It looks like the gatekeepers took a long, long lunch. And while they were out, more than 120 computer-generated research papers made their way into scholarly journals and even, in some cases, were published online at conferences.
A computer scientist in France, Cyril Labbé, working at Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble, found the bogus papers when he ran the software he developed to tell users if a research paper had been created through SCIgen, a program developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), according to a report by HNGN.
Labbé also found that many of the papers, which were essentially gibberish, had been presented online in conference proceedings from 2008 to 2013. He indexed the fake papers and learned that more than 100 were published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and 16 by Springer.
The real question, of course, is how these gobbledegook papers got past the publishers’ editors.
Monika Stickel, director of IEEE’s corporate communications, told Nature News that the publisher “took immediate action to remove the papers” and has “refined our processes to prevent papers not meeting our standards from being published in the future.”
Labbé isn’t sure whether the purported authors even knew their names were attached to the fake papers. He tried to contact them but only one responded, saying he wasn’t aware that he was listed as co-author on a paper, at least not until his university was informed in 2013, HNGN reports.
He also noted that most the conferences that accepted fake research papers as well as most of the authors had Chinese affiliations.
When asked to comment on the matter, Jeremy Stribling, the author of SCIgen, told Nature News, “I wasn’t aware of the scale of the problem, but I knew it definitely happens. We do get occasional mail from good citizens letting us know when SCIgen papers are showing up.”