Mathematics and its social organization

The recent development of the Polymath project, see Van Bendegem et al. (to appear 2013), where the search for a proof of a theorem was posted on the web thereby inviting everyone to participate, made clear that the way a scientific community is organized influences the results that community can obtain. Although this is a well-known idea in the philosophy of science, this is less so, if existent at all, in mathematics. As there are several good instruments for modelling a research community, for which the extensive literature in the sociology of science is a guarantee, the task of this subproject is to study (a) whether social organization has an impact on the results that are obtained and (b) if so, what precise mechanisms are at work. See, e.g., Geist et al. (2010) for a case study concerning peer review. It is not to be excluded that the results of this subproject could in principle be tested by, e.g., setting up experiments similar to the Polymath project.