In December, computational biologists Casey Greene and Milton Pividori embarked on an unusual experiment: they asked an assistant who was not a scientist to help them improve three of their research papers. Their assiduous aide suggested revisions to sections of documents in seconds; each manuscript took about five minutes to review. In one biology manuscript, their helper even spotted a mistake in a reference to an equation. The trial didn’t always run smoothly, but the final manuscripts were easier to read — and the fees were modest, at less than US$0.50 per document.
We know that, of late, we have been including a few items in our newsfeed and resource library about ChatGPT. The reality is that the new tool promises to completely change the academic writing and authorship landscape. We continue to believe that the software cannot write an academic paper on its own that is publishable and adheres to responsible research practices. But as this Nature piece discusses, right now, it is changing the writing process. We recently produced a foundation document for institutional material about such software and research outputs. It is available to our patrons from https://www.ahrecs.vip. It costs $350 per year to become a patron. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss
The most famous of these tools, also known as large language models, or LLMs, is ChatGPT, a version of GPT-3 that shot to fame after its release in November last year because it was made free and easily accessible. Other generative AIs can produce images, or sounds.
“I’m really impressed,” says Pividori, who works at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. “This will help us be more productive as researchers.” Other scientists say they now regularly use LLMs not only to edit manuscripts, but also to help them write or check code and to brainstorm ideas. “I use LLMs every day now,” says Hafsteinn Einarsson, a computer scientist at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik. He started with GPT-3, but has since switched to ChatGPT, which helps him to write presentation slides, student exams and coursework problems, and to convert student theses into papers. “Many people are using it as a digital secretary or assistant,” he says.
LLMs form part of search engines, code-writing assistants and even a chatbot that negotiates with other companies’ chatbots to get better prices on products. ChatGPT’s creator, OpenAI in San Francisco, California, has announced a subscription service for $20 per month, promising faster response times and priority access to new features (although its trial version remains free). And tech giant Microsoft, which had already invested in OpenAI, announced a further investment in January, reported to be around $10 billion. LLMs are destined to be incorporated into general word- and data-processing software. Generative AI’s future ubiquity in society seems assured, especially because today’s tools represent the technology in its infancy.