Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence emerges as the key research industry development of 2023 | Feature

It’s perhaps no surprise that artificial intelligence – specifically generative AI – stands out for our contributors as the most significant industry development of the year. However, with AI comes an even greater need for transparency and representation.

What has been the most significant industry development of 2023?

Ray Poynter, chief research officer, Potentiate
Uses of ChatGPT is the biggest thing to hit market research during my career to far (i.e. since 1978 ).

Peter Totman, head of qualitative, Jigsaw
It is beyond even my maverick capabilities to come up with any answer but AI. I am hoping AI will force qualitative researchers to trust their instincts and intuition more – and as a result we find ourselves on the brink of a new golden age for the industry. It is possible.

Sabine Stork, founding partner, Thinktank
Clearly the technology is in its infancy and I am quite certain that we’ll be facing almost unprecedented change in our research, marketing and working lives in the next few years.

Kelly Beaver, chief executive UK and Ireland, Ipsos
It’s hard to ignore the impact of AI on our industry, and many others, in 2023. It has been an exciting year at Ipsos as we’ve been applying our new tool to harness the large language models in a secure environment. We’ve already found some quick-wins in terms of streamlining and improving our processes.

What’s equally fascinating is operating in an environment where regulation and legislation need to be transforming so quickly to keep pace with technology. We’ve recently been speaking to leading AI ethicists and experts across the UK on ‘responsible AI’, which has enabled me to stay close to what this means for our industry.

Jessica DeVlieger, chief executive, C Space
Undoubtedly, it’s AI. But considering it further, it’s been fascinating to observe the broader questions it raises for insight leaders. From a research perspective, efficiency and speed can’t always justify overlooking real conversations: How do you ensure you’re engaging with actual humans? How do you comprehend emotions? And from a brand standpoint, are you clear on when contacts truly matter? Or, when human interactions are the primary channel for building meaningful customer relationships?

In my 20 years in insight, we were pioneers in putting qualitative research online in 1999. What I’m noticing is that rapid technological disruption often prompts a return to basics: a good, old-fashioned real conversation with real people to capture real stories.

Ben Shimshon, chief executive and managing partner, BritainThinks
When we look back, it’s going to be generative AI. I’m really excited about the potential for qualitative facilitation at scale, and of the analytical opportunities of ‘small language models’ trained on really specific data sets.

Amy Cashman, executive managing director of the UK insights division, Kantar
I won’t be the only one saying this, but it’s got to be the use of AI. Kantar’s been using AI for years but we’ve really stepped up investment and training around it. We see huge opportunity to harness AI to free up our people to focus on the areas where they can add most value for clients. Our ad testing platform, for example, draws on our database of ads so we can predict how people would respond to advertising content without traditional survey-based testing, which would usually take days to do.

Jane Rudling, managing director, Walnut Unlimited
We are all enthused by AI and what it can offer us. Some pretty big claims are being made about AI and there is a danger that the industry will go through a “Wild West” phase before boundaries are established and we can all trust the output.

Crawford Hollingworth, global founder, The Behavioural Architects
It’s both technology and methodology, as AI has created our very own singularity – a new world where the added value we provide around data will gain saliency.

Hannah Rogers, business development director, Kokoro
Love it or loathe it, it’s everywhere. Should we use it? Can we use it? Are we using it? What are the ethical parameters to which work to? I’ve enjoyed seeing people industry-wide experiment with both ChatGPT and other AI tools to push the boundaries of what is possible – we don’t know what is possible until we try!

Ade, our head of analytics, summed it up perfectly: a regular person and a chef can have access to precisely the same ingredients and equipment, but the standard of what they produce is very different. It takes the brightest of brains to get it right: it’s technique, not just tech.

…But it’s not all about AI

Jane Frost, chief executive, MRS
This year’s stand-out achievement has been the major stride forwards we have made in our efforts to improve representation. MRS’ new Code of Conduct now obliges members to provide greater clarity and transparency in their research, especially when defining samples as nationally representative.

As we explore the positive uses of AI to augment our work, transparency and greater representation will be absolutely crucial in avoiding biases and making sure the technology works for and not against us. We’ve made a great start and in setting the right foundations, we are in a strong position to get maximum value from new technologies and methodologies.

This article is part of Research Live’s Review of 2023 series, exploring the standout trends, developments and moments of the past 12 months. 


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