Scientific Discovery

Project leaders: Fernand Gobet, Mark Addis, Peter C Lane, Peter D Sozou

This project is concerned with developing a deeper understanding of the process of scientific discovery. One strand is concerned with automating scientific discovery. This involves representing process-based psychological theories as computer programs, and then using a computational method (genetic programming) to find theories that are a good fit to the data. The method allows for additional considerations, such as a preference for more parsimonious theories, to be represented in the objective function. A second strand of this project involves a broader study of computational scientific discovery. This links automated methods in data collection, and computational methods in generating, refining and assessing theories, to general ideas about how new scientific ideas are created, and the psychology of scientific discovery. A third strand is concerned with scientific discovery in the social sciences. This has encompassed a broad perspective on social science methods, and has included considerations of how discoveries fare over time. Part of this strand included organising a conference at LSE; a multi-authored book from the conference is forthcoming.

Work in progress includes linking discovery to statistical questions around evidence, biases, and judgmental assessment in areas such as generalisability of findings.

Selected publications

  • P D Sozou, P C R Lane, M Addis and F Gobet: “Computational scientific discovery”. In: L. Magnani and T. Bertolotti (eds.). Springer Handbook of Model-Based Science, Springer, Switzerland (2017).
  • P C R Lane, P D Sozou, F Gobet and M Addis: “Analysing psychological data by evolving computational models”. In: Wilhelm, Adalbert F.X. and Kestler, Hans A., (eds.). Analysis of Large and Complex Data. Studies in Classification, Data Analysis, and Knowledge Organization. Springer International Publishing, Switzerland, (2016).
  • M Addis, P D Sozou, P C Lane and F Gobet: “Computational scientific discovery and cognitive science theories”. In: Müller, Vincent C., (ed.). Computing and Philosophy: Synthese Library series, 375. Springer International Publishing, Springer International Publishing, Switzerland (2016).
  • M Addis, F Gobet, P C Lane and P D Sozou “Semi-Automatic Generation of Models in Cognitive Science” Book chapter (editors of book: Addis, Gobet, Lane, Sozou) from conference on Scientific Discovery in the Social Sciences, LSE, January 2015. In press.

Project workshops

  • Conference on Scientific Discovery in the Social Sciences, Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science, London School of Economics, January 2015. This included an open call, and attracted a number of international participants.