ChatGPT shouldn’t be listed as JAMA author—and ChatGPT agrees

Marc Zarefsky , Contributing News Writer

ChatGPT (Generative Pretrained Transformer) may have passed the three tests associated with the United States Medical Licensing Exam, but you won't find the large language model being an author in JAMA® anytime soon.

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Despite the ability to pull wide-ranging data in seconds and present it in a conversational format, ChatGPT is still a tool, according to the JAMA editorial board.

"ChatGPT cannot be an author," said Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, MD, PhD, MAS, editor-in-chief of JAMA and JAMA Network™. "Only humans take responsibility for what they publish. Only humans can talk about their conflicts of interest, can say, ‘Yes, I've looked through all of these citations.’ So our position is only humans can be authors."

Dr. Bibbins-Domingo talked about ChatGPT and its impact on the medical community—for better and for worse—in a recent episode of “AMA Update.”

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The AMA House of Delegates uses the term augmented intelligence (AI) as a conceptualization of artificial intelligence that focuses on AI’s assistive role, emphasizing that its design enhances human intelligence rather than replaces it.

AI has been on the radar of physicians and thought leaders in the medical community for years, but the level of interest in the topic escalated soon after ChatGPT was released last fall. The chatbot is free to access, and it quickly made headlines for passing medical and legal exams, as well as for being used to write papers and articles.

In January, it was found that ChatGPT was already listed as an author on PubMed, the free search engine and database maintained by the National Institutes of Health. That same month, Dr. Bibbins-Domingo co-wrote an editorial in JAMA that examines how editors and publishers use AI-assisted tools to help with daily processes and explains the publication's stance on ChatGPT and other large language models.

"We took a position early on that this is a tool," Dr. Bibbins-Domingo said. "It's like any other tool. If you use a tool when you send us a paper, you should tell us you've used this tool."

ChatGPT relies on machine learning algorithms, statistical models and semantic understanding to generate responses to user prompts, but it doesn't do its own thinking. As a result, it can easily present information that appears to be accurate, but may in fact be wrong.

"What we're learning with these tools like ChatGPT is that they can make many things remarkably easier," Dr. Bibbins-Domingo said. "We also have to be cautious, because they have this wonderful, authoritative way in which information comes forward from them, and sometimes it's misleading or false or biased—and we have to be thinking about this."

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ChatGPT has incredible potential to help physicians when it comes to fulfilling daily tasks. It can also be used as a resource to guide a physician through the content creation process for a journal article, but it should not be the content creator itself.

It's not just Dr. Bibbins-Domingo and her JAMA colleagues who say so. So does ChatGPT.

When asked whether ChatGPT should be an author in a medical journal, the large language model responded: "As an AI language model, I do not have the ability to be an author in a medical journal in the traditional sense. However, I can provide information on medical topics and assist with the writing and research process."

The chatbot went on to explain what physicians should think through as they consider whether to submit an article or study to a medical journal. Afterward, it solidified the point that while it can help people think through the content they want to create, it should not be seen—or treated—as a replacement to them, particularly when it comes to medical journals.

"It is important to also consider any potential conflicts of interest and ensure that all research is conducted ethically and with appropriate oversight," the bot responded. "Ultimately, the decision to pursue authorship in a medical journal should be based on your qualifications, experience, and ability to contribute meaningfully to the field."

AMA Update” covers health care topics affecting the lives of physicians and patients. Hear from physicians and experts on public health, advocacy issues, scope of practice and more—because who’s doing the talking matters. You can catch every episode by subscribing to the AMA’s YouTube channel or the audio-only podcast version, which also features educational presentations and in-depth discussions.