Using AI tools for manuscript submission – an update

In 2018, at the Frankfurt Book Fair, UNSILO introduced its machine-learning concept-extraction tool for manuscript submissions. Although there had been some small-scale demonstrations of the technology before that, for example Jane, the “Journal Name Estimator”, introduced as long ago as 2007, the UNSILO tools were the first full suite of checks to use AI in the submission process. UNSILO Evaluate tools comprised, from day one:

  • Technical Checks, such as identifying ethics and conflict of interest statements, missing figure legends, and missing citations
  • Reviewer Finder, identifying the most relevant reviewers, not using keywords, but by rigorous AI-based concept comparison with over 30 million published articles
  • Journal Match, using a semantic profile for around 20,000 journals in biomedical sciences

Soon after that presentation, UNSILO concluded deals with ScholarOne , the leading manuscript tracking software (MTS) package, and subsequently with Manuscript Manager. The ScholarOne integration is now complete and the Technical Checks, now numbering over 30, are available within ScholarOne to all their publisher clients. Then, in February 2020, UNSILO was acquired by Cactus Communications. Cactus had created a suite of language-based tools, checking for language quality and inappropriate language, and these are now being incorporated in the Evaluate Technical Checks.

Commented Mikael Flensborg, head of B2B products at UNSILO:

We can confidently state we have the most complete range of submission checks available on the market. However, the fundamental principle of all our checks remains the same: we leave the decision-making to the human editor. We provide suggestions and potential problems, but the human is in control at all times.

Our checks are becoming steadily more sophisticated, for example our conflict of interest check is now based on a training set of thousands of articles that had been evaluated by a team of humans to identify sentences and phrases that could be construed as creating a conflict of interest. So we are no longer simply carrying out a simple string match in these areas. I am confident we find potential conflicts of interest that a human editor would only find by reading the entire manuscript from start to finish, which is simply not possible given the dramatic increase in the number of article submissions – several publishers have reported a doubling of their submissions received during 2020 as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Neil Blair Christensen, head of North American Sales, UNSILO, added: “As a former editorial director, I can see the benefits of these screening tools in light of ever increasing submissions and requirements, not to replace people, because much of the work is complex and requires a person’s judgment, fine touch, and context, but to lift capacity in a workflow that is poised for continued growth and increased screening complexities.”

Most importantly, the UNSILO submission tools are independent of any publisher. We provide tools for publishers, but we do not compete with any publisher. We work with publishers, with pre-print repository managers, and with academics, but we do not publish journals, and we do not compete with any of them.

What is next for these submission tools? Most importantly, the tools are not limited to one or two subject domains. During 2020, UNSILO will expand its corpus coverage to include the entirety of scholarly publishing. This means that humanities and social science publishers will be able to take advantage of the same technology as biomedical and life science publishers currently benefit from. Commented Neil Christensen, “I suspect that it may soon be unlikely to imagine manuscript checking at scale done entirely by hand. The resulting lift from people using smart technology plug-ins to augment their capacity to screen for different nuances of rigor and merit will extend from journal manuscript screening to preprint badges, and onto other research objects, such as protocols, grant applications, and micropublications.”

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