Some 120 papers published in established scientific journals over the last few years have been found to be frauds, created by nothing more than an automated word generator that puts random, fancy-sounding words together in plausible sentence structures. As a result they have been pulled from the journals that originally published them. –Fox News
As an avid reader of theological and computer science journals, I can tell you that it’s often hard to figure out what point the author is trying to make — other than, “I’m important because I’ve published an article in a peer reviewed journal.” The result above, then, doesn’t surprise me. But it does leave me with one puzzling question:
How can they tell the difference?
Fox news, above, argues this is a result of the “publish or perish,” model of modern academics. If you’re under pressure to publish, you sometimes take the shortcut, just publishing made up stuff to get another notch on your CV. They then ask the tougher question — if these are supposed to be peer reviewed journals, why didn’t the reviewers notice something wrong? How does this stuff get published in the first place?
The answer here isn’t just that people are busy. Instead, a lot of this is based on the desire not to hurt anyone’s feelings; we don’t want to make someone feel bad, it might discourage them from trying again later. Particularly in the case of “disadvantaged authors,” there’s a tendency to overlook bad work in order to avoid the charges of racism or sexism.
Or perhaps we could just blame it all on our postmodern view of text. If the reader is going to supply the meaning, then there’s no point in the author actually putting meaning into his writing. The reader, in this case some peer review committee, sees a lot of stuff that sounds really good (or matches his belief system), and imbues the text with enough meaning to give it a pass.