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[ RESEARCH INTEGRITY ] October 13, 2023

AI Across Generations: Diverse perspectives on the future of technology

How do opinions on AI vary between early-career researchers and their more senior counterparts? Let’s explore results from Morressier’s Research Integrity Survey.

The rapid advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) are so fast-paced and far-reaching that its hard to stay on top of them, from the rise of Chat GPT to Tesla's AI-powered autopilot system and the development of AI solutions for healthcare data analysis, such as IBM Watson Health. These automated technologies are reshaping our world, creating a polarized discussion that oscillates between cries of “dystopia” and “utopia.”

When we ran our Research Integrity Survey in June, we expected to see a distinct generational divide, with younger researchers excited to embrace AI, and senior researchers more skeptical. What we found was even more interesting.

 For the purposes of this generational analysis, we're defining early-career researchers as those with 0 to 6 years of experience, mid-career researchers as those with 7 to 10 years of experience, and experienced researchers as those with 15+ years of experience.

As we continue to dive into the findings from our survey, we previously explored generational insights concerning integrity and technology. Now, let's dig deeper into the varied perspectives on AI across different generations.


Exploring trust in AI for publishing workflows

In nearly every industry and sector, AI has seized the spotlight. These innovative tools possess the transformative potential to automate once-manual processes within publishing, such as peer review. Still, many doubt the responsible use of AI by businesses and organizations. Does the academic world trust and believe in the responsible integration of AI solutions into publishing workflows?

For early-career researchers, opinions are sharply divided, with 50% somewhat trusting AI and the other 50% maintaining a neutral stance. Surprisingly, for senior researchers, nearly 20% exhibit a high level of trust in these solutions, while only 14.5% are somewhat untrustworthy. The majority, 65.7%, fall within the neutral or moderately trustworthy spectrum.

These findings highlight an interesting trend: while many senior academics are less receptive to AI, there is a large portion who place confidence in the capacity of these tools to streamline the scholarly publishing process. 

This opens up potential opportunities for societies to experiment with these tools in their publishing workflows, without concerns about potential member retention losses among their more senior researchers.

Generative AI and authorship: revolution or risk?

While many have a hopeful attitude towards AI's role in optimizing research publishing,  the concept of AI-generated text is a topic of intense debate. Using generative AI to draft papers could be  valuable for researchers who speak English as their second language, removing language bias in peer review. Conversely, these tools can also spread misinformation and plagiarize when not trained properly. 

Among early-career researchers, an impressive 62.5% universally embrace AI-generated text, while 25% advocate for its regulated use. In contrast, mid-career researchers are more skeptical, with 12.9% expressing uncertainty and an additional 12.9% rejecting the use of AI-generated text entirely.

Among senior researchers, 41.2% endorse regulated AI-generated text usage, with 16.8% supporting its use exclusively for supplementary materials, and only 16% universally accepting AI-generated text.

These results show that although senior academics are more willing to embrace AI in publishing than one might expect, when it comes to AI-generated text, there is a clear pattern of early-career academics seeing the potential of AI content  to a higher degree than their more experienced counterparts. This trend could be attributed to their increased exposure to AI and greater digital proficiency, and inheriting a digitized scholarly system. 

Also, this disparity may reflect concerns related to equity, diversity, and inclusion. It has been observed that younger individuals are highly motivated when it comes to social justice, in what has been called the Millennial Effect. It could be possible that early-career researchers are more excited about AI due to a heightened commitment to ensuring that individuals from the Global South or non-English-speaking backgrounds have access to the necessary tools for crafting effective manuscripts.

Is AI the next frontier?

When it comes to AI, generational perspectives offer unexpected and diverse viewpoints. While our industry has been criticized for its slow pace of innovation, it's surprising to find that both early-career and senior academics appear somewhat open to leveraging AI solutions for streamlining publishing processes. However, adapting AI-generated text is a subject of controversy, especially for senior academics.

With the wide range of opinions and attitudes surrounding this technology, it’s critical for societies and publishers to familiarize themselves with how AI can be used to determine the appropriate regulations and policies for your community. . Technology organizations, such as Morressier, are dedicated to bridging this knowledge gap and making the new AI landscape more accessible.


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