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Is current HEP-th research necessarily collaborative?

  1. Oct 16, 2016 #1
    For anyone pursuing and/or successfully doing hep-th research in grad school and beyond, it is necessarily a collaborative process? What is the extent of the collaboration required?

    I've noticed that a lot of the research being done seems to either happen as part of large groups or at the very least, as part of a collaboration between multiple faculty members within a particular institution. This seems to be in contrast to certain other theoretical subfields in physics such as AMO or condensed matter as well as mathematics research, where substantial research is undertaken by individuals. But is this universal or are there still problems being tackled that don't rely so heavily on collaboration? If the latter, what sort of problems? If the former, what are some theory subfields where research can be more easily undertaken without relying on collaboration?

    Also, how heavily does hep-th research rely on computational/numerical methods, and are there certain topics that can be approached in a more old-fashioned, pen and paper (or latex) way, like in math?

  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 16, 2016 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    In my opinion, and it includes the fields where you suspected lonely wolves like mathematics, the question about collaboration is a multi-level one. Firstly, there is always the question about money: who funded the project? It is probably easier to get funded, if several institutes are involved, resp. raise more money. Secondly, who knows whom? Science nowadays is a network. If you use other scientists' work, you are likely to involve them in your research, depending on the amount and topicality. Then there is the question of who wants to promote whom. Young scientists with little or none own publications are often integrated in papers together with their mentors, either to use the mentor's reputation to gain a higher acceptance, or merely as an introduction into the scene. And last but not least the projects itself. They often simply need many people with highly specialized different abilities, and if it were only the control of used hardware. E.g. the list of authors of papers from CERN often contain some dozens of scientists.

    So there are many different reasons, why collaboration can be observed. And I probably have forgotten some in my list. However, this shouldn't discourage you. It simply means that modern (scientific) world has a certain degree of complexity compared to the 18th century.
  4. Oct 17, 2016 #3


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    2016 Award

    Staff: Mentor

    It depends on the project. For something close to phenomenology, single-author publications are rare, and numerical methods are used everywhere.
    For topics far away from any experiments, publications with a single author are more common, but even then the author had contact to others - modern science does not work without frequent communication. Here some things are pen and paper.

    Even within a given subfield you cannot be the leading expert in everything.
  5. Oct 17, 2016 #4
    What are some of those topics (whether within hep-th or outside of it) that are far away from experiment?
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2016
  6. Oct 17, 2016 #5


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    Gold Member

    It depends on the theory. For example if you are working with some laser cooling stuff, a heterotic string theory is irrelevant to you.
  7. Oct 17, 2016 #6


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    Staff: Mentor

    String theory is the prime example , but in general theory development and nearly everything related to quantum gravity that does not predict TeV-scale extradimensions.
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