'Real' fake research hoodwinks US journals

October 5, 2018 by Ivan Couronne
A published hoax journal article claimed that training men like dogs could reduce cases of sexual abuse—with "research" based on examining the genitals of nearly 10,000 canines

Three US researchers have pulled off a sophisticated hoax by publishing fake research with ridiculous conclusions in sociology journals to expose what they see as ideological bias and a lack of rigorous vetting at these publications.

Seven of the 20 fake articles written by the trio were accepted by journals after being approved by peer-review committees tasked with checking the authors' research.

A faux study claiming that "Dog parks are Petri dishes for canine 'rape culture'" by one "Helen Wilson" was published in May in the journal Gender, Place and Culture.

The article suggests that training men like dogs could reduce cases of sexual abuse.

Faux research articles are not new: one of the most notable examples is physicist Alan Sokal, who in a 1996 article for a cultural studies journal wrote about cultural and philosophical issues concerning aspects of physics and math.

This time the fake research aims at mocking weak vetting of articles on hot-button social issues such as gender, race and sexuality.

The authors, writing under pseudonyms, intended to prove that academics in these fields are ready to embrace any thesis, no matter how outrageous, so long as it contributes to denouncing domination by white men.

"Making absurd and horrible ideas sufficiently politically fashionable can get them validated at the highest level of academic grievance studies," said one of the authors, James Lindsay, in a video revealing the project.

Lindsay—that is his real name—obtained a doctorate in mathematics in 2010 from the University of Tennessee and has been fully dedicated to this project for a year and a half.

One of the published journal articles analyzes why a man masturbating while thinking of a woman without her consent commits a sexual assault.

Another is a feminist rewrite of a chapter of "Mein Kampf."

Some articles—such as a study of the impact of the use of an anal dildo by heterosexual men on their transphobia —even claimed to rely on data such as interviews, which could have been verified by the journal gatekeepers.

For that "study" the authors claimed to have interviewed 13 men. In the dog article, the authors claimed to have examined the genitals of nearly 10,000 canines.

"If our project shows anything, it shows that what's coming out of these disciplines cannot currently be trusted," Lindsay told AFP.

Their goal however is not to destroy or defund the disciplines. "We think they should be reformed," he said.

Violating ethical standards?

The hoaxes garnered joking ridicule on Twitter, but researchers were more concerned with the methods and ethics of the fake authors, and the potential for generalizations about the fields targeted.

"We've learned that when you send in a convincing paper full of fake data, you can get it published. But we've known that for decades," said Ivan Oransky, from the site Retraction Watch.

Problems with quality and fraud are not limited to the humanities, nor to less prestigious journals. Even the biggest journals have to regularly retract papers, sometimes even by celebrated researchers.

But in this case, according to professor of gender studies at the University of Sussex Alison Phipps, writing in Times Higher Education, it's clear that the researchers were not engaging in "good-faith critique," as they claimed, but rather "actually aim to undermine fields they have political – not scholarly – objections to."

The other hoaxers—real names—are Peter Boghossian, a philosophy professor at the University of Portland, and Helen Pluckrose, a top editor at AreoMagazine.com, a site that has published a detailed account of the deception—details of which also appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

The articles on the dogs was pulled when the publisher finally realized that author "Helen Wilson" did not exist.

Ann Garry, the interim editor of Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy, told AFP that she was "deeply disappointed" to learn about the hoaxes her journal published.

"The idea that individuals would submit fraudulent academic material violates many ethical and academic norms," she said.

Roberto Refinetti, editor-in-chief of the journal Sexuality and Culture, told AFP that the on dildos "was reviewed by three university-affiliated experts in the field, none of whom suspect a hoax."

Refinetti was equally defensive. The fabrication by the authors "speaks against their integrity, not against the integrity of the that published the findings," he said.

There are thousands of academic journals in the world, and while some organizations have set standards designed to allow journals to identify fraud, adoption is uneven.

For the medical or biological sciences this consists of delivering the raw data to peer-reviewers to check the results.

But in the humanities, submitting transcripts of interviews raises confidentiality issues, said David Mellor with the Center for Open Science.

Nevertheless "we encourage as much transparency as is ethically possible," he said.

Nicholas Mazza, editor of the Journal of Poetry Therapy—who accepted what the hoax authors described as anti-male "rambling nonsense"—said he will take basic vetting measure after being hoodwinked.

Until now Mazza was more focused on plagiarism—but from now on "I will certainly check /institution authenticity before sending manuscripts out for review," he told AFP.

Explore further: Gender gap for first authors of perspectives in peds journals

More information: drive.google.com/drive/folders … xxjuVMFxh4pqLHM_en18

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TheMuffinMan
3.9 / 5 (11) Oct 05, 2018
'The fabrication by the authors "speaks against their integrity, not against the integrity of the journal that published the findings," he said.'

Except when you publish "Mein Kampf." articles rewritten for feminist ideologies it 100% speaks against the 'integrity' of you and your publisher. Anyone with half a brain is immediately alarmed by this.
The fact that mein kampf was published in a feminist publishing gives a whole new meaning to the phrase feminazi.
Doug_Nightmare
2 / 5 (4) Oct 05, 2018
Nothing new here, move along now.

See Alan Sokal's hoax essay *Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity* published in the journal Social Text in about 1990. It may have been the shot in the Science Wars heard around the world, and inspired / contributed to an literary genre - (((higher criticism))).
Benni
2.1 / 5 (14) Oct 05, 2018
Now we have a better idea where Dark Matter hypotheses originates.
aksdad
3.8 / 5 (8) Oct 05, 2018
Refinetti was equally defensive. The fabrication by the authors "speaks against their integrity, not against the integrity of the journal that published the findings," he said.

Refinetti still not getting it. Likely never will. The dogma is strong in this one. And his tribe.

Pluckrose, Lindsay and Boghossian very clearly stated their purpose is to bring attention to the poor scholarship that passes as "serious" humanities studies in order to (hopefully) reform the field. It's unlikely to happen for the reasons in their essay: that social grievances have replaced scholarship, that scholarly discourse is shut out by the grievance-mongers and name-callers who bully academics that don't conform to the group-think, and that humanities departments have self-selected professors that conform to this tribal view.

The best way to fix this is to reduce funding of humanities departments and "retire" these professors, which many universities are doing.
Dug
3 / 5 (3) Oct 05, 2018
Is it the science, or the scientist, or is it the lack of basic critical thinking skills of its readers - both in the extremes of science groupies and science deniers (as well as popular and peer reviewed journal science publishers)? Given the amount of bad science produced today and readily available - it should fuel all the genuine documented skepticism that we need. I'm not sure we need purposefully fake science to further reduce science credibility to a scientifically illiterate and science fearful general public.
4johnny
4.3 / 5 (6) Oct 06, 2018
Scientific journal equivalent of white-hat hacking. The reason the reps of these journals are upset is because they got caught and publicly shamed.
KBK
3.7 / 5 (7) Oct 06, 2018
"The best way to fix this is to reduce funding of humanities departments and "retire" these professors, which many universities are doing."

I gave you a five before I got to the last sentance.

You were good until you slipped the psycho turd bit in at the end, there...

Fix things, yes, but end the department, cut it's funding? Casus belli of of the linear minded fascist conservative?

What the hell is going on in your noggin over there? Retire, yes, reduce funding, no.

People are predominantly limbic, not conscious oriented. Less reflection will make sure they remain as an unthinking commodity. This is true no matter how smart people think they are. The ego manifests this contradiction and projection in every thought.

We need more self reflection, not less.
Captain Stumpy
3.3 / 5 (4) Oct 06, 2018
@dug
I'm not sure we need purposefully fake science to further reduce science credibility to a scientifically illiterate and science fearful general public
I am with you on this one, but I also understand that sometimes the need to investigate bad behaviour requires using their greed (or stupidity) against them, which is where the above technique falls

considering the current political and social climate and it's preponderance for persecution sans evidence, and it's confirmation bias using blatantly flawed source material (like the above), then this type of investigation and publicity may well be the only means to affect change

Likely, you will also see many pseudoscience adherents cling to this story as justification of their arguments regarding mainstream science...

(see benji above)

PS - whoops on the rating
Meant to 5 star - sorry
cantdrive85
2.8 / 5 (9) Oct 06, 2018
'Real' fake research hoodwinks US journals

Amusingly (or sadly) this has been going on for decades, just look to astrophysical journals for the last 80 years or so and all the published materials on all things dark, black, mysterious, and unobservable.
JRi
2 / 5 (4) Oct 07, 2018
"The articles on the dogs was pulled when the publisher finally realized that author "Helen Wilson" did not exist."

So approval/disapproval was based on the author's name rather than the paper itself.
Eikka
5 / 5 (3) Oct 07, 2018
"actually aim to undermine fields they have political – not scholarly – objections to."


Duh. That's the point - the papers were published to object how politicized the social studies have become, or rather, how politicized they've always been since this is an enduring point in the hard vs. soft sciences debate.

Reg Mundy
2.3 / 5 (6) Oct 07, 2018
Publish any crap that conforms to pre-conceived ideas and norms, and they take your hand off. Try and publish anything non-conforming and you get howls of derision by people who have never bothered to try and understand the theories. All the non-controversial stuff I published was acclaimed, all the controversial stuff under a different name was decried, yet the evidence for all was equivalent. The great benefit of the internet, and sites like this, is that non-conformist contibutors can have their say despite mindless insults and invective from the likes of Strumpy and co.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (4) Oct 07, 2018
AI will eventually assume control and stewardship of facts. Recent political abominations have made it clear that humans can not be trusted with the facts they need to safely and securely conduct their lives.

Machines that have access to all info can quickly and dependably vet science papers and determine veracity. This is not just desired - it is essential to prevent the general collapse of society from the shear weight of bullshit generated by trolls and psychopaths.

AI will even give us the ability to quickly identify, censure, and eliminate these people from the mainstream.

We will learn to trust our machine overlords far more than we can trust ourselves.

Eliminating the ability to lie and cheat will result in the obsolescence of many sociopolitical institutions which rely on it; not only organized crime but democracy, religion, the legal and investment professions, formal philosophy (what's left of it), and most soft sciences.
Cont>
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.6 / 5 (5) Oct 07, 2018
Much oak-paneled real estate will begin to free up on Wall Street, Madison ave, and in educational institutions around the world. The Vatican will be just another theme park.

People might even lose their taste for artifice altogether, and we may see interest in art, film, music, literary fiction, fashion, and related pointless endeavors evaporate.

Once people can have instant access to reliable facts they might find them far more entertaining and satisfying than the made-up sort.

And as society matures, our growth rate subsides, and our mental and physical health improve, we may find we have fewer reasons to lie, cheat, and steal in order to get what we need or what we think we want.
Anonym518498
3 / 5 (4) Oct 07, 2018
turn these so-called universities and colleges into lunatic asylums, lock up the faculty, staff can attend to the inmates
Surveillance_Egg_Unit
2.3 / 5 (3) Oct 07, 2018
AI will eventually assume control and stewardship of facts. Recent political abominations have made it clear that humans can not be trusted with the facts they need to safely and securely conduct their lives.

Machines that have access to all info can quickly and dependably vet science papers and determine veracity. This is not just desired - it is essential to prevent the general collapse of society from the shear weight of bullshit generated by trolls and psychopaths.

AI will even give us the ability to quickly identify, censure, and eliminate these people from the mainstream.

We will learn to trust our machine overlords far more than we can trust ourselves.

Eliminating the ability to lie and cheat will result in the obsolescence of many sociopolitical institutions which rely on it; not only organized crime but democracy, religion, the legal and investment professions, formal philosophy (what's left of it), and most soft sciences.
Cont>


ROFLOL
Surveillance_Egg_Unit
2 / 5 (4) Oct 07, 2018
Much oak-paneled real estate will begin to free up on Wall Street, Madison ave, and in educational institutions around the world. The Vatican will be just another theme park.

People might even lose their taste for artifice altogether, and we may see interest in art, film, music, literary fiction, fashion, and related pointless endeavors evaporate.

Once people can have instant access to reliable facts they might find them far more entertaining and satisfying than the made-up sort.

And as society matures, our growth rate subsides, and our mental and physical health improve, we may find we have fewer reasons to lie, cheat, and steal in order to get what we need or what we think we want.

says the demonic, humanity-hating SpookyOtto psychopathic TROLL

ROFLMFAO
TrollBane
1 / 5 (1) Oct 07, 2018
Doggone research!
TrollBane
1 / 5 (1) Oct 07, 2018
"The articles on the dogs was pulled when the publisher finally realized that author "Helen Wilson" did not exist."

So approval/disapproval was based on the author's name rather than the paper itself.
------------
That it preceded the retraction does not mean that it was the only reason or even the most important reason. It just means that it probably caused them to look deeper.
Surveillance_Egg_Unit
3.3 / 5 (7) Oct 07, 2018
The revelation of complacency and laziness of these science journals' publishing staffs only serves to prove that better comprehension and observational skills amongst readers is key to prevent and disallow that old wool over the eyes trick that so many journals are guilty of in their quest to sensationalise their end product.

Hopefully, the results of this investigative caper by this very intrepid team will wake up all other science journal publishers to the fact that they may lose a great deal of readers and revenue if they continue to bear false information in their end product.
Hodgely
3 / 5 (4) Oct 07, 2018
There's a long-running problem with publication bias towards positive results in even data-driven academia which threatens the viability of whole disciplines.

These hoaxes simply rely on exploiting their audience's reaction to the premises of the fake articles, much as right-wing commentators do to discredit actual science that can be spun to sound silly ("cows farting," etc). This hoax, however, relied on fabricated data to support the nominal thesis of the submitted articles. Hypothetically, had the data been real (and the argument built on it sound) shouldn't we have accepted the results despite our biases? Isn't that what science is?

These hoaxes seem to believe that they are promoting a scientific mentality, when they are actually rely on underming the basis of rational thought in favor of gut reactions and reinforcement of pre-existing beliefs.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) Oct 08, 2018
The revelation of complacency and laziness of these science journals' publishing staffs only serves to prove that better comprehension and observational skills amongst readers is key to prevent and disallow that old wool over the eyes trick that so many journals are guilty of in their quest to sensationalise their end product.

Hopefully, the results of this investigative caper by this very intrepid team will wake up all other science journal publishers to the fact that they may lose a great deal of readers and revenue if they continue to bear false information in their end product
I know you try real hard sometimes to be erudite but it never really works does it pussytard? There has to be at least SOME content or people soon begin to fidget...
Surveillance_Egg_Unit
2.3 / 5 (3) Oct 08, 2018
The revelation of complacency and laziness of these science journals' publishing staffs only serves to prove that better comprehension and observational skills amongst readers is key to prevent and disallow that old wool over the eyes trick that so many journals are guilty of in their quest to sensationalise their end product.

Hopefully, the results of this investigative caper by this very intrepid team will wake up all other science journal publishers to the fact that they may lose a great deal of readers and revenue if they continue to bear false information in their product
I know you try real hard sometimes to be erudite but it never really works does it pussytard? There has to be at least SOME content or people soon begin to fidget...
says SpookyOtto

You seem extremely jealous and you also seem particularly fond of repeating the same pussytard bullshit, which is a clear indication that YOU have never experienced getting any pussy in your whole damned life.
Surveillance_Egg_Unit
2 / 5 (4) Oct 08, 2018
LOL
theghostofotto1923 has never scored any pussy - ever.
ROFLOL
It is SO obvious.
Surveillance_Egg_Unit
2.3 / 5 (3) Oct 08, 2018
There's a long-running problem with publication bias towards positive results in even data-driven academia which threatens the viability of whole disciplines.

These hoaxes simply rely on exploiting their audience's reaction to the premises of the fake articles, much as right-wing commentators do to discredit actual science that can be spun to sound silly ("cows farting," etc). This hoax, however, relied on fabricated data to support the nominal thesis of the submitted articles. Hypothetically, had the data been real (and the argument built on it sound) shouldn't we have accepted the results despite our biases? Isn't that what science is?

These hoaxes seem to believe that they are promoting a scientific mentality, when they are actually rely on underming the basis of rational thought in favor of gut reactions and reinforcement of pre-existing beliefs.
says Hodgeley

Actually, it is the Left-Wing that is so concerned about "cows farting" emissions that increases Methane
Surveillance_Egg_Unit
2.3 / 5 (3) Oct 08, 2018
Currently, the AGW crowd is planning to convince farmers that they should feed seaweed to their cattle to diminish cow-farts that cause emissions of Methane, primarily. The story is likely in science periodicals/journals.
Surveillance_Egg_Unit
3 / 5 (4) Oct 08, 2018
Here is one of the many reports:

https://e360.yale...-methane
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Oct 09, 2018
AI will eventually assume control and stewardship of facts. Recent political abominations have made it clear that humans can not be trusted with the facts they need to safely and securely conduct their lives.


Since an "AI" is nothing but a computer algorithm with no independent judgement of reality, or judgement at all since it cannot be said to think, who do you trust to program the evaluation functions for "fact"?

Searle's Chinese Room argument points very clearly that the intelligence we attribute to a computer is actually a manifestation, or a "recording" of the programmer's own. Even if you program the AI to learn on its own, you have to set rules on -how- it should learn, which reflects your ideas of reality and therefore, fact.

You could program an AI to randomize its rules, but then you'd have to test that it's not "insane", which again depends on your personal judgement of reality and fact. You build a neural net, you also build its evaluation function.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) Oct 09, 2018
Since an "AI" is nothing but a computer algorithm with no independent judgement of reality, or judgement at all since it cannot be said to think, who do you trust to program the evaluation functions for "fact"?
What exactly do you think you mean by 'judgement'? Either an event happened or it didnt. The reasons why it happened can be assessed based on referencing to previous events and the facts related to them. And machines are potentially far more capable of accessing these facts and determining efficacy, than any human ever could.

That's WHY we're creating them.

It seems like you're implying there is some unique black box mystical quality about the human ability to 'judge'. Humans who forget, misunderstand, prejudge, guess, and lie. Humans who make decisions based on the fact that its past lunchtime and they dont really care one way or another. Humans who want to maintain their cred by not letting on that they have no idea what they're doing. Etc.
Cont>
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) Oct 09, 2018
Machines can systematically be given all the best qualities humans possess for making decisions. Their abilities can be dependably improved from lessons learned.

And they can be trusted to do their work flawlessly time after time after time. No human can ever match that level of performance.
AI" is nothing but a computer algorithm
So are we. A very sloppy, faulty, unreliable one.

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