Scientific collaboration wins the 2017 Nobel peace prize for Physics

integration-scientific collaboration

The 2017 Nobel peace prize for Physics was awarded to 3 scientists in the United states.  Rainer Weiss from MIT and Kip Thorne and Barry Barish both from Caltech won the prize for their scientific discovery of ripples in space-time known as gravitational waves.

This discovery validated Einstein’s theory of relativity ( E=MC2     expresses that mass and energy are the same physical entity and can be interchanged).

The theory of relativity suggested that matter and energy would warp the very structure of space-time. The warp would happen in the same way an ‘air pillow’ sags when an infant rests its head on it while asleep.  Interesting.

Black hole - ripples of waves
Black hole – ripples of waves

This phenomenon would stretch space-time, expand and collapse it forming black holes making it so dense that even light cannot escape it. The motion of these black holes as the universe expands in space-time would send ripples of gravitational waves into space.

What was more interesting for me was the question in Newyork times “Why did they win?”  Well the question “How did they win?”  Would be much more interesting sans the ‘Astrophysics’ part.

Well the scientists were the ‘brain child’ behind the organization called LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational –wave Observatory).  In fact, LIGO was also the scientific instrument for the detection gravitational waves.

LIGO was a scientific collaborative organization comprising of a thousand researchers from around the globe who analyzed data, designed materials, and co-authored hundreds of scientific papers on the research area.

IndiGO is the consortium of Indian gravitational physicists. IndiGO is the Indian partner to the LIGO laboratory in USA for planning and setting up the LIGO-India project.

The LIGO laboratory has scientific collaboration with its other advanced LIGO partners in UK, Germany and Australia and also with the US National science foundation.  Together they provide hardware and designs for setting up the Indian operations of LIGO.

Current trends in scientific collaboration

Most of us have a scientific temper.  We are so curious at times that we keep watching television channels for interesting science stories and snippets.   It is not for the reason that they would affect our immediate lives but somehow we are glued.

You will surprised to know according to a research report from Physics org. the number of multiple author science papers have been doubled internationally from 1990 to 2015.  It has grown from 10 % to 25%. Moreover, 58 more countries have participated in scientific research contribution since then.

Historically, America and Europe have been at the forefront of scientific research right from 1940 and 50’s and now in the 21st century Asian countries like China and India have joined the wagon.

“In the 20th century, we had national systems for conducting research. In this century, we increasingly have a global system.” Says Caroline Wagner who is an associate professor in the John Glenn College of Public affairs at the Ohio State University who had helped conduct the research study.

The international collaboration of science has grown over the years and it is across borders now and people are working together more encouragingly.

“The methods of doing research don’t determine patterns of collaboration. No matter how scientists do their work, they are collaborating more across borders.”  Says Caroline Wagner.

Caroline along with her colleagues from Netherlands published an article in Scientometrics, which investigates the growth of international collaboration in science in the six fields of: Astrophysics, Mathematical logic, Polymer science, seismology, soil science and virology.

Lot of this research corroborates with our story on the scientists who won the Nobel Peace Prize in Physics for 2017.
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What fuels scientific collaboration

There are  diverse set of practices among the scientific community for scientific collaboration. Scientists when working together on an experiment produce a lot of research papers and even collaborate through a University technology transfer with the industry by licensing out the patents.

During the collaboration process, the teams collaborate among academic research groups and between academic groups and scientists working in the industry.

The drivers

The drivers can be internal as well as external.  Internal collaborations are motivated by the individual researcher who goes out to make arrangements for collaborations with others.  It provides a means for them to address bigger pressing problems, which is intellectually and financially rewarding as well.

Here collaborative work can take up ‘complementary’ as well ‘reinforcing’ skills sets.  Complementary is all about offering unique skills sets to the collaborative work and reinforcing has overlapping work load but then offers to share the workload.  Then there are mentoring arrangements made as well.  Here senior collaborators seek out active junior volunteers to help them in their research work.

The external drivers for collaboration are usually motivated by funding and access to external resources.  The demand for funding the research work drives collaboration with other industry partners and academic groups.

Industry collaboration works to the advantage of the researchers as they can gain the needed experience, gain access or create an avenue for research opportunities.  From the industry perspective, this is viewed as a strong plus as the companies view such academic collaborations as a way to increase the capacity for innovation and bring technological change.


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Ramkumar Yaragarla

I am 43 years old. Founder, Loving dad and Husband. Worked as an IT Business analyst and program manager in several Fortune 100 companies.Alumnus at the University of Warwick, UK. I love the WWW and write on Social aspects of information, Social collaboration, Digital Sociology, Digital Humanities and Work life balance. I enjoy playing on the beach with my 9 year old daughter. I am open to your suggestions and comments.
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