". This won't save the planet, but it may pull some mathematicians and physicists towards thinking about biological systems. I think that could be somewhat helpful.

    But it's just one of many things I should be doing...

    Comment Source:Tim wrote: > Academic scientists are trained to reserve the spare time they have to spent on their research and avoid any diversion. Hmm, I must have missed that training session. I went into academia precisely so I could think about whatever I want. And now you're telling me I was supposed to be avoiding diversions? Seriously, lots of academic scientists I know spend lots of time engaged in diversions of all sorts. But perhaps anything related to "saving the planet" sounds more like "hard work, but without an ensuing publication". > I think we can get more people interested by helping them with their research. I agree. I also think that posing solvable problems with publishable answers is a good idea. I'm getting pretty close to being able to explain lots of fun problems relating category theory, quantum field theory, control theory, "systems biology", and "systems ecology". This won't save the planet, but it may pull some mathematicians and physicists towards thinking about biological systems. I think that could be somewhat helpful. But it's just one of many things I should be doing...
  • 9.

    Hmm, I must have missed that training session. I went into academia precisely so I could think about whatever I want. And now you're telling me I was supposed to be avoiding diversions?

    Well, I never succeeded to get anyone interested in anything beyond their current research topic while I was in academia...which was one year, 1999, that I spent working on my diploma thesis (in case you're wondering: I don't have a PhD). During that time I had a lot of contact with a math professor working in statistics, I once gave a little talk in the math department about the concept of mixing stochastic processes - the same day I learned that an assistant professor over at the physics department thought about this concept and how he could use this in many body problems.

    I kind of expected that these people would have some kind of interest in a collaboration, since they were really thinking about the very same concept. They did not. It is this kind of solipsism that drove me away from academia :-)

    So, based on this experience, I did not expect anyone who has tenure to have any interest in doing anything for the Azimuth project, until there is some material there that they can use for a paper they are currently working on...

    Comment Source:<blockquote> <p> Hmm, I must have missed that training session. I went into academia precisely so I could think about whatever I want. And now you're telling me I was supposed to be avoiding diversions? </p> </blockquote> Well, I never succeeded to get anyone interested in anything beyond their current research topic while I was in academia...which was one year, 1999, that I spent working on my diploma thesis (in case you're wondering: I don't have a PhD). During that time I had a lot of contact with a math professor working in statistics, I once gave a little talk in the math department about the concept of mixing stochastic processes - the same day I learned that an assistant professor over at the physics department thought about this concept and how he could use this in many body problems. I kind of expected that these people would have some kind of interest in a collaboration, since they were really thinking about the very same concept. They did not. It is this kind of solipsism that drove me away from academia :-) So, based on this experience, I did not expect anyone who has tenure to have any interest in doing anything for the Azimuth project, until there is some material there that they can use for a paper they are currently working on...
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