The ERC's Call for Proposal Writing Integrity in the AI Era: The Indispensable Role of Human Expertise
A recent statement issued from the European Research Council (ERC) has warned applicants to retain academic integrity if they are using AI in the grant writing process.
In essence, the ERC Scientific Council have said that while it “recognises” many scientists use AI “to brainstorm or generate ideas, to search the literature, and to revise, translate or summarise text.” The use of AI in writing a research proposal, “does not relieve the author from taking full and sole authorship responsibilities with regard to acknowledgements, plagiarism and the practice of good scientific and professional conduct.” This statement indicates that a firmer stance, including stricter regulations and monitoring of AI use, will soon be taken by the ERC, along with other funding bodies.
While generative AI (GenAI) is becoming a staple tool across industries and has great potential in a wide variety of use cases, using it for grant writing has many limitations. These issues aren’t only around the integrity of your application, but also around the ability to submit a compelling, well-reasoned and persuasive proposal. In other words, AI is most probably jeopardising your chances of securing funding, particularly if it's completely displacing the human element.
The Generative Pretrained Transformer (GPT) does not know what the Funder's or Competition’s aims are: Understanding the unique aims of each competition, alongside the aims of the funder is crucial. Generative AI tools can't grasp these subtleties; therefore, it can’t achieve the degree of reasoning required to present a compelling solution.
The GPT will never customise to specific requirements: Every grant application needs a tailored approach. AI-generated text often lacks the specificity required for different grant providers.
The GPT does not know or understand the context: The grant writing process requires a deep understanding of the specific applicant's context, something beyond AI's capabilities.
The GPT only provides text, no guidance: AI can provide an abundance of text, but not the guidance, strategic insights and analytical depth necessary for a successful grant application.
The GPT will fabricate references and other facts: AI can make up stats or claims, often providing the most statistically plausible answer, that even if wrong, still looks good. This means that people are putting their trust in the response, without checking the facts.
The GPT can make errors: Sometimes, its calculations are incorrect, but again, they look good. Meaning that they remain unchecked.
The GPT struggles to persuade: Grant applications need persuasive narratives. A human writer can craft a story that resonates emotionally with funders, whilst being evidence-backed and logical.
The GPT struggles to interlink the narrative: Grants often require specific sections to be interlinked – in order to add that extra layer of cohesivity and reasoning. A human writer will naturally revert to a previous statement when applicable. For example, they might substantiate their proposal’s ‘value for money’ with a point made previously about its advancement over the state of the art.
Whilst we recognise that GenAI tools can help generate initial ideas around specified concepts, construct frameworks for discussion or be useful in research - arguably, its use in the grant writing process should be avoided. Human expertise, insight, and the ability to tailor the proposal to the unique requirements of each competition remains invaluable, and will be crucial to your grant success in 2024 and beyond. Furthermore, considering the ERC’s recent statement on AI in research proposals, it's clear that human expertise is more crucial now than ever.
At Inventya, our grants team excels in developing and writing bespoke, compelling, and successful grant applications that truly resonate with the competition and funder’s requirements. If you have a project in mind or a competition you would like our help to apply for, contact us for a consultation by email firstname.lastname@example.org, phone: 01925 506100 or on our website: Contact (inventya.com).