by the guest editors Diego Collarana Vargas (Fraunhofer FIT) and Nassos Katsamanis (Athena RC)

Natural Language Processing (NLP) has witnessed significant advancements in recent years, with a focus on the development of Large Language Models (LLMs) capable of processing and generating human-like text. These models have shown tremendous potential in various applications, including ChatGPT, ranging from content creation and customer service to more sensitive areas such as mental health support and education. However, integrating LLMs into real-world settings presents challenges related to size, energy consumption, knowledge management, ethical concerns, interpretability, and governance.

To address these challenges and explore the full potential of Large Language Models, ERCIM News presents this special theme to bring together contributions highlighting LLMs' opportunities and complexities. The selected articles cover a wide range of topics, including the use of LLMs in education and professional training, ethics and fairness in public sector applications, knowledge management, information retrieval, and software modeling. They also address the assessment of LLM capabilities and present other technological advances, such as improved pre-training efficiency.

In the education sector, articles explore the role of LLMs in promoting active learning and their application as learning assistants and language teaching tools. In the public sector, the focus is on the ethical biases exhibited by LLMs and their potential risks and benefits. Other articles discuss using LLMs in knowledge management, information retrieval, and software modeling, highlighting their potential to revolutionize various fields.

The edition also presents articles discussing generative AI models' ethics and fairness concerns. Therefore, it includes articles proposing frameworks for testing the fairness of these models and platforms for researchers and practitioners to share their insights, methodologies, and innovative approaches in working with LLMs. The goal is to foster advancements in LLM technology and ensure its responsible and inclusive use.

The articles have been grouped into four major categories: 

Education and professional training
This category focuses on how integrating Large Language Models (LLMs) and ChatGPT-like bots transforms teaching methodologies. Stampfl et al. (p. 14)  explore role-playing simulation games enhanced by ChatGPT, combining technology with traditional educational methods. Prodinger et al. investigate ChatGPT as a Learning Assistant in distance learning, showing how AI integration in Learning Management Systems supports students (p. 15). Furthermore, Antoniou-Kritikou et al. focus on LLMs in language teaching, developing a ChatGPT-based paraphrase tool to improve Greek language learning (p. 17). Geyer et al. discuss using educational chatbots, particularly those employing Socratic methods, to create interactive learning experiences (p. 18). Stamouli et al. use LLMs and Retrieval Augmented Generation to build a Study Buddy and a Teacher Mate in the AI4EDU project on conversational AI assistants for education (p. 20). Tuggener and Niehaus present a unique application of LLMs in professional training. Their article discusses how criminal investigators can improve their interrogation skills with children through the Virtual Kids project, highlighting conditional information revelation by a knowledge-based chatbot (p.22).

Ethics, fairness, and public sector applications of LLMs
Morales et al. address ethical biases in generative AI, proposing a fairness framework (p. 23). Biegelbauer et al. examine the opportunities and challenges of LLMs in public service, advocating for safeguards in their implementation (p. 25). Papantoniou et al. examine LLMs' capabilities in detecting verbal deception in their study "What Do LLMs  Know about Deception in Text?" (p. 27). They compare the efficacy of popular LLMs with a fine-tuned BERT model, focusing on cultural aspects of deception detection.

Knowledge management, information retrieval, and software modelling with LLMs
Angelica Lo Duca investigates AI-assisted data storytelling (p. 28), while Chettakattu and Havlik present "VOCTRACTOR," an AI tool for vocabulary design and keyword extraction (p 30). Cámara et al. assess LLMs in software modeling (p. 32), and Rocchietti et al. enhance conversational search using LLMs (p. 33). Collarana et al. tackle LLM challenges like hallucinations, proposing their integration with Knowledge Graphs for building more precise cognitive assistants (p 35). Tsoukala et al. innovated using LLMs to access Greek National Theatre archives through a chatbot that simplifies complex searches (p. 37).

LLM capabilities assessment, technological advances, and efficiency
The articles in this category explore assessing and enhancing the efficiency and technological capabilities of Large Language Models (LLMs). Berend explores improving the efficiency of pre-training language models, aiming to democratize this technology (p.38). Tambouratzis tests ChatGPT's multilingual querying consistency (p. 40), and Mountantonakis and Tzitzikas present a pipeline for validating ChatGPT responses using Knowledge Graphs (p. 42). Finally, Deriu and Cieliebak develop a model for automated text generation system evaluation (p. 44).

As we envision the future of LLMs in Europe, the ideas and research presented in this special theme lay the groundwork for navigating an increasingly complex landscape. The innovative applications in education, the public sector, and software modeling underscore the burgeoning potential of LLMs and ChatGPT-like bots. However, as we delve deeper into the realms of AI-assisted applications, the challenges become multifaceted. Europe must strive to address the need for open-source, multilingual capabilities in LLMs to honor its linguistic diversity, align technological advancements with the EU's data privacy and ethical standards, and foster equitable technology access across its varied socio-economic landscape. The insights from the articles on ethical biases, fairness frameworks, and the assessment of the multilingual consistency of LLMs are particularly salient.

These articles highlight the current state of LLM applications and the necessity for robust, Europe-centric research and policy frameworks. These frameworks should be designed to harness the full potential of LLMs while mitigating risks such as digital divides, cultural homogenization, and potential misalignments with European values. Within this context, the transformative impact of LLMs in European education is particularly noteworthy; these technologies, as highlighted in the richest category of this edition, hold the potential to revolutionize learning methodologies, making education more interactive, personalized, and accessible – a crucial advancement in an era where adapting to rapidly changing skill sets and knowledge bases is increasingly vital. We hope that by building on the perspectives and solutions highlighted in this special edition and by nurturing further research, collaborations, and discussions, we can steer Europe towards a future where the integration of LLMs goes beyond mere technological innovation. These models must align seamlessly with Europe's unique cultural, ethical, and regulatory frameworks, promising a responsible, inclusive, and profoundly transformative digital future for all. We look forward to engaging in discussions about LLMs and ChatGPT as we pursue breakthroughs in Natural Language Understanding (NLU) to develop improved models and applications with a profound and positive impact on society.

Please contact: 
Diego Collarana Vargas, Fraunhofer FIT, Germany
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Nassos Katsamanis, Athena RC, Greece
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Next issue: October 2024
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Software Security
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