What the Release of Code Interpreter Means for Bioinformaticians

Category Computer Science

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The newest official ChatGPT plugin, called Code Interpreter has come with some limitations for use for scientists who work with biological data utilizing computational methods, but provides a cost-effective and efficient way for coding to those without science backgrounds while minimizing hallucinations.

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While West Virginia University researchers see potential in educational settings for the newest official ChatGPT plugin, called Code Interpreter, they've found limitations for its use by scientists who work with biological data utilizing computational methods to prioritize targeted treatment for cancer and genetic disorders. "Code Interpreter is a good thing and it's helpful in an educational setting as it makes coding in the STEM fields more accessible to students," said Gangqing "Michael" Hu, assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cell Biology at the WVU School of Medicine and director of the Bioinformatics Core. "However, it doesn't have the features you need for bioinformatics. These are technical issues that can be overcome. Future developments of Code Interpreter are likely to extend its use to many fields such as bioinformatics, finance and economics." .

Stepped in for the lack of availability of OpenAI's Code Interpreter plugin in December 2020

Since its release in December 2022, the popular artificial intelligence chatbot ChatGPT has gained the attention of businesses, educators and the general public. However, it didn't quite live up to the needs of people working in biomedical research including bioinformatics—the field where computer science meets biology—who eagerly awaited OpenAI's Code Interpreter plugin hoping it would fill the gaps.

ChatGPT garnered attention from businesses, educators and general public

Hu and his team put Code Interpreter to the test on a variety of tasks to evaluate its features. Their findings, published in Annals of Biomedical Engineering, show the plugin breaks down some of the barriers, but not all of them.

For example, people without a science background will have an ease of access to coding, or computer programming, with Code Interpreter. Hu said it's also cost-effective and sparks a curiosity for students to explore data analysis and boosts their interest in learning. He points out, though, users will need to understand how to interpret data and recognize whether the results are accurate and know how to interact with the chatbot.

The accuracy of ChatGPT often raises the concern

Bioinformaticians rely on precise coding, computer software programs and internet access to store, analyze and interpret biological data such as DNA and human genome used for advancements in modern medicine.

Despite the need for improvements specific to bioinformatics, Hu said, Code Interpreter helps users determine whether a response is accurate or if it is a fictitious answer presented with confidence, known as a hallucination.

The ability to distinguish between the fictitious answer presented with confidence and a real one is possible with Code Interpreter

"People know that ChatGPT can do many impressive things, but it is not good at providing a citation or reference to support its answer. If it is asked about the source to support the claim of a response, it may start to make up references," Hu explained. "Code Interpreter provides a solution to minimize hallucinations. For questions that can be addressed through coding, the code itself serves as the source or citation. That is a significant step forward." .

Code Interpreter makes coding in STEM fields more accessible to students

Working with Hu were Lei Wang, a postdoctoral fellow in the WVU Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cell Biology; Xijin Ge, of South Dakota State University; and Li Liu, of Arizona State University. The team found positive results in Code Interpreter's ability to convert data to characateristic formats, manipulate data sets in simulations and provide a detailed picture of the biological experiment's results.

Code Interpreter helps users determine whether a response is accurate or a fictitious one

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