The SNSF’s approach to the use of artificial intelligence in funding applications

The use of digital applications based on artificial intelligence is also spreading in the field of science. Given the limitations, the SNSF reminds researchers of their personal responsibility.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is on everyone’s lips. Applications and tools based on AI are being used in an increasing number of fields, including research and research funding. At present, it is mainly the so-called generative AI technologies that are in the public focus, i.e. AI applications that can be used to automatically create new content such as text, images and videos.

In research these tools can be used, for example, for literature reviews, editorial tasks or translations. Researchers may also use them to prepare their grant applications. The SNSF for its part uses AI applications to help process funding applications and, moreover, is looking into their further potential.

Researchers are responsible for their own content

The SNSF would like to emphasise that researchers who use AI for their work are wholly responsible for the results produced. For research proposals, the basic principle is that the applicants are the sole authors and as such bear full responsibility for the content.

Anyone wishing to exploit the potential of AI applications in research must be aware of the associated risks and consequences. Ethical and legal implications must be taken into account – for example in areas such as intellectual property or in the handling of sensitive and confidential data.

Thus, all users should carefully consider the implications of using AI tools. Matthias Egger, President of the National Research Council: "Researchers must ensure that the principles of scientific integrity are observed at all times. This also applies to data protection and confidentiality." Moreover, particular attention should be paid to the correct referencing of sources.

Research applications are treated in confidence

The SNSF has updated its guidelines for assessing applications. Applicants may rest assured that their applications will be treated in the strictest confidence. Producing summaries or translations of whole application dossiers or of novel ideas using generative AI tools may violate this confidentiality. Such data must not be passed on to unauthorised third parties, including the providers of AI applications.

The potential uses of artificial intelligence are developing rapidly – not least of all in research, including research funding. The SNSF is therefore monitoring the technological and legal developments surrounding AI very closely and will adapt its position and guidelines as necessary.

Note on the image: This image was generated with the help of AI and symbolically shows a researcher in a futuristic working environment.