Before I get PM's, I'm the designer of Elemental and I work at Stardock so I'm NOT flaming the game itself I'm trying to make it better.
The research screen in Elemental is not fun. It's work. It's work to use. It adds nothing to the game other than feeling like it's necessary.
I think a lot could be learned from Master of Orion. I like the idea of researching an AREA of tech and when a milestone in that area is reached, a screen pops up and the player can choose the breakthru they want to have just uncovered.
When researching a given area of tech (warfare, civilization, magic, diplomacy, etc.) they player would know the odds of a particular tech being available once that milestone is reached. In addition, some very rare technologies might pop up once that milestone is reached.
For instance, maybe under warfare there's a 1% chance that a breakthru in the warfare area might allow the player to get "doom fire" (a tech for helping in sieges) but that means in most games, that tech won't be an option.
That's the kind of thing we're thinking of. Right now, researching tech is boring and tedious.