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Data and AI

Disruptive technology for research: historical review commission

The Royal Society’s Disruptive Technology for Research project conducted by the Science Policy team aims to understand the landscape of data-driven and artificial intelligence-based (AI) technologies across different fields of scientific research.

As part of this project the Royal Society is commissioning a historical review on the role of disruptive technologies in transforming science and society. Before AI, tools like the microscope, laser technologies, computers and the internet revolutionised science and society. At the time of their introduction, scientists and society questioned how these tools would impact science and transform the role of scientists. With the emergence of AI and data-driven technologies in scientific fields, similar and new questions are emerging.

The objective of this historical review is to situate the use of AI in the larger history of how society and scientists have historically adopted and adapted to emerging disruptive technologies. The review should identify one or two key technologies that have played transformative role in science and society, and address questions such as:

  • in what ways was the scientific practice transformed by this technology?
  • what conditions enabled scientists to adopt and incorporate this technology into their practice?
  • what ethical issues and inequalities were produced or reinforced by its adoption?
  • what lessons remain relevant today as we move towards reliance on data-driven technologies in science? 

The findings of this research will provide context to the  Royal Society’s recommendations on the use of AI in science, and the final output will be presented as an introductory chapter in the Disruptive Technology for Research report. All contributors will be acknowledged. 

To submit a research proposal please review the Request for Quotes (RFQ) briefing documents and provide the requested information by the 31 May 2023.

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