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Workshop: Instruction Tuning and Instruction Following

Large Language Models are Zero Shot Hypothesis Proposers

Biqing Qi · kaiyan zhang · Haoxiang Li · Kai Tian · Sihang Zeng · Zhang-Ren Chen · Bowen Zhou

Keywords: [ Scientific Discovery ] [ hypothesis proposing ] [ Large language models ] [ Instruction Tuning ] [ multi-agent system ]


Significant scientific discoveries have driven the progress of human civilisation. The explosion of scientific literature and data has created information barriers across disciplines that have slowed the pace of scientific discovery. Large Language Models (LLMs) hold a wealth of global and interdisciplinary knowledge that promises to break down these information barriers and foster a new wave of scientific discovery. However, the potential of LLMs for scientific discovery has not been formally explored. In this paper, we start from investigating whether LLMs can propose scientific hypotheses. To this end, we construct a dataset consist of background knowledge and hypothesis pairs from biomedical literature. The dataset is divided into training, seen, and unseen test sets based on the publication date to control visibility. We subsequently evaluate the hypothesis generation capabilities of various top-tier instructed models in zero-shot, few-shot, and fine-tuning settings, including both closed and open-source LLMs. Additionally, we introduce an LLM-based multi-agent cooperative framework with different role designs and external tools to enhance the capabilities related to generating hypotheses. We also design four metrics through a comprehensive review to evaluate the generated hypotheses for both ChatGPT-based and human evaluations. Through experiments and analyses, we arrive at the following findings: 1) LLMs surprisingly generate untrained yet validated hypotheses from testing literature. 2) Increasing uncertainty facilitates candidate generation, potentially enhancing zero-shot hypothesis generation capabilities. These findings strongly support the potential of LLMs as catalysts for new scientific discoveries and guide further exploration.

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