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ChatGPT Blog Post Series Part 2 – ChatGPT: Tales of Caution for Academic and Scientific Writer

Are all of our writing troubles in a scientific or technical field over? Can ChatGPT rescue a suffering scientific writer living in a never-ending time crunch, swimming in a sea of ever-expanding scientific literature and enduring that always nagging I -am-not-a-good-writer feeling? With all the capabilities of ChatGPT and its ease of use, it is very enticing to jump in and start using it for your time consuming and energy depleting writing projects such as articles, dissertations, theses, proposals or presentations and get support from outlining to literature summaries and more.

However, ChatGPT is not an errorproof tool. It has several serious cautions that you need to keep in mind if you want to start using it for academic writing. Some of these include the inability to check facts, providing generic answers, lacking critical thinking ability, sensitivity to paraphrasing or repeating the input query, and limiting the journal options available to you.

Here are additional details on what these may mean for your writing:

  • ChatGPT is unable to fact-check or utilize discernment. This means that ChatGPT can write plausible-sounding but incorrect or biased answers. You should always verify the accuracy and reliability of ChatGPT's output.

  • ChatGPT lacks the depth of a human expert, and its output should not be taken as scientific knowledge. For example, ChatGPT can write general and superficial answers that may not capture the complexity and specificity of your topic or question. You need to supplement ChatGPT's output with your own research and analysis and acknowledge its limitations. You should also cite your sources properly since ChatGPT may not be able to cite correctly or provide accurate references.

  • ChatGPT lacks critical thinking ability and can’t process the complex questions satisfactorily. This means that ChatGPT can write vague and irrelevant answers that may not address your topic or question adequately. You need to refine your query to make it more focused and evaluate ChatGPT's output critically. It may also help to ask follow-up questions or challenge ChatGPT's assumptions if needed however there is no guarantee that follow-up output from ChatGPT will be the most relevant.

  • ChatGPT is known to be sensitive to tweaks to the input phrasing or attempting the same query multiple times. It is not unusual for ChatGPT to write inconsistent or contradictory answers depending on how you phrase your query or how many times you input it. You need to be clear and precise about what response you would like from ChatGPT and check its output for any errors or inconsistencies while avoiding repeating the same query.

  • Writing your academic paper with ChatGPT may limit the journal options you can submit it to. You should be aware that some scientific peer-reviewed journals revised their publication policies to indicate that text and figures generated by AI tools can’t be used and AI tools can’t be listed as authors. On the other hand, the discussion is ongoing whether the output from ChatGPT and other AI tools should be allowed in academic writing and if allowed, what the rules and regulations on its use should be. Some journals have already published papers that included ChatGPT as an author. This has sparked both praise and criticism, and consistently highlighted the urgent need for policies in this area.

In conclusion, ChatGPT is a powerful and versatile tool that can be used for scientific and technical writing in various ways. However, it is not a substitute for human intelligence and critical thinking ability. It is important to use ChatGPT responsibly and ethically, with caution and concern for its potential risks and limitations. We are still at the beginning phases of discovering ChatGPT and being careful and diligent can help us harness the potential benefits of ChatGPT while avoiding its pitfalls.

Stay tuned for the next blog post of the series, where I will take ChatGPT for a test drive and explore some scientific articles written with ChatGPT!

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