Michael Nielsen, author and an advocate of open science
Tuesday, October 25, 12:30 pm Berkman Center, 23 Everett Street, second floor
I'll start this talk by describing the Polymath Project, an ongoing experiment in "massively collaborative" mathematical problem solving. The idea is to use online tools -- things like blogs and wikis -- to collaboratively attack difficult mathematical problems. By combining the best ideas of many minds from all over the world, the Polymath Project has made breakthroughs on important mathematical problems.
What makes this an exciting story is that it's about much more than just solving some mathematical problems. Rather, the story suggests that online tools can be used to transform the way we humans work together to make scientific discoveries. We can use online tools to amplify our collective intelligence, in much the same way as for millenia we've used physical tools to amplify our strength. This has the potential to accelerate scientific discovery across all disciplines.
This is an optimistic story, but there's a major catch. Scientists have for the most part been extremely 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. I'll discuss why this conservatism is so common, why it's so damaging, and how we can move to a more open scientific culture.
Michael Nielsen is an author and an advocate of open science. His book about open science, Reinventing Discovery, will be published by Princeton University Press in October, 2011. Prior to his book, Michael was an internationally known scientist who helped pioneer the field of quantum computation. He co-authored the standard text in the field, and wrote more than 50 scientific papers, including invited contributions to Nature and Scientific American. His work on quantum teleportation was recognized in Science Magazine's list of the Top Ten Breakthroughs of 1998. Michael was educated at the University of Queensland, and as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of New Mexico. He worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory, as the Richard Chace Tolman Prize Fellow at Caltech, was Foundation Professor of Quantum Information Science and a Federation Fellow at the University of Queensland, and a Senior Faculty Member at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. In 2008, he gave up his tenured position to work fulltime on open science.