Leading science journal publishes fictional “science” research that relied gibberish AI terms and an image of a rat with a giant penis
02/29/2024 // Lance D Johnson // Views

A leading scientific journal – Frontiers in Cell and Development Biologyrecently published a paper that used fake scientific words and a picture of a rat with a giant penis. The paper cited Chinese researchers and used AI-generated content that claimed to show the “signaling pathway of sperm stem cells.”

Most importantly, the paper made it through the journal’s peer-review process and got published. The incident calls into question the integrity of the entire journal, the qualification of the reviewers, and the validity of past research published thereunto.

Scientific journal gets humiliated after publishing AI imagery and fake terms

How did the fake and inappropriate paper make it past reviewers? The paper is flush with over a hundred citations that have nothing to do with the paper but make it seem legitimate. The title of the paper must have sounded important to the professional reviewers: “Cellular functions of spermatogonial stem cells in relation to JAK/STAT signaling pathway.”

But even after glancing over the title, the journal’s reviewers should have noticed the imagery in Figure 1. The obvious AI-generated picture depicts a rat with a large penis and four giant testicles. The side images go in for a closer look at the testicles and use fake terms to describe the images. Gibberish terms like “Iollotte sserotgomar,” “testtomcels,” and “dissliced” are used to bring meaning to the AI-generated images. For example, to the right of the rat is a close-up image of so-called “sterrn cells” which are spooned out in a Petri dish.

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According to reports, the scientists behind the article used an AI imaging tool called Midjourney. The AI program adds ridiculous labels that do not exist. Further down the paper, there appears to be a diagram of a signaling pathway mentioned in the title of the article. The diagram depicts fake biological systems and uses colorful imagery and fake scientific terms, which were apparently deceptive enough to get past professional reviewers.

If that fakery wasn’t enough, the paper shows a group of eye-catching images (A-E) which claim to show the “The regulation of biological properties of spermatogonial stem cells by JAK/STAT signaling pathway” and “the relationship between the JAK/STAT pathway and spermatogonial stem cell proliferation” etc.

On February 16, the article was officially retracted, with a note from the journal’s managerial staff confessing that the article is not rooted in “any known biology.”

“Following publication, concerns were raised regarding the nature of its AI-generated figures. The article does not meet the standards of editorial and scientific rigor for Frontiers in Cell and Development Biology; therefore, the article has been retracted. This retraction was approved by the Chief Executive Editor of Frontiers. Frontiers would like to thank the concerned readers who contacted us regarding the published article.”

Fake AI-generated content begins to infiltrate the scientific literature

Adrian Liston, professor of pathology at Cambridge University and editor of the journal Immunology & Cell Biology warns that AI is being used to create fake scientific diagrams and terms. “Generative AI is very good at making things that sound like they come from a human being. It doesn’t check whether those things are correct,” he said. “It is like an actor playing a doctor on a TV show – they look like a doctor, they sound like a doctor, they even use words that a doctor would use. But you wouldn’t want to get medical advice from the actor.”

Science journals are increasingly publishing falsified data. In 2020, researchers used a tool to analyze 5,000 published medical studies. Shockingly, 1 in 4 of the published medical studies were determined to be bogus, and this was before the weaponization of AI.

Adrian Liston warns that the integrity of scientific journals will continually be compromised because they are being infiltrated by fake, AI-generated content. “The problem for real journals is getting harder, because generative AI makes it easier for cheats,” he said. “It used to be really obvious to tell cheat papers at a glance. It is getting harder, and a lot of people in scientific publishing are getting genuinely concerned that we will reach a tipping point where we won’t be able to manually tell whether an article is genuine or a fraud.

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