Bringing physics into massive colaborative science

Posted in Open Science, Sustainable development by ths1104 on 13/08/2010

Several months ago I tried to develop on this blog the idea of “Open Science”. In particular I underlined the fact that, to build an effective collaboration over the internet, we need new tools and guidelines [1]. The Open Science Summit 2010 seems to have speed up the whole process.

On the one hand, some days after the conference, a brainstorming about the definition of “Open Scientist” was lunched by Jessy Cowan-Sharp. The draft of the discussion is available for consultation and editable by everyone via EtherPad here [2].

On the other hand, Casey Stark @caseywstark and DJ Strouse @djstrouse lunched for the occasion, CoLab, a platform designed for open and massively collaborative science,

We want to make it stupid easy to center a discussion around protocols, data, plots, published papers, papers in progress, simulations, code, or any other component of scientific research, […] to import a published paper and collaboratively highlight and annotate (it) in-line, […] to host a working version of my paper online, collaboratively edit it […]. In short, as a scientist, I should be able to easily and openly discuss any piece of my science with my entire scientific community.

The three first issues discussed on Colab deal with social science (local optimal scientific research environment, social network for science) and mathematics (P != NP). Now I had like to see physics, chemistry and open hardware projects enter the arena. And especially projects linked with global issues like drinking water, malnutrition, diseases, safe housing, rural electrification, reduction of CO2 emissions and clean energy.

But how should we tackle this kind of problems ?

Consider an open problem and various way to address it : technology A, technology B, law C, etc. Now, should we focuse on technology A as it seems the most promising or to the contrary consider at the same time all the propositions ? If the last approach is workable for “non-material” Polymath Projects for example, is it realistic to lunch at the same time 20 different experiments to develop 20 competing technologies ? Who is going to finance it ? Theses questions should be considered carefully before proposing an issue to avoid having the project at a dead end after some discussions.

In practical terms, I would recommend to propose (at least at the begining) issues whose solutions can be formulated in theoretical terms or require only small investment. Ideally everyone, not only laboratories, should be able to set up the required device/experiment and work on it. Any ideas ?


  1. Open recherche (french)
  2. Moi quand j’serai grand, j’serai open scientist ! (french)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: