Although artificial intelligence (AI) tools can accelerate your work, they’re also limited in how they can ease the work of scientists and scientific writers. We look into the two edges of AI – particularly ChatGPT – how they can simplify your work, and why these tools will not replace science communicators… yet. Luckily, scientific writers can take advantage of ChatGPT in science communication.
ChatGPT is all over social media and the news; it’s the new hype! Rarely do we find a tool that’s so praised and feared on the web, depending on the professional group you ask. Programmers seem to embrace how ChatGPT and similar AI tools boost their work. Meanwhile, some artists seem less happy with what they may perceive as cheating.
The same duality appears in science, particularly among scientific writers and communicators. You’ll find excitement over the advancements and benefits of AI tools but also fear of the diminishing demands they may cause.
What’s ChatGPT in scientific writing
ChatGPT is a variant of the GPT (Generative Pre-training Transformer) language model developed by OpenAI specifically for chatbot applications. ChatGPT has been trained on diverse text data, including conversational transcripts, news articles, and books. It’s designed to generate human-like text responses to input prompts, making it useful for various applications, including scientific writing. (ChatGPT’s words, not mine.)
In other words, you can request ChatGPT to provide you with information, and it will give you content that matches your queries. For example, you can ask ChatGPT to “Explain quantum computing in simple terms.” You can also specify the response format you request, for example, word limitations or styles.
The benefits of ChatGPT
So, how can science communicators, such as scientific writers, benefit from ChatGPT?
ChatGPT can generate text responses quickly, saving time for other aspects of your research or writing. For example, say you’re writing an article on the advances of a particular biotechnology tool and need background information about its discovery for the introduction. Assigning these to AI tools leaves you extra time to focus on your primary task, for example, asking it to generate an outline or summary of the basic facts. Of course, please make sure the generated text is accurate.
You can use ChatGPT to generate new ideas and perspectives, helping to stimulate your creativity and improve your writing. Since you can ask ChatGPT anything, you can explore content ideas you’d not considered or optimal outlines for your topics.
Improved writing style
Especially for researchers with little experience in communication, ChatGPT can help you write in a more natural and engaging style. It can help researchers improve their social media content, creating scientific posts and other content with increased reach potential. For example, tell ChatGPT to generate a tweet describing the potential of CRISPR/Cas9 for the clinic using Gary Vee’s style.
ChatGPT can facilitate collaboration between researchers by allowing multiple people to contribute to a document in real time. This feature can facilitate researchers to outline and summarize research projects. For example, you could connect ChatGPT to Google Docs or Microsoft Office, in which ChatGPT could generate responses based on the users’ input. All users can then see the changes made to the document in real time and make suggestions or corrections as needed.
Faster literature research
Accelerate the selection of literature by asking ChatGPT to summarize a text in laypeople’s terms, which will streamline your literature selection before or while writing. Still, and I can’t emphasize enough, you must read the literature after selecting your articles.
Is ChatGPT a threat to scientific writers?
As to whether ChatGPT can be a threat to scientific writers, my answer becomes “both yes and no.” It depends on how or if you use the tool as a writer. ChatGPT and other AI tools can simplify science writing and communication. We’ll probably see a shift toward certain AI-produced content, especially those relying on already-made material, for example, abstracts, press releases, or summaries. ChatGPT can create these within seconds if you provide the source. But there’s more to writing than just information:
Although ChatGPT can generate human-like texts, scientific content is more than a source of information. They contain the writer’s personality and offer a different level of nuance and creativity than the AI tools can. The author’s footprints cover each article, brochure, blog, and white paper. You follow certain authors or journalists because you like how they convey their messages, not only to get information.
Reporting on new, internal findings
How about new findings and technologies that haven’t been published yet? ChatGPT can generate texts related to your novelties but cannot create content based on internal, unpublished results. Making this material requires human involvement, for example, through communication between a scientific writer and researchers.
Searching and reviewing the literature
An essential aspect of scientific writing is finding and reviewing the literature and references, which ChatGPT cannot reliably provide. I’d even argue that it would go against a scientific writer’s interest to outsource reference research and reviewing to an automated tool. Or, using ChatGPT’s own words, “Its output should be carefully reviewed and fact-checked before being used in any published work. Using multiple sources and approaches in your research is also good, rather than relying solely on a language model.”
Hopefully, you want to maintain some control of the resources you present.
Diversifying the discourse
The more we rely on AI tools, the more we risk homogenizing the discourse. Resources can enter a positive feedback loop in which AI tools learn from existing, AI-derived resources. This reliance on AI can exponentially expand the presence of one type of information, considering AI’s potential biases. To avoid these echo chambers, we need a diverse group of scientific writers and communicators in general.
How you should use ChatGPT as a scientific writer
Instead of perceiving ChatGPT as a competitor, you’d be better off taking advantage of its strengths and weaknesses.
Use it to inspire, structure, and propel your writing by asking it to outline an article. Ask ChatGPT to create primary content, for example, drafting article summaries or highlighting well-established information. Let the tool fast-track your literature research and consumption, which leaves you time for writing.
You’ll be happy to take care of the more intricate tasks, which you love doing anyway. Don’t compete with AI; adapt your work according to the tools and let them work for you. Doing so will set you ahead of the competition and give you advantages over writers who refuse to use new technology.
Or, as Bruce Lee once put it,
“Be formless, shapeless, like water. Now, you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it [into] a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”