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Scientific Paper Hoax:

I just learned of these graduate students who submitted a fake paper to an academic conference and then were invited to present it (before the organizers learned it was a hoax). They used a random paper generator. The web site also allows anyone to generate a random paper. They then created their own session at the conference for which they have a video on the web site (although I couldn't get the video to play, just audio). They state:

SCIgen is a program that generates random Computer Science research papers, including graphs, figures, and citations. It uses a hand-written context-free grammar to form all elements of the papers. Our aim here is to maximize amusement, rather than coherence.

Once it came out that their paper was a joax, they had their invitation revoked but then raised money to go to the conference anyway and present their own session--which they did, generating a random title for their program and three random papers. They also review prior hoaxes, such as Alan Sokol's Sokal's famous hoax.

Their web site with details is here.

AnonymousStudent (mail):
I realize it is fun to feel like an intellectually serious cowboy debunking pinheaded academics, but this is a pretty lame hoax. The academic conference in question is not a serious conference and is mainly known for randomly spamming professors and accepting submissions almost automatically. A far funnier submission (that was not accepted) can be found here - http://www.scs.cs.nyu.edu/~dm/remove.pdf - and gives a pretty solid impression of the general view of this conference in the field.
8.15.2005 4:48pm
Dan Simon (www):
This summary omits an important part of the story. Computer science researchers (and perhaps researchers in many other fields, as well, for all I know) are continually deluged with invitations to conferences such as this one, whose names and claimed topics are collections of vague-but-snazzy buzzwords, and whose scholarly scientific reputations are nonexistent, but whose locations are always highly attractive vacation destinations. Researchers who wish to attend these "conferences" are invited to submit a paper, with the tacit understanding that it will be accepted, thus justifying the researcher's using research funds to subsidize attendance. The conference organizers get the (usually fairly substantial) registration fee, the researcher gets a nice vacation on somebody else's dime, and the only loser is the funding agency, which presumably intended the money to be used for legitimate research purposes.

The students in question were thus not so much showing off their skill at constructing fake papers, nor exposing the conference's already-widely-recognized low standards, as sharing in a bit of an inside joke with a research community that knows full well how these conferences work.
8.15.2005 4:57pm
Daryl Herbert (www):
correct spelling is Sokal:
http://www.physics.nyu.edu/faculty/sokal/
8.15.2005 6:21pm
AnonymousStudent (mail):
Dan Simon: I agree with your assessment, except that stories like this are often reported in the wider media with a kind of anti-intellectual "academia is a huge ivory tower waste of time" flavor. Indeed, as we all know, one common meme in the conservative press is that academics are pretentious liberals who don't know anything. In my view, academia, or at least the computer science portion of academia (in which I used to be a graduate student), is very intellectually serious and it would a shame if this hoax spread the wrong idea.
8.16.2005 4:33pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
You mean the blogosphere or talk radio?
8.16.2005 5:13pm
AnonymousStudent (mail):
Both the blogosphere and academia. It is a pretty common conservative canard in my experience.
8.16.2005 5:53pm
AnonymousStudent (mail):
Er, that should be "both the blogosphere and talk radio."
8.16.2005 5:53pm
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