If you ever find yourself scratching your head over the complicated articles in science and maths journals, don’t feel too bad about yourself. Because there’s a chance that whatever you’re attempting to read is actually 100 per cent, Grade A, peer-reviewed bullshit.
Earlier this week, Nature revealed that scientific journal publishers Springer and IEEE are both removing over 120 published papers after discovering that every single one is nothing more than fancy-sounding gibberish. The fairly egregious oversight was discovered by French computer scientist Cyril Labbé, who’s spent the past two years cataloguing the collection of computer-generated bullshit.
How could something like this possibly get past publishers? Part of the genius of the computer-generated scam is that, at least to the untrained eye, the papers sound like they could be plausible. For instance, one of the papers published as a proceeding from a 2013 engineering conference in China (which supposedly reviews all potential articles “for merits and contents”) is titled “TIC: a methodology for the construction of e-commerce.” Vague, sure, but it’s certainly not absurd. Then comes the abstract:
In recent years, much research has been devoted to the construction of public-private key pairs; on the other hand, few have synthesized the visualisation of the producer-consumer problem. Given the current status of efficient archetypes, leading analysts famously desires the emulation of congestion control, which embodies the key principles of hardware and architecture. In our research, we concentrate our efforts on disproving that spreadsheets can be made knowledge-based, empathic, and compact.
Nothing but big, fancy words in absolutely absurd orders. Interestingly, the entire reason the papers exist in the first place is because of an MIT-made program called SCIgen, a piece of software created in 2005 for the sole purpose of proving that conferences constantly accept nonsensical papers. And, of course, “to maximise amusement.” Anyone can download it and use it, so no one is quite sure exactly who is behind the gibberish discovered thus far — and real scientists names are used as the supposed “authors.”
Sixteen of the papers were published by Springer while over 100 of the bizarre culprits were put out by the IEEE, and since all papers are supposedly peer-reviewed, the publishers are having a hard time explaining exactly how this happened. And it definitely doesn’t have anything to do with collecting more publishing fees, no sir.[Nature]