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Policy projects

Disruptive technologies for research

28 February 2023

Image © DeepMind / Tim West
Image © DeepMind / Tim West

With increased computing power available, progress in the development of machine learning and unprecedented access to data, digital technologies are transforming scientific research. These technologies are helping us solve problems and find answers to questions that have been unsolvable until now. They are also disrupting the very nature of scientific research.  

The Disruptive technology for research project seeks to understand the landscape of how new information and data-driven approaches have been applied to scientific research. It aims at articulating the impact, as well as the risks, such technologies can have, and outline cases of success, as well as seeking to understand the factors that have slowed adoption and how this might be improved.  

Shaping policies to support the future of science  

A report to be published in 2024 will showcase how machine learning and data-driven technologies are already transforming scientific research and offer recommendations to improve their adoption. The report will address the following questions:

  • How are data-driven technologies transforming the nature of scientific research?
  • Which fields have been uniquely disrupted by data driven technologies?
  • How are data-driven technologies contributing to novel scientific research methods? 
  • How are data-driven technologies reshaping the process of scientific research and impacting reproducibility? 
  • How can governments best support the development, adoption and uses of such technologies? How will universities need to respond to these changes, in particular when it comes to the training of technicians and scientific infrastructure needs? 
  • What role can interdisciplinary work play in the development and adoption of disruptive technologies? And how can we best support it?  
  • What are the risks and limitations of the use of some of these technologies for scientific research? 

Scanning scientific horizons 

This report will also be an opportunity for the Royal Society to take a closer look at technologies that we believe could be playing a key role in the future of scientific research, including immersive technologies (Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality) and large language models. On this page you will find summaries of workshops and roundtables we have held with experts on these technologies.

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