Vici-grant for research into reliable AI supported literature reviews

Rens van de Schoot, Utrecht University professor of Collaborative Methods in AI and Data Science has received a Vici grant. This prestigious NWO grant of one and a half million euros will enable Rens van de Schoot to expand his research group over the next five years. "Although the award is in my name, this is above all a team achievement: without UU staff at Information and Technology Services (ITS) and Utrecht University Library this would never have been possible."

It all started with a small grant: Van de Schoot and colleagues received a modest amount from the Innovation Fund for IT in Research Projects some years ago to develop their ideas. Van de Schoot: "That grant laid the foundation for cooperation between our researchers, ITS and the university library. What we wanted: to make the enormous pile of scientific literature manageable for users. In this, we saw a big role for AI. The project we built grew into our university's largest open source software project: ASReview. And now our team is getting the icing on the cake: this Vici grant."

Prof. Rens van de Schoot

People make mistakes

Statistician Van de Schoot explains that the number of scientific articles is growing at lightning speed. If researchers want to extract relevant information for their own scientific research, they can spend months browsing. "That takes an awful lot of time. And on top of that, we humans can make mistakes: we are not necessarily good at screening so many texts. With artificial intelligence, such as large language models, we can speed up and improve this process. We will explore how scientists can collaborate with such a language model, and test how well it actually works and which model should be used for which type of data. All this should be open source, so that everyone can access and benefit from the results."

This award is team science in optima forma.

Red cheeks

Rens van de Schoot emphasises that this award is team science in optima forma. "Among others, Jonathan de Bruin from ITS, and Felix Weijdema and Jan de Boer from the university library should also be recognised in this: without them, this project would be nowhere." The email from NWO announcing the award did go to Rens, however. "I was playing Minecraft with my children. We were just attacked by the Warden. We had never come this far before: my children were excited and playing with red cheeks. The email from NWO came in between. I read it. Then my cheeks turned red too." 

Vici is one of the largest individual science grants in the Netherlands and is aimed at advanced researchers. The funding allows researchers to conduct research of their own choice. In total, NWO has awarded this Vici grant to 35 scientists. The UU website lists the other Utrecht laureates.