Another scam paper published in a “scientific” journal

January 15, 2021 • 9:45 am

I’ve written before about predatory scientific journals: those fly-by-night venues that will publish nearly any submitted paper, however dreadful. Their motive is to get the thousands of dollars in “publication fees” that authors are forced to pay. In return, the authors get to cite their paper on their c.v.s, even though most papers in these journals are worthless. (Those who evaluate c.v.s, however, often don’t know which journals are bogus.)

In April of last year I wrote about a hilarious and deliberately insane paper written by Daniel Baldassare, “What’s the deal with birds?”, published in the predatory Scientific Journal of Research and Reviews (it’s not there any longer).  Its thesis, such as it was, was that birds tending to look like fish (i.e., penguins) occurred in areas most susceptible to climate change, while birds with weird beaks (i.e;, parrots), didn’t live in those areas. But it was a farrago of madness and humor, done on purpose to show that these journals will publish anything. Here are the “data” from Baldassare’s paper:

I guess after Baldassare exposed both the paper and the journal in his Twitter thread, they decided to remove the paper. Baldassare, by the way, managed to bargain the “author’s fee” down from $1700 to zero. Audubon Magazine even wrote a piece about the hoax.

Now we have another of these hoax papers, also dealing with “fishy” birds. This one, published by Martin Stervander and Danny Haelewaters, appears in in Oceanography & Fisheries. It’s still up (click on the screenshot), but won’t be for long (I have a pdf for you if it’s taken down).

The premise and thesis is also bull-goose loony, again on purpose. This time their complex hypothesis took into account no fewer than four biological factors. Here’s how the authors describe the genesis of the hypothesis:

At the time we developed the original idea about fishiness of birds potentially being correlated to absence of poisonous mushrooms, one of the authors (D.H.) was eating pizza with four cheeses, chicken, anchovies, and mushrooms. It was really a good one, and this prompted us to—just like the pizza—integrate all four parameters in this study: fishiness, birdiness, lack of fungal toxicity, and effects of prolonged heating. We note that integrative taxonomy approaches [8], and by extension approaches to integrate everything in research, are being increasingly employed, thus supporting the rationale for the work presented in this paper.

It is important to keep in mind that research has not always been this integrative, or cross-disciplinary. For example, Charles Darwin worked alone [9] and still published a relatively well-cited contribution to the field of theology and some other disciplines. We feel it is natural for humans to dangle up and down between extremes. This is true for scientists, just like it is for politicians (consider the formation of the European Union in the 1990s and early 2000s versus the current wish of some countries to leave again [10]).

All in all, in this study we present the results of our work with fishy birds (fide Baldassarre [1]). We hypothesize that, (1) despite climate change, it is still cold in Antarctica and thus the presumed lack of poisonous fungi leads to fishy-looking birds. Further, with a clear correlation of pizza and lower latitudes [11], we hypothesize that (2) birdy-looking birds (as well as fishy-looking fish) will be more prevalent than fishy-looking birds on pizzas.

Any good reviewer would have spotted this in an instant as a Poe, but of course these journals don’t care about quality, or even seriousness. I doubt the reviewers even read the papers.

Their results, like Baldassari’s are presented in a single bizarre figure, with lots of bogus statements in the text about statistical methods and significance. But what they conclude is that birds that look like fish (i.e., penguins) tend to occur in areas without poisonous fungi (Antarctica), while birds that don’t look like fish (chickens, swifts, etc; they also threw in a flying fish that looks like a swift, an anchovy, and a “Nemo fish”) live at lower latitudes where there’s an abundance of pizza. A remarkable vindication of their thesis! The results in graphic form:

. . .  and in the text:

Our PCA revealed that most of the variation in the dataset was partitioned along the first (59.3%) and second (34.8%) principal components (PCs), with loadings corresponding to poisonous funginess and pizza toppingness, respectively (Table 1). There is a clear bimodality in both PC scores, distinguishing on the one hand penguins (PC1, low funginess) and on the other hand anchovy and chicken (PC2, high toppingness). Plotting the scores for all taxa, a quadratic model explains the two-dimensional distribution of avian species (p <<< 0.05) with low residual variation except for the outlier H. rustica (Figure 1).

They note that while fishy-looking birds occur in areas lacking poisonous fungi and pizza, that relationship doesn’t hold for birdy-looking fish (flying fish).  They also note that the swallow is an outlier.

In the discussion they take up the parlous subject of climate change, and postulate that, with global warming, poisonous fungi may invade Antarctica and “may thus exert a strong selection pressure on penguins to evolve a less fishy morphology,” so that the evolved penguins may, with their new appearance, expand into “pizza topping habitats.”

There are two more immediate clues that this was a hoax: the acknowledgements (which damn predatory journals!) and the author contributions, which cite Darwin:

First author Martin Stervander also wrote an exposé on his own website about the paper, including a positive “review” of the paper for another journal where it was submitted, Journal of Ecosystems and Ecography, published by OMICS International. It’s clear that the reviewing process of all these journals is deficient—to say the least. But if it was rigorous, they’d have no way to make money!

So we have another exposé of  predatory journals, which we all know exist because every scientist gets daily requests for submissions to these journals, even when the journals aren’t remotely connected with the scientist’s research. (I’ve had pleas for my papers from journals in obstetrics and gynecology.) But there’s no better way to expose this nonsense than to publish a loony paper in it.  Sadly, this doesn’t bring down the journals (they just remove the papers), and they continue to serve as citations for desperate scientists.

Is there anything unethical about these hoaxes? Hell, no: there’s no way anybody could be deceived by papers like these, and it’s the best way to show the journals up for what they are.

They also resemble the “hoax papers” sent by Boghossian, Pluckrose, and Lindsay to social-science journals in the famous “grievance studies affair” that now has its own Wikipedia page. As I wrote last April:

One final remark. In the “grievance studies affair“, Helen Pluckrose, James Lindsay, and especially Peter Boghossian got into big trouble for “hoaxing” humanities journals with equally ludicrous papers.  Baldassarre won’t get into trouble (and shouldn’t), for his paper is in a clearly predatory journal.  But what’s the difference between a predatory scientific journal that will publish nonsense and humanities journals like Fat Studies or Gender, Place & Culture that publish nonsense but also purport to be venues for serious research? In effect, they both do the same thing: help researchers fatten their c.v.s with worthless research. Why should Boghossian et al. be excoriated for exposing the same kind of crappy journal standards that Baldassarre did?

Anything that exposes this kind of academic garbage, including clear hoax papers, is to be applauded, so long as the hoaxes are revealed (as they were with the Grievance Studies Trio) or are so palpably ridiculous (as with Baldassarre’s paper) that they couldn’t be anything other than a hoax.

Amen.

h/t: Martim Melo

 

Hoax: a crazy hilarious paper in a predatory journal

April 16, 2020 • 12:30 pm

UPDATE: See this Twitter thread by the author for his hilarious interaction with the journal, including the “reviews”.

____________

This paper, pointed out earlier today by my Chicago colleague Brian Leiter, highlights one of the scandals of scientific publishing: predatory journals that will publish anything, allowing researchers to inflate their c.v.s while the journal rakes in outrageous “publication fees.”

The upside is that the paper is fricking hilarious, and so transparently nonscientific that it’s amazing that even an abysmal journal would publish it. Perhaps they don’t care—perhaps all they want is the dosh. But this paper is the result. Click on the screenshot below to go to the paper. Download it quickly, for I have a feeling it will be gone soon. . .

(If it disappears, you can always get a pdf from yours truly.)

Behold: “What’s the Deal with Birds?”

I mean, if the abstract and keywords don’t give it anyway, somebody’s asleep at the wheel:

Abstract

Many people wonder: what’s the deal with birds? This is a common query. Birds are pretty weird. I mean, they have feathers. WTF? Most other animals don’t have feathers. To investigate this issue, I looked at some birds. I looked at a woodpecker, a parrot, and a penguin. They were all pretty weird! In conclusion, we may never know the deal with birds, but further study is warranted.

Keywords:

birds, ornithology, behavior, phenotype, WTF, genomics, climate change

Remember, this is not a joke journal; it’s one that pretends to be serious. Here are a few tidbits (be sure you read the acknowledgments at the end of the paper):

 

And Figure 1, which is lovely.  Remember, the journal is presenting this as peer-reviewed and solid scientific work (well, clearly this one wasn’t peer-reviewed as it was received March 25, and published April 1!).

 

Given the publication date, could this be an April Fool’s paper? No, I don’t think so. The journal isn’t available through my library (of course), but the journal’s table of contents, which you can see, gives no indication that the paper is a hoax. Instead, the journal appears to be a repository for crap papers in all sorts of fields from authors all over the world. In fact, I just saw on Twitter this note from another biologist, Andrew Burchill, that Baldassarre telegraphed his intentions before he submitted “What’s the deal with birds?”.  (Note that, in my own tweet, the hoax paper was regarded as “sensitive content”!):

Greg did a bit of Googling and came up with what’s indented below:

Here’s the link to the publisher’s website– it’s a real hoot!
A statement of “Publication Ethics”!!
It’s not written by a fluent English-speaker. A sample sentence:
We want the outcome of integrity meeting integrity to be compounding source of factual information that will help the world become a better place.
And this (I suspect it’s the opposite of what they intended, but it’s nonetheless oddly fitting.):
Authors should ensure that the manuscript they’ve submitted to us should be under review anywhere else.
They claim to be based in San Francisco. I wouldn’t put money on it.

 

Science is loaded with these kinds of predatory journals; I get invitations to publish in them all the time, often in journals way outside my field, like microbiology or even obstetrics! Maybe if scientists kept loading them up with hoax papers like this one, it would hasten their demise.

By the way, the author’s name, Daniel T. Baldassarre, sounds like a hoax name, too, but he’s a real biologist, an assistant professor of zoology at the State University New York at Oswego, as he correctly notes in the paper’s header. (I’ve put his photo below).

Daniel Baldassare

One final remark. In the “grievance studies affair“, Helen Pluckrose, James Lindsay, and especially Peter Boghossian got into big trouble for “hoaxing” humanities journals with equally ludicrous papers.  Baldassarre won’t get into trouble (and shouldn’t), for his paper is in a clearly predatory journal.  But what’s the difference between a predatory scientific journal that will publish nonsense and humanities journals like Fat Studies or Gender, Place & Culture that publish nonsense but also purport to be venues for serious research? In effect, they both do the same thing: help researchers fatten their c.v.s with worthless research. Why should Boghossian et al. be excoriated for exposing the same kind of crappy journal standards that Baldassarre did?

Anything that exposes this kind of academic garbage, including clear hoax papers, is to be applauded, so long as the hoaxes are revealed (as they were with the Grievance Studies Trio) or are so palpably ridiculous (as with Baldassarre’s paper) that they couldn’t be anything other than a hoax.

h/t: Greg Mayer

Titania McGrath pwns The Independent

December 11, 2019 • 12:00 pm

This Independent article by Liam Evans (click on screenshot below; I’ve also saved it in the Wayback Machine here), is a strongly worded piece by an apparently woke person of color offended by “reactionary comedy”, with the tirade supposedly triggered by a Fin Taylor show that included an anti-#MeToo sketch called “When Harassy Met Sally”.  (This appears to be a real sketch by Taylor.)

A few quotes from author “Liam Evans”:

Satire is a powerful tool. Tyrants have always feared ridicule, because there is nothing more likely to undermine authority than the sound of derisory laughter. But male comedians like Taylor taking pot shots at women who have had the courage to speak out can hardly be described as “punching up”. As a comedy aficionado, I’ve seen a disturbing rise in this kind of victim-bashing on the circuit over the past few years. It’s got to the point where I have to research the acts on any given lineup very carefully before booking a ticket.

. . . “Alt-right comedy” might sound like an oxymoron, but the immense popularity of internet “sh*tposters” such as PewDiePie and Sargon of Akkad has persuaded some comedians that there is money to be made from belittling social justice.

Speaking as a person of colour in an irredeemably racist culture, I’m sick of being accused of hypersensitivity by straight white men who are blind to their own privilege. What makes them believe that comedy should just be for them?

The hallmark of a good satirist is the ability to expose the follies of the powerful and the corrupt, not to embolden them at the expense of those of us who are already marginalised.

After decrying Ricky Gervais and Dave Chapelle, “Evans” goes on:

Perhaps it’s time for the comedy community to reflect. Danish comedian Sofie Hagen has successfully toured with “reduced-anxiety” performances in which all toilet facilities are gender-neutral and audience members can contact her in advance if they have particular needs.

The success of Hannah Gadsby’s game-changing masterpiece Nanette has also proven beyond doubt that woke comedy is commercially viable.

And yet the likes of Gervais, Chappelle and CK still fail to recognise that they no longer have to rely on shock tactics to appeal to a modern audience. As role models to a new generation of comics, they have a responsibility to be mindful of the damage they can do to an already divided society.

I would go so far as to argue that some of the jokes I have heard on the comedy circuit of late constitute actual hate speech.

. . .The battle for equality will not be won by activists alone. We all need to play our part. Sometimes this will mean risking the accusation of being a “prude” or a “killjoy”, but this is surely a price worth paying.

Such tactics are designed to silence us, to make us feel ashamed for standing up for those who might not be able to stand up for themselves.

It takes an astonishing degree of entitlement to claim the right to free speech without accepting the consequences of one’s choices. In a country poised on the brink of a far-right resurgence, is a cheap laugh really worth the risk? The kind of jokes that reinforce negative stereotypes and normalise bigotry should no longer be tolerated in our society. This really isn’t too much to ask.

Okay, so we have a humorless Pecksniff decrying free speech and “alt-right comedy” as instantiations of “hate speech”. It also includes the word “woke.” It sounds a bit like Titania McGrath, doesn’t it? Or does it? After all, often Titania’s satire works because it’s very close to the real thing, if not indistinguishable from it.

Well, it’s certainly Titania, who apparently has tricked The Independent. Here’s what “she” said (Titiana is the alter ego of Andrew Doyle), and if you go to the original article, her “coincidence” is true.

So how did a reputable newspaper get fooled by someone who doesn’t exist? Probably because Titania’s hoax was ideologically compatible with the editorial view of The Independent, and claimed to be written by a “person of colour”. Shame on them for not doing their fact-checking! Tip to newspapers: always verify the existence of a new author, or any author!

Because The Independent is likely to pull the piece, I archived it at the link above.

h/t: Al

Darwin the victim of an April Fool’s joke

April 1, 2019 • 8:00 am

I’m not going to perpetrate any April Fool’s pranks today, but I wanted to point out (thanks to Matthew) that Darwin was victimized by one about three months after he set out on his five-year Beagle voyage.

The tweet below, from the “Friends of Darwin”, gives the link, and I’ll reproduce the prank below:

Darwin wrote this in his Beagle diary the same day:

April 1st

All hands employed in making April fools. — at midnight almost nearly all the watch below was called up in their shirts; carpenters for a leak: quarter masters that a mast was sprung. — midshipmen to reef top-sails; All turned in to their hammocks again, some growling some laughing. — The hook was much too easily baited for me not to be caught: Sullivan cried out, “Darwin, did you ever see a Grampus: Bear a hand then”. I accordingly rushed out in a transport of Enthusiasm, & was received by a roar of laughter from the whole watch. —

However, looking up “grampus“, I find that it is indeed the name given to several sea creatures, as well as other animals.

Grampus may refer to:

So perhaps Darwin knew what a grampus was, and the trick was not like the American “snipe hunt” where a nonexistent creature is touted. According to another site, Darwin was probably expecting to see an orca.

More science-dissing: WaPo’s misguided criticism of “scientism”

January 29, 2019 • 10:45 am

There’s never an end to science-dissing these days, and it comes largely from humanities scholars who are distressed by comparing the palpable progress in science with the stagnation and marginalization of their discipline—largely through its adoption of the methods of Postmodernism. (Curiously, the decline in humanities, which I believe coincides with university programs that promote a given ideology rather than encourage independent thought, is in opposition to the PoMo doctrine that there are different “truths” that emanate from different viewpoints.)

At any rate, much of the criticism of science comes in the form of accusations of “scientism”, defined, according to the article below in the Washington Post, as “the untenable extension of scientific authority into realms of knowledge that lie outside what science can justifiably determine.”

We’ve heard these assertions about scientism for years, and yes, there are times when scientists have made unsupported claims with social import. The eugenics movement and racism of early twentieth-century biologists is one, and some of the excesses of evolutionary psychology comprise another. One form of scientism I’ve criticized has been the claim (Sam Harris is one exponent) that science and objective reason can give us moral values; that is, we can determine what is right and wrong by simply using a calculus based on “well being” or a similar currency. I won’t get into why I think that’s wrong, but there are few scientists or philosophers that espouse this moral form of scientism.

But these days, claims of “scientism” are more often used the way dogs urinate on fire hydrants: to mark territories in the humanities. And that, it seems is what Aaron Hanlon, an assistant professor of English at Colby College is doing. In fact, he could have used science to buttress his main claim—that numbers make fake papers more readily accepted in journals—but didn’t. When you do, as I did, his main claim collapses.


The photo of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is there because she said (correctly) that algorithms themselves aren’t pure science, but reflect the intentions and perhaps the prejudices of people who construct them. From that Hanlon goes on to indict science for having a deceptive authority because it relies on numbers. But his example doesn’t have much to do with what Ocasio-Cortez said.

First, though, I note that Hanlon makes one correct point: that moral judgments, while they may rely on science (he uses claims that AI might replace human judges), aren’t scientific judgments that can be adjudicated empirically. I agree. But so do most people.

With few exceptions, most scientists and philosophers think that morality is at bottom based on human preferences. And though we may agree on many of those preferences (e.g., we should do what maximizes “well being”), you can’t show using data that one set of preferences is objectively better than another. (You can show, though, that the empirical consequences of one set of preferences differ from those of another set.) The examples I use involve abortion and animal rights. If you’re religious and see babies as having souls, how can you convince those folks that elective abortion is better than banning abortion? Likewise, how do you weigh human well being versus animal well being? I am a consequentialist who happens to agree with the well-being criterion, but I can’t demonstrate that it’s better than other criteria, like “always prohibit abortion because babies have souls.”

But that’s not Hanlon’s main point. His point rests on the “grievance studies” hoax perpetrated by Peter Boghossian, Helen Pluckrose, and James Lindsay (BP&L), in which they submitted phony papers, some having fabricated data, to different humanities journals. Some got accepted. From this Hanlon draws two false conclusions: that having numbers (faked data) increases the chance of a bad paper being accepted to a humanities journal, that that “we’re far too deferential to the mere idea of science.” Hanlon says this:

In actual fact, “social justice” jargon wasn’t enough — as the hoaxers initially thought — to deceive, but sprinkling in fake data did the trick better than jargon or political pieties ever could. Like Ocasio-Cortez’s critics, who trust too easily in the appearance of scientific objectivity, the hoaxed journals were more likely to buy outrageous claims if they were backed by something that looked like scientific data. It’s not that the hoax was an utter failure, nor that we shouldn’t worry about the vulnerabilities it exposed. It’s that, ironically, scientism and misplaced scientific authority actually contribute to those vulnerabilities and undermine science in the process.

But putting the numbers of accepted vs. rejected papers divided by whether or not they included faked data into a Fisher’s exact test (papers with data: 3 accepted, 2 rejected; papers without data: 4 accepted, 11 rejected), there’s no significant difference (p = 0.2898, far from significance). So using numbers in the “hoax papers” didn’t make a significant difference. Ergo, we have no evidence that using fake data improved a paper’s acceptance. That what science can tell you.

But it hardly matters, as the point of the hoax wasn’t to show that using data helped mislead reviewers. Even if there was a difference, it wouldn’t affect BP&L’s point: that palpably ridiculous papers, with or without numbers, were accepted by humanities journals because they conformed to the journals’ ideology. In fact, if you think about another famous hoax—Alan Sokal’s famous Social Text hoax of 1996—it involved a paper that used verbal arguments rather than data. So it’s not numbers that matter. Nevertheless, Hanlon wants to claim that scientism is still at play:

So what does the latest hoax tell us about the extension of scientism into academic fields that aren’t reducible to purely scientific explanations?

Part of the answer lies in a prior hoax, perpetrated by New York University physicist Alan Sokal in 1996. Sokal got an article laden with nonsensical jargon and specious arguments accepted at Social Text, a leading (though not peer-reviewed) cultural theory journal. The infamous “Sokal Hoax” was instructive, too, because, as Social Text editors Bruce Robbins and Andrew Ross explained after Sokal went public about his actions, they didn’t accept his article out of fealty to its politics or its jargon, but rather out of trust in — perhaps even reverence for — an eminent scientist’s engagement with cultural theory.

Remember that the more recent hoaxers didn’t just content themselves with verbal nonsense (as Sokal did); they also faked data, and not in a way that reviewers should necessarily dismiss without a good reason to do so. Columbia University sociologist Musa al-Gharbi found that the hoaxers’ “purported empirical studies (with faked data) were more than twice as likely to be accepted for publication as their nonempirical papers,” which lends support to this possibility. It’s entirely possible that reviewers took these submissions seriously out of respect for scientific conclusions, not out of anti-science bias. This would also align with broader research showing that political ideology is not actually what causes people to distrust science.

So if you use numbers, you’re damned for scientism, and if you don’t use numbers, you’re damned for scientism because you’re a scientist. You can’t win!

But were there any dangers in promulgating false data the way that BP&L did? No, because their papers never entered the literature. The trio of hoaxers promptly informed the journals of the hoax after the papers were accepted, and, as far as I know, none of those papers stand as published contributions.

There are other wonky statements in Hanlon’s paper as well, but I’ll give just two:

But the question of whether AI judges should replace human judges is a complex civic and moral question, one that is by definition informed but not conclusively answerable by scientific facts. It’s here that observations like Ocasio-Cortez’s become so important: If racist assumptions are baked into our supposedly objective tools, there’s nothing anti-scientific about pointing that out. But scientism threatens to blind us to such realizations — and critics such as Lindsay, Pluckrose and Boghossian suggest that keeping our eyes open is some sort of intellectual failing.

First of all, scientism doesn’t blind us to realizing that bias might occur. Scientists in love with their own theories may tend to hang onto them in the face of countervailing data, but eventually the truth will out. We no longer think that races form a hierarchy of intelligence, with whites on top; we no longer think that the Piltdown man was a forerunner of modern humans, and so on. It is scientists, by and large, who dispel these biases. More important, BP&L did not suggest that keeping our eyes open was “some sort of intellectual failing.” It was in fact the opposite: they suggest that keeping our eyes open makes us see how ridiculous are papers written to conform to an ideology, papers that make crazy assertions that would startle anybody not already in the asylum.

Finally, Hanlon tries to exculpate the hoaxed journals because they are “interdisciplinary”:

Indeed, one of the liabilities of interdisciplinary gender studies journals like those that fell for the hoax is that, as I’ve argued, they’re actually not humanities journals, nor are they strictly social science journals. As such, they conceivably receive submissions that make any combination of interpretive claims, claims of cultural observation, and empirical or data-based claims. For all of their potential benefits, these interdisciplinary efforts — which have analogues in the humanities as well — also run into methodological and epistemological challenges precisely because of their reverence for science and scientific methods, not because of anti-science attitudes.

No, these journals fell for the hoaxes not because of their reverence for “science and scientific methods” (we have no data supporting that claim), but because the papers BP&L submitted were accepted because of reverence for their ideology, which was Authoritarian Leftist “grievance” work, in line with what these journals like.

This attitude—that we should go easier on work that conforms to what we believe, or what we’d like to think—is the real danger here. And there’s a name for it: it’s called confirmation bias. And it’s more of a danger in the humanities than in the sciences, simply because in science you can check somebody else’s work with empirical methods.

Medusa Magazine says it’s not a hoax

June 27, 2017 • 1:30 pm

. . . but of course that means nothing, for if it were a hoax—and the evidence is strong on this one—they would resolutely deny it.  If they admitted it were a hoax, that hoax would be over for good, and there would be no point in continuing to add to the site.

A person at the New Zealand site Whale Oil  wrote Medusa, asking them if they were genuine, as if their answer would settle the issue. Part of Whale Oil‘s post:

I came across an online Feminist magazine called Medusa Magazine with the byline Feminist Revolution now. As I scanned the headlines I wondered if it was a satirical site as once before I fell for a poorly written piece of satire thinking that it was a genuine piece. I didn’t want to make the same mistake with this site so I e-mailed them to check.

They were kind enough to reply.

_____________________

Hello,
Medusa Magazine is a blog that espouses feminist ideology. We make no apologies for this, and we stand by everything we publish.
That being said, the views expressed in each article belong to the author(s) alone. We would however never have published any of the articles if we didn’t think they had any value to add to intellectual discourse. Even the articles that you describe as “over the top” have started a discussion and debate online about important issues that need to be discussed.
Say Hi to your readers from us.

Cheers.
______________________

The thing is*, is that they continue to publish articles, and they’re close enough to the real thing to fool some people. But I’ve decided that they’re too over-the-top to be real. And, as a reader pointed out (see link in first line), the domain is registered to someone who would be expected to satirize feminism.

 

 

*deliberate infelicity

 

A mini-Sokal hoax: abstract of physics paper written by computer, and in complete gibberish, accepted for conference on physics

October 22, 2016 • 11:15 am

In the famous Alan Sokal hoax, now twenty years old, a physicist got a bogus, post-modern paper accepted by the pomo journal Social Text. Now the tables are turned—sort of. This time, as the Guardian reported yesterday, a non-physicist hoaxed a physics conference by submitting an abstract, immediately accepted, that was written almost completely by computer. It was complete gibberish, proving that nobody looked at the paper, and that the conference was probably just a garbage meeting designed to make money.

I didn’t know what iOS autocomplete was, but apparently it’s an Apple program that can be used to finish written text with stuff that’s generated by computer (correct me if I’m wrong).  And a professor used it to write an entire paper. From the Guardian:

Christoph Bartneck, an associate professor at the Human Interface Technology laboratory at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, received an email inviting him to submit a paper to the International Conference on Atomic and Nuclear Physics in the US in November.

“Since I have practically no knowledge of nuclear physics I resorted to iOS autocomplete function to help me writing the paper,” he wrote in a blog post on Thursday. “I started a sentence with ‘atomic’ or ‘nuclear’ and then randomly hit the autocomplete suggestions.

“The atoms of a better universe will have the right for the same as you are the way we shall have to be a great place for a great time to enjoy the day you are a wonderful person to your great time to take the fun and take a great time and enjoy the great day you will be a wonderful time for your parents and kids,” is a sample sentence from the abstract.

It concludes: “Power is not a great place for a good time.”

Bartneck made a video, posted in his website, showing how he did it:

But wait! There’s more!

Bartneck illustrated the paper – titled, again through autocorrect, “Atomic Energy will have been made available to a single source” – with the first graphic on the Wikipedia entry for nuclear physics.

He submitted it under a fake identity: associate professor Iris Pear of the US, whose experience in atomic and nuclear physics was outlined in a biography using contradictory gender pronouns.

The nonsensical paper was accepted only three hours later, in an email asking Bartneck to confirm his slot for the “oral presentation” at the international conference.

“I know that iOS is a pretty good software, but reaching tenure has never been this close,” Bartneck commented in the blog post.

The conference itself, to be held in Georgia in mid-November (see link above), looks pretty dicey. For one thing, read its call for abstracts:

And, as the Guardian notes:

The International Conference on Atomic and Nuclear Physics. . . is organised by ConferenceSeries: “an amalgamation of Open Access Publications and worldwide international science conferences and events”, established in 2007.

It also has a $1099 speaker registration fee.

The Guardian describes what Bartneck wrote as a paper, but it’s actually an abstract of a paper, complete with a bogus diagram and a phony photo of the author. You can see it here, and I’ve put a screenshot below:

screen-shot-2016-10-22-at-11-10-58-am

I get invitations all the time from bogus organizations that invite me to submit papers or give talks on forestry, molecular biology, immunology, and all sorts of things for which I have no credentials at all. There are a lot of organizations out there preying on scientists who, I guess, think that going to such meetings gives them professional credibility. And it must work, or why would these meetings and journals continue to exist?

h/t: Barry