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Two leading lights in academic and commercial research came to Glion’s newly launched Research Learning and Innovation Center in Bulle to share their insights on the latest trends with students.

In the ever-evolving world of hospitality, research can be crucial to effective decision making. But the way we carry it out and the way it is published and used has been transformed dramatically by new and emerging technologies.

How to navigate this changing environment and the pitfalls to avoid were high on the agenda at a recent seminar which took place at our new Research Learning and Innovation Center on Bulle campus. Organized by Academic Dean Dr. Antonina Santalova, the vibrant session attended by students and teachers alike heard from two speakers at the forefront of data analysis and academic publishing.

And while both covered very different aspects of research in their presentations, Senior Vice President of Research at STR, Dr Steve Hood, and Professor of Social Welfare and Social Services at UC Berkeley, Neil Gilbert, were united in their belief in its value for students.

Competitive advantage

Dr Steve Hood (second from left) meets with students.

“Hands-on experience working with real industry data gives students a competitive advantage when entering the job market,” says Dr Hood, whose company STR is a leader in hotel industry market data intelligence. “If you get experience working with data, you’re going to look way more impressive in the interview than the other people you’re up against.”

Dr Hood took the opportunity to outline the many different types of data STR has access to from the hotel industry along with the main ways industry leaders use it. He also covered the latest developments his company is rolling out and the four different student certifications STR makes available to universities and schools.

“Our training covers hotel industry mathematical metrics, data analysis, tourism research, event impact analysis and feasibility studies,” he adds. “Alongside that, we offer revenue management and real estate analysis certification, both incredibly valuable for anyone seeking to attain leadership roles in the hospitality industry.”

Publish and be damned?

Professor Gilbert, meanwhile, shared valuable perspectives on academic research publishing and the impact of digital disruption on it.

“If you have a research framework, you know about statistics and significant differences and you can think of interesting questions to ask, you can probably get a research paper published,” he says. “But digital technology has disrupted the academic publication business model that has existed for the last 50 years and, in so doing, has created certain pitfalls.”

According to Professor Gilbert, two significant developments have completely changed the academic publishing landscape. One is on-demand publication, which allows publishers to avoid having to produce an entire run of books, while the other more significant development has been online publishing.

“In the past, there were a limited number of respected printed academic journals that published papers that were anonymous peer reviewed – the gold standard of academic rigor,” he says. “What’s happened with the new technology is that we’re now seeing a plethora of ‘predatory publications’. These often mimic the titles of respected journals but have considerably lower standards of quality control.”

To chat or not to chat?

You can’t stop what’s coming.

Following the two presentations, students and Glion’s faculty got the chance to discuss many of the issues raised during a lively and extended question and answer session. This covered a range of topics, including benchmarking metrics and bridging gaps between academic and commercial research.

Perhaps one of the most salient discussion topics raised was the question around the ethical use of generative artificial intelligence (AI) writing tools such as ChatGPT in research. When asked, both students and faculty admitted using them in some form or other.

“There’s a big debate in the academic world about how to use ChatGPT,” says Professor Gilbert. “Clearly it’s incredibly useful for research and I don’t think we can tell students not to use it because they’re going to anyway. But ethically speaking, it’s not something we should use verbatim and, honestly, we can tell when that happens because the language is usually fairly elaborate.

“But for students who need to submit papers whose first language is not English, it can be an excellent tool for cleaning up grammar, which I think is a perfectly legitimate use of the technology.”

A question of ethics

Ethical use of technology was also discussed during a question to Dr Hood about incorporating alternative accommodation information in STR’s datasets.

“The challenge for us has been Airbnb, which is such a big part of the market and has refused to release that data,” says Dr Hood. “The only source of alternative accommodation data is a company called AirDNA, which scrapes Airbnb data off the internet and sells it. I’m still trying to convince their head of research about the value of working with universities and making it available, but there’s also the question of who really owns that data. It’s a gray area for academia, but for a commercial company such as ours, it’s not something we would touch.”

Insight, influence and innovation

With the session threatening to overrun, it was left to Dr Santalova to thank both experts for sharing their perspectives and notify students and fellow faculty of the plan to run a series of similar seminars.

“By exposing students to experts in the field, we are helping them hone their research skills as they prepare for leadership roles in hospitality,” she says.

“The perspectives they gained today have been incredibly valuable and we look forward to running more events in future that will encourage them to participate in the kind of innovative research projects that will ultimately shape their ability to make strategic decisions throughout their careers.”

Photo credit

Chat AI image: Supatman/Getty

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