Thursday, January 26, 2006

Eureka; Competition vs Collaboration in Academia

Just one equation and a graph. And the advisor had produced a plausible explanation for a problem that had vexed us for several months. Geez, why didn't I look at it from that angle?

The clearest example yet of why he is the professor and we are the grad students. Padawans, we still are.

Always start from the First Principles.


Kevin is suggesting the use of wikipedia for sharing and collaborating research work amongst grad students. I beg to differ. This explains why, especially for my (related) field.


rench00 said...

it then begs the question of why one does research. if it is for prestige, that coveted patent, then well... yes... by all means don't share.

but if it's really for the good of humanity, for some idealistic search for Truth... then perhaps...

but then again, the latter might be seem to be far too idealistic and naive... i wouldn't know. i'm not an academic and probably would never be.

Kevin said...

The problem lies where bureaucracy starts. It's sad that academia lives in a commercial world... things like being first to market & copyrights are structural blockades to collaborations which lead to further innovations. Such was the case of the scientist who fake their data. It's a backwards world we live in, especially when we keep what we know to ourselves... and die alone with them.

Kevin said...

NO WONDER! I was puzzled is takchek was your name... now I can see it's "to study" in Hokkien! Bravo bravo!

RuNeBaB said...

Hmm...sad to say, but we live in the real world.

Happy CNY!

Melvin Leok said...

This seems to be an issue which is rather field specific. Most mathematicians in my area are very open with our ideas, since we are working in a sufficiently specialized and technical field that one is unlikely to be scooped simplying by discussing general approaches.

Of course, there seems to be a greater spirit of collaboration, partially due to the relatively low financial stakes involved, since mathematicians are not under pressue to fund large armies of graduate students.

The use of the to post preprints also allows one to claim intellectual priority without necessarily rushing a paper to press.

The only situation where another researcher might be able to quickly solve a problem described to him by another person would be if it involved a student. However, most senior mathematicians are careful to give more junior colleagues the opportunity to explore their ideas without undue competition.