AI to benefit academic publishers the most, says PA report

AI to benefit academic publishers the most, says PA report

A report compiled by the Publishers Association has found that one in six publishers think Artificial Intelligence will bring about "significant" change for the industry, with academic publishers set to benefit the most.

The report, titled "People Plus Machine: The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Publishing", used surveys and interviews to gauge publishers' thoughts on the current and future use of AI. Evidence and analysis was gathered through a series of telephone interviews with stakeholder publishers, an online survey sent to 132 members of the PA, and three cases studies using the telephone interviews and research. Secondary evidence was amalgamated from a literature review covering AI usage, and regulations concerning its use in the publishing industry.

The online survey, which received 31 responses, suggest that larger publishers are already using AI or exploring its use in organisations, with many beginning this in 2017. Of those, the majority are said to have small internal teams focused on research, with around half based in the UK.

Currently, the most used application of AI is content classification using metadata tagging, a process by which content is identified using key words from the text to enhance discoverability.

According to the report, AI is being applied throughout the publishing value chain, but currently with fewer resources used for customer service. Large publishers are most commonly using AI to acquire and develop new content (45% of large AI-active publishers). The PA predicts that future uses of AI will include the continued identification of market trends, copyright infringement and plagiarism checks, assisting with the verification of research and retail. 

It is suggested AI holds particular potential for academic publishers, such as sourcing relevant peer reviewers, and creating tools to make decisions in clinics, and assisting with remote learning. Writing for The Bookseller, Dan Conway, director for external events at the PA, said the industry is at a "watershed moment for investment in this area"  and the PA was "urging policy makers to treat the development of AI with due care".  The organisation is sharing the report's conclusions with the government, in the hope it will "feed into those discussions as they develop". 

He added: "We want high-quality AI products and a regulatory framework which supports these, including maintaining the strong intellectual property framework that stimulates investment in the underpinning data and information that we all rely on."

The report also acknowledged barriers to the investment in AI solutions, noting the significance of intellectual property law application that is needed to create a stable investment environment.

AI software incurs large upfront costs which Conway said may be "prohibitive" for smaller publishers, suggesting government funds should be made available for these businesses. 

The report highlighted barriers to investment in AI, noting that a lack of skills, difficulty applying AI programmes within existing IT infrastructure, lack of awareness of potential benefits, and large costs were significant hurdles in the publishing industry. 

Despite this, publishers surveyed scored the importance of AI in the industry over the next five years at an average of 69, based on a scale of 0-100, with one in six publishers expecting the industry "experience a significant transformation" with widespread AI use.