Science is fantastic. If you have missed the Dyson sphere search that people are actually working on, click on that link.
If you want to stay up to date with what is going on in dark matter searches, you might want to take a look at this thing in Nature: a balloon borne detector has seen a bump in the spectrum of cosmic electrons, which just might be an signature of annihilation of dark matter particles. Of course it's too early to say anything conclusive. This is the kind of data we have to work with so far, and all indications of an observation of any kind will catch the interest of people in the field. So far we are used to being content with setting limits on different models for the dark matter particles.
Speaking about the fantastic, I have recently discovered the Science Not Fiction blog, "looking at the science of futurist technologies—and cool TV shows, books, movies, toys, and video games". There are some fun things there.
But to the question is scientific research a requirement to write believable science fiction? i think I would answer "no". Well, to some extent you will probably need some kind of scientific literacy, but I think there are many kinds of science fiction that are just as good without knowledge of a lot of scientific results. Just like the examples in that blog post. This is probably one of the eternal discussions in fandom, closely related to the questions of whether sf is dying and whither it's going. Hope they make a mind meld of it over at SF Signal!