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DOD wants a ‘Big Mechanism’ for mining research data

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Kevin McCaney 
Defense Systems
February 4, 2014

The Pentagon wants to revolutionize the way research data is mined, with a $45 million program it calls Big Mechanism.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has issued a solicitation calling for innovative, automated methods of essentially reading multiple research papers on complex subjects and finding causal connections and overarching patterns. And the solicitation emphasizes that DARPA is looking for a breakthrough — evolutionary improvements to existing practices are “specifically excluded.”

The notion of reading research papers might sound fairly simple, but DARPA notes that some of the areas thee Defense Department studies, such as ecosystems, economic systems or the human brain, are very complex. Studies of those systems are scattered and inconsistently shared, and as a result a proper understanding of them can be lacking. Hence the need for a Big Mechanism.

DARPA describes a Big Mechanism as an explanatory model “of complicated systems in which interactions have causal effects.” It will likely be built on a combination of technologies, including machine reading and natural language processing, ontology, various analytics and reasoning processes, visualization, simulation and statistical models, and some of those technologies will have to be improved. Machine reading, for example, will require “deeper semantics to represent the causal and often kinetic models described in research papers,” DARPA said.

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This article was posted: Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 11:57 am

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