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New Center Aims to Improve the Pursuit of Scientific Discovery

Center for the Science of Science and Innovation uses advanced analytics, artificial intelligence to unearth patterns for success

A new center dedicated to understanding the conditions that lead to scientific success launched on September 19 at Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management.

The Center for the Science of Science and Innovation (CSSI) will utilize advanced analytics and artificial intelligence to unearth patterns underlying scientific discovery. The goal is to find the keys to creating lasting societal impact through science.

CSSI, which is supported by a 2018 Minerva Grant from the Department of Defense, could profoundly impact the way science is funded, scientists are cultivated, and excellence is rewarded.

Dashun Wang“Improving our scientific process requires that we first understand the patterns that drive it,” said Dashun Wang, associate professor of management and organizations at Kellogg, associate professor of industrial engineering and management sciences at Northwestern Engineering (by courtesy), and the leader of CSSI. “Research conducted at the Center will surface best practices, biases, and behaviors that govern the way we pursue discovery and innovation, ultimately empowering us to create new knowledge more effectively.” 

It will be the first academic hub of its kind to unite experts across disciplines to identify and predict patterns in careers, teams, knowledge production, machine partnerships, and more. Research conducted at CSSI will attempt to answer questions such as, “Why are some collaborations fruitful while others fail?” and “What determines which ideas are canonized and which are forgotten?”

“I truly believe we are living in an exciting era where big data permeates every corner of society and is increasingly essential for human decision-making,” Wang said. “This emerging, multidisciplinary field leverages new large-scale datasets, capturing broad aspects of the scientific enterprise, and uses data science and artificial intelligence to make sense of this data.” 

In addition to Wang, the center's leadership network includes Luis Amaral, Erastus O. Haven Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. 

Research impact

Luis AmaralExamples of research already conducted by faculty affiliated with CSSI include:

  • Gender discrimination: Studies about how gender discrimination in science affects hiring in STEM fields
  • Applying social science: An investigation of how to better apply the findings of social and behavioral sciences
  • Effective incentives: Research showing how changing the financial incentives can encourage innovation for societal good
  • Age and innovation: Evidence that scientists who make breakthroughs are older than ever

Beyond Northwestern

In addition to supporting research that improves the impact of scientific discovery, CSSI will host programming to create a global forum for scientific exchange and discourse across geographies, methodologies, and scientific backgrounds. These activities will be open to scientists around the globe.

“CSSI is an extraordinary investment, bringing together world-leading researchers to decode innovation and the progress of knowledge,” said Ben Jones, Kellogg professor of strategy and the Gorden and Llura Gund Family Professor of Entrepreneurship.