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AI no longer belongs to the realm of science fiction. From voice recognition to self-driving cars and medical diagnosis, ‘artificial intelligence’ has, in just the last few years, woven its way into our lives at work and at home.

Part of this step change is due to the evolution of AI from the domain of academic researchers and tech giants such as Google and IBM to the commercial mainstream. AI today is a fully-fledged category and a rich ecosystem of startups are rapidly applying AI technologies to almost every industry and sector — including academic research.

Before we dive into how AI could reshape research, let’s consider the term “artificial intelligence”. It’s an increasingly broad church, used to describe multiple technologies — including machine learning, deep learning, neural networks, computer vision and natural language processing. The emergence of major AI platforms such as Google’s Tensor Flow and Microsoft’s Cognitive Toolkit has enabled technologists and startups to innovate without having to develop their own proprietary systems. Combined with increasing access to low-cost computational power and publicly accessible structured data, this has dramatically lowered the barrier to entry for companies, organisations and researchers. …

Yesterday’s news that Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s $45 billion foundation is acquiring research discovery platform Meta — in the foundation’s first ever acquisition — is a testament to the vital importance of improving access to science. At Sparrho, we share the same commitment as we pursue our vision of democratising science.

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We live in an age where the volume of research papers published in any given field far outstrips the ability of any specialist in that field to read them — where scientific research remains gated to most in society, except those granted licenses in academia and industrial R&D. …


Vivian Chan, PhD

Learning geek / CEO & Co-founder @Sparrho (helping 150 countries stay on top of science) / 35 Women Under 35 / former President @CUTEC / inaugural cohort @efLDN

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