Originally published March 27 2014
Academia hoaxed by fake scientific papers auto-generated by gobbledygook text generators
by PF Louis
(NaturalNews) Natural News has exposed dirty dealings with Big Pharma, the FDA and medical journals who publish bogus study reports for years. Bogus study reports included ghost-written papers signed by credentialed physicians and paid for by the drug companies. They also included papers based only on data from trials considered favorable, while data from trials with adverse reactions were withheld.
The first woman editor-in-chief for the New England Journal of Medicine, Marcia Angell, MD, resigned from her position at the prestigious journal upon realizing that she couldn't trust journal submissions anymore due to various corrupt, profit-motivated influences within Big Pharma and conflicts of interest between Big Pharma and the FDA.
She went on a crusade from there with her best-selling book The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It. Despite more sophistication for peddling drugs and stomping on non-pharmaceutical solutions or anything critical of pharmaceutical interventions, what's going on now is basically not so different than how medical journals, the American Medical Association and Big Pharma have been colluding for decades. There's just more of it.
Bring on the gobbledygook text generatorsIn 2005, three MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) grad students decided to test their perception of journal and scientific publishing integrity by creating a software program named SCIgen that would create a wordy, convoluted paper to be accepted.
They had noticed that paper-publishing pressure was evident at scientific conferences, as well as from within a university's need for notoriety and research funding, and the need for professors and researchers to publish or perish. They thought that their hoax would expose low acceptance standards of research papers.
Journal publishers that offer peer reviews are paid registration fees ranging from $2,500 to $5,000. The lower-end fees are with a few newer open-access journals such as PLOS ONE. "Open-access" means anyone can read them free of charge. The more "old guard" journals take a heftier registration fee and charge readers for viewing. Institutions that are interested have to pay per view or pay subscription fees.
So those three naughty nerds at MIT decided to see how much garbage in for garbage out these academic publishers would withstand for their fees. Their first computer-generated paper was called "Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy," by Jeremy Stribling, Daniel Aguayo and Maxwell Krohn.
It was accepted by an international scientific conference that's been spamming scientists for papers since 1995. That conference group took the paper down after the hoaxers informed them that it was bogus. You can download a PDF file of it here.
More recently, a French researcher named Cyril Labbe revealed that 16 gobbledegook papers created by SCIgen had been used by German academic publisher Springer. More than 100 more fake SCIgen papers were published by the US Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). Both groups took steps to remove the papers.
Labbe has developed a program that understands SCIgen's vocabulary, phrasing and how it generates convincing diagrams to locate bogus reports originating from that software. He tested SCIgen to create a fake researcher, Ike Antkare, who became the 21st most highly cited scientist in Google Scholar's database in 2010 based only on SCIgen papers.
"This ought to be a shock to people," Krohn, one of the MIT original three hoaxers said. "There's this whole academic underground where everyone seems to benefit, but they are wasting time and money and adding nothing to science. The institutions are being ripped off, because they pay publishers huge subscriptions for this stuff."
Krohn actually expects an arms race of computer programs to generate better, more convincing papers and programs similar to what Labbe developed to counter the fakes.
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