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Autonomous Empirical Research

AutoRA (Autonomous Research Assistant) is an open-source AI-based system for automating each aspect of empirical research in the behavioral sciences, from the construction of a scientific hypothesis to conducting novel experiments.



The integration of behavioral phenomena into computational models of human behavior is a fundamental staple of empirical research in the behavioral sciences, such as cognitive neuroscience and psychology. Yet, researchers are beginning to accumulate increasing amounts of data without having the temporal, computational, or monetary resources to integrate these data into scientific theories, and/or to test resulting theories in follow-up experiments. AutoRA seeks to accelerate the empirical research process, by incorporating existing machine learning techniques into a closed-loop system for the generation, estimation, and experimental validation of scientific models. In addition, AutoRA seeks to facilitate open science, by automating the documentation and dissemination of each step in the empirical research process.


Autonomous empirical research consists of three core components, each automating a different step in the empirical research process: (1) an autonomous theorist that constructs computational models, linking experiment conditions to dependent measures; (2) an autonomous experimentalist that derives predictions from these models, and designs novel experiments to test them; as well as (3) an experiment environment for automated data collection. The (competitive) interaction between the autonomous theorist, whose objective is to build models based on available data, and the autonomous experimentalist, whose objective is to invalidate these models by collecting new data, implements a form of adversarial curiosity.


This project is in active development by the Autonomous Empirical Research Group, led by Sebastian Musslick, in collaboration with the Center for Computation and Visualization at Brown University.

This research program is supported by Schmidt Science Fellows, in partnership with the Rhodes Trust, as well as the Carney BRAINSTORM program at Brown University.