As technology improves and evolves, the line between research tools and research itself is beginning to blur. With artificial intelligence-enabled research, the possibilities are endless; but use of artificial intelligence (AI) also raises questions about ethics and the integrity of research results. What rules will govern the future of ethical integrity in scientific research?
Research integrity in an AI context
AI supports many functions in research, including automating research, supporting peer review processes, detecting plagiarism, and storing and querying data. The application of AI in the research field continues to grow. According to the INTEGRITY consortium, “Like virtually all technological developments through history, AI will create value and cut costs. . . . It will probably impact information and knowledge work in the same way as automation impacted manual work in the past.”
Research search engines are already using AI tools to improve the accuracy of responses across Semantic Scholar, Crossref, Meta, Sparro, and many other platforms. They are being used to spot plagiarism or data fabrication on platforms such as StatReviewer and Evise. Although we have already seen tremendous benefits from these AI-powered tools, in many ways, we’re just getting started. These tools are providing critical enhancements to the research process, ensuring integrity at every step, and helping to deliver research we can trust.
In the future, watch for AI tools to improve health outcomes while personalizing medicine, education, and more. Although you may not see these tools behind the scenes in business, government, media, and the military, they will be there.
Implications of AI in research
The research community is under a lot of pressure to do more and provide more results. Today, many students and researchers use AI to fulfill these demands. AI can improve research productivity and the speed with which researchers conduct their work. AI can automate mundane tasks and free up the time of researchers. One academic highlighted the significant potential for “AI to allow us to do research differently, radically accelerating the discovery process and enabling breakthroughs.”
Although the future of AI in support of research looks bright, many of the implications have yet to be seen, and some individuals have expressed concerns about the power AI might have to disrupt academic and research institutions. It’s difficult to understand the true implications of AI in research, simply because these tools are still being developed and are not yet widely used. The opportunity and promise for AI remain strong, albeit with an air of skepticism that is likely to be expected from the research community until AI has truly proven itself.
Research integrity in an AI world
STM recently published a white paper outlining some of the ethical considerations for an AI-driven world. They include addressing:
- Transparency and accountability in data used within the AI technology
- Sustainable development of new AI tools that can address areas of global concern
- Fairness in the selection of data used within the AI tool to include development of feedback mechanisms designed to address hidden and obvious bias
- Data protection and security as well as individual privacy
- Data quality as well as the integrity in using the underlying data
The INTEGRITY coalition concludes, “If AI is to scale ethically then universities and research institutes have a vital role to play in ensuring that current and future generations of researchers, industry leaders and policy makers are attuned to these issues and have the skills to navigate the complex territory of trustworthy AI.”
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