Artificial intelligence (AI) tools are increasingly making inroads into academic research, promising to be virtual lab partners for scientists and scholars. From searching literature to writing manuscripts, AI-powered software aims to augment human capabilities at every stage.
As AI models like ChatGPT grab headlines, academia is waking up to the promise of automated assistants. “We’re seeing an explosion of startups offering AI systems for researchers,” says Dr. Robert Pinzolits, an Austrian university educator who surveyed such tools. His study classified AI applications into three areas – literature search, analyzing papers and academic writing/editing.
The tech builds on recent leaps in natural language processing. “Chatbots like ChatGPT can produce coherent, human-like text, making it tough to distinguish them from humans,” explains Dr. Ismail Dergaa, a Qatari physician-researcher in a parallel study on AI writing tools.
Smarter Literature Reviews with Artificial Intelligence
AI services are turbocharging early-stage research through semantic literature search. Tools like Elicit and Inciteful dig deep into academic databases to find relevant papers beyond keywords. “Researchers can discover more overlooked connections without tedious manual searches,” says Dr. Pinzolits.
Other tools like Litmaps visually map linkages between citations or generate interactive concept maps. These insights help formulate sharper questions and hypotheses to investigate. “AI can automatically suggest research ideas too,” notes Dr. Dergaa. But human creativity remains vital.
Extracting Paper Insights Using AI
Reading and analyzing piles of technical papers is demanding. Now AI companions can lend a hand. Apps like Scholarcy and Unriddle provide quick paper summaries. Others like ChatPDF even let you ask questions about details and get plain-language answers. Such tools break down knowledge barriers.
“There’s risk of bias with AI content, so checking accuracy is critical,” cautions Dr. Dergaa. Plus, over-reliance on auto-generated info forfeits the richness of full scientific context. So these tools best serve as preliminary aids, not substitutes for human analysis.
AI-supported Writing and Editing Support
Crafting a manuscript can be grueling, especially for non-native academics. But AI services like Quillbot, Writefull and Paper Pal provide grammar and style corrections to improve academic writing. Others like Trinka ensure discipline-specific formatting for target journals.
“Such tools can help researchers, particularly young scholars, express ideas more effectively so that language isn’t a barrier,” says Dr. Pinzolits. However, care must be taken so that AI doesn’t override individual style and voice. The role of the human researcher remains paramount.
Guarding Research Integrity from AI Risks
The expanding power of conversational AI does raise pressing ethical questions. “Could dubious self-learners like ChatGPT potentially spew misinformation or biased perspectives?” asks Dr. Dergaa. Tools may also subtly nudge users towards pre-formatted ideas. And accurate attribution of sources used can be challenging with auto-generated content.
However, researchers remain optimistic that AI can positively transform scholarship. “Used judiciously, such technologies promise to accelerate discovery by augmenting human capabilities,” says Dr. Pinzolits. But they emphasize upholding rigorous study design, analysis and integrity checks enhanced by AI assistants, not led by them.
In the future, AI may permeate each step of the research workflow. And new sub-fields around AI ethics and governance will likely emerge. “Researchers must guide appropriate and equitable adoption of these exponentially empowering, but still maturing, tools,” notes Dr. Dergaa.
For now, academics navigating an expanding maze of AI services for the first time can hopefully discover in these intelligent assistants their next research collaborator, not competitor. With responsible AI integration, universities can collectively uplift the global research enterprise.
Sources used in this article:
Dergaa, I., Chamari, K., Zmijewski, P., and Ben Saad, H. (2023). From human writing to artificial intelligence generated text: examining the prospects and potential threats of ChatGPT in academic writing. Biology of Sport, 40(2), pp.615-622. https://doi.org/10.5114/biolsport.2023.125623
Pinzolits, R. (2023). AI in academia: An overview of selected tools and their areas of application. MAP Education and Humanities, 4, 37–50. https://doi.org/10.53880/2744-2373.2023.4.37