News: Academic Publishing Weekly

EU legislation on AI, retractions skyrocket in 2023, and celebrating book cover design

By Choice Staff
Academic publishing weekly graphic. Reads "the latest curated news from around the industry." Dark purple background with geometric shapes.

European Legislation on AI Advances

The European Union’s “AI Act” was agreed upon last week, making Europe the first continent to put forth extensive legislation on artificial intelligence. Centered on foundation models—i.e., “major systems devised to ingest vast amounts of data and produce output as ‘generative AI’”—the AI Act sets numerous guardrails concerning transparency and security. According to the Associated Press, “The companies building foundation models will have to draw up technical documentation, comply with EU copyright law and detail the content used for training.” Porter Anderson of Publishing Perspectives described several other uses prohibited by the act, also mentioning that extra caution would be applied to models that pose national security risks. A final vote is required by the European Parliament in 2024, and those who fail to comply with the act could face hefty fines up to $37.7 million. However, some critics note that due to the fast pace of AI innovation, questions loom over the act’s true impact. [Publishing Perspectives]

Retractions Are on the Rise

A new analysis from Nature revealed that the “number of retractions issued for research articles in 2023 has passed 10,000 – smashing annual records.” Commenting on the analysis, Nature’s Richard Van Noorden noted that Wiley’s Hindawi journals “have pulled more than 8,000 articles” in 2023, a statistic that may be unsurprising given Hindawi’s previous trouble with paper mills. As for retracted conference papers, the majority are from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Looking at the retractions by country, Saudi Arabia ranks highest, but is superseded by China when also considering conference papers. Van Noorden further emphasized that the number of retracted papers is growing at a faster rate than those being published, as “this year’s deluge means that the total number of retractions issued so far has passed 50,000.” [Nature]

AI Lawsuit Update and Using Scholarly Research for AI Training Data

In a recent filing in the AI copyright lawsuit against Meta, authors contend that the company ignored cautions from its lawyers on the legality of LLaMA’s training data. Specifically, Katie Paul of Reuters explained that the filing “includes chat logs of a Meta-affiliated researcher discussing procurement of the dataset in a Discord server, a potentially significant piece of evidence indicating that Meta was aware that its use of the books may not be protected by U.S. copyright law.” Paul also addressed the impact of Europe’s “AI Act,” underscoring that additional legal perils may arise if companies are required to report their training data. Viewing AI in a more favorable light, Stuart Leitch, Chief Technology Officer at Silverchair, advocated for the use of scholarly research to train large language models. Building on a presentation from Silverchair’s Platform Strategies 2023, Leitch underlined the importance of curated and “wise” training data, also noting the rapidly advancing capabilities of AI. As Leitch posited, “…rather than trying to get premium scholarly information out of LLM training sets, we should fight to get it in there, on terms that are economically sustainable.”

Publishing Sales Flat in September

The Association of American Publishers (AAP) released its September 2023 StatShot report, revealing static revenues across the U.S. publishing industry when comparing September 2023 numbers to those from September 2022. In more positive news, the report found that “revenues from higher education course materials were up 0.7 percent for the month” and also recorded a year-to-date increase in higher education sales. Overall market numbers were up year-to-date as well, rising 0.8 percent. [Publishing Perspectives]

The Year’s Best Book Covers

Tar Hollow Trans book cover

Several book cover designers shared their picks for Literary Hub’s best covers of 2023, a welcome addition to the numerous book lists released this month. Featuring 139 covers, Szilvia Molnar’s The Nursery from Pantheon, designed by Linda Huang, was the top cover of the year. Alex Camlin’s cover design for Mary Ziegler’s Roe: The History of a National Obsession from Yale University Press and Jaya Miceli’s work on Stacy Jane Grover’s Tar Hollow Trans from the University Press of Kentucky also earned mentions. The New York Times also shared its favorite 2023 book covers, featuring captivating photography, designs on complex topics, and thoughts on emotions the covers provoke in readers.