BY BEN NWANNE
Researchers, teachers and students of all categories have been advised to gird their loins to be more effective and competitive in a rapidly changing world where Artificial Intelligence (A1) will play a more decisive role in all aspects of human existence.
The advice was given by the Vice-Chancellor of Delta State University Abraka, (DELSU) Professor Andy Egwunyenga on Wednesday at the opening of a two-day workshop on Developing of Research skills of Postgraduate Students of Delta State University, Abraka with the theme “Directions in Postgraduate Research with the Emergence of Artificial Intelligence.’’
Professor Egwunyenga lauded the Postgraduate school for being upfront with current research trends and best practices, adding that what defined a Postgraduate school was research, beyond routine learning, leading to innovation and competition.
The Professor of Parasitology and Public Health who is giving DELSU an enlightened and committed leadership, described the focus of the workshop as ‘apt and imperative’ describing A1 as a transformative technology “that we cannot do without. It is changing our perceptions, our lives and everything about us.’’
He urged all those involved in research to embrace the opportunities provided by the A1, noting that: ‘’we live in an age where research is needed to bring about innovations to meet various human needs and improve on the quality of living. In Fact, there is virtually nothing we see today, after creation, that is not an outcome of research, especially with the emergence of artificial intelligence.’’
Citing John Henry Newman (1801-1809) who posited that the University has been characterized as ‘’a place where inquiry is pushed forward, and discoveries are verified and perfected….’’. He went further to say that a University is ‘’ the seat of wisdom, a light to the world, a minister of the faith and an Alma Mater of the rising generation’’.
Reminding the participants of the specific objective of the workshop, the University Chief Executive explained that: ‘’This workshop, therefore, is aimed at improving on the research competence of Postgraduate students for national development. No doubt, the topics listed for discussion in this workshop will go a long way in achieving this objective.‘’ He explained that despite the pervasive impact of the A1, it did not replace human intelligence, noting that the quality of the research was all about the researcher.
Welcoming guests to the occasion, the Dean of the Postgraduate School, organizers of the event, Professor Temi Akporhonor assured the audience that the workshop would expose them to some of the latest developments in the field of artificial intelligence in academic research.
According to him, ‘’with the advent of artificial intelligence, the era of manual labour is fast receding, the era of physical and mental thinking is now getting to an end.’’
The Professor of Analytical and Environmental Chemistry articulates the power of A1 in these words: ‘’Artificial intelligence is rapidly transforming the way of life. It is changing our thought process about business, education, and society at large.” He promised that the workshop would expose
participants to relevant areas of artificial intelligence such as machine learning, natural language processing, and computer vision while some ethical and social implications of technologies would be explored in addition to considering how they would be used to benefit the academia and the society as a whole.
In a lively audience participation presentation, the keynote speaker, Professor Jonathan Tsetimi, Associate Dean of the Postgraduate School, treated participants to the near limitless possibilities of Artificial Intelligence which he described as the ‘’in thing today’’. Under the section on keywords, he described artificial intelligence technologies to mean ‘’Computer Systems or tools that can perform tasks that typically require human intelligence.’’
The Professor of Industrial Mathematics identified the differences between robots and artificial intelligence in terms nature, mode of operation, capabilities, ability to acquire knowledge, adding that robots focused on physical tasks while Al focused on intelligence and decision making. Professor Tsetimi urged researchers including lecturers to be upfront with Al skill and knowledge in order not to be left behind. He noted that AI technologies for academic research in the areas of AI enhanced research engines, AI technologies for data collection and analysis, Al technologies for general academic research, Al technologies for writing and editing, Al technology for literature review, Al technology for citation and referencing, among others.
While advising users to embrace it as a ‘tool’ not a ‘master,’ Professor Jonathan in making a robust case for the use of Al presented an opportunity for the audience to practically experience the Al phenomenon by asking questions: What are the steps of conducting a co-integration analysis? asked by the Deputy Vice-chancellor (Administration), Prof. Mrs. Rosemary Okoh. AI responded by giving a step-by-step suggestion on how to address the issue. The other question, which is at the heart of the Nigerians was (ii)will the Nigerian economy Improve? was posed by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Egwunyenga. Mr. Artificial Intelligence provided an answer which could have been given by the very best professor of economics who is speaking from a politically neutral perspective. The applause from the audience would suggest their satisfaction with the response which cited contemporary economic indices on the country.
The keynote speaker made recommendations to the government and the University Management among others. DELSU has been urged, as a matter of urgency, to come up A1 policy for DELSU that would cover ethics issues and regulations on the use of artificial intelligence for research, encourage staff and students to use Al technologies while the University should start investing in Al infrastructures as the department of computer Science in DELSU should be upgraded to a Faculty of Computing Sciences.
On the part of government, the keynote speaker recommended that it should provide funding and grants for AI technologies in research, develop and maintain a robust AI infrastructure in academic institutions while encouraging research collaborations between academia and industry through public-private partnerships, among others.
The President of the Postgraduate Students of Nigeria, Oviebemre Ohwovoriole gave a vote of thanks which included all categories of participants.
Other lectures at the two-day event included Development of Research Proposal/Chapterization by Professor Franklin Sanubi; Ethical Issues/Plagiarism by Professor F.O. Tabih and Quality Publications from Dissertations and Theses by Professor Maxwell Iwegbue. Other papers presented were Artificial Intelligence in Literature Review, sampling, Data Collection and Analysis by Professor Jonathan Tsetimi, Presentation of slides and Presentation Techniques by Professor Ignatius Njoseh, Choosing a Research Topic by Professor Ochuko Nabofa, while feedback and Presentation of Certificates were handled by the Dean ,Prof Akporhonor.