Editorial Article: Is It Possible to Predict The Future of Science?

We asked you how science would change the world in the next 20 years – here's what you said

03 Jan 2019

Science prediction word cloud

In 2018, we asked you to share your predictions about what science could hold for the next 20 years, and you responded in huge numbers. Predictions ranged from disease prevention and cure, to the automation of experimental workflows and big data analysis. In this article, we present just a few of our favorite predictions.


For two decades, SelectScience has been publishing news and content from the front line of scientific advancement, improving communication between leading scientists and the biggest and best manufacturers across the globe, as we work towards one common goal — making the future healthier. To mark our 20th anniversary in 2018, we decided to look forward another 20 years, asking leading scientists what they believe the future holds.

We had scientists from across the globe, and from a range of scientific disciplines, submitting their predictions. Here’s what they have to say about the direction of future scientific research:

  • Human health — Over 30% think that big leaps would be made in improving human health, through personalized medicine, improved treatment and eradication or prevention of diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and even some cancers
  • Automated Science — Nearly 25% of scientists leaving a prediction think that robotics and lab automation, especially for drug discovery workflows, will be a crucial component to advancing science in the next 20 years. Artificial intelligence (AI) may influence this automation, and provide benefits both inside and out of the lab
  • Advanced Technology — Over 15% of predictions relate to the improvement expected in existing research technologies and equipment, such as mass spectrometry
  • Environmental Impact — Over 10% think that environmental factors, such as clean energy production, reducing pollution and clean water supplies will be a key focus in the next 20 years
  • Gene Editing — Around 10% predict that sequencing and manipulation of the human genome, including the use of gene therapies, will be much more commonplace
  • Big Data and Neuroscience— Nearly 10% foresee improvements in big data and analysis, nanotechnology and neuroscience


Below are just a few of your fascinating contributions:

Smart sensors to guide our lives

"I predict that smart sensors will allow continuous monitoring everywhere, to control pollutants, emissions and influence people's lives in real time. For instance, traffic suggestions in real time to avoid pollutant concentrations in certain areas during some moments of the day."

Robots will take the strain

"Robots will do all the work, and there won’t be any technicians working in the lab anymore. Computers will self-learn the latest chemical structures and eventually will also take over the chemist's role in designing new chemical structures."

Dr. Florian Eichler, Harvard medical school, predicts the future of gene therapy:



Genome management for personalized medicine

"In the next 20 years, everybody’s DNA will be sequenced and stored in a database, where information will be used for personalized medicine and preventative medical means. The concept of genome management will come to fruition."

Creating a better world

"In 2040, the whole world will be getting better, and technology will play a big role in it. My prediction would be:

  • Humans will live longer and be healthier, with a better quality of life
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) would be dominant in everyday life
  • Diabetes will be curable, Alzheimer’s will be preventable, and cancer will be preventable and curable
  • New clean energy will replace the current use of coal and gasoline, which will improve the global environment
  • Plastic waste can be eliminated."

Dr. Greg Farber, National Institute of Mental Health, predicts personalized neurological medicine:


Super software

"I predict that we’ll have the ability to run automated retrosynthetic analysis. Software will automatically search the literature and in-house databases to choose the best route to a drug. This is equivalent to a chemist doing this activity. The software will have chemical intelligence and be able to interpolate the search results with predictions for novel reagent/solvent combinations."

Share more, use less

Pharmaceutical companies will have to publish all results, and this might open our eyes to areas of science that are hidden to us. This might also allow pharmaceutical companies to stop doing repetitive experiments just because the results aren’t published, which is incredibly wasteful of resources.

You can still tell us what laboratory products are making a difference to your work today: Write a review for your chance to win a $400 Amazon.com Gift Card.