IGP Stories

The Dual Edge of AI in Academic Research

Nikos Tzivanakis

14 February 2024

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and Generative Pre-trained Transformers (GPTs), such as ChatGPT from OpenAI, represents a significant technological advancement in academic research. This advancement will (if not already) impact how we conduct research, analyse data and write academic papers[1]. However, as these AI tools are increasingly integrated into research, it is critical to understand their challenges, such as the moral questions they raise, the reliability of the information they generate, and how they affect academic integrity[2].

Think about the life of a researcher who suffers from writer's block: they need to analyse a massive dataset, whilst working against a deadline. Enter ChatGPT. These tools are more than just a helping hand: they are revolutionary. They make brainstorming easier, automate mundane tasks, and simplify coding issues. Researchers can interpret massive datasets, identify trends, and explain their findings promptly and concisely.

However, the use of AI in research comes with significant ethical concerns. Some of the more severe risks involve the originality and trustworthiness[3] of academic work, misinformation[4],[5] and the authenticity of the information provided by AI tools[6].

Furthermore, the ease of access and usage of AI tools such as ChatGPT has sparked a debate regarding fairness in the academic community. There is growing fear that depending on new, potentially expensive technology could exacerbate inequality by making it more difficult for academics from institutions requiring more funding or developing nations to acquire it[7]. On the other hand, making knowledge more accessible via free AI technologies has the potential to level the playing field by providing non-native English speakers[8] with unprecedented access to research assistance and language improvement.

In response, the academic community is at a crossroads: we must establish ethical standards and best practices for employing AI and GPTs in research[9]. This includes acknowledging the use of these tools, critically assessing AI-generated content, and fostering an environment valuing transparency and honesty. As AI technology evolves, so should the rules around their use. This ensures they benefit the academic quest for knowledge rather than harming it.

AI has emerged as a revolutionary force, transforming many aspects of our lives, including academic research. Tools like ChatGPT signal a new era, redefining research and information access. However, in this new landscape, we must carefully consider how to harness the transformative potential of these technologies while adhering to the values of academic integrity and ethics. We can improve our research approaches and reinforce the core principles of scholarly excellence by fostering a culture that values transparency, encourages rigorous scrutiny, and requires the ethical use of AI. This way, we ensure that AI and GPTs not only supplement our quest for knowledge but also do so in a secure manner, preserving the integrity of academic work.

[1] Grassini S. Shaping the Future of Education: Exploring the Potential and Consequences of AI and ChatGPT in Educational Settings. Education Sciences. 2023; 13(7):692. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsc...

[2] Rahman, Md. Mizanur and Terano, Harold Jan and Rahman, Md Nafizur and Salamzadeh, Aidin and Rahaman, Md. Saidur, ChatGPT and Academic Research: A Review and Recommendations Based on Practical Examples

[3] Khatun, A. and Brown, D.G., 2023. Reliability Check: An Analysis of GPT-3's Response to Sensitive Topics and Prompt Wording. arXiv preprint arXiv:2306.06199.

[4] Rudolph, J., Tan, S. and Tan, S., 2023. ChatGPT: Bullshit spewer or the end of traditional assessments in higher education?. Journal of Applied Learning and Teaching, 6(1).

[5] Jason Gerrard ChatGPT: the ultimate spreader of fake news?, Business Reporter

[6] Byer, T., The black box effect - how can AI and ML provide transparent insights for drug discovery?, Oxford Global.

[7] Khan, I.A. and Paliwal, N.W., 2023. ChatGPT and digital inequality: A rising concern. Sch J App Med Sci, 9, pp.1646-7.

[8] Amano, T., González-Varo, J.P. and Sutherland, W.J., 2016. Languages are still a major barrier to global science. PLoS biology, 14(12), p.e2000933.

[9] Rane, N.L., Choudhary, S.P., Tawde, A. and Rane, J., 2023. ChatGPT is not capable of serving as an author: ethical concerns and challenges of large language models in education. International Research Journal of Modernization in Engineering Technology and Science, 5(10), pp.851-874.

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

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