I was wondering how many concurrent research projects a typical math researcher works on at a given time. I ask because I currently have the oppertunity to start a second project on something I'm fairly familiar with (background reading-wise). One of the main reasons I'm considering taking in a second project is because the first one is going rather slowly (I've hit a roadblock which is potentially insurmountable). If you do work on multiple projects, do you tend to jump between them the moment you get stuck or do you dedicate your full attention to one of them, for say, a week? What's your secret to staying productive?

Just to be specific, let's limit "projects" to writing (contributing to) papers you intend to publish in the near future. As well, "working on" should be interpreted as dedicating a sizable chunk of your time to researching the problem at hand. I do not wish to count projects that you put aside for more than a few weeks until you have an inspiration.

I understand the question is somewhat subjective and the obvious answer is that it depends on the person in question. The way I see it is when you work on multiple problems, part of the reason is that you are hedging your bets on which problem will end up solved. However, I'm just interested in the overall average (which im guessing has little variance) and more importantly whether it's bigger than 1.


closed as off topic by Daniel Moskovich, José Figueroa-O'Farrill, Andrés E. Caicedo, Steven Gubkin, Ben Webster Mar 3 '11 at 23:40

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    $\begingroup$ Curiously, why has this question been closed? $\endgroup$ – Alex R. Mar 3 '11 at 23:47
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    $\begingroup$ While I don't like the decision I am not surprised by it; there is a somewhat widespread general dislike of this type of question, and the fact that you made the question quite personal and perhaps too playful (bragging rights and so on) might have contributed. Also, I think it should be CW. Yet, what I find truly surprising is that it got a downvote without comment. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Mar 3 '11 at 23:57
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. The bragging part was a playful addition, but I see what you mean. I'll take it out $\endgroup$ – Alex R. Mar 4 '11 at 0:00
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    $\begingroup$ I'm afraid surveys of the crowd are not in the scope of MathOverflow. You might ask if there have been studies or surveys in the past. $\endgroup$ – S. Carnahan Mar 4 '11 at 3:51
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    $\begingroup$ 4 . $\endgroup$ – Allen Knutson Mar 4 '11 at 4:00