[Paleopsych] CHE: MIT Students' Program for Generating Phony Computer-Science Papers Produces a Winner
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Mon Apr 18 14:31:51 UTC 2005
MIT Students' Program for Generating Phony Computer-Science Papers Produces
News bulletin from the Chronicle of Higher Education, 5.4.15
By ANDREA L. FOSTER
Fill a paper with gobbledygook, add some fake charts, slap on a title
dense with highfalutin scientific jargon, and -- voilà! --- a
highfalutin conference may actually accept it.
That's what happened when three students at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology submitted a nonsensical research paper to the
ninth World Multi-Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics, and
Informatics, scheduled to be held in Orlando, Fla., in July.
The paper, called "Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification
of Access Points and Redundancy," was accepted by the conference
organizers late last month. A computer program the students had
created in about three weeks to churn out phony computer-science
language randomly generated their four-page paper.
The conclusion of the paper says, "Here we motivated Rooter, an
analysis of rasterization. We leave out a more thorough discussion due
to resource constraints." "Rasterization" is a real computer-science
term, but is meaningless in the context of the paper's gibberish.
Jeremy A. Stribling says he and his co-authors, Maxwell Krohn and
Daniel Aguayo, were motivated to design the program after receiving a
lot of e-mail messages prodding them to submit research papers to the
conference. The three are graduate students in computer science.
"We figured out that they probably didn't have a very strong
peer-review process for these papers," says Mr. Stribling of the
conference organizers. "It's probably just a money-making scheme, so
we thought it would be fun to write some software to generate papers."
After submitting their paper, the students received an e-mail message
from someone identifying himself as Professor Nagib Callaos, of
Orlando, who wrote that their manuscript had been accepted as a
"non-reviewed paper." He did not comment on the paper's content.
But his message to the students said, in part, "Each accepted papers
(reviewed and non-reviewed) is candidate for being best paper of its
respective session and, consequently, it is candidate for a second
reviewing process to be made by the reviewers of the Journal of
Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics (JSCI)." Mr. Callaos also is
listed as the editor-in-chief of the journal.
The students submitted a second random paper, "The Influence of
Probabilistic Methodologies on Networking," which was rejected.
The students then requested a review of the paper, and Mr. Callaos
replied, "As you know there are more perspectives and opinions on this
issue. Willis & Bobys (1983, Perishing in Publishing: An analysis of
rejection letters. Wisconsin sociologist, 20(2-3), 84-91), for
example, found that 54% of the rejection letters provided some
justification for the rejection, and the most frequent reason (19%)
was that the manuscript was 'inappropriate for the journal.'"
Conference administrators did not respond to e-mailed or faxed
requests for comment Thursday. The conference Web site provides a
telephone number in Venezuela, but a call to the number went
The students describe their sleight-of-hand on a Web site that
they are also using to solicit donations so they can attend the
conference. Mr. Stribling says he and his friends have raised $2,200
since Monday, but need only $1,300.
They might return the extra money or "figure out something really cool
to do with it," says Mr. Stribling.
Officials at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando confirmed that the
conference is actually happening there. But Mr. Stribling says he
won't be surprised if he and his friends end up speaking to an empty
room. Some people have called the conference a "vanity press" for
academics who merely want to pad their résumés, says Mr. Stribling.
The students plan to videotape their talk and post it online. "We're
going to write software to generate a random talk, and we're going to
have random slides that come up," says Mr. Stribling.
Their Web site also gives Web visitors a chance to generate their own
phony computer-science papers.
The students' charade is reminiscent of that of Alan Sokal, a New York
University physicist whose nonsensical piece about postmodern quantum
theory was accepted in 1996 for publication in Social Text, an
academic journal about social and cultural trends (The Chronicle,
May 31, 1996).
45. mailto:andrea.foster at chronicle.com
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