AI is inevitably going to infiltrate all our lives in some way or another in the near future; learning how we shop, communicate, write, create and plan our lives. We therefore also need to look at adapting our ways of working to benefit from these technological advancements. Working alongside this adaptive new tech, and generating new guidance and principles, will enable us to harness and nurture it. We can create preventative methods to stop bad actors abusing and infiltrating the systems we have in place to educate and teach.
At the NEC Annual Publishing Conference (7 November 2023, London), the keynote was delivered by David Smith from the IET who looked “Back to the Future!”; highlighting the importance of an article published by Darcy DiNucci. Fragmented Futures (published in print, 53.4, 1999) demonstrates technological growth and that the Web she wrote about was only the beginning…how things have changed in 20 years! Essentially it is thought we are at a similar point with AI; it is new, raw and ready to be refined and developed.
Leslie Lansmann, Global Permissions Manager from Springer Nature, discussed how Large Language Models (LLM) such as ChatGPT are ingesting content, and this is not yet fully disclosed by AI companies. This is important to monitor as we must maintain the stewardship for the content and protect copyright and protected manuscripts. As much as AI is currently learning – it probes and reiterates content – it does not understand the deeper context behind the language. The publishing industry is however having to react to the developments in technologies, many publishers are imposing bans on AI content, and introducing new and different policies.
The discussion around authorship is constantly developing and debated – should research be done using AI? Can it help an author whose first language isn’t English produce a more succinct piece of work? If the data is accurate and the same research principles are adhered to, maybe we should move towards incorporating it into our practices. This notion was delivered by Anastasia Toynbee from the Royal Society of Chemistry who was looking at the problem of non-native English speakers and how these tools could help. The key feature of this was that a problem had been highlighted and AI was being used to support it – not the other way around.
It became clear from all the speakers how important it is to identify the problem initially and use AI tech/tools to help with it, rather than decide how to harness and squeeze new systems into processes that are working well. Ian Mulvany at BMJ really brought home this idea that we as an industry need to balance risk vs opportunity. AI has perception, however no intention to act; therefore we are in a position through governance, policy, and stewardship that we can lead AI to improve processes and not be reactive and in fear of the unknown! Andy Halliday , Product Manager at F100 iterated the benefits and pitfalls of AI and how humans can help harness this tech and enable it to support our ecosystem and develop a sense of AI preparedness.
We are in the awakening of AI. The box has been opened and we all have access to create new and exciting content, images and access information much easier than ever before. As the discussions continue it will be really exciting to see how developments are made, what fixes it can be used for, and how policy and guidance are updated to meet the demands of users.
Following the UKRIO workshop hosted by IOP Publishing and Karger on 20th September 2023, we discuss here the principles required for correcting academic literature and the key players responsible.
Post-publication correction notices are used to update or append research using neutral and factual terminology. Mistakes can be made, and post-publication corrections are not used to punish authors/journals. Corrections are not always a fault with the research, it could be an honest error.
Notices should follow industry standards and include key elements, such as: DOI, title, volume/issue number, year of publication and a description of the error and any actions taken to remedy the research.
The original article is not usually updated; however, it can be amended if it warrants legal or privacy concerns. This decision will be in accordance with the publisher’s policy and best practice. For example, a health journal may update drug doses if it would impinge upon patient care – this would be outlined in the notice and the content updated. The aim is to be transparent in the notice and include bi-directional linking. The notice should appear online and in print.
Types of Notice
- Corrigendum. Usually an error introduced by an author.
- Erratum. Usually an error introduced by the publisher.
- Retraction. The most serious type of notice, following a full investigation.
- Publisher’s note. Used to notify that an error may be in the content/under investigation.
- Expression of concern. Advising the reader that there might be errors or untrustworthy content.
Best practice is not to erase the content – a withdrawal notice, which is deemed the most serious type of correction, means that the DOI remains but the PDF is removed, not to cause detriment to the scholarly work.
Myths and Barriers to Correcting the Scholarly Record
- A correction does not always mean there is something ‘wrong’ with the research.
- A publisher’s responsibility for their content does not stop at the publication.
- An author doesn’t want to hear if you spot a potential error in their research.
Correcting the record
- Errors happen! Correcting the record needs destigmatising and normalising through education and transparent communication.
- Publishers must be willing to correct inaccuracies transparently with the support of all parties involved in the research ecosystem.
- Researchers should be willing to receive communications about their publications. Comments should be neutral and non-accusatory.
Standards are set by multiple bodies, including ICMJE, COPE, STM, and PubMed, which form a basis of recommended principles. Published content is a snapshot in time and should not be updated to reflect recent events/changes (for example, affiliation updates).
Who Decides What Needs to be Corrected?
This should be done in a partnership which can include the publisher, author, editor and editorial teams, depending on the query. For example, a plagiarism investigation will require more input from all involved as opposed to a typographical error in a name. Accuracy of publications must be maintained by all members within the ecosystem to uphold the scholarly record, which includes publishers, authors, readers, reviewers, editors and research institutions.
- Need to have checks and balances in place to avoid inaccuracies being published.
- Correct inaccurate content in a thorough and timely manner using transparent language.
- Investigate concerns brought to the journal regarding the accuracy of content.
- Have a responsibility to avoid errors being introduced – thoroughly checking the content at pre-publication checks.
- Inform the publisher of any inaccuracies they identify in their own work.
- Inform co-authors of any inaccuracies discovered, whether accidental or intentional.
- Cooperate with investigations into concerns about accuracy of publications.
- Have a responsibility to report suspected errors in publications – this should be done neutrally to a body with responsibility for accuracy of the publication.
- Have a responsibility to review a manuscript critically and provide a succinct review. They should also report concerns with content to a appropriate body who has responsibility for accuracy regarding the publication.
- Have a responsibility to critically analyse manuscripts and report suspected errors.
- Investigate errors brought to their attention.
- Collaborate with the journal or publisher whilst an investigation is pending, bringing their subject expertise.
- Have a responsibility to promote responsible research through education and foster a transparent research culture.
- Required to have a mechanism for reporting and investigating potential.
- Report the outcomes of the investigations to the publisher affected.
What is the Impact of Correcting Content?
It is important to correct and not remove content. Corrections will always be a customary part of maintaining the scholarly record and should only be done if necessary. Removing or editing content could impact a researcher’s career. Retractions are the most serious type of notice that can be issued and can have a serious impact on the career of a researcher. Indexing services can be impacted, by splitting citations. Incorrect indexing can cause issues for journals, authors and publishers. Google Scholar scrolls every 6 months and therefore it does take time for services to be updated regarding notices such as retractions and withdrawals. Publishers must be responsible with post-publications to prevent inaccuracies in the scholarly record.
On the 7th September 2023, the COPE Forum took place, discussing peer review models and examining the current threats to the systems and challenges faced by all parties involved.
Peer review has long been the cornerstone of scholarly publishing, serving as a quality control mechanism to ensure the accuracy and integrity of research. This communal effort involves authors, editors, publishers, and reviewers working together to uphold the standards of academic discourse. However, the peer-review process is facing unprecedented challenges that threaten its effectiveness. Here, we will discuss the importance of peer review, the emerging challenges it faces, and potential solutions to fortify this vital system.
Peer review plays a pivotal role in maintaining the credibility and trustworthiness of scholarly publications. Its benefits include:
- Quality Assurance: Peer review helps identify errors, flaws, and biases in research, ensuring that only high-quality and reliable studies are published.
- Validation of Findings: It serves as a validation mechanism, confirming the authenticity and significance of research findings.
- Feedback for Improvement: Reviewer feedback provides authors with valuable insights for improving their work.
- Conflict Resolution: Peer review resolves conflicts and disputes regarding research claims and methodology.
Challenges Facing Peer Review
Despite its essential role, the peer-review process is facing several challenges:
- Shortage of Skilled Reviewers: There is a growing scarcity of qualified reviewers willing to dedicate their time and expertise to the peer review process. This can lead to overburdened reviewers and delays in publishing.
- Fraud and Misconduct: Organized fraud, such as peer-review rings, fake papers, and manipulated results, threatens the integrity of peer review, undermining trust in scholarly publishing.
- AI and Large Language Models: The advent of AI tools and large language models has introduced new challenges, including the generation of convincing but false research papers and the potential automation of the peer-review process.
Solutions for Strengthening Peer Review
To address these challenges and preserve the integrity of peer review, several strategies can be considered:
- Reviewer Recognition and Training: Acknowledging and rewarding reviewers for their contributions can help motivate and retain skilled reviewers. Providing training and guidelines for reviewers can enhance the quality of their assessments.
- Transparency and Accountability: Journals can adopt transparent peer-review practices, such as open peer review or preprint reviews, to increase accountability and trust in the process.
- Technology and AI: Utilize AI tools not only to detect fraud but also to assist in the peer-review process. AI can help identify potential conflicts of interest, plagiarism, and statistical errors.
- Diversifying Reviewer Pools: Encourage diversity among reviewers in terms of gender, ethnicity, and geographical location to ensure a broader range of perspectives.
- Collaboration Among Stakeholders: Authors, editors, publishers, and reviewers should work together to establish and maintain best practices for peer review.
The peer-review process is at a critical juncture, facing challenges that threaten its efficacy and credibility. However, with concerted efforts from all stakeholders, including researchers, journals, and the broader academic community, it is possible to fortify peer review, adapt to the changing landscape, and ensure that scholarly publishing continues to uphold the highest standards of research integrity. Only through collective action can we safeguard the trust that underpins the dissemination of knowledge in academia.