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Press Release
Robot scientist becomes first machine to discover new scientific knowledge
Thursday, April 2, 2009

(Photo: Jean Scheijen/STOCK.XCHNG)
Scientists funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) have created a Robot Scientist which the researchers believe is the first machine to have independently discovered new scientific knowledge. The robot, called Adam, is a computer system that fully automates the scientific process. The work will be published tomorrow (03 April 2009) in the journal Science.

Prof Ross King, who led the research at Aberystwyth University, said: "Ultimately we hope to have teams of human and robot scientists working together in laboratories".

The scientists at Aberystwyth University and the University of Cambridge designed Adam to carry out each stage of the scientific process automatically without the need for further human intervention. The robot has discovered simple but new scientific knowledge about the genomics of the baker's yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, an organism that scientists use to model more complex life systems. The researchers have used separate manual experiments to confirm that Adam's hypotheses were both novel and correct.

"Because biological organisms are so complex it is important that the details of biological experiments are recorded in great detail. This is difficult and irksome for human scientists, but easy for Robot Scientists."

Using artificial intelligence, Adam hypothesised that certain genes in baker's yeast code for specific enzymes which catalyse biochemical reactions in yeast. The robot then devised experiments to test these predictions, ran the experiments using laboratory robotics, interpreted the results and repeated the cycle.

Adam is a still a prototype, but Prof King's team believe that their next robot, Eve, holds great promise for scientists searching for new drugs to combat diseases such as malaria and schistosomiasis, an infection caused by a type of parasitic worm in the tropics.

Prof King continued: "If science was more efficient it would be better placed to help solve society's problems. One way to make science more efficient is through automation. Automation was the driving force behind much of the 19th and 20th century progress, and this is likely to continue."

Prof Douglas Kell, BBSRC Chief Executive, said: "Computers play a fundamental role in the scientific process, which is becoming increasingly automated, for instance in drug design and DNA sequencing. This has led to more scientific data, increasingly available on the web, which in turn requires an increased use of computers to analyse these data. Robot scientists could provide a useful tool for managing such data and knowledge, making scientific procedures easier and more efficient. This kind of learning will become even more important as we move further towards integrative and predictive biology in the era of Web 2.0 and the Semantic Web."


Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council:

Thanks to Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council for this article.

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Guest Comment
Fri, Apr 03, 2009, 1:13 pm CDT
This is ridiculous. The innovation belongs to the person who wrote the software.

Guest Comment
Fri, Apr 03, 2009, 5:46 pm CDT
This is ridiculous. The innovation belongs to the person who wrote the software.

...and immediately the paranoia begins.

Guest Comment
Fri, Apr 03, 2009, 8:54 pm CDT
Actually, Roger was correct when he stated that the credit goes to the person who wrote the software. There was a similar robot a few years back that could 'create art.' A question arises though: who is the real creator of the art? The robot, or the guy who ceated the software for the robot?

Guest Comment
Sat, Apr 04, 2009, 9:42 am CDT
This is different than an art robot. This computer software is LEARNING. If we intill a human with knowledge, and they regurgatate that information, the originator of the knowledge shold be credited. But if that human uses that knowledge to learn somthing new, then they can be credited with discovering that NEW knowledge. Same thing applies here.

Can I take credit for the intelect of my children? I think not. But if I was a good parent and taught them everything I know; when they make some sort of scientic discovery beyond what I taought them, I would hope they at least thank me.

Guest Comment
Sat, Apr 04, 2009, 1:14 pm CDT
Adam? Eve? I just can't stand it when "scientists" use religious names and terms in their work. It is unprofessional to say the least. Oh, don't get me started on astronomers!

Guest Comment
Sat, Apr 04, 2009, 11:31 pm CDT
Dem robots gonna take over the world TAKE OVAH THE WORLD!!! Stop the automation we all gonna die in robot apoclypse OOOOOHHHHHH NNNNNOOOOEEESSS!!!!!

Guest Comment
Sun, Apr 05, 2009, 1:16 pm CDT
omfg derick iz rite! WEEZ ALL GUNNA DIE!!! and shutup charles. noone cares what scientists name their work. If you don't like, buy the program and rename it.
Kie Hall

Guest Comment
Sun, Apr 05, 2009, 5:10 pm CDT
My penis is telling me that the world will end shortly

Guest Comment
Sun, Apr 05, 2009, 7:09 pm CDT
Thank u for all belivin that the world will ended by the robot menace fight my brothers FIGHT!!!!! Destroy them or they will become self aware and realize we are no threat to them we have to stop them if you would like to talk with me about fighting the good fight my xbox gamertag is LivingDestroyer FIGHT FOR THE CAUSE FFIIGGHHTT!!!!!!
Uncle B

Guest Comment
Sat, Jun 06, 2009, 2:21 pm CDT
lab tech for a long, long, time, and understand all too well how data can be corrupted by a tired moment, lack of coffee, a clod or even a sneeze! let a computer do the drudge-work! I like it! Write more software like this aviod dependency on Microsoft , they are going the way of GM! the world will survive this! may science be advanced again!

Guest Comment
Wed, Sep 02, 2009, 2:54 pm CDT
adam was the first human, and eve the second human. i hope you realize the names used by the scientist have no religious connotations but just a symbolic meaning of something new.
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