Santo Fortunato, a professor at the Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research at the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, has been awarded a grant from the Department of Defense as part of the Minerva Research Initiative.
Fortunato’s project, “Fundamental Dynamics, Predictability, and Uncertainty of Tomorrow’s Scientific Discoveries,” aims to develop a richer understanding of the fundamental drivers of science that will place the United States in the best position to avoid and create scientific disruptions and technological surprises by producing a collection of reproducible and generalizable insights that probe deeply into the relationship of social processes and scientific discovery. It also will create new predictive capabilities to lead transitions that may fundamentally change the way the Department of Defense identifies and funds the breakthroughs of tomorrow.
“This is the first in hopefully a long series of important grants I will receive at SICE, and I’m really excited about it,” Fortunato said. “Moreover, it will be an instrument to shape and make more visible this new field of research, the science of science. We have planned several initiatives, such as conferences, where scientists, funders, and policy makers will be present. We hope to convince funding agencies and foundations to allocate more money for this endeavor.”
Fortunato and his colleagues are interested in describing and predicting the evolution of scientific fields, including how best to define and measure the novelty of scientific work, how to assemble successful teams to solve a specific task, and how to define and measure the impact of scholars’ work.
“There are multiple potential applications, specifically in policy making, both for institutions and funding agencies,” Fortunato said. “For instance, one can come up with a better system to evaluate research and therefore allocate funds, especially among young researchers, who need support to build up their careers. The project is expected to last five years, so there is a big agenda, and I will dedicate my initial efforts to the evolution of scientific disciplines.”
The Minerva Research Initiative aims to improve DoD's basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the U.S. by leveraging and focusing the resources of the nation’s top universities. It also seeks to define and develop foundational knowledge about sources of present and future conflict with an eye toward better understanding of the political trajectories of key regions of the world while also improving the ability of the DoD to develop cutting-edge social science research that is developed and vetted by the best scholars in these fields.
“Santo’s research is a critical step in advancing the science of science, and we couldn’t be more thrilled with his partnership with the Department of Defense,” said Raj Acharya, dean of SICE. “The Minerva Research Initiative is an important effort, and we’re very pleased Santo’s work will push research forward.”