Artificial Intelligence

Ethics in AI Research: Discussing Responsible Conduct in AI Research, Including Data Usage, Experimentation, and Publication Practices

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Researchers must always be cautious about the ethics of their research process. Whenever a new technology is introduced to the research field, it brings incredible challenges that researchers must face before it can be adopted on a wide scale. 

The biggest revolution we are currently seeing in research is artificial intelligence. Researchers must understand the ethical implications of this technology to use it responsibly.

Use cases of AI in research

Artificial intelligence is a tool that leaders across industries have applied to help streamline processes and make workflows more efficient. In the world of research, some of the most common use cases for AI include:

  • Data analysis: One of the most common uses of AI technology in research is data analysis, as artificial intelligence models have much faster, more efficient data processing capabilities than humans. A well-trained AI model can scan a data set and perform calculations near-instantaneously, allowing researchers to analyze the results and draw conclusions more effectively.
  • Literature review: Some researchers have also used AI to conduct literature reviews. An integral stage of the research process is putting findings in the context of existing knowledge, and an AI model can help researchers quickly search databases for similar research that may be relevant to the study at hand. 
  • Academic writing: After the research has been conducted, researchers typically publish their findings in academic or professional journals. Researchers can use large language models to help translate their findings into prose, reducing the time spent on writing and allowing more time to be spent on actual discovery.
  • Grant writing: Researchers have also seen the potential for AI to be used for administrative tasks, such as grant writing. While these processes can be incredibly time-consuming, they are a critical component of funding research. AI can be used as a tool to help maximize efficiency.

Ethical considerations for AI in research

As powerful of a tool as artificial intelligence is, researchers must use it responsibly or face serious consequences. While there has been much talk about the need for “ethical AI,” this does not refer to a specific type of AI model designed to be ethical, but rather a set of use cases and guidelines to ensure that any negative impacts of AI use are minimized or eliminated.

Researchers and the platforms they use must be transparent about how they use and handle data. The responsibility primarily falls on users to ensure privacy, consent, and understanding of the platform’s data collection, use, and storage policies. This is particularly important for researchers working in fields where they handle sensitive data, such as the medical field.

Another key factor AI users must consider regarding ethics is the possibility of unintentional copyright infringement. It is essential to realize that many AI models, particularly large language models, train themselves based on the input they receive from users. In fields like research, where originality is paramount, the potential for accidental copyright infringement threatens to undermine any sort of discovery that might have been made.

Finally, researchers who choose to employ AI in their research must ensure they follow fair experimentation practices. Practices like avoiding biases and ensuring diverse representations in datasets are necessary to ensure that results are valid. Relying too heavily on a single AI tool can easily cause results to become skewed.

At the same time, researchers must understand that artificial intelligence suffers from inherent biases. Because modern AI is completely dependent on pre-existing data, any prejudices in that data will be perpetuated by the model, which can be particularly worrisome in research as research is supposed to represent a diverse sample accurately. As such, the data used to train AI models must originate from a diverse set of sources, and — ideally — the developers should represent a diverse background.

After the research is conducted, researchers should be held to high standards when publishing their research. All work should be accurately represented, with potential biases or limitations disclosed, and the role of AI in their research explained transparently while avoiding sensationalism or overstating the results.

The evolving nature of artificial intelligence

The dynamic nature of research and the constantly evolving status of AI demand continuous ethical review. To maintain an ethical landscape for AI use, researchers must stay informed about ethical concerns and adapt their practices to align with fluid standards. With a technology as innovative as AI, there are still things to be figured out. Researchers must be prepared to handle challenges when they emerge.

Many in the AI community have forgotten the most valuable tool for evaluating the efficacy of their platforms: their user base. As those who get the most hands-on experience with the technology, users get a firsthand look at what may need improvement about a platform’s features. By engaging in an open dialogue with their peers and the creators of the AI platforms they use, researchers can collaborate to foster an ecosystem that is more conducive for all.

Artificial intelligence has the power to become an essential tool in any researcher’s arsenal. From data analysis to literature review and streamlining academic writing, researchers have at their disposal a flexible innovation that can be adjusted to any number of robust use cases. However, maintaining ethical use is integral for the continued development of this technology and its applications.

About the author


Ed Watal

Ed Watal is an AI Thought Leader and Technology Investor. One of his key projects includes BigParser (an Ethical AI Platform and Data Commons for the World). He is also the founder of Intellibus, an INC 5000 “Top 100 Fastest Growing Software Firm” in the USA, and the lead faculty of AI Masterclass — a joint operation between NYU SPS and Intellibus. Forbes Books is collaborating with Ed on a seminal book on our AI Future. Board Members and C-level executives at the World's Largest Financial Institutions rely on him for strategic transformational advice. Ed has been featured on Fox News, QR Calgary Radio, and Medical Device News.