The field of mathematics has been doing fantastic things by bringing people together online to solve math problems. Like the wiki or open source approach, math has been doing polymath projects for years now. It all kicked off when Gowers posted the question, is massively collaborative mathematics possible? It’s a great post full of great ideas, and it turns out the answer is a resounding yes with a steady string of successes. One of the advantages of this talent sharing is that you collapse the world. Anyone with talent or interest could contribute. When I was an undergraduate living across the seas (math major, here), I would have loved to help with a neuroscience theory project, even a little bit.
The most recent polymath success – improving the bound between gaps of primes from 70,000,000 to 4,680 – has me wondering: is massively collaborative neuroscience possible? I think the answer is yes, if the community wants it to be.
The hard part for starting such a project is identifying a question. Seven years ago, van Hemmen and Sejnowski published a book on 23 Problems in Systems Neuroscience. Could these be a good set of questions to work on? The more theoretical or computational the better, as we should assume that there will be no new data forthcoming for such a project. Luckily, though, there is at least one data repository (I think there are more?) . In Izhikevich’s green book there is a list of ‘open problems’ for graduate students. But really: what are the open problems in neuroscience? What is amenable to group work? What are the open problems in theoretical neuroscience?
And would the neuroscience community support such an endeavor? Can we have a polymath project or a github?