Science journal publisher Springer to take down ‘nonsense’ papers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 February, 2014, 9:18pm
UPDATED : Friday, 28 February, 2014, 9:18pm


Publisher of science journals Springer said it would scrap 16 papers from its archives after they were revealed to be computer-generated gibberish.

The fake papers had been submitted to conferences on computer science and engineering whose proceedings were published in specialised, subscription-only publications, Springer said on Thursday.

"We are in the process of taking down the papers as quickly as possible," the Germany-based publisher said in a statement.

"This means that they will be removed, not retracted, since they are all nonsense."

Springer added: "We are looking into our procedures to find the weakness that could allow something like this to happen, and we will adapt our processes to ensure that it does not happen again."

The lapse was exposed by French computer scientist Cyril Labbe of the Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble, France.

He also spotted more than 100 other "nonsense" papers unwittingly published by the New York-based Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, the journal Nature reported.

In a statement, the institute said it had been advised "there might have been some conference papers published in our IEEE Xplore digital library that did not meet our quality standards".

"We took immediate action to remove those papers, and also refined our processes to prevent papers not meeting our standards from being published in the future," it said. The statement gave no further details.

Labbe, 41, has been exploring how to detect fake papers written with a program called SCIgen.

At the press of a button, the program cranks out impressive-looking "studies" stuffed with randomly selected computer and engineering terms.

Here is an example: "Constant-time technology and access points have garnered great interest from both futurists and physicists in the last several years. After years of extensive research into superpages, we confirm the appropriate unification of 128-bit architectures and checksums."

This "paper" comes complete with fake graphs and citations, essential features in scientific publishing, that in SCIgen's case includes recent references to famous scientists who died decades or centuries ago.

SCIgen was devised in 2005 by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.