List of scholarly publishing stings

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This is a list of scholarly publishing "sting operations" such as the Sokal affair. These are nonsense papers that were accepted by an academic journal or academic conference; the list does not include cases of scientific misconduct. The intent of such publications is typically to expose shortcomings in a journal's peer review process or to criticize the standards of pay-to-publish journals.


  • In 2012, the open-access journal Advances in Pure Mathematics accepted a nonsense paper produced by the computer program Mathgen. Although the paper was accepted, the "author" declined to pay the journal's $500 publishing fee.[1]

Computer science[edit]

  • A paper randomly generated by the SCIgen program was accepted without peer-review for presentation at the 2005 World Multiconference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics (WMSCI). The conference accepted the article as a non-peer reviewed submission, despite none of the three assigned peer-reviewers having submitted an opinion about its fidelity, veracity, or accuracy to its subject. The three MIT graduate students who wrote the hoax article said they were unaware of the Sokal Affair until after submitting their article. Subsequently, numerous other papers generated by SCIgen have been published in scientific journals or accepted for presentation at scientific conferences.
  • In December 2013, a Pune-based software professional submitted a bogus paper titled "use of cloud-computing and social media to determine box office performance", which was accepted by the Bhubaneswar-based Research Forum for their ICRIEST-AICEEMCS International Conference. The paper's introductory section itself cautioned that it contained some "gibberish" that was auto-generated by software. One section of the paper also includes 19 lines about the 1970s Bollywood film Sholay, and 19 lines from My Cousin Vinny, a 1992 Hollywood film. The incident highlighted a practice where "poor quality papers are accepted from students who are then asked to pay a few thousand rupees to participate in the conferences". After that the management of the event retracted the paper and apologized publicly. The Secretary in an interview described the acceptance as a human error of the coordinators.[2]
  • In 2014, Australian computer scientist Dr Peter Vamplew submitted a paper to the International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology (IJACT) after being angered that the journal would not take his email off its mailing list. The article, titled "Get me off your fucking mailing list", consisted of the phrase "Get me off your fucking mailing list" being repeated for the entirety of the article body. The journal requested the researcher to "add some more recent references and do a bit of reformatting" saying that the article's "suitability for the journal was excellent".[3]


On April 1st 2015, philosophers Philippe Huneman and Anouk Barberousse published a hoax article entitled “Ontology, Neutrality and the Strive for (non-)Being-Queer" in the journal Badiou Studies.[4][5] The paper was submitted under the pen name Benedetta Tripodi and was subsequently retracted. The parody was designed to undermine the foundation of Alain Badiou's thought.

The authors have explained their motives this way:[6]

Our point is that our paper has been written in a way that is rhetorically much too close to standard Badiousian, Badiou-centered or Badiou-friendly (or friends-of-Badiou-friendly) writings, to easily believe that its acceptance in such a journal is just a fluke. Rather, its publication in a supposedly serious journal (e.g. not a predator journal, etc.) sounds problematic. Thereby, given that such a journal is one instantiation of Badiou’s status as a world-famous thinker, our hoax invalidates (or at least, jeopardizes) the legitimacy of such status. As we illustrate it in the Tripodi paper, the way of doing philosophy embodied by those texts that share its rhetoric consists in accumulating coded expressions, which don’t make sense by themselves but rather serve as echoes of other expressions from the Master. Words here function as “tags” rather than concepts, as we suggest in the post-hoax analysis published in French in Carnet Zilsel. We also point out that Badiou’s idiosyncratic writing style about mathematics and metaphysics, which is parodied in the Tripodi paper, accounts for most of its appraisal among scholars who are familiar neither with the technical – philosophical and mathematical – issues touched upon by his metaphysics, nor with the standard literature and language that deal with them.

The hoax was exposed in the french newspaper Libération, with the support of Alan Sokal, among others. Answering to critics which denounced their strategy as one of avoidance rather than criticism, they pointed to Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal to show that publishing hoaxes is sometimes a good way to voice criticism.[7]


  • Christoph Bartneck, an Associate Professor in Information Technology at New Zealand's University of Canterbury, was invited to submit a paper to the 2016 International Conference on Atomic and Nuclear Physics organised by ConferenceSeries. With little knowledge of nuclear physics, he used iOS's auto-complete function to write the paper, choosing randomly from its suggestions after starting each sentence,[8] and submitted it under the name Iris Pear (a reference to Siri and Apple).[9] A sample sentence from the abstract for the resulting manuscript was: "The atoms of a better universe will have the right for the same as you are the way we shall have to be a great place for a great time to enjoy the day you are a wonderful person to your great time to take the fun and take a great time and enjoy the great day you will be a wonderful time for your parents and kids".[8] The 516-word abstract contained the words "good" and "great" a combined total of 28 times (and is available online).[9] Despite making no sense, the work was accepted within three hours of submission and a conference registration fee of US$1099 requested.[8][9] ConferenceSeries is associated with the OMICS Publishing Group,[10] which produces open access journals widely regarded as predatory, and has been accused of moving into "predatory meetings".[11] Bartneck said he was "reasonably certain that this is a money-making conference with little to no commitment to science," given the poor quality of the review process and the high cost of attendance.[8]


  • "Who's Afraid of Peer Review?": In 2013 John Bohannon wrote in Science about a "sting operation" he conducted in which he submitted "a credible but mundane scientific paper, one with such grave errors that a competent peer reviewer should easily identify it as flawed and unpublishable", to 304 open-access publishers.[12] 157 journals accepted the paper. There have been some objections to the sting's methodology and about what conclusions can be drawn from it.[13][14]



Interdisciplinary and cultural studies[edit]

  • The Sokal affair: Alan Sokal, a physics professor at New York University and University College London, wrote a paper titled "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity",[22] which proposed that quantum gravity is a social and linguistic construct. The paper was published in the Social Text spring/summer 1996 "Science Wars" issue. At that time, the journal did not practice academic peer review and it did not submit the article for outside expert review by a physicist.[23][24] On the day of its publication in May 1996, Sokal revealed in Lingua Franca that the article was a hoax.[25]
  • The Sociétés hoax: Using a false identity, Manuel Quinon and Arnaud Saint-Martin submitted an intentionally inept and absurd article on the "Autolib'", a small rentable car in Paris, to Michel Maffesoli's Sociétés journal. The article was deliberately incoherent and plastered with liberal quotes and references to Maffesoli and other postmodern thinkers. The article was duly "reviewed" by two people, before being accepted and published in Sociétés without any substantial editing.
  • In May 2017, Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay published an absurd paper in the open access journal Cogent Social Sciences which argued that the penis is best understood not as a biological organ but rather as a social construct. The paper came to an absurd conclusion that the conceptual penis is a "driver behind much of climate change".[26] The authors' goal was to expose bias towards extreme ideologies in social science and gender studies.[27] Critics of the sting operation argue that it did not demonstrate the existence of such biases, despite the authors' goals of doing so. Phil Torres of Salon, for example, argued that the sting shows only that academic journals that require authors to pay for papers to be published have a financial inclination "to accept papers regardless of quality." He also noted that none of the editorial board members of Cogent Social Sciences have expertise in gender studies.[28] James E. McWilliams criticized the authors' motives, writing that "Boghossian and Lindsay are white men working in the most male-dominated academic fields (philosophy and math) attempting to humiliate through bullying one of the few academic fields dominated by women. In our current political climate—thriving as it does on shamelessness and humiliation—this scenario, as the motives become increasingly transparent, only calls for kind of scrutiny and understanding that gender studies can provide."[29]
  • The "Grievance Studies" affair (also referred to as the "Sokal Squared" Hoax by the news media): Over 2017-2018 Helen Pluckrose, James A. Lindsay and Peter Boghossian wrote 20 hoax articles; at the time the hoax stopped, four papers had been published, three had been accepted but not yet published, seven were under review, and six had been rejected. The papers all focused on what the authors called "grievance studies" related to race, gender, sexuality and other forms of identity. The hoax was revealed and halted after one of the papers in the feminist geography journal Gender, Place and Culture was criticized on social media, and then on Campus Reform, which led a Wall Street Journal editorial writer to investigate and report on it.[30] The paper, which was in the process of being retracted when the Wall Street Journal story broke, referred to dog parks as "petri dishes for canine rape culture". The report also described a paper published in Affilia which contained a reworded excerpt from Mein Kampf.[31]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Eldredge, Nate (14 September 2012). "Mathgen paper accepted!". That's Mathematics!. Archived from the original on 9 June 2017. Retrieved 21 May 2017.
  2. ^ "Throw in F-word and become paper tiger". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2 June 2014. Retrieved 15 September 2014.
  3. ^ Safi, Michael (2014-11-25). "Journal accepts bogus paper requesting removal from mailing list". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 2017-05-27. Retrieved 2017-06-23.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b c d Hunt, Elle (22 October 2016). "Nonsense paper written by iOS autocomplete accepted for conference". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 22 October 2016. Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  9. ^ a b c Bartneck, Christoph (20 October 2016). "iOS Just Got A Paper On Nuclear Physics Accepted At A Scientific Conference". University of Canterbury Human Interface Technology (HIT) Lab, New Zealand. Archived from the original on 21 October 2016. Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  10. ^ Beall, Jeffrey (13 October 2016). "Bogus British Company "Accredits" OMICS Conferences". Scholarly Open Access. Archived from the original on 6 November 2016. Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  11. ^ Beall, Jeffrey; Levine, Richard (25 January 2013). "OMICS Goes from "Predatory Publishing" to "Predatory Meetings"". Scholarly Open Access. Archived from the original on 5 June 2016. Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  12. ^ Bohannon, John (4 October 2013). "Who's Afraid of Peer Review?". Science. 342 (6154): 60–65. Bibcode:2013Sci...342...60B. doi:10.1126/science.342.6154.60. PMID 24092725.
  13. ^ Taylor, Mike; Matt Wedell; Darren Naish. "Anti-tutorial: how to design and execute a really bad study". Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week. Archived from the original on 15 October 2013. Retrieved 14 October 2013.
  14. ^ Smith, Kevin (10 October 2013). "The big picture about peer-review". Scholarly Communications @ Duke. Duke University Libraries. Archived from the original on 16 October 2013. Retrieved 14 October 2013.
  15. ^ McLachlan, J. C. (8 December 2010). "Integrative medicine and the point of credulity". The BMJ. 341: c6979. doi:10.1136/bmj.c6979. PMID 21147748. Archived from the original on 25 January 2015. Retrieved 15 September 2014.
  16. ^ "Peer reveals 'cello scrotum' hoax". 2009-01-28. Retrieved 2019-11-14.
  17. ^ Witkowski, Tomasz (2011). "Psychological Sokal's Style Hoax". The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practices. 8 (1): 50–60.
  18. ^ Witkowski, Tomasz; Zatonski, Maciej (2015). Psychology Gone Wrong: The Dark Sides of Science and Therapy. BrownWalker Press. pp. 259–76. ISBN 978-1-62734-528-6.
  19. ^ Randi, James. "Sokal Re-created". JREF. Archived from the original on 27 June 2012. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  20. ^ Grivan, Ray (8 November 2007). "Polish Sokal-style hoax". Poor Pothecary. Archived from the original on 21 December 2014. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  21. ^ Wanderer in the country of blindfolded (6 November 2007). "Polish 'Sokal hoax'". Random journeys through Science. Archived from the original on 21 December 2014. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  22. ^ "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity". Archived from the original on 2017-05-19. Retrieved 2017-05-21.
  23. ^ Sokal, Alan D. (28 November 1994). "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity". Social Text #46/47 (spring/summer 1996). Duke University Press. pp. 217–252. Archived from the original on 28 February 2007. Retrieved 3 April 2007.
  24. ^ Bruce Robbins; Andrew Ross (July 1996). "Mystery science theater". Lingua Franca. Archived from the original on 2017-05-29. Retrieved 2017-05-21.. Reply by Alan Sokal.
  25. ^ Sokal, Alan D. (5 June 1996). "A Physicist Experiments with Cultural Studies". Lingua Franca. Archived from the original on 4 September 2019. Retrieved 2016-10-28.
  26. ^ Lindsay, Jamie; Boyle, Peter (2017). "The conceptual penis as a social construct" (PDF). Cogent Social Sciences. 3: 6. doi:10.1080/23311886.2017.1330439. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2017-05-19. Retrieved 2017-05-27 – via (Retracted)
  27. ^ Boghossian, Peter; Lindsay, James (19 May 2017). "The conceptual penis as a social construct: a Sokal-style hoax on gender studies". Skeptic. Archived from the original on 15 August 2017. Retrieved 20 May 2017.
  28. ^ Torres, Phil (2017-05-22). "Why the "Conceptual Penis" hoax was a bust: It only reveals the lack of skepticism among skep..." Salon. Archived from the original on 2018-01-21. Retrieved 2018-01-23.
  29. ^ McWilliams, James (2017-05-31). "The Hoax That Backfired: How an Attempt to Discredit Gender Studies Will Only Strengthen It". Pacific Standard. Archived from the original on 2018-01-24. Retrieved 2018-01-23.
  30. ^ Schuessler, Jennifer (October 4, 2018). "Hoaxers Slip Breastaurants and Dog-Park Sex Into Journals". The New York Times. Archived from the original on October 10, 2018. Retrieved October 5, 2018.
  31. ^ Jillian Kay Melchior (2018-10-02). "Fake news comes to academia". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 2018-10-05. Retrieved 2018-10-05.
  32. ^ "Atheist philosopher pulls Sokal-style hoax on theology conference". New Humanist Blog. Rationalist Association. 25 September 2012. Archived from the original on 2012-09-28. Retrieved 15 September 2014.