Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Spam papers for fake conferences

Over at NewApps, Sylvia Wenmackers takes note of the discovery of computer generated papers published in conferences proceedings:
On the Nature website, Richard Van Noorden reports that a French computer scientist, Cyril Labbé, has discovered over 120 computer-generated papers that have been published in conference proceedings between 2008 and 2013. Over 100 of these papers were published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and 16 others appeared in Springer publications.

The papers have been composed using SCIgen, which only requires the user to input author names, and automatically generates random papers that look like Computer Science, but which are actually meaningless. Cyril Labbé has written a program that is able to recognize papers that have been generated by SCIgen. (The program compares the vocabulary of a text to that of a reference corpus; in particular, it measures the inter-textual distance as the proportion of word-tokens shared by two texts. For details of the method, see Labbé's 2012 paper published in Scientometrics.)

The proceedings issues that appeared in Springer publications were (supposed to be) peer-reviewed; for the IEEE proceedings, it is less clear whether they underwent peer review. In any case, the former examples show that the peer review system is not always watertight, not just in the case of open-access journals (which was also discussed here at NewApps).
Wenmackers speculates:
 Apparently, at least some of these conferences actually do take place. These are best seen as vanity events (all speaker are "invited") organized by clever travel organizers who have realized that many researchers have a budget for covering travel costs. To make it look more genuine, it is better to present the event as part of an annual conference series and to have proceedings volumes published - preferably by high-profile publishers - to show for it. Presumably, there are similar spamferences in Computer Science and the spamference-proceedings-hypothesis would provide ample motivation for what has now been discovered.
(Springer might be a 'high-profile' publisher, but its 'high-profile' might be for prominence in publishing fake journals.)

Read the whole thing here.

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