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Can computers really write manuscripts?

Manuscript writer

It can be difficult for the busy research scientist to find the time to sit and write manuscripts while also completing experiments, managing funding applications and handling teaching responsibilities. Yet, timely publications are often critical for maintaining a steady career progression. The latest announcement from sciNote LLC could therefore be seen by some as the perfect solution. It is claimed that Manuscript Writer, an add-on to sciNote’s Electronic Lab Notebook, can use stored project data to generate the first draft of a manuscript including introduction, methods and results. They state that “The discussion section is not included in the draft as it is the section that requires your unique understanding of the specific subject at hand and experience to draw scientific conclusions”. A first draft sent to your inbox within a day sounds ideal, but it is too good to be true?

Retraction Watch first broke the news and questioned whether the use of open access references to generate the draft would lead to plagiarism. A spokesperson from sciNote responded to Retraction Watch explaining that within the draft, Manuscript Writer provides a reference for each paragraph followed by a percentage value describing by how much the text matches the citation. They went on to state, “it is then [the author’s] responsibility to edit and proofread the text”.

This is not the first time that the involvement of artificial intelligence (AI) has been proposed in the publication process. Should we be concerned with this rising trend of automation and could it lead to minimal human involvement in scientific publications? Can computers really match the creative, understanding and probing nature of the human mind? Let’s hope not.


Summary by Jo Chapman, PhD from Aspire Scientific

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