Springer Nature in the UK: Two AI Tools Aim at Fake Research

In News by Porter Anderson

The bid to protect valid research amid a rising tide of fake content is driving Springer Nature to create new in-house tools for detection.

Image – Getty iStockphoto: Viktoria Voievodina

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

AI-on-AI  Protection for Researchers
In an era in which every service and app you have seems to be announcing “our new AI-powered enhancement”—sometimes deploying it without giving you a chance to opt out—the stakes can be sky-high in the academic and scholarly publishing sector. Authenticity and accuracy are the tokens of that realm. Reputations and careers can founder on fake research.

At Springer Nature in London, two programs—of course called “AI tools”—are being put into play following pilots and testing as AI-on-AI protection for researchers. Both are intended to help identify writings that contain AI-generated fake content or “problematic” images. These are among the more interesting cases of programs developed to battle other programs.

One is named Geppetto and the other is Snappshot.

Geppetto—in Italian, this is a Tuscan diminutive of the name Giuseppe—has been developed with a division of Springer Nature acquired in 2023, the Slimmer AI Science Division. it works to detect AI-generated content, a classic indication of course, of paper mill activity.

Geppetto works, the company reports, by dividing the paper up into sections and uses proprietary algorithms to check the consistency of the text in each section. The sections are then given a score based on the probability that the text in them has been AI-generated.

The higher the score, the greater the probability of there being problems, initiating a human check by Springer Nature staff. Geppetto, the company says, already is responsible for identifying hundreds of fake papers soon after submission, preventing them from being published. Thanks to their early intervention, they also stop these fakes from wasting the time of editors and peer reviewers.

SnappShot is also an aid that’s been developed in-house, as the name suggests, devised as an AI-assisted image-integrity analysis tool.

It’s currently being used to analyze PDF files containing gel and blot images and look for duplication in those image types—another known integrity problem within the industry. This is expected to be expanded to cover additional image types and integrity problems and speed up checks on papers.

Human Decision-Making

As with Geppetto, SnappShot doesn’t independently make the decision on whether a submission should move to the next stage of the editorial process. Instead, company spokespeople say, provide a signal for whether human assessment of the images is needed.

The tool is said not only to help avoid publishing duplicated or manipulated data, but also to support good feedback for authors on their figures, for example where figures have been inadvertently duplicated, encouraging higher standards of research and data management.

Chris Graf

Chris Graf, research integrity director at Springer Nature says in a prepared statement, “The publishing industry faces a determined, malicious threat from paper mills and/or bad actors who submit fake papers containing fabricated data. We’re determined that this content will not get through our systems.

“These attempts can have serious consequences for trust in science and investigating; resolving them can take up an enormous amount of time and resources.

“Our new tools, which we’re constantly improving, are helping us to stay one step ahead of the fraudsters.”

With more “AI tools’ on the way, Springer Nature reports that it’s committed to ongoing collaborative work with the wider publishing community as a contributing organization in the STM Integrity Hub (mentioned a year ago in our story here), which facilitates knowledge and data exchange and develops shared technology tools.

More from Publishing Perspectives on open artificial intelligence is here, more on scholarly and academic publishing is here, and more on Springer Nature is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.