Science and Research is actually a pretty large part of Factorio. The Research is what allows you to actually progress into higher levels of technology and automation, and eventually the ability to reach the end game of launching the Rocket and Satellite. Science and Research is based off of using Science Packs in Science Labs. There are four different levels of these Packs, each more advanced than the last. Probably the second largest endeavor besides launching the rocket is actually automating all these Science Packs and providing the needed resources for them throughout the game.
So in order from most basic to most advanced, we have Red Science Packs, Green Science Packs, Blue Science Packs, and lastly Purple Packs. Each one gets more expensive than the last, with the purple ones actually requiring you to destroy enemy bases for the ingredients. This may seem like a daunting task at first when you try to automate them, but I will walk you through the process of each one below.
The Science is tiered so at the beginning you have quite a lot of Research that can be done only using the Red Science Packs, and then after those is ones that use both Red and Green Packs, then Red, Green, and Blue, etc. There is really no rush to get certain Research done, but you obviously won't be able to produce some things without Research for it, or for the machines to make it. The Military Research is something you might not want to take too long on though at first, otherwise the enemies might overrun you, unless of course you're playing on peaceful mode.
The cost of Research is measured by number of Science Packs it requires, and the time it takes. This actually takes place in cycles, which is also displayed by the cost. Here is a picture showing that:
Notice how there is a time, then the amount of Science Packs it requires, and after that it says x40. That means it requires 40 cycles for it to complete. Each cycle costs the amount that is shown, both the Science Pack and time cost. So for this example, since it says 15 seconds, and 2 Red Science packs, then it requires 80 Packs in total, and 600 seconds (15x40) in total. As you can see this is actually quite a lot of time, 10 minutes to be exact. This is one of the cheapest Researches too, so once you get into the most advanced ones, it would take an outrageous amount of time. However it isn't actually as bad as you think, because the Science Labs can stack and all work together. So say you have two labs to complete the Research shown in the example above, then even though the cost of the Packs is the same, since there are two labs doing it instead of one, the time goes down to 300 seconds. Not so bad now, huh?
The labs can actually stack pretty much infinitely, so the more you have the faster the Research will go. Obviously this only works if you have the Science Packs to support this. I usually find that about 20 labs (more or less) is sufficient for getting almost all the Research done in a reasonable amount of time, but of course you can have as many as you want. Just remember that 100 labs doesn't do any good if you can't produce enough Science Packs to supply all of them. So as an ending note for this, here is a picture of what a setup of many labs might look like:
The new technology tree will show the prerequisite technologies and any that require this technology.
By highlighting a technology, it will show the path for the required technologies and those which it allows. By clicking on a different technology icon, it will switch focus to that technology. This system will adapt for any new mods you add to the game.
These sections on automating each Science Pack will be pretty brief with just a quick explanation of what is needed for each one, and a picture or two plus a video demonstrating some possible setups.
The Red Science Packs are of course the simplest of all the Packs, only requiring two items. They only need Iron Gear Wheel and Copper, which should be quite easy to come up with, especially since you should already have copper being smelted automatically. The Gear Wheels are quite simple as well, only needing Iron Plate.
There are many different ways you can set up the automation for this, but one thing I would recommend is to have one Assembling Machine for each second the Science Pack takes to create, so that you can make one pack about every second. So for example, the Red Packs take 5 seconds to make so five machines making them would be ideal. Of course this is entirely up to you whether you do more or less, I just find it works pretty well this way. If you do the math on the time it takes to create a Gear Wheel and amount that each pack requires, you actually only need one machine making Gear Wheels to support 5 or possibly more Science Pack machines. Here is an example of the setup I usually like to do:
Of course you don't have to do it this way at all, the example is just here to get you thinking about some possible ways to set this up. Feel free to copy it if you want though!
If you watched the video posted right above, you probably don't even need to read this section since the video also went over the automation of Green Science Packs. I will still give a quick written explanation though.
The Green Science Packs are a fair bit more complicated than the red ones. While they do only require two ingredients as well, they are more advanced ingredients and require a longer process to get. They need Basic Inserters, and Transport Belts, and while those are simple items compared to most everything else, it can be a bit overwhelming to automate at first. I find it usually works well to setup the automation for this right by the Red Science automation, and have both of them loaded onto the same belt to be sent to the Science Labs.
Even though the belts and Inserters are a bit more complicated to build than something like a Gear Wheel, they both only require Iron and Copper plate to complete. Again, here is a picture of a general setup for it:
You can't see it in the picture, but this is actually directly above the Red Science setup. It seems to work quite well to build them close together like this since they both require the same basic resources to create. Depending how you set it up you may have to do something a bit finicky with some of the belts to get the items to go on both sides properly, but that shouldn't be too hard. Again, if you need further explanation for this, or just prefer it explained with audio, check out the video posted above.
The Blue Science Packs are by far the most complicated of the Science Packs. Not only do they require four different items to make, but three of those items are fairly complicated to make just by themselves. The four items that are needed are Advanced Circuits, Batteries, Smart Inserters, and Steel. Obviously the Steel is quite simple to make by just smelting Iron in a furnace, but the other three materials require quite a bit more work, and you will need to produce them on a fairly large scale to keep up with demand for the Blue Science Packs.
Now that we know what needs to go into them, it is time to get the required. I'm actually going to do something a bit different for this section though. since I want to keep these Science Pack subsections pretty brief, and it would take a lot to explain in detail everything that is needed for Blue Science, I'm going to just link to some videos that go over all of it. Now if you print this out or don't have internet while reading this, I will have some setups for Advanced Circuits, and Smart Inserters in the Setups & Builds section of this guide.
Hopefully the videos listed above and the builds shown down in the Setups & Builds section gave you enough of an idea to get things rolling with your Blue Science setup. It may take a couple tries to really get things streamlined in a way you like, but after some practice then it won't seem so hard anymore. Luckily the next and last Science Pack will seem like a complete breeze compared to this one.
Purple Science Packs are actually the simplest and easiest to make. All that is required is Alien Artifacts, which can be acquired from killing the alien bases. The actual process of getting the artifacts can be pretty difficult when you're new to the game, but once you do get them, all you have to do is throw them in an Assembler and they will create 10 Purple Science Packs a piece. So again, you get 10 Packs per 1 Alien Artifact which is really quite good. This is actually a very good thing to use Productivity Modules on when making them. Now the modules have not been explained yet, but in short, the Productivity Modules essentially get you more finished products out of the process almost for free. This will be explained in more detail in the Modules section of the guide.
It is also probably a good idea to make the Purple Packs in a level three Assembling Machine if you have access to it at the time. The reason for this is because it crafts faster, and has the most Module slots in it so you can stick even more Modules in there. Also strategies for actually attacking the aliens and killing their bases will be covered in detail in the Enemies & Combat section.
I believe that is pretty much all the basic information you need to know about the Science process itself, and how to automate each Science Pack.