Big University Competition Next Month
We have an exciting new opportunity to issue a first college protein folding challenge. Recently a sponsor (Medimmune) has contacted us with the idea of sponsoring the competition amongst university students for the best protein folding university team. The idea is to promote the excitement of problem solving in biochemistry and draw more college students into this exciting scientific pursuit. We have identified a protein with unknown structure suitable for the competition, and our sponsor has secured real monetary prizes for the winning university groups. Medimmune is of course unaware of what protein we've chosen, and will in no way benefit from the folding of this protein. They are mainly interested in sponsoring a new exciting way of doing science.
This is the first time we have done something like this, and based on how it goes we will consider having more of these competitions in the future. There are two potential issues that concern me, but after thinking about it for a while, we concluded that we should see how this competition goes and move on from there:
1. Because the competition is restricted to university students, it is by nature going to exclude non-students. I don't like this, but I think it is worth trying because it may level the playing field a bit. If it was open to all, it would be harder for new students groups to enter to competition with hopes of winning.
2. The monetary prizes for winners will be considerable. Although it is just one puzzle, this is a marked difference from purely voluntary power folding we've created in this game for the past 2 years. This definitely does NOT mean that we've moved to a "folding for cash" model. As Foldit becomes more well known in scientific and public circles, we have more and more people interested to sponsor different kinds of effort within Foldit. Some things make more sense than others. This time we decided to go for it and see if there is a difference in folding play and outcomes compared to the voluntary game play folding. Optimizing for the incentive structure within Foldit is one of the open research questions we are investigating. One thing I want to make absolutely clear, is that the outcomes of Foldit in this competition as well as anything and everything else we pose as a puzzle in the past and future will always be in the public domain. I see this as a founding principle of the democratized scientific pursuit we're creating here, and we will never deviate from this.
In summary, this is all new for all of us, we'll see how it goes. post your thoughts/comments below, as always.
Zoran( Posted by zoran 141 4789 | Tue, 10/19/2010 - 20:37 | 45 comments )