Frustrated by the daunting reality of formulating and conducting research? Want to have fun and impress your friends? How about fool the publishing world? (Please don’t try this. First of all, this thing is over a decade old and you’ll never get away with it. Secondly, I’m assuming anyone reading this is more ethical than that. To be clear, I’m not suggesting anyone plagiarize).
SCIgen is an amusing yet potentially problematic piece of software created by Stribling, Aguayo, and Krohn, a trio of student researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2005 (Conner-Simons, 2015). It generates a fake but important sounding paper, utilizing randomized strings of words. They used it to point out the lack of scrutiny in some academic journals and conferences by submitting bogus articles, which were subsequently accepted. They were exasperated by the fact that articles are often not analyzed in depth before others are charged to read them, particularly by “predatory journals”, scammers that will accept anything, often at a fee (Burdick, 2017).
Since then, it has actually been used for unscrupulous purposes. Cyril Labbé, a French computer scientist, has developed a countermeasure to detect the fake papers, similar to plagiarizing detection software (Noorden, 2014). Labbé has discovered over 120 falsified published papers, 30 of which had been included in conferences, and has no doubt that there are more.
Over the past twelve years, SCIgen has continually played an unintentionally impactful role in revealing weaknesses in the academic system of publishing. It is also pretty entertaining. Give it a try at the link below!
Burdick, A. (March 22, 2017). “Paging Dr. Fraud’: The fake publishers that are ruining science. The New Yorker. Retrieved from https://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/paging-dr-fraud-the-fake-publishers-that-are-ruining-science
Conner-Simons, A. (April 14, 2015). How three MIT students fooled the world of scientific journals: A decade later, CSAIL alumni reflect on their paper generator and reveal a new fake-conference project. MIT News: On Campus and Around the World. Retrieved from http://news.mit.edu/2015/how-three-mit-students-fooled-scientific-journals-0414
Noorden, R.V. (February 24, 2014). Publishers withdraw more than 120 gibberish papers: Conference proceedings removed from subscription databases after scientist reveals they were computer-generated. Nature International Weekly Journal of Science. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/news/publishers-withdraw-more-than-120-gibberish-papers-1.14763