Early career researchers, graduate students, and university faculty are under unprecedented pressure to produce prestige-elevating research. Despite the push for published work, funding isn’t growing. In fact, it’s drying up.
To help students succeed in this challenging landscape, universities must play a more direct and larger role in ensuring that students have access to cutting-edge technology that will make their research as efficient and cost-effective as possible.
One powerful way that universities can maximize research efficiency is to help students access “dark data,” the citations, references, notes, annotations, and hours of recorded interviews and lectures that they are required to manage and organize over the course of many years.
In the past, dark data like that was usually hidden on a desk piled high with printed papers flagged with post-it notes and earmarked books with notes in the margins. In today’s digital world, that same information may be more compactly stored as PDFs, audio files, and spreadsheets but in many ways it is no easier to navigate.
Fortunately, there is a new generation of technologies that can make this buried knowledge just a keyword search away. Digital reference managers like Zotero, EndNote, and Mendeley enable researchers to easily organize references and create bibliographies while avoiding the time-eating and frustrating process of doing so by hand.
Artificial intelligence is also being used to help researchers escape the time-consuming, tedious, and expensive task of transcription. A paper by The National Centre for Research Methods at the University of Southampton concluded that students should interview 30 sources for one hour each when they are conducting a piece of qualitative empirical research for their dissertation or thesis.
By helping students use new technologies to save critical time and money in their research, universities will give students more opportunity to do what they are meant to do: tackle the important questions and pursue the big ideas that will solve problems and build a better world
Realistically, it doesn’t take a student one hour to transcribe one hour of audio. It takes closer to three hours. That’s a staggering 90 hours of mind-numbing transcription. The other option has been third-party manual transcription, which will charge $1 per minute, or $1,800 for thirty hours! Ouch. There are so many better ways that students could use that time and money.
New tools, like AI-powered services like Trint, can transcribe those 30 hours of audio transcribed in mere minutes. Even better, by combining a text editor to an audio video player, it makes it possible for researchers to quickly search interviews by keywords, verify, and make revisions, as well as collect, save, and export the moments they need most for their research.
The challenge: many of these tools can be expensive for graduates students on tight budgets or can be daunting in terms of how to choose the right tools and get the most out of them.
More and more universities are addressing these obstacles by providing students with free or discounted access to research tools and programs. Just as importantly, institutions should be providing comprehensive support to help students master and get the most out of new technologies. This could include free training, workshops, resources, technical assistance, and platforms where students can share best practices and advice.
By helping students use new technologies to save critical time and money in their research, universities will give students more opportunity to do what they are meant to do: tackle the important questions and pursue the big ideas that will solve problems and build a better world.