The desire to predict discoveries--to have some idea, in advance, of what will be discovered, by whom, when, and where--pervades nearly all aspects of modern science, from individual scientists to publishers, from funding agencies to hiring committees. In this Essay, we survey the emerging and interdisciplinary field of the "science of science" and what it teaches us about the predictability of scientific discovery. We then discuss future opportunities for improving predictions derived from the science of science and its potential impact, positive and negative, on the scientific community.
A major challenge for using data to make predictions is distinguishing what is meaningful from noise. The image represents one approach that visually indicates the complexity of the problem by highlighting some links in a network and deleting other possible links, with the hole indicating the more meaningful information. We have tried to predict the future since ancient times when shamans looked for patterns in smoking entrails. As this special section explores, prediction is now a developing science. Essays probe such questions as how to allocate limited resources, whether a country will descend into conflict, and who will likely win an election or publish a high-impact paper, as well as looking at how standards should develop in this emerging field.
Phenomena such as placebo analgesia or pain relief through distraction highlight the powerful influence cognitive processes and learning mechanisms have on the way we perceive pain. Although contemporary models of pain acknowledge that pain is not a direct readout of nociceptive input, the neuronal processes underlying cognitive modulation are not yet fully understood. Modern concepts of perception--which include computational modeling to quantify the influence of cognitive processes--suggest that perception is critically determined by expectations and their modification through learning. Research on pain has just begun to embrace this view. Insights into these processes promise to open up new avenues to pain prevention and treatment by harnessing the power of the mind.