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The Media

Publishers Withdraw More Than 120 Fake Papers 62

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the trolling-journals-for-no-particular-reason dept.
bmahersciwriter writes "Over the past two years, computer scientist Cyril Labbé of Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble, France, has cataloged computer-generated papers that made it into more than 30 published conference proceedings between 2008 and 2013. Sixteen appeared in publications by Springer, which is headquartered in Heidelberg, Germany, and more than 100 were published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), based in New York. Both publishers, which were privately informed by Labbé, say that they are now removing the papers." Looks like journal trolling is really easy.
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Publishers Withdraw More Than 120 Fake Papers

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    For artificial intelligence to actually say something

  • Well, it's great to hear that the algorithms are getting so good! That's awesome progress in AI.

    Too bad our AIs are apparently now smarter than our journal reviewers/editors. Well, at least in the specific domain of the jobs these people have probably been doing every day for years....

    • Too bad our AIs are apparently now smarter than our journal reviewers/editors. Well, at least in the specific domain of the jobs these people have probably been doing every day for years....

      Thank Goodness we never have a problem like that on the green line site.

    • by N0Man74 (1620447)

      Well, it's great to hear that the algorithms are getting so good! That's awesome progress in AI.

      Obviously, this AI should be given tenure!

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Fun fact - Joseph Fourier University is named after the dude that came up with the Fourier transform, something that many of us use everyday in our work.
  • by Rinikusu (28164) on Monday February 24, 2014 @07:54PM (#46329895)

    Maybe I should stop right there in case someone gets a bright fucking idea.

    • by sexconker (1179573) on Monday February 24, 2014 @08:00PM (#46329965)

      Maybe I should stop right there in case someone gets a bright fucking idea.

      Too late. I already patented the computer-generated patent.

    • by TrollstonButterbeans (2914995) on Monday February 24, 2014 @11:40PM (#46331375)
      Most of these computer generated papers have valuable ideas we need to consider.

      Statistics indicate that 1 in 24.3 of these computer generated papers have uniquely valuable scientific advancements. But the real-world ratio is about 1:99.7 --- the 3 sigma rule.

      If these computer-generated papers are exceeding the productivity of the actual papers by a 4 to 1 margin, a big opportunity is being missed and it doesn't matter why.

      A true case of an unintended result exceed the effectiveness of your average deliberate result. Short version: a 4% rate actually exceeds the real-world discovery rate. This should not be ignored, coincidence or not.
    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      No no, we should develop one ourselves and deploy it immediately! Generate millions of patents to grind the system to a halt and make sure there is always prior art in some bizarrely worded patent to break everything already issued.

  • by fermion (181285) on Monday February 24, 2014 @07:57PM (#46329923) Homepage Journal
    I recall when someone went down my block and the window of every car parked on the street. It was a crime, but really there was no easy way to catch the perp, and we just replaced the glass. We continued to park on the street, did not pay for huge security expense, and it never really happened again. Some kids probably just goofing off. No real profit in the crime. Just hooliganism.

    Which is what this seems like. The process of science is not going to jeopardize itself just because some board kids want to vandalize the walls and get attention. If we change the process not to improve it, but just to defend against the Justin Beibers of the world, what good would that do?

    As it is there are safeguards in place. As much as people deride the cost of publishing, this reduces the incentive of hooligans to publish purely fake papers. Peer review, which does not protect against purposeful fraudulent papers, does keep a reign on the problem. Then there is simple principle that a single paper is just that, a single paper. It is one data point, and even if referenced widely, is in no way fact.

    This also makes me recall the 'confusing' health debate. Like what to eat, what not to eat, etc. The problem is that many people read a popular media report based on a single piece of research and think it is true. This misconception indicates the problem with science education in America. That one result is meaningful. That our basic principles of science were developed fully in one paper, with no background, and no adjustment as more data was taken. For instance, relativity was based on at least hundred years of research. Einstein pretty much observed single discrepancy in the magnetic/electrical field and formulated a correction.

    • by Obfuscant (592200) on Monday February 24, 2014 @08:20PM (#46330129)

      Just hooliganism. Which is what this seems like.

      This. Someone found a system that was based on trust and decided to try to beat it. Yawn.

      Conferences are not journals. The peer-review comes during the presentation, not when the abstract is submitted. If the session moderator doesn't know the submitter, maybe he'll look at the abstract a bit more closely, but he's not going to send the abstract out to three other people in the field to vet it. So it gets published.

      A very long time ago someone did this as a joke at a conference I went to. The talk was about "a hole in the bottom of the ocean. There's a log in the hole in the bottom of the ocean. There's a frog on the log in the hole in the bottom of the ocean..." OMG! How awful. A bit of fun on the session moderator's part. Nobody got shot or fired. We all survived.

      • by pz (113803) on Monday February 24, 2014 @09:11PM (#46330489) Journal

        Conferences are not journals. The peer-review comes during the presentation, not when the abstract is submitted. If the session moderator doesn't know the submitter, maybe he'll look at the abstract a bit more closely, but he's not going to send the abstract out to three other people in the field to vet it. So it gets published.

        Depends on the field. Some conferences are very hard to get into, and there is a rigorous peer-review process (I can think of two of the conferences in my field with acceptance rates at or below 30%). Others accept essentially anything and everything (like those semi-scam conferences in China I keep getting invited to). I'd wager, however, that the majority of meetings are somewhere in the middle, accepting most submissions that sound reasonable, as the organizers trust that the cost of attending and presenting is sufficient disincentive to trolls.

      • I've never been to a conference with a junk submission accepted, or a junk presentation. Many conferences in my field reject submissions that are real but low-quality, even for a poster session. Talks are always competitive. I chaired a conference last year. We rejected some submissions that were uninteresting or poorly written. For most of those, the submission was read by two professors before rejecting it. We received no computer-generated submissions.

        I sometimes get spammed or "invited" by suspiciously

    • Peer review, which does not protect against purposeful fraudulent papers, does keep a reign on the problem.

      I love ironic mistakes with homophones. In some small disciplines, which are controlled by a small number of people in a particular paradigm, this might actually be a true statement.

    • by enzo1 (931050)

      Peer review, which does not protect against purposeful fraudulent papers

      We aren't talking about fraudulent papers; we're talking about joke papers that aren't even reviewed, so much as proofread and rubber-stamped.

    • But we are assured that the scientific process will not support such blatantly false outcomes. When something is proven, then it is Science and anyone who opposes it is evil, insane or a denialist. Obviously peers will review the science and reject it if it is false. Moreover, if science cannot be repeated, then it must be false as well.

      These papers should all have been rejected. They weren't. This opens a big can of worms - what other false science has led us in the wrong direction? Who can say? It

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        These papers should all have been rejected. They weren't. This opens a big can of worms

        It doesn't. This is a known problem. It's accounted for in two ways. One, most of those papers will never be cited by anyone. Two, if they are cited by anyone, it increases the chances that people with brains will read them and decide they are bullshit; they may even try to reproduce the results.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by JoeMerchant (803320)

      I think this is a perfect example of peer review NOT working - were any of these papers supposed to be peer reviewed? If they were, the reviewers should lose their reviewer status for letting the CG papers through.

      The peer review system should be continually challenged by this sort of input - at least 10% of the papers submitted should be clearly bogus - it doesn't waste significant reviewers' time - they should be spending hours reviewing a genuine submission, one of these fakes should be detectable withi

      • At first he was randomly generating papers! Then articles!

        Now he's randomly generating Slashdot comments!

        Turn the program OFF! NAO!! You've been caught RED-HANDED!

        You thought you could get away with it and dodge detection by using an English sounding name, but it didn't work and you are SO BUSTED.
      • The sort of places these are published in have no standards in the first place. There are always predatory journals and also good quality journals. The issue here is that IEEE and Springer have low standards about what journals they allow.
    • by stenvar (2789879)

      science has no defense against hooliganism

      Science does have a defense against hooliganism, and you point it out: time and replication.

      This misconception indicates the problem with science education in America. That one result is meaningful.

      That's not a "misconception", it's something that's actively promoted politically because it can be used to justify political agendas in areas such as social policy, economics, climate, health, and drugs. The current administration has taken that kind of misuse of science

  • by hey! (33014) on Monday February 24, 2014 @08:38PM (#46330271) Homepage Journal

    I recently did some literature research into ontology technology, and was shocked by how many papers were pot-boilers that disguised trivial ideas with inflated language. These were papers that had absolutely no discernible academic value other than to pad a resume, and collect but a smattering of citations, mostly from similar papers. In comparison the seminal papers, the ones that get tons of citations for years to come are robust, thought-provoking and well-written.

    Granted the well-written part probably has something to do with attracting future citations, but I think the trivial nature of the useless papers probably has something to do with their obscure style.

    • by plover (150551)

      Publish or perish is a quantity driver, not a quality driver. As long as you can deliver the numbers to your department, it doesn't seem to matter if you work your butt off, get a program to generate them for you, or if you have a grad student puff up the quadratic equation into 20 pages of fluffery.

  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Monday February 24, 2014 @08:45PM (#46330325) Homepage
    In many fields conference proceedings have little to no oversight. These papers don't get noticed at all or cited and for most purposes don't exist. The only real issue I can see here is that a large fraction of these are apparently coming from China and this is consistent with prior reports of serious problems with academic quality coming from China. It is possible that people are using these essentially fake papers to boost their publication counts which may give them some advantages as long as no one looks closely, but any institution that is a serious institution will look at everything one has published. I actually found this point more interesting:

    Labbé emphasizes that the nonsense computer science papers all appeared in subscription offerings. In his view, there is little evidence that open-access publishers — which charge fees to publish manuscripts — necessarily have less stringent peer review than subscription publishers.

    Considering how many complaints there are about low-quality open-access journals, this suggests that that isn't nearly as much of an issue as some people are claiming.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 24, 2014 @10:12PM (#46330879)

      In CS, well-refereed conference proceedings often exceed journal publications in their contemporaneous impact and prestige value to authors. CS journals typically take 2 years to process a manuscript to publication. Way too slow for a fast-moving field. Good conferences will have a 20% manuscript acceptance rate (been there, done that, as author and reviewer, many times) with only useful papers presented and put into proceedings, only a few months after research results have been written up.

      I had the privilege of educating a dean about the value of selectively-refereed conference proceedings for academic computer scientists. It worked. Also educated about the adjunct value of releasing research software to the specialized communities, if the usage and impact can be documented.

      • by don.g (6394)

        I have no mod points, so take this as a "me too". CS conferences have prestige and a high impact value -- and the papers in the proceedings are full papers, not just abstracts.

        In some other fields (a friend of mine tells me this is what biology is like), conference talks may be submitted with just an abstract, and the proceedings may not contain much more than Powerpoint slides. I've never seen a CS conference where that would be considered remotely acceptable practice.

      • 2 years? jesus. Perhaps you should start a competing journal. Both other scientific fields I'm familiar with take a few months to get the first round of reviews back.

    • by Tom (822)

      This.

      I've spoken at a couple conferences, and due to that I still get invitations to send in papers to this or that conference about every other month. From the tone of those mails, they sound very much desperate for papers and I'm fairly sure I could pretty up some crap I'd otherwise post to a blog and send it in and it would get published.

    • Some institutions intentionally don't look too closely. The university at which I work, a state university in the southeastern US, will take a person with a degree from the University of Phoenix or even with an honorary degree. Doesn't matter, just as long as you have the right political connections. The Tennessee Board of Regents actually passed a resolution or made a statement, I forget the correct terms, that a degree is a degree. This is when a basketball coach was found to have a diploma mill degree. A
  • These stories of journals being trolled are on the increase. I wonder how long until the first fake paper is published about fake papers being published.

  • Reject this Crap (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DrNico (691592) on Monday February 24, 2014 @09:43PM (#46330689)
    As someone who reviews papers (by humans) for conferences and regularly says "reject this crap" (politely, and with reasons) only to see the paper accepted, I'm not too surprised.
  • by jopsen (885607) <jopsen@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @12:12AM (#46331529) Homepage
    Next step must be to make computer generated papers that gets citations... :)

  • The real problem is that universities demand publication of your paper in a "renown" magazine. These magazines know you need to get published and thus are willing to publish anything, as long as you pay the hefty fee required. These magazines have no incentive to check for the quality of the submissions, since relatively very few people actually read the magazines and skip the publications that don't interest them. Give your publication an uninteresting title and people will most likely skip it.

    If Univers
  • What a shame they used a computer to create fake papers! My god, one-hundred and twenty! Incidentally, did you know eating bananas prevents cancer? Yes! I read it in a study. Thank god people are producing thousands upon thousands of real studies!

  • Remember: this is the same peer review that many of the scientific results that government policies are justified with are based on.

    Both science and peer review are a good thing, but you can only start trusting scientific results after decades have passed and after they have been replicated numerous times.

  • which a branch of computational physics. They just would not work. However I dont have the time nor possibly the expertise to patrol the myraid of other field out there. 20 years from now most are in the dustbin.

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