The term AI on a microchip

Generative AI and the Future of Social Research: Opportunities, Challenges and Implications

This one-day workshop will explore the methodological implications of generative AI tools for social inquiry. It will take place in Edinburgh on Tuesday, 1 October 2024 and is free to attend.

Attendees will learn about the exciting opportunities and profound challenges that generative AI presents for social research in the digital age. The event is presented by NCRM and the British Sociological Association's Digital Sociology Study Group.


This workshop will bring together leading scholars and practitioners to discuss the challenges and opportunites presented by AI and chart a path forward for social research in an era of generative AI.

Through a series of panel discussions, the event will explore the methodological innovations, ethical challenges and theoretical frameworks necessary to navigate this new frontier of social inquiry.

The workshop will take place between 09:00 and 17:00 on Tuesday, 1 October 2024.

View the full programme

Apply to attend

If you would like to attend this event, please complete our online application form. The workshop is free of charge. However, places are limited.

Complete the application form

Please note, we are unfortunately unable to cover travel costs.

Application process

  • Application process opens: Monday, 3 June 2024
  • Closing date: Wednesday, 31 July 2024
  • Outcome of application: week commencing Monday, 19 August 2024
  • Registration deadline: Monday, 2 September 2024 (17:00 BST)


The workshop will take place at the Radisson Blu Hotel, 80 High Street, The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, EH1 1TH. The address is:

Radisson Blu Hotel, 80 High Street, The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, EH1 1TH

Find out more about the venue

More information about AI and social research

The rapid advancement of generative AI presents both exciting opportunities and profound challenges for social research in the digital age. This seminar aims to explore the methodological implications of generative AI tools for social inquiry.

Generative AI opens up novel avenues for research, enabling the creation and analysis of vast amounts of synthetic data, simulating and modelling complex social systems. Natural language processing techniques powered by generative AI provide us with powerful tools for the analysis of large volumes of data, facilitating the exploration of complex social phenomena and enabling researchers to identify trends and correlations not readily visible when using traditional methods.

However, these tools come with significant practical and ethical challenges. How can we ensure the reproducibility of data? How transparent are the algorithms used in AI-driven research, and how can we ensure researchers and participants understand the impact of these algorithms? How can we navigate the ethical complexities of working with AI-generated content? Given the well documented issues of bias in training datasets for large language models (LLMs) how can we ensure that we represent and include diverse populations rather than perpetuating structural inequalities?

Concerns around the usefulness of the work produced by LLMs continues to be a notable issue, with the idea of LLMs as "stochastic parrots" suggesting that while AI may produce plausible enough responses, these responses can be devoid of meaning.

In the realm of digital social research, generative AI poses fundamental questions about the nature of online content and its relationship to human agency. The rise of computational propaganda has already begun to test the assumed link between online content and human actors, but generative AI threatens to sever this connection entirely. As AI-generated content becomes increasingly pervasive, researchers must grapple with the epistemological implications of studying a digital landscape shaped by artificial intelligence.

How this workshop will address these issues

Combined, the issues outlined above pose concerns for what role AI can meaningfully play in sociological research. Join us as we confront the profound implications of generative AI for social research and work towards a future in which these powerful tools are harnessed for the advancement of knowledge and the betterment of society.

Key questions will include:

  • How might AI affect research design, sampling, data collection and analysis?
  • What ethical challenges emerge when using AI in social research?
  • What role do human researchers play in overseeing AI-driven processes?
  • How can we ensure that AI-driven research is accessible and inclusive to researchers with varying levels of technical expertise and resources?
  • What are the implications of AI on power dynamics within social research, and how can we mitigate potential biases and avoid reinforcing existing inequalities?
  • What impact might AI have on research practices, disciplinary norms and understandings of knowledge production?
  • How can we foster interdisciplinary collaborations between social scientists, computer scientists, ethicists, and other stakeholders to address the challenges and enrich the development and application of AI in social research?
  • How might our research practices be configured to consider how we meet the emerging research agendas of our students as they move into their academic and industrial careers? How do we best equip them for the research questions they will address in years to come?

Further information

If you have any questions, please contact Laura Marshall: