RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – On September 20, librarians, business development professionals, consultants, and students gathered at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center’s headquarters for its Informing Innovation 2023 conference.

Led by NCBiotech’s team, the day-long event provided attendees with the latest information on life sciences resources, search strategies, and copyright and research basics, among others. One hot topic was artificial intelligence (AI), which was top of mind for many attendees.

“AI is emerging as a viable research tool,” said Jessica Reece, director of life science intelligence at NCBiotech and this year’s conference organizer.

“Our librarians are intrigued by the possibilities and the amount of information we may have access to, but we also want to ensure the integrity of the information we find and share with our life sciences partners. We knew that if we were seeking answers and guidance around AI, we weren’t the only ones. This year’s agenda reflected that interest.”

During the conference keynote, a panel of AI practitioners discussed how they used the technology while also discussing the benefits and challenges the evolving technology presents.

For Michelle Cawley, interim associate university librarian for Health Sciences and director, Health Sciences Library, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, ChatGPT and other AI tools are an extension of the predictive AI tools she has used for bibliographic purposes for 10 years.

“The future of AI for us is using it for research and then training students on how to use it while also building information literacy,” she said.

For librarians and researchers, verifying and vetting the sources from which AI pulls its information will be a challenge. In other words, the information currently gathered by AI does not give credit where credit is due. However, the panel argued that the models used by AI can be retrained.

“A chunk of the work [for researchers] right now is going to the papers the information was taken from,” said Josh Starmer, CEO of StatQuest and lead educator at Lightning AI. “Validating technologies will allow us to test what generative AI produces and from here tweak the machine learning model.”

“AI is imitating not innovating,” Cawley said. “We help sculpt its output.”

Conference Attendees Seek Information on AI Uses

Talent acquisition recruiter Laurie De Sio, who moved to the Triangle in 2018 to be in a region with a growing and global life sciences presence, attended the conference to learn more about conducting research with AI.

“I want to learn as much as I can about AI for talent acquisition,” said De Sio.  “I am interested in fine-tuning my ability to use and retrieve data when searching for candidates.”

Sue Carson, a professor in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology and the director of the Master of Microbial Biotechnology Program at NC State University, attended the conference with students in the graduate program, which combines STEM and MBA studies to prepare them for a career in the life sciences industry.

For Carson, the conference’s focus on AI was an important and relevant topic for students in the program.

“Our students need to know the way ChatGPT and other AI tools can enhance their work,” said Carson. “They also need to learn how to use AI judiciously and ethically to ensure valid and reliable information.”

Informing Innovation 2023 Provides Latest in Traditional Research Tools

Not all of the talk at this year’s conference was around AI and ChatGPT. Sessions also focused on how attendees can use general tools for internet information research, accessing and using free biomedical citation databases and identify partners and competitors in NCBiotech’s company directory.

NCBiotech’s Life Science Intelligence team can act as a company’s research arm by developing targeted market and scientific insight and by connecting entrepreneurs and companies with the analysis and resources needed to inform strategic decisions. It also trains researchers on best practices and strategies for finding information on the internet and in research publications. Contact the team to discover how they can assist in your research efforts.

(C) N.C. Biotech Center