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Generative artificial intelligence is infiltrating peer review process

The advancement of scientific research has been rapid in recent years, leading to a surge in the number of manuscript submissions and posing formidable challenges to peer review processes. In addressing these challenges, some generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools have emerged as potentially effective solutions [1, 2]. For instance, Saad et al. [3] explored the efficiency and efficacy of one such generative AI tool, the ChatGPT, in the peer review process. Each article underwent review by two human reviewers alongside ChatGPT 3.5 and ChatGPT 4. ChatGPT was tasked with providing three positive and three negative comments on the articles, along with recommendations for acceptance or rejection. Their findings demonstrated ChatGPT was able to complement human scientific peer review, improving the efficiency and timeliness of the editorial process. Verharen et al. [4] utilized ChatGPT to examine language usage in over 500 publicly available peer review reports from 200 neuroscience papers published between 2022 and 2023. The findings revealed that the majority of reviews for these published papers were deemed favorable by ChatGPT (89.8% of reviews), with language use characterized as predominantly polite (99.8% of reviews). This study underscores the potential of generative AI in natural language processing of specialized scientific texts. However, careful consideration is warranted in balancing the roles of AI tools and human experts to ensure fairness and reliability in the peer review process.

One recent study has compared the use of adjectives in over 146,000 peer reviews submitted to the same conference before and after the advent of ChatGPT [5]. Analysis revealed a significant increase in the frequency of certain positive adjectives, such as commendable, innovative, notable and versatile, since the integration of the chatbot into the mainstream. However, some scholars speculate that this phenomenon may stem from non-native English-speaking reviewers using ChatGPT for adjusting and refining English writing. Given the gradual infiltration of generative AI tools into academic peer review, scholarly publishers and relevant institutions have begun issuing regulations regarding the use of such tools in the peer review process.

On June 23, 2023, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) implemented a ban on the use of online generative AI tools like ChatGPT for analysis and drafting of peer review comments. The Australian Research Council (ARC) also prohibited the use of generative AI in peer review. Concerning journals, the latest recommendations from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) suggest that reviewers should not upload manuscripts to software or other AI technology platforms that cannot guarantee confidentiality. Reviewers should disclose to the journal whether and how AI technology was used in evaluating manuscripts or drafting reviewer comments. The journal Science prohibits the use of large language models during peer review and prohibits reviewers from uploading manuscripts to generative AI tools. The Lancet maintains that reviewers should refrain from using generative AI or AI-assisted technologies to assist in the scientific review of papers. Reviewers must treat papers shared by editors as confidential during the peer review process and should not upload papers or any part thereof to AI tools. This is because the critical thinking and assessment of research originality required in peer review extend beyond the scope of this technology, posing certain risks such as generating incorrect, incomplete, or biased conclusions about manuscript submissions. In addition, JAMA now includes in its reviewer instructions the following: entering any portion of the manuscript, abstract, or reviewer comments into chatbots, language models, or similar tools violates their confidentiality agreement. If the reviewers use an AI tool in a manner that does not violate the journal’s confidentiality policy, they must provide the name and usage method of the tool.

We also further summarized the requirements for the peer review process of the top ten journals with the highest impact factor in the field of critical care medicine. As shown in Table 1, with the exception of Lancet Respiratory Medicine, the other nine journals have no statement on AI and AI-assisted technologies in peer review process. Therefore, we call on relevant journals to take action and promptly update their policies on the use of AI tools in peer review.

Table 1 Statement on AI and AI-assisted technologies in peer review in the top ten journals with the highest impact factor in the field of critical care medicine

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The raw data of the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank “home-for-researchers (www.home-for-researchers.com)” for their effort in polishing the English content of this manuscript.

Funding

This study is supported by China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2022M720385) and Beijing JST Research Funding (YGQ-202313).

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CK, SZ, LX and WH designed the study. CK and WH analyzed the data and drafted the manuscript. WH and LC revised and approved the final version of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the submitted version.

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Correspondence to Haiyang Wu or Cheng Li.

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Cheng, K., Sun, Z., Liu, X. et al. Generative artificial intelligence is infiltrating peer review process. Crit Care 28, 149 (2024). https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.1186/s13054-024-04933-z

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