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October 25, 2009 / Victor Porton

Collaborative math research – a real example

There were much talking about writing math research articles collaboratively but no real action. I present probably the first real example of a research manuscript ready to be written collaboratively.

I wrote the draft Filters on Posets and Generalizations which I present to the online mathematical society to finish writing it as a collaborative project.

This blog post will discuss both general aspects of collaboratively writing math research and particular aspects of this “Filters on Posets and Generalizations” manuscript.

I just finished to copy from my old document to the wiki site. Now it is ready for finishing it writing collaboratively.

Licensing

I would enjoy to license my manuscript under GFDL or an other free license.

But in the future I will need to publish my manuscript or fragments thereof in a peer-reviewed math journal (to be able to properly refer to it from my future manuscripts and from Wikipedia and PlanetMath). I’m afraid that the journal may not accept an article licensed under GFDL.

So currently I require that every submitter would surrender his copyright for me. In exchange I promise only to acknowledge significant contributions.

This situation is clearly unacceptable. We should use free licenses for collaborative math research. But this depends on journals not to me alone. Excuse me for borrowing your copyright for now. Hopefully I will indeed re-license it under a free license for unlimited copying, distribution, and modification by other authors.

We need a reform of the journal publishing to support free licenses.

Choice of the wiki engine and site

Probably the best choice for the wiki site to do research writing online would be Wikiversity. But they require Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. This seems not acceptable for me because of the above mentioned reasons.

Finally, I put my manuscript on the wikidot.com site. Why this choice of the wiki site?

I only found good enough inline math formulas support in the following freely available wiki sites:

With Wikia for me there was the problem that I was unable to login to that site. As the only remaining choice I knew I picked wikidot.com. I think wikidot.com is a good choice for collaboratively writing math manuscripts.

However wikidot.com has some short comings:

  • The free account can host at most 5 wiki sites.
  • Storage per site is limited to 300 Mb (seems enough for most math books however).
  • Wrong vertical alignment of math formulas.
  • No PDF export, no LaTeX export.
  • No support for LaTeX preamble and no way to defined LaTeX macroses.

So, yes, we need a better math wiki. But for now we can use wikidot. We already can use it, not waiting when a suitable software will appear.

BTW, somebody may setup MediaWiki or wikidot.org wiki on their own site specifically for collaboratively edited scientific research drafts. This may probably require having a dedicated server (or a virtual server).

Now you may see my wiki for writing Filters on Posets and Generalizations collaboratively on wikidot.com.

Relation with other math projects on the Web

I has proposed finishing writing Filters on Posets and Generalizations collaboratively as a Polymath project. I hope that Polymath administrators will pick this my project.

Work already done

Previously I wrote an old version of the manuscript in PDF form using TeXmacs math text editor.

Then I manually converted the text and formulas to the wikidot wiki. (In process of copying I also did some actual math rewriting so that it was also a research by the way.)

Now it is ready for editing by everyone who wants to join the site.

In the future when writing will be finished, I will convert back to TeXmacs file format and then export to LaTeX in order to be published with a conventional publisher.

The structure of my wiki site

Instead of reading this about the structure of the site, you could browse the actual site.

However, my wiki consists (among other) of:

  • the main page;
  • the TODO page which lists things yet to do in the project;
  • other pages, particularly the manuscript itself.

Among other my manuscripts contain some unsolved problems. Welcome, collaborators!

About collaborative research in general

So in the face of my project we have a test bed for the future of math research, doing research collaboratively.

In the same venue as open source software reviolutionarized software industry, open research would a lot benefit for the progress of mathematical research.

Last words

Welcome, collaborators!

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