A Brief History of MITSOS

This is how it all started back in October, 2010: Sam M. and I were eating breakfast one crisp Autumn morning before classes and feeling a little bit like we wanted to change the world. The feeling matured in less than 30 minutes into a spur-of-the-moment project proposal for the MIT IDEAS competition, a public service project contest at MIT with a heavy bent toward international development. Here was our pitch, verbatim from our IDEAS registration page:

We seek to develop a framework that will enable access to active peer review to researchers in countries which may have developed educational systems but lack developed academic cultures or other research environments. In the long run, this project addresses the absence of thriving scientific communities in foreign countries due to migration of educated scientists to the U.S. Therefore, we hope to export the MIT environment elsewhere such that quality of research is determined by quality of ideas, not by quantity of capital.

Our goal is to make it easier and cheaper for researchers to communicate their work and receive useful feedback by building a web framework that allows users to peer review, translate, and collaborate on papers while hosting easy-to-maintain home pages for research projects. Thus, we reduce the costs associated with maintaining group web pages and servers, traveling to conferences, preparing for journal publication, garnering publicity, and other tasks that put scientists without funding, web expertise, English skills, and administrative assistance at a severe disadvantage.

Well, it had a good run. The project never grew its wings and got off the ground like a pig on Red Bull, but we did have some intense late-night discussions and a couple of viable ideas. I’m still a huge fan of the implementation sketch in the second paragraph, to be honest, and I’m convinced it has some promise as a future MITSOS project.

And then there was this: while Googling for efforts similar to ours, we hit upon the open science movement via Michael Nielsen’s blog and experienced an instant intellectual limerence for him. This post especially was a huge inspiration. By “huge inspiration”, I meant to say that we basically decided to start a student group based on the last couple of paragraphs.

And the rest is still to come.

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