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MIT alums celebrate 10th anniversary of bogus CompSci paper generator with cheeky new tool

Bob Brown | April 15, 2015
Creators of SCIgen computer science paper generator return with SCIpher tool for sending phony calls for papers from fictitious conferences.

Topics:Ambimorphic computer visionLogical e-learningFuzzy software engineering, and exhaustive computer visionExtremely partitioned hardware and architectureRelational internet of things

Steering Committee:Professor Rosalind Horne, University of Technology SydneyDr. Maxim Medina, University of British ColumbiaDylan Hartman, Royal Veterinary College University Of London

AVQYK in previous years:University of TwenteBenxi, China

Advisor Committee:Prof. Jerald Ranga (Louisiana State University)Aleksandra Gillespie (State University of New York Upstate Medical University)Jeremiah Harrell (University of Essex)

General Co-Chairs:Lecturer Toby Hatfield - Medical College of WisconsinGraham Hawkins - Wageningen University and Research Centre

Important dates:June 6, 2015: works dueJune 28, 2015: notification of acceptanceJuly 17, 2015: final submissions dueJuly 25, 2015: conference date

We are giving you this call for papers, assuming that you will consider submitting abstracts to this special issue. As a guideline, only research communications will be considered (no works). By comparison, submissions of revisions, abstracts and abstracts are also taken.

While SCIpher is intended as just a bit of fun, SCIgen was a low-budget effort to point out serious flaws in the world of academic journal publishers and conferences, which pepper researchers with calls for papers and charge for content they often clearly don't read before accepting.

Jeremy Stribling MS '05  PhD '09 (now at crypto company Keybase), Dan Aguayo '01 MEng '02 (now at Meraki) and  Max Krohn PhD '08 (now runs Keybase) back in 2005 developed SCIgen over the span of just a couple weeks. Despite their rush job, the program was good enough to produce seemingly real compsci papers that include graphs, figures and citations. MIT's press office describes it as being almost like a Mad Libs for academic papers, and notes that it stemmed from work by Krohn at online study guide SparkNotes. (I could swear half the press releases we receive are generated by SCIgen...)

In April of 2005 the team's submission,  "Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy," was accepted as a non-reviewed paper to the World Multiconference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics (WMSCI). After the hoax was revealed, the conference nixed the team's invite, but the students raised funds and showed up anyway -- armed with fake names, business cards and 'staches -- and presented on a variety of bogus topics.

The impact of SCIgen has been real. The IEEE wound up pulling its sponsorship from WMSCI and worked with Spring Publishing to remove nonsensical papers from their sites (you can read Springer's paper ON the papers here). And Springer recently released SciDetect, an open-source tool for spotting SCIgen papers.

"Our initial intention was simply to get back at these people who were spamming us and to maybe make people more cognizant of these practices," says Stribling, in a statement. "We accomplished our goal way better than we expected to."


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