Recent advances in AI, robotics, data analysis, modelling and simulation have allowed scientists to augment their research, advancing discovery more quickly, reducing the time it takes to do some tasks in the labs from weeks or months to just hours and identifying patterns and possibilities that humans alone would not see.
Our Digital futures report is a follow-up to Science Horizons, which engaged over 700 academic researchers globally to seek views on key trends and emerging research areas in the chemical sciences and its interfaces. Data and digital technology emerged as one of the main themes.
We set out to gain a more in-depth understanding of the long-term promise of and concerns about the use of data and digital technologies for scientific discovery by inviting 14 experts from different scientific fields and sectors to our first Strategic Advisory Forum, held in September 2019.
This report is the output of that forum and details how the new wave of technologies can turbocharge research speeds to respond to future global challenges.
Chemists, biologists, data scientists, public health and environment experts, clinicians, regulators, industry, governments, funders, and philanthropists will all be part of the solution.
The future of chemistry is resilient, digitally enhanced, multidisciplinary and globally connected. Digital technologies will enable chemical sciences researchers to see further and go faster, working seamlessly across disciplinary and international boundaries. Having tools such as these at our disposal will herald in a new era of discovery, and one which promises to deliver bigger and more significant improvements to the world we live in.
Explore our video playlist below to hear experts from academia and business discuss our digital future
Our five-point action plan to unleash a revolution in digital research and skills
We are calling for an urgent national strategy to embrace the momentum gained by the increasing realisation of the value of digital technologies deployed in physical and life sciences R&D.
Secure targeted investment in skills, training and infrastructure to fast-track digital scientific discovery and innovation.
Enhance international collaboration – across all scientific disciplines –spanning industry and academia .
Attract top digital talent into scientific research and provide development opportunities and lifelong learning for people already working in science.
Support and enable data standards and ethical international data sharing.
Develop recommendations for integration of digital skills in chemistry learning in school, further and higher education..
A revolution in digital scientific discovery and research skills
There are many opportunities for everyone to push forward the chemistry-digital interface for the benefit of society: for individuals; for the chemistry community in partnership with other communities in the physical, life and digital sciences; as well as for research and teaching institutions, companies, funders and governments.
Key areas for action:
- Lifelong training in digital skills
- Roles and career progression for digital experts in research outside digital industries
- Fostering multidisciplinary collaborations and communities
- Supporting and enabling data sharing
- Leadership and advocacy for the digital futures of science R&D
Key areas of technical opportunity:
- Data – bringing together and sharing data from different sources to enable better, faster, bigger science
- Modelling, simulations, AI – crucial in everything from medicines to batteries
- Sensing/diagnostics –understanding how medicine interacts with human body and pollutants interact with the environment
- Robotics/automation – perform experiments remotely and orders of magnitude faster
Robotics and automation technology in the lab can work nearly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They can carry out very large numbers of experiments, perhaps 700 in a week, whereas maybe a PhD student might carry out 700 experiments in a PhD. I see these systems being used as tools by scientists. The biggest opportunities are to find reactions, materials and technologies that we simply wouldn’t find without using these methods.