Random paper generator fools conference organizers

* Random paper generator forces conference organizers to pay attention

Some of you may have been the victims of commercial conference-organizers who run lots of conferences all over the world where speakers are expected to pay registration fees for the privilege of delivering lectures to attendees who pay registration fees so the organizers can make lots of profit.

Recently, my colleague Nan Poulios, director of the Information Assurance Center at Walsh College and an adjunct professor in the Norwich MSIA Program, sent me a pointer to the following article:

“MIT students pull prank on conference: Computer-generated gibberish submitted, accepted.”

http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/science/04/14/mit.prank.reut/

Seems three graduate students created a paper-generator called SCIgen that creates computer-science gibberish:

http://www.pdos.lcs.mit.edu/scigen/

They submitted one of their products, a paper grandly entitled, “Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy” to a particularly annoying conference - and got it accepted!

I tried the generator and created the following wonderful spoof in a few seconds: “PALOLO: A Methodology for the Simulation of the World Wide Web” by Donald Duck, Michael Mouse, Daffy Duck, Mighty Mouse and Goofy Dog.

The abstract reads: “Many statisticians would agree that, had it not been for telephony, the visualization of Markov models might never have occurred. Here, we show the synthesis of agents. We construct an analysis of Web services, which we call PALOLO.” It has a table of contents with hyperlinks and begins in the impressive-sounding introduction as follows: “The deployment of forward-error correction has refined Smalltalk, and current trends suggest that the confirmed unification of the Ethernet and kernels will soon emerge. Certainly, this is a direct result of the simulation of digital-to-analog converters. Given the current status of ambimorphic communication, electrical engineers compellingly desire the extensive unification of erasure coding and architecture.” And it goes on for another 2,000 words of gibberish including diagrams and 19 completely imaginary references.

In a famous protest over sloppy thinking in certain realms of academe, Alan Sokal, Professor of Physics at New York University got his paper “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity" published in the journal _Social Text_ in 1996: http://www.physics.nyu.edu/faculty/sokal/

That article includes the mind-numbing passage: “But deep conceptual shifts within twentieth-century science have undermined this Cartesian-Newtonian metaphysics; revisionist studies in the history and philosophy of science have cast further doubt on its credibility; and, most recently, feminist and poststructuralist critiques have demystified the substantive content of mainstream Western scientific practice, revealing the ideology of domination concealed behind the façade of ‘objectivity’. It has thus become increasingly apparent that physical ‘reality’, no less than social ‘reality’, is at bottom a social and linguistic construct; that scientific ‘knowledge’, far from being objective, reflects and encodes the dominant ideologies and power relations of the culture that produced it; that the truth claims of science are inherently theory-laden and self-referential; and consequently, that the discourse of the scientific community, for all its undeniable value, cannot assert a privileged epistemological status with respect to counter-hegemonic narratives emanating from dissident or marginalized communities.”

http://tinyurl.com/dmxsy

No one noticed that his paper was full of what he himself described as “nonsense and sloppy thinking.” Sokal had a serious purpose to his parody: he was attacking a particular branch of analysis “that denies the existence of objective realities” and ignores reasoning and evidence as long as the supposed conclusion supports a particular political world-view.

The SCIgen program is not nearly as serious in intent. However, the automated gibberish-generator may spell the end of the fake-academic commercial-conference business. The students cite an example of an angry conference participant who was disgusted by the whole episode and felt that the acceptance of their gibberish cast doubts on all the papers accepted by the conference organizers: http://www.pdos.lcs.mit.edu/scigen/liekens-inquiry.txt

If the particular vocabulary set used by the MIT students isn’t quite right for your conference-spamming efforts, they very kindly make their entire source code available free. Their Web site also includes a number of pointers to similar projects, including an amusing demonstration of fraud involving an abstract made up entirely of the conference’s own call for papers - which was accepted: http://www.cg.tuwien.ac.at/~wp/videa-paper.html

Charlatans beware.

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