Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Powerful new ways to electronically mine research may lead to scientific breakthroughs

11.02.2011
The Internet has become not only a tool for disseminating knowledge through scientific publications, but it also has the potential to shape scientific research through expanding the field of metaknowledge—the study of knowledge itself.

The new possibilities for metaknowledge include developing a better understanding of science's social context and the biases that can affect research findings and choices of research topics, according to an article published by University of Chicago researchers in the journal Science.

Pooling research-related information online can shed light on how scientists' personal backgrounds or funding sources shape their research approaches, and could open up new fields of study, wrote James Evans, assistant professor in sociology at the University of Chicago, and Jacob Foster, a post-doctoral scholar at the University, in an analysis supported with a National Science Foundation grant.

"The computational production and consumption of metaknowledge will allow researchers and policymakers to leverage more scientific knowledge—explicit, implicit, contextual—in their efforts to advance science," the two wrote in the Perspectives article "Metaknowledge," published in the Feb. 11 issue of Science. Metaknowledge is essential in a digital era in which so many investigations are linked electronically, they point out.

An important new tool for metaknowledge researchers seeking previously hidden connections is natural language processing, one of the rapidly emerging fields of artificial intelligence. NLP permits machine reading, information extraction and automatic summarization.

Researchers at Google used computational content analysis to identify the emergence of influenza epidemics by identifying and tracking related Google searches. The process was faster than other techniques used by public health officials. These content analysis techniques complement the statistical techniques of meta-analysis, which typically incorporate data from many different studies in an effort to draw a larger conclusion about a research question, such as the influence of class size on student achievement.

For scientific research, meta-analysis can trace the connections between data and conclusions in ways that might not otherwise be noticed. For example, the availability of samples from the Southern Hemisphere related to continental drift has influenced the way in which geologists have made conclusions about plate tectonics.

Metaknowledge also has unveiled the possibility of "ghost theories" implicit assumptions that may undergird scientific conclusions, even when researchers do not acknowledge them. For example, psychologists frequently use college students as research subjects and accordingly publish papers based on the behavior of a group that may or may not be typical of the entire population. Scholars using traditional metaknowledge techniques found that 67 percent of the papers published in the Journal of Personality and Social Behavior were based on studies of undergraduates. The use of computation could accelerate and widen the discovery of such ghost theories.

Entrenched scientific ideas can develop when studies repeatedly find conclusions that support previous claims by well-known scholars and also when students of distinguished researchers go on to do their own work, which also reinforces previous claims. Both of those trends can be uncovered by scholars working in metaknowledge, Evans and Foster said.

Metaknowledge also helps scholars understand the role funding plays in research. "There is evidence from metaknowledge that embedding research in the private or public sector modulates its path," they write. "Company projects tend to eschew dogma in an impatient hunt for commercial breakthroughs, leading to rapid but unsystematic accumulation of knowledge, whereas public research focuses on the careful accumulation of consistent results."

The promise of metaknowedge is its capacity to steer researchers to new fields, they said.

"Metaknowledge could inform individual strategies about research investment, pointing out overgrazed fields where herding leads to diminishing returns as well as lush range where premature certainty has halted promising investigation," Evans and Foster said.

William Harms | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uchicago.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Smart Data Transformation – Surfing the Big Wave
02.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT

nachricht Climate change could outpace EPA Lake Champlain protections
18.11.2016 | University of Vermont

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>