Published: 18-12-2023 10:41 | Updated: 30-01-2024 13:05

AI an available sounding board for the researcher 24/7

Illustration: Getty Images.

For KI researcher Ylva Trolle Lagerros, AI and Microsoft Copilot (formerly Bing Chat Enterprise) offer time savings and texts with cited sources, but also future opportunities for research collaborations with several countries. She also sees valuable connections between the use of AI tools and the role of teacher and researcher on digital support in healthcare.

Describe your research area. 

The researcher Ylva Trolle Lagerros.
Ylva Trolle Lagerros. Photo: Private.

"My research is about how lifestyle habits affect future health risks and how we can create or use digital solutions to get support to change our lifestyles. In my research, I also study different aspects of digital care and digital support in healthcare," says Ylva Trolle Lagerros, associate professor at the Department of Medicine, Solna, and senior physician at the Center for Obesity, Karolinska Institutet.

How did you become interested in AI as a work tool? 

"The same week that ChatGPT was launched, I tested the tool. Like many others, I was pleasantly surprised and began to think about how the tool could be used. My use has so far mostly been driven by general curiosity, but both in research and clinically, I believe that there is a lot to be gained by getting to know the technology yourself."

"In the future, we need to find ways to relieve the burden on the healthcare system. There are great needs, but more and more people will be able to be helped by digital solutions. For every person who, with the help of digital solutions, can improve their lifestyle habits, for example, the healthcare system is relieved, and healthcare professionals can spend more time on the patients who need other help. I also believe that the patients of the future will demand digital solutions."

How do you use AI chats today? 

"I think AI chats, as it works right now, should be seen as a bit like trainees. Perfect for summarizing texts, finding relevant facts, bouncing ideas off of them – but not doing things where it's important to get it exactly right. I might have been able to call a colleague and discuss my thoughts on, for example, a grant application or a new lecture, but my ChatGPT is always available and gives immediate angles on different thoughts that I bounce with it – regardless of the time of day. Not everything is really useful, but I see it more as a fun and light-hearted sounding board."

"I've used AI chats as an alternative to googling around to find new angles for my teaching. I've asked it about ethical aspects of different things to get some new perspectives and thoughts. I have used it to summarize English texts into a popular science Swedish text, and also summarized a number of articles into a shorter text. Just like an intern, it gives me a first draft that I can work on."

"Recently, I discovered that it is possible to write an English sentence with a Swedish word and that the chat can translate that particular word with the right feeling. It is also good at finding synonyms to better convey what you want to say in a text in a neat way. In addition, you can get help to create structures, for example, it likes to divide things into bullet points."

What different AI applications have you tested?

"I've been using ChatGPT the most, but I've just discovered Microsoft Copilot (formerly Bing Chat Enterprise), which has the advantage of providing references. I've also checked out AI tools for images such as Dall-e and Stable Diffusion. To be able to create your own reference images based on exactly what you want to show, is fantastic. This is something we could use much more, for example to illustrate research results or to create pedagogical illustrations when teaching."

What challenges can you see with AI in research? 

"I sometimes suspect that online news articles may be AI-generated. An AI can generate thousands of articles in the same amount of time as a research group produces an article. If AI starts generating lots of junk articles in research, we will have to wade through huge amounts of questionable research."

"The risk is that people won't trust the research in the same way. Here it will be a challenge with quality assurance to be able to sort out what is relevant and what is rubbish. Some chats can already generate fake credentials that you really need to keep your wits about to be able to identify."

What possibilities do you see with AI over time? 

"In the short term, I would like to load a text and get a professional PowerPoint presentation out. I'm also looking forward to AI-generating my own images just the way I want them."

"In the longer term, there are many things that could benefit a researcher. I'd love to have real-time translation that got the context and tone right. Then you would be able to work with other researchers globally, but in your own language. It would probably open up for more collaborations with countries where it is more difficult to do research projects because of the language."

"As a teacher, I believe that AI has the potential to completely revolutionise education. Imagine if each student got their own teacher who adapted tasks and pace according to the student's needs. At present, a lot of time is lost for the students because the education must be adapted to suit the majority. In this way, we would catch students who think it's too boring, too difficult, that it's too slow or who have lost their enthusiasm to learn," says Ylva Trolle Lagerros.