Receive a weekly summary and discussion of the top papers of the week by leading researchers in the field.

In PLoS computational biology

The scientific method has been guiding biological research for a long time. It not only prescribes the order and types of activities that give a scientific study validity and a stamp of approval but also has substantially shaped how we collectively think about the endeavor of investigating nature. The advent of high-throughput data generation, data mining, and advanced computational modeling has thrown the formerly undisputed, monolithic status of the scientific method into turmoil. On the one hand, the new approaches are clearly successful and expect the same acceptance as the traditional methods, but on the other hand, they replace much of the hypothesis-driven reasoning with inductive argumentation, which philosophers of science consider problematic. Intrigued by the enormous wealth of data and the power of machine learning, some scientists have even argued that significant correlations within datasets could make the entire quest for causation obsolete. Many of these issues have been passionately debated during the past two decades, often with scant agreement. It is proffered here that hypothesis-driven, data-mining-inspired, and "allochthonous" knowledge acquisition, based on mathematical and computational models, are vectors spanning a 3D space of an expanded scientific method. The combination of methods within this space will most certainly shape our thinking about nature, with implications for experimental design, peer review and funding, sharing of result, education, medical diagnostics, and even questions of litigation.

Voit Eberhard O