Via the always excellent Retraction Watch
, we learn of the story of Navin Kabra, an entrepreneur in India who was realizing that the requirement placed on many students in India that they must get two papers "published" at various conferences was really just a huge scam to get students to pay the fees for the submissions and the conferences. In order to expose all of this, he created two gibberish papers, mostly using the infamous SCIgen
app which generates gibberish scientific sounding text. Both papers were accepted, and he paid the fees to have one "published." You can read Kabra's astounding account of all of this
on his own blog, or read the incredible paper
that was both accepted and published by the conference.
Kabra even went to extra lengths to find out the criteria for accepting papers to the conference, wondering if they basically just accepted everything from anyone who paid. Yet, the organizers of the conferences insisted they had high standards. According to Kabra's recorded interview with the organizers:
- The conference received 130 submissions out of which only 60 were selected.
- All the papers were reviewed by panelists from a panel of international experts using a double-blind review methodology.
- Only high quality papers were accepted
- All accepted papers were sent reviews from at least 3 reviewers each and the authors were then asked to update the papers based on the review comments. (No such thing happened with the 2 papers we submitted to the conference.)
Back to the paper, though. In the very second paragraph
the paper straight out tells the reader that it's a gibberish paper generated by SCIgen:
As is clear from the title of this paper, this
paper deals with the entertainment industry.
So, we do provide entertainment in this paper.
So, if you are reading this paper for
entertainment, we suggest a heuristic that will
allow you to read this paper efficiently. You
should read any paragraph that starts with the
first 4 words in bold and italics – those have
been written by the author in painstaking
detail. However, if a paragraph does not start
with bold and italics, feel free to skip it because
it is gibberish auto-generated by the good folks
Then there's a ton of absolute gibberish, followed by:
But the motivated reader is encouraged to
not read too much into the previous paragraph,
because it was copy-pasted from a random
document on the internet.
Even when the paper actually pretends to discuss the official topic it's so obviously ridiculous. The paper's title is "Use of Cloud-Computing and Social Media to Determine Box Office Performance" and discusses its special "UIB" and "AAF" algorithms, which it later reveals:
The real key to the UIB algorithm is this: UIB stands for "Use IMDB.com via a Browser" and in this method we simply go to IMBD.com, navigate to the page for the movie we're interested in and check whether the box office performance has been listed there. If yes, we report that number. If not, we try again after a few days.
[....] Figure 2, which is supposed to give an overview of the AAF algorithm is simply a random image that we downloaded off of Google's image search using the search string "how to use Facebook". By now you must be clearly wondering what AAF stands for and how does it work. The full form of AAF is ask a friend, and we do that by posting a status update on Facebook. When someone replies with an answer we simply note that down. If more than one person gives an answer, we take an average.
This is not the only time both are defined. It is repeated multiple times, just in case any human readers somehow missed it. There is no way any human read this paper before it was accepted or published. Later on, it admits directly in the paper that the named author is "not really the author of this paper" and names Kabra as the real author. And that's before it fills a section with dialogue from the famous movie, My Cousin Vinnie
. They don't hide this either. After discussing his wife's favorite movie, Sholay (an Indian film), he notes that he would include dialogue from that movie, but since it's not in English, the squiggly spell check lines might alert someone to the fact that something was up:
Another problem is that if we indeed insert Sholay dialogues here, they will all show up in red due to the spell check, and we are a little worried that someone might hit pagedown and notice that section. So, instead, we are replacing it with dialogues from our wife's favorite English movie, My Cousin Vinnie.
And, the paper lives up to that promise.
There is, also, the required shout out to Douglas Adams.
Lastly, but not the leastly, my friend Shrikant, who is likely to read this paper will never forgive me if I don't mention in this paper that the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is 42.
And, of course, in the "conclusion" of the paper -- just in case someone skipped right to the conclusion, they again make what they're doing quite obvious to the point of directly saying that no one read the paper:
In this position paper we described UIB, a
method to use the browser to check IMDB.com
to lookup box office performance of movies,
and AAF, a method to ask friends on Facebook
about how a movie is doing, and a hybrid
algorithm AAFtUIB in which we ask a friend to
use IMDB.com. And we've managed to
reference Hilbert, HHGTTG, Sholay, My Cousin
Vinny, Jeff Naughton, the Wisconsin Database
Performance Paper, Xeno's paradox, Meeta
Kabra and the wogma.com website, and we
even referenced the Sokal Affair in the heading
of the paper (actually in the name of the
institute that the authors are from, but you get
what I mean, right?) proving once and for all
that nobody has read this paper.
Kabra's writeup notes that this entire experience has been quite depressing.
My original intention of doing this was to spread awareness amongst students about the true nature of such conferences.
But now, after having gone through the experience, I am a bit depressed. I don’t know how awareness about this issue is going to help.
As he points out, since students are still required to have papers accepted by conferences this kind of crap is only going to continue. Of course, at least some of them may now realize that it really doesn't matter what they submit.