In 2005, three MIT graduate students developed a simple computer program that generates gobbledygook texts. They then added their names to one of them and submitted it as paper to an academic conference. It was quickly accepted. The heroic hoaxsters then offered the nonsense-generating program, SCIgen, free for download–and evidently scientists have been making widespread use of it ever since. Two weeks ago Nature reported that the German academic publisher Springer published 16 papers created by SCIgen. 100 more nonsense papers generated by the program were published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE).
Now befuddled conference organizers and referees–the experts designated to spot nonsense in their own academic specialties–can breathe a sigh of relief. A French researcher has created a program to help them identify papers authored by SCIgen and made it free to download. But such relief may be short lived. One of the creators of SCIgen, Maxwell Krohn, foresees an “arms race” in which ever more sophisticated computers programs are able to spew out better and better fake papers that other computer programs are created to ferret out. Nevertheless, Krohn does not regret his creation in the least, declaring:
I’m psyched, it’s so great. These papers are so funny, you read them and can’t help but laugh. They are total bull*$%&. And I don’t see this going away.
HT to Lew Rockwell. (Photo credit.)