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Use AI or risk falling behind, research managers told

Image: Craig Nicholson for Research Professional News

Earma 2024: Artificial intelligence will not replace you, but colleagues using AI might, managers warned

Research managers and administrators have been told they risk falling behind their colleagues if they opt to not use artificial intelligence.

A packed room at the European Association of Research Managers and Administrators annual conference in Odense, Denmark, heard on 24 April that the profession should embrace AI.

“AI will not replace you but people using AI may replace you,” Katja Mankinen (pictured centre), a data scientist for the Finnish IT Centre for Science, told the RMAs in the audience.

Many RMAs have expressed fears that their jobs will be replaced by AI as the technology is rapidly evolving. But there seems to be a growing consensus that only some parts of their jobs will be taken over by AI.

Mankinen suggested that RMAs should give their “boring tasks” to AI and leave the fun parts of their jobs for themselves.

Like a colleague with failings

Maria Maunula (pictured second from right), senior research funding specialist at the University of Turku in Finland, told the audience to view AI as a “new colleague that you need to get to know [to see] what it can and can’t do”. Acknowledging that it is a “faulty colleague” at present, she said RMAs nonetheless need to understand and get to grips with it.

Maunula admitted she has lost sleep over AI replacing her job, but she reassured the audience that there will “always be” jobs for RMAs alongside AI.

“I do not know where the world is going, but it is going there quite fast, and what you have to do is to see what possibilities there are for you to benefit from AI in your own job so that you will not fall behind,” she advised.

Thomas Alslev Christensen (pictured second from left), a senior vice-president at the Novo Nordisk Foundation, a charitable organisation focusing on medical treatment and research, agreed with these sentiments. He said RMAs should use AI to make their work “more fun”.

Routine and non-routine tasks

Pieter-Jan Ghesquiere (pictured right), director of product management at data analytics company Clarivate*, set out ways AI could be used by research managers in the years to come.

This could include using it for routine tasks such as grant writing or identifying funding opportunities, he said. Beyond routine tasks, he said AI can be used to support interdisciplinarity by linking research opportunities with relevant researchers.

He added that AI can be used to demonstrate research outputs, such as societal impact, in ways that go beyond traditional metrics. 

*Research Professional News is an editorially independent part of Clarivate

A version of this article also appeared in Research Europe