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Hoax-Detecting Software Spots Fake Papers

By Science Insider

March 30, 2015

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In 2005, three Ph.D. students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed SCIgen, a program to generate nonsense computer science papers as a way of unmasking scientific conferences and journals that were failing to carry out genuine peer review of submissions. Since then, SCIgen, and others like it, have become sources of embarrassment for major academic publishers.

Germany-based publisher Springer and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), for example, have had to retract 122 nonsense papers.

This month, Springer announced the creation a new tool meant to combat nonsense paper submissions. Called SciDetect, the tool was developed in partnership with Cyril Labbe, a computer scientist at Grenoble's Joseph Fourier University. The tool uses a statistical technique similar to those used by email spam filters to automatically detect papers created with SCIgen and similar programs.

Springer says it developed SciGen in response to a recent scandal involving Chinese students and academics padding their resumes with articles generated by SCIgen and similar programs. However, critics say the technology provides publishers with an excuse to not employ peer-reviewers and will mark a return to the old status quo SCIgen was created to criticize.

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