This is a replacement for the standard research tree. This is a tree that you unlock not by deconstruction, but through a puzzle game of deduction and matching.
There is the base 'Knowledge' from which 'Fields' branch into specific 'Topics'. You unlock different 'topics' in the tech tree. Each field has a randomly rolled relationship with the others in terms of a buff or debuff. If you manage to combine the right knowledge together, You create a research paper with a set value in terms of knowledge.
You put that research paper into a machine that evaluates it and it tells you how insightful your research is, and it rewards you with grant money and 'research points' that scientists can use to unlock the current levels of research in addition to deconstruction.
If you need 3 non-repeating topics for a research paper then there are 5814 possible topic combinations. You must pick your main topic from one field of science, and two supporting topics. They cannot be from the same field as your main thesis. They can be from 2 separate fields from each other or the same as each other.
For example, using the chart above, Economic policy, diplomacy, and bluespace combined into a research paper would have a value of 4 * 0.5 = research worth 2 points. A low scoring research paper.
If you wrote one about Combat, anatomy, and bluespace, it would be 4 * 2.0 = research worth 8 points. A pretty good research paper.
Each topic would have a random roll to be either 1 or 2 points individually.
The 2 papers in our example will give RnD 10 points that they could invest in unlocking a higher tier of research. Instead of deconstructing the bluespace beacon to get a higher level in bluespace research for building bluespace tech, you must submit enough valuable research papers to be given access to those prototypes; applying theory before prototyping and application.
Below is the draft of how you would physically make research papers.
Make new paper is what is being shown
Review research lets you see all submitted papers and what Odin had to say about them
The about page is fluff text explaining the system.
Troubleshooting is a joke link that will say it sent a ticket to the IT team and expect a response in [NULL: STACK OVERFLOW] hours.
Withholding the hard data about what made what papers valuable but letting them see WHAT was researched lets players have to use deductive reasoning to try to figure out or guess what fields are dead ends and what have good synergy, which I think is the best way we can reasonably apply the scattershot nature of real research. You just sort of get a "They used these and yielded a result like [x]"
An example of a scoresheet where Odin values your paper would be like,
And somewhere there would be a visible list of labs named in the scientist's honor if they somehow get lucky and hit a really high point value.
Or they would name a university course and teach people your findings. So we'd have a list like,
Greg Melon School Of Applied Mathmatics
Bofa Nuttingham School of Combat Equation
Long Johnson Laboratory of Electro-Magnetic Economic Policy
It's my argument that it would be great if scientists were egotistical about these things rather than having mad skills in combat mechs. Any feuds between scientists about who has the better university course named after them would be delightful, because they earned their recognition as a scientist through deductive reasoning in genuine research