This is really a fascinating story for two reasons.
Two journals have plenty of tough questions to answer for after it was discovered that 120 published research papers were computer-generated and essentially “gibberish.” The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers and Springer, a publisher of scientific journals and research, agreed to remove more than 120 fake studies following an investigation by Cyril Labbe of Joseph Fourier University.
Labbe spent two years analyzing research papers and discovered that more than 120 conference proceedings, as well as research papers attached to specific conferences, were published in 30 different journals, reports Nature. This occurred over the course of five years, from 2008 to 2013, and 16 studies were published in Springer journals and in journals published by the IEEE.
According to Slate, the source of the problem is a prank devised in 2005 by students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. MIT students created a program, SCIgen, that could create fake research papers as a way to test the review process for conferences. The program is free and can be downloaded by anyone to create a fake research paper.
I have several thoughts on this.
- These papers have been on these sites for two years and yet nobody caught this? Does this mean that nobody is using these sites?
- The people who pulled this prank have said nothing for two years. What happens to their reputations now for perpetuating this hoax?
- This is a big blow to the reputation of these journals. In academia, reputation and credentialing are big deals. I wonder how much this will affect the reputation of these journals?
Bonus thought: What happens when people use computers to really generate research papers that are decent? Will they be accepted?
We didn’t used to have these sorts of problems…