Possibly some context: Take any research endeavor. Finding a vaccine. Going to the moon. Clean energy. I don't have a background in these scientific areas so picking one closer to home (Comp Sci) might be better. But the idea is how to battle the Unknowns? How to do it economically? How to make progress while not getting analysis paralysis?

Some might suggest a scrum, or an agile process try to solve these questions. I'm not certain that they address the same level or kinds of Unknowns.

Are there previous experiences that work, and those that don't work? And why? The questions grows on the way forward through unknowns, and by definition the Unknown doesn't exactly have a road map, and new context is developed regularly.

This maybe simply the question of the 'meta' variety: Is there research on comp sci research? If so does Comp Sci research have approaches or techniques that they rely on?

  • Of course, a great many projects are not "planned" in any formal way: someone has an idea for something to do, and does it. But typically the idea is of far more limited scope than the examples you cite in the first paragraph. Commented Jun 5, 2020 at 17:56
  • 1
    Here are some slides about managing big science projects from Gary Sanders who's an expert on managing really large projects, including the Thirty Meter Telescope.
    – Anyon
    Commented Jun 5, 2020 at 18:35
  • This might provide a partial answer to your question.
    – Buffy
    Commented Jun 5, 2020 at 19:03
  • 1
    Scrum an Agile are team processes, primarily.
    – Buffy
    Commented Jun 5, 2020 at 19:04
  • @Anyon Great link! Commented Jun 5, 2020 at 19:35

1 Answer 1


Scrum, Agile: sound like necromantic spells to evoke the spirits of the netherworld [yes, I know what these are]. This type of stuff is perhaps useful once you know what you want.

But in science, that's usually not the case. You do not know what you want, when you do, you do not know how to get there, and if you think you know how to get there, you may be quite off estimating how long it will take and which obstacles you will stumble into.

So, the way to proceed is to ask/do the following:

  1. what is out there?
  2. what are the techniques?
  3. What am I interested in?
  4. What do I enjoy doing? [No, it's not the same as 3!]
  5. Acquire knowledge. (what's out there, what's known? Literature!)
  6. Acquire skills. (how do I do stuff)
  7. Acquire expertise (i.e. knowledge how to use skills, not the same as skills)
  8. Play around.
  9. Find loopholes, open issues, improvements, gaps, etc.
  10. Can you fill them?

And the most important one: talk to people who are good in the field.

As you acquire expertise, you will be able to plan further into the future.

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