April 17, 2023, #36
On 5 April 2023 Jack Grove wrote an article called “ChatGPT-generated reading list sparks AI peer review debate” in the Times Higher Education. A “Dutch researcher has claimed that a reviewer who rejected his paper recommended a handful of fictitious publications invented by the AI chatbot”¹. The researcher checked the recommendations with GPT-2, which confirmed that “suggestions were AI-generated fakes”¹. The situation puzzled him “because he had received ‘constructive critical responses from this reviewer and the editor’ on the paper across three previous rounds of review.”¹ The overall review showed signs that the person had actually read the paper, and had probably only used an AI tool to create the reading list. According to a spokesperson for Emerald Publishing “ChatGPT and other AI tools should not be utilised by reviewers of papers submitted to journals published by Emerald.”¹ A generous interpretation could be that the reviewer understood the ban only to apply to text. Other stories about AI-based reviews have surfaced on Twitter. “Ben Maier, a German postdoctoral researcher in infectious diseases based at Humboldt University in Berlin, explained that he had been forced to withdraw a submitted paper from a journal after an editor suggested text should be fed into ChatGPT to ‘make it clearer’.”¹ When he tried it, the result was apparently not an improvement. The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) guidelines say that “authors should declare the use of AI in scholarly papers, adding that Chat-GPT and other AI chatbots should not be listed as co-authors.”¹ This does not answer the question of whether the use of AI tools like ChatGPT is acceptable for generating reading lists as part of an academic review. It is not unusual for reviewers to rely on technology-based tools for literature reviews, but not all tools are equal. Google Scholar is a tool that relies only on real articles drawn from known sources. ChatGPT and its AI relatives may be displaying an almost human adolescent urge to invent rather than research. Adolescents grow up, and AI may too.
1: Jack Grove, ‘“ChatGPT-Generated Reading List” Sparks AI Peer Review Debate’, Times Higher Education (THE), 5 April 2023, https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/chatgpt-generated-reading-list-sparks-ai-peer-review-debate