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Opinion
Faye Flam

Algorithms to Boldly Go Where No Scientist Has Gone Before

Researchers tend to cluster and mine the same familiar territory. AI can overcome that tendency and point to new questions.

Knowing where not to look is an excellent first step.

Knowing where not to look is an excellent first step.

Photographer: Marco Bertorello/AFP, via Getty Images

As algorithms and artificial intelligence infiltrate science, don’t expect bots to replace researchers — but AI may guide scientists and funding agents toward the most promising unexplored territory. 

There’s a lot of room for improvement in the way humans are choosing scientific questions, said sociology professor James Evans, who suggested the use of algorithms for guidance in a special section of Science Magazine called “Toward a More Scientific Science.”