After completing a Ph.D. in pure mathematics, 10 years ago I left academia for working in industry. There, a typical question is "What can we do to accelerate $x$?" when a project is slowed down, and the typical answer is "Let the people concerned with the issue focus on it and/or bring in some experts", which usually solves the issue.

I wonder if mathematical research can work the same way. Say, if you had $100 million to spare and really wanted to see the Riemann hypothesis resolved, what would you do?

Would it help to finance a special decade at some institution, where 25 leading researchers are free from everyday concerns (in particular, administrative and teaching duties) and can spend their entire time working on this problem together?

Would it be better to use these funds to let the 25 experts each supervise 10 graduate students over a course of 20 years? Or to support some sort of crowdsourcing?

Or is it just not possible to focus exclusively on one (incredibly difficult) problem and one should rather pursue whatever is doable at the moment? Is it similar to (paraphrasing Don Knuth) "Computer science is like the Great Wall of China where each workman contributes a brick"?

12more comments