SCIENCE
12/10/2014 10:30 am ET Updated Dec 16, 2014

When Maggie Simpson Can Get A Paper Into A Science Journal, You Know You've Got Trouble

Maggie Simpson is known more for her red pacifier than her gray matter. But somehow the youngest member of the fictional "Simpsons" clan had the brainpower to co-author a scientific paper and have it accepted for publication by not one but two real-life journals.

The unlikely tale begins with Dr. Alex Smolyanitsky, a Colorado-based materials scientist. As Smolyanitsky told The Huffington Post in an email, he was looking for a way to spotlight the laughably weak peer-review process used by certain scientific journals--ones that seem quick to accept just about any submitted paper as long as the author pays up.

So with the help of an online gibberish-generating program called SCIGen, Smolyanitsky prepared an article full of scientific mumbo-jumbo so nonsensical that even Homer could have spotted the prank--just have a look at a few of the opening lines from the paper, entitled "Fuzzy, Homogeneous Configurations:"

Unified perfect symmetries have led to many unproven advances, including Markov models and write-ahead logging. While prior solutions to this quagmire are excellent, none have taken the real-time method we propose in this work. On a similar note, this is a direct result of the evaluation of replication. Obviously, Internet QoS and reliable information are rarely at odds with the deployment of journaling file systems.

If you're not quite sure that's nonsense, take it from Smolyanitsky. As he said in the email, the entire paper is "about nothing."

Smolyanitsky submitted the paper to Computational Intelligence and Electronic Systems and the Aperito Journal of NanoScience Technology, listing as the authors "Margaret Simpson" and her equally fictional friend Edna Krabappel, along with someone by the name of Kim Jong Fun.

"I wanted first and foremost to come up with something that gives out the fake immediately," Smolyanitsky told Vox. "My only regret is that the second author isn't Ralph Wiggum."

But if the journals spotted the hoax, they didn't let on.

"The first journal (JCIES) only sent the acceptance letter, but since Maggie Simpson never paid, it wasn't published," Smolyanitsky joked in the email. "The fact of acceptance is important. The second journal currently has it as 'article in press,' though no one paid them either. They probably felt that it was a good idea to add such glorious scientific content to an otherwise empty page."

Pretty funny. And it's not the first time one of these publications--some call them "predatory journals"-- has been caught accepting a bogus paper.

Last month the International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology accepted for publication a paper with the dubious title "Get Me Off Your F***ing Mailing List," The Guardian reported. The paper consisted of the seven words of the title repeated over and over again.

As for Smolyanitsky, he's hoping even more embarrassments lie in store for the journals (which didn't respond immediately to a request for comment). He said in the email, "I encourage every researcher receiving spam from such journals to take a moment and do what I did" and use SCIGen to create a dummy paper and submit it.

It only takes about 10 minutes, he said. In other words, it's so easy that Maggie's dad could do it.

D'oh.

HuffPost

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