In January 2009, a mathematician at Cambridge University named Tim Gowers decided to use his blog to run an unusual social experiment. He picked out a difficult mathematical problem and tried to solve it completely in the open, using his blog to post ideas and partial progress. He issued an open invitation for others to contribute their own ideas, hoping that many minds would be more powerful than one. He dubbed the experiment the Polymath Project.
Several hours after Mr. Gowers opened up his blog for discussion, a Canadian-Hungarian mathematician posted a comment. Fifteen minutes later, an Arizona high-school math teacher chimed in. Three minutes after that, the UCLA mathematician Terence Tao commented. The discussion ignited, and in just six weeks, the mathematical problem had been solved.
These projects use online tools as cognitive tools to amplify our collective intelligence. The tools are a way of connecting the right people to the right problems at the right time, activating what would otherwise be latent expertise.
Networked science has the potential to speed up dramatically the rate of discovery across all of science. We may well see the day-to-day process of scientific research change more fundamentally over the next few decades than over the past three centuries.
In the years ahead, we have an astonishing opportunity to reinvent discovery itself.
But to do so, we must first choose to create a scientific culture that embraces the open sharing of knowledge
via WSJ http://on.wsj.com/s0ekyh