This semester we have decided to try something different. With my students and my postdoc Jeff Phillips (HIRE HIM! He's GREAT ! and needs a job !), the plan is to try a polymath-style enterprise. Specifically, we made up a list of problems that satisfy the following criteria:
- The problem is interesting enough in core theory-land that a solution almost guarantees a paper without having to worry about motivation, marketing, etc etc.
- The problem has been around and is reasonably difficult, so it's not likely to yield a solution immediately
- There's some new idea/paper/line of attack that has emerged (either because I thought of it, or someone else in our group did) that might be fruitful
We then went over each problem and voted, picking a winner. Luckily the winning problem was a consensus winner, so everyone is hopefully motivated to work on it.
Of course you're waiting for the punchline: which problem did we pick ? Alas, I'm not going to give that out yet. Not because of paranoia on my part, but because I'd like the students to have a certain amount of mind-space to maneuver in without having to worry about the competition. I anticipate complaints over this :).
What I ideally hope to report on a few months from now is an actual solution to the problem. Failing that I'll at least report on the progress made, and how this 'micropolymath' concept worked out.