Most researchers use AI tools despite distrusting it

May 24, 2024
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Researchers are using AI despite not trusting the companies behind the technology, according to a new report.

More than three-quarters of researchers use some form of artificial intelligence (AI) tool in their research, despite having concerns about data security, intellectual property rights and AI’s effectiveness, a new report finds.

An Oxford University Press (OUP) survey released Thursday found that 76 percent of the 2,345 respondents use an AI tool when conducting their own research.

Chatbots and translation machines were the most popular tools, according to the report, with 43 percent and 49 percent usage, respectively. They were followed by AI-powered research tools or search engines (25 percent).

Use of the AI tools occurred across all stages of research and were most useful for discovering, editing and/or summarizing existing research, the survey found.

Despite the high usage, a majority of the respondents—polled during March and April—said they did not trust AI companies. Only 8 percent said they “agree” or “strongly agree” that they trust the companies to not use their data without their permission. Even fewer respondents—6 percent—said they trusted AI companies to meet their data and security requirements. Nearly 60 percent said AI companies could undermine intellectual property.

But those concerns balance with the widespread belief that AI is here to stay and will most likely change the world. More than a third of those surveyed said AI will make their research more efficient, the report said. Nearly the same amount said AI will revolutionize how academic research is conducted (28 percent) and how research is disseminated (27 percent).

“This research will help OUP to understand how researchers are thinking about generative AI and its use in their work,” David Clark, managing director of Oxford University Press’s academic division, said in a statement. “As these technologies continue to rapidly develop, our priority is in working with research authors and the broader research community to set clear standards for how that evolution should take place.”

Defying typical expectations, older researchers and those more established in their careers embraced AI more than their younger, less experienced counterparts. Nearly 20 percent of baby boomers—classified as those from 60 to 79 years old—were considered AI tool “pioneers,” or people who identified with the phrase “I’m fully embracing AI.” Generation X, or those 50 to 59 years old, had 17 percent classified as “pioneers” while only 15 percent of millennials—those up to 39 years old—were seen as such.

Millennials, instead, swung toward the opposite view, with 19 percent stating they are “completely against” AI. Only 8 percent of baby boomers and Generation X members alike said they were completely against the technology.

Similarly, those in the early stage of their careers had the highest AI opposition, with 16 percent staunchly opposing AI. Those in the late stage of their career had just 8 percent vehemently against the technology. The report did not specify exactly what determined an “early” or “late stage” career classification and had respondents self-sort into those categories.

The survey was conducted across multiple regions, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Asia, Canada and Latin America. The respondents also worked across a number of disciplines, including humanities, science and mathematics, engineering and technology, and business.



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