DARPA sets out to automate research

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Science  30 Jan 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6221, pp. 465
DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6221.465

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The physics Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek has famously predicted that in 100 years, the best physicist will be a machine. Now the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is working toward that vision in a different arena: cancer research. Last summer, the agency launched a $45 million program called Big Mechanism, aimed at developing computer systems that will read research papers on cancer driven by mutations in the Ras gene family, integrate the information into a computer model of the cancer pathways, and frame new hypotheses for scientists to test—all by the end of 2017. The 12 participating teams met in Washington, D.C., last week to take stock of progress on the challenge. If it succeeds, the technology could aid researchers studying complicated systems from climate science to military operations and poverty.