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by Sofia Villegas
29 January 2024
Scottish university leads project to ensure ethical use of AI in research

ChatGPT is one of the most use generative AI tools across the world| Alamy

Scottish university leads project to ensure ethical use of AI in research

The University of Strathclyde will lead a multi-thousand-pound project on generative artificial intelligence (generative AI). 

The 10-month-long initiative strives to prevent ethical drawbacks from using the technology in research.  

Generative AI creates things based on a certain input, with examples including text-to-speech and image synthesis. The technology became popular after the release of ChatGPT in November 2022.   

Professor Wendy Moncur, who leads the £100,000 project, said: 

“Our aim is to enable UK universities to exploit the incredible potential of generative AI, while protecting participants’ privacy and the excellent quality of UK academic research, by understanding and guarding against potential pitfalls.”  

The announcement follows recent findings showing that more than a third of Scottish employers are sceptical about the technology, with 10 per cent having already banned employees from using it, according to the latest Labour Market Outlook. 

“These pitfalls include participant re-identification, where we have promised study participants that they will be anonymous, yet generative AI undoes our anonymisation and reidentifies them. Another potential pitfall is when we ask generative AI to make up extra data based on participant data that we already have, and it ‘hallucinates’ – makes up – misleading or even defamatory information about people,” Moncur added. 

REPHRAIN, the National Research Centre on Privacy, and the Harm Reduction and Adversarial Influence Online funded the project. 

Other partners include the University of Edinburgh with the research being informed by the UK Government’s Futures Toolkit, which allows users to embed long-term strategic thinking in their policy and strategy process. 

As of the latest available data, ChatGPT has more than 180 million users, yet trust in the innovative tech recently hit a wall after concerns emerged the system was getting “lazier”.  

Answering complaints on X, the official ChatGPT account said: “We haven’t updated the model since Nov 11th, and this certainly isn’t intentional. model behaviour can be unpredictable, and we’re looking into fixing it.” 

This adds to several other issues concerning the web service, including a divide regarding its use in education as students have been using the platform to write essays or solve math problems, without any original thought. 

Research from Study.com showed almost 50 per cent of students use ChatGPT for an at-home test or quiz, with 53 per cent having it write their essays. 

 

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