Here come the robots: AI risked a scientist’s reputation by putting his name on a bad journal article he didn’t write
dr University of Florida horticultural science professor Kevin Folta searched online for peer-reviewed research that he had authored and co-authored.
The second article that came up in the search was an article attributed to him but not written by him.
He told Cowboy State Daily it was poorly written and reflected low professional standards.
“It was one of those scary moments when you’re in my situation as a scientist tackling controversial issues at times,” Folta said.
ask me something
Authorea is an online writing tool that allows researchers to publish, contribute to, and cite this collaborative research.
Folta said the article appeared to be based on an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit — a discussion and news-gathering website — that he ran a few years ago. In these sessions, users ask experts questions about a topic and have an informal chat about it.
The Authorea article “has AI fingerprints because it appears that the extracted content was not assembled properly by a human,” Folta said.
From the extracted chat content, the software created an article that appeared in a scientific journal format, including an abstract. Folta said it was embarrassing for him as a serious researcher, especially because his name was attached to it.
“It was sloppy. Here is something in my professional history that does not reflect the quality of my work and was done without my knowledge,” Folta said.
In academia, peer-reviewed articles are of great importance to researchers, he said.
“It’s your currency as a scientist. That’s a sacred record, you know,” Folta said.
Folta has been at the center of much controversy because of his efforts to provide people with accurate information about scientific research into the safety of biotechnology, such as genetically modified organisms.
Anti-biotech activists and pro-organic food advocates accuse him of being a propaganda minister for biotech companies. They launched campaigns to prove that he was funded by these companies and no evidence was ever found that he had committed any scientific misconduct.
After years of harassment, he is very wary of any online information attributed to him.
He said another “terrifying moment” was when a colleague suggested he look at his Wikipedia page, to which Folta replied, “I don’t have a Wikipedia page.”
“Oh yes you do,” said the colleague.
Anti-biotech activists influenced the entry.
Folta said his first suspicion was that the Authorea article was an attempted defamation by critics, but when he contacted Wiley, Authorea’s parent company, the article was quickly removed.
A Wiley spokesperson told Cowboy State Daily the article was produced by The Winnower, another open-access online publishing platform for scholarly publications. In 2016, Authorea acquired The Winnower and its content is now hosted on Authorea.
The article was not created using artificial intelligence tools, the spokesman said. Instead, it was part of a partnership with Reddit, where software automatically collected “Ask Me Anything” content and published it as a scholarly article.
Under the definition of artificial intelligence, which are computer systems capable of performing tasks that would normally require human intelligence, the harvester seems to qualify.
“The aim is to make these contributions accessible to a broader public and to make them citable and archive them in the scientific file,” said the spokesman.
Wiley said it appreciates it when people bring these issues to their attention so the company can take action.
“Whenever appropriate, we remove content, for example in the case of research integrity issues or at the author’s request,” the company said.
Artificial intelligence is a development tool used in various applications, including writing computer code and generating images.
An AI system is being developed that would allow skilled programmers to give a computer instructions for a task, and the AI would write the code to complete that task. Midjourney is developing AI software that allows users to add descriptions to an image, which is then automatically illustrated.
ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence chatbot that generates answers to questions asked by humans.
Though praised by some as a valuable resource, it also draws criticism.
Energy expert Alex Epstein asked the chatbot to write a 10-paragraph argument for using more fossil fuels to increase human happiness.
ChatGPT said it violated its program to encourage fossil fuel use because “fossil fuel use … can have serious consequences for human health and well-being.”
Elon Musk responded to Epstein’s tweet about the incident by saying, “There is great danger in teaching an AI to lie.”
Epstein later stated that the software was updated to make a case for using more fossil fuels.
Cowboy State Intelligence
Tyler Lindholm, Wyoming state director for Americans for Prosperity, said Wyoming lawmakers are considering legislation to make the Cowboy State attractive to AI technology companies.
Lindholm said at a recent meeting in Jackson that the Select Committee on Blockchain, Financial Technology and Digital Innovation Technology was represented by several major organizations, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The positive potential of the artificial technology was discussed at the meeting, Lindholm said, but also potential problems, like the one Folta faced with a misattributed item.
That’s “exactly the scenario that I think a lot of people were afraid of.” “Admittedly, I don’t think anyone noticed that a research paper could be incorrectly attributed to the attribution,” Lindholm said.
Lindholm said the goal is to create legislation that allows companies developing AI to establish and grow in Wyoming, but with adequate consumer protections.
“That’s the razor-sharp line that Wyoming legislatures must use the technology with. Without overreacting, but still responding in a way that protects our citizens,” said Lindholm.
Contact Kevin Killough at [email protected]