Supercollaboration

Supercollaboration is an unusual but effective way of conducting research, where several people work together as peers to solve unsolved problems of common interest in a positive atmosphere, without worrying about authorship and setting aside ego. Our personal experience is that the supercollaboration model is extremely effective at solving many problems (having led to many publications) while having fun (building long-lasting group camaraderie), as well as introducing students to research.

To enable these outcomes, two core rules define the supercollaboration model:

  1. Authorship on papers that result from supercollaboration is self-determined by each participant and generally in alphabetical order.
  2. The unsolved problems and resulting discussion are confidential within the group, and can be shared with others only if the group agrees to it (or when the results get published).
These rules provide a safe environment where participants feel that their contributions will be valued and rewarded.

How To

The following document is a practical guide for how to do your own research in the supercollaboration style, though “open problem sessions”. It aims to distill our experience into tips for a successful session.
Running Supercollaborative Open Problem Sessions
by Jeffrey Bosboom, Erik D. Demaine, Martin L. Demaine, and Jayson Lynch
If you have comments/feedback/suggestions/additions, feel free to email us: supercollaboration at csail.mit.edu.

Video

Here is a video about teaching an MIT class (Algorithmic Lower Bounds: Fun with Hardness Proofs) in a fully supercollaborative style.

Software

Coauthor is free software written specifically to support supercollaborative research. It makes it easy for the whole group to collaboratively take notes, recording ideas and progress as they happen. The document above gives some tips about how to use Coauthor when supercollaborating.

Last updated August 6, 2020 by Erik Demaine.