WeFold Success!!!!

Last year, I met Silvia Crivelli for lunch in Berkeley. We had computational biology in common as well as colleagues with the Computational Science Graduate Fellows. A lovely surprise was our shared interest in changing the culture of science. An easy identifier is our work in increasing representation of women and minorities in the sciences. Less obvious is our recognition of the need for development and culture change in science. As scientists, we want to develop our ability to be confident speakers and collaborators even as we say what we do not know. As a culture, we want to be able to share what we do methodologically and intellectually so that we can better explore and understand our world.

As I have continued to develop scientists ability to work with each other and to see the possible collaborative ensembles, Silvia Crivelli has been organizing change. In words, it is simple. She invited protein folding scientists to collaborate. The project was inspired by
Gowers Polymath experiment in which a broad invitation to solve mathematics problems as a public collaboration resulted in a proof that had not yet been found. Silvia inspired said, "what if we can move our protein folding field forward through a similar massively collaborative project?"

Was it possible? CASP- the Critical Assessment of protein Structure Prediction competition is just that a competition. I refrain from trying to paint the image of groups holding their approaches close to the chest, their codes and means of simulating what they believe to be the best structure for a given protein. How is it that this grouping of people would figure out how to collaborate in the competition? That is the grand experiment that Silvia set out to discover with WeFold (http://www.wefold.org).

And discover they did. The story will continue to unfold (no pun intended), yet for today and this week, let it suffice to say:
They succeeded!!! Congratulations, Silvia on bringing together groups of scientists to collaborate: to determine how they could work together, to share their codes in order to better predict protein structures.

The group submitted their predictions to the CASP10 competition. A showing within the top 10% would have been an acceptable result for a first time collaborative group. Pishaw, small potatoes. WeFold had the top structure for two protein targets.

I’m excited to have had even the smallest of parts in this project, speaking with Silvia early on about the importance of organizing with what the groups said they needed, to move “with them” rather than figuring out “for them” what was needed. Silvia made a leap with passion for a field from a manager/organizer of individuals to a leader of teams.

Did I say I was excited? I’m standing with giant applause.