The digital revolution has reshaped the landscapes of many industries, and scientific publishing stands at a pivotal juncture. As the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) in manuscript preparation and review processes becomes more prevalent, it's imperative to reflect on both its transformative potential and the ethical obligations it brings.
The capacities of AI—from data visualization to predictive modeling—are indeed accelerating research processes and enriching scientific communication. “AI provides very useful tools if they're used properly,” says Heather Tierney, Ph.D., Senior Publication Ethics Manager at ACS Publications. “From an editorial perspective, AI might be used to help sort manuscripts to appropriate editors for handling, or from an authorship perspective, AI can help with language tools or provide a means to collate background information.”
Yet with this transformative capacity comes an essential ethical responsibility. Dr. Tierney also stresses, “The most important point from an ethical perspective is that AI is used transparently and within ethical norms.”
The recently updated ACS Author Guidelines, derived from the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE)’s recommendations, provides clarity that AI tools don't qualify for authorship. However, their application should be transparently disclosed within the manuscript, ensuring that both peer reviewers and the entire scientific community can understand and evaluate the role AI played in the research.
This commitment to transparency and ethical integrity is even more critical given another emerging challenge: predatory publishing and the rise of “paper mills”. These operations, which mass-produce dubious or even fabricated research papers, undermine the very foundation of the scientific community. For both reviewers and publishers, recognizing signs such as unusual patterns across papers or mismatched data—and leveraging tools like STM’s paper mill detector and the Clear Skies Papermill Alarm—can be instrumental in safeguarding the integrity of the publication process.
As ACS Publications continues leading the way in addressing these challenges, it's a reminder of the collective responsibility that lies with publishers, authors, and reviewers. While AI offers exciting prospects for scientific publishing, it also demands a renewed commitment to ethical standards.
By navigating this new terrain with integrity, transparency, and collaboration, the scientific community can harness the full potential of AI while upholding the sanctity of research and peer review.