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Researchers: Social scientists must address ChatGPT’s ethical challenges before using it for research

members of SAFElab meet around a table

Authored by: Juliana Rosati

Faculty & Research


Outlining challenges that ChatGPT and other large language models (LLMs) pose across bias, legality, ethics, data privacy, confidentiality, informed consent, and academic misconduct, the piece provides recommendations in five areas for ethical use of the technology:

  • Transparency: Academic writing must disclose how content is generated and by whom.
  • Fact-checking: Academic writing must verify information and cite sources.
  • Authorship: Social work scientists must retain authorship while using AI tools to support their work.
  • Anti-plagiarism: Idea owners and content authors should be located and cited.
  • Inclusion and social justice: Anti-racist frameworks and approaches should be developed to counteract potential biases of LMMs against authors who are Black, Indigenous, or people of color, and authors from the global South.

Of particular concern to the authors are the limitations of artificial intelligence in the context of human rights and social justice. “Similar to a bureaucratic system, ChatGPT enforces thought without compassion, reason, speculation, or imagination,” the authors write.

Pointing to the implications of a model trained on existing content, they state, “This could lead to bias, especially if the text used to train it does not represent diverse perspectives or scholarship by under-represented groups. . . . Further, the model generates text by predicting the next word based on the previous words. Thus, it could amplify and perpetuate existing bias based on race, gender, sexuality, ability, caste, and other identities.”

Noting ChatGPT’s potential for use in research assistance, theme generation, data editing, and presentation development, the authors describe the chatbot as “best suited to serve as an assistive tech tool for social work scientists.”

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