Retraction Watch

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A Serbian Sokal? Authors spoof pub with Ron Jeremy and Michael Jackson references

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What do porn star Ron Jeremy, Max Weber and Michael Jackson have in common?  Very little — except the three names appear in the list of references for a recent hoax paper by a group of Serbian academics who, fed up with the poor state of their country’s research output, scammed a Romanian magazine by publishing a completely fabricated article.

The paper is replete with transparent gimmicks — obvious, that is, had anyone at the publication been paying attention — including a reference to the scholarship of Jackson, Weber, Jeremy and citations to new studies by Bernoulli and Laplace, both dead more than 180 years (Weber died in 1920). They also throw in references to the “Journal of Modern Illogical Studies,” which to the best of our knowledge does not and never has existed (although perhaps it should), and to a researcher named, dubiously, “A.S. Hole.” And, we hasten to add, the noted Kazakh polymath B. Sagdiyev, otherwise known as Borat.

The paper, “Evaluation of transformative hermeneutic heuristics for processing random data,” by Dragan Djuric, Boris Delibasic and Stevica Radisic, appeared in the magazine Metalurgia International, according to the website In Serbia, which reported on the story. The authors, from the University of Belgrade and the Health Center ‘Stari Grad’, appear on the manuscript in false wigs and mustaches.

Here’s the abstract from the article, in all its glorious meaninglessness:

The improved understanding and proper application of simulation models for various domains, from e-government to e-learning is an appropriate riddle. In this significant paper, we increasingly understand how randomized heuristic algorithms could be unexpectedly applied to the intuitive processing of random data in a novel way. While such a claim might seem counterintuitive, it is supported by prior relevant work in this thriving field. We describe a robust conceptual tool for solving this promising challenge using transformative hermeneutic heuristics for processing random data. Accordingly, the main focus of our work is, obviously, the evaluation of such methodology on an encouraging and intriguing subject of  finding in which ways people in an insufficiently developed country see the aid provided by European Community. This illustrative case clearly demonstrates our profound approach, and, thusly, is a compelling foundation for future improvements of the methodology. In fact, the main contribution of our work is that we argue that although a random process might carry a slight risk of being insufficiently relevant for the problem at hand, the solution to any such conundrum could be surely looked for in a multidisciplinary approach

If this sounds like the work of  Alan Sokal, it should. The Serbians tip their wigs to Sokal, whose 1996 mock paper Social Text, “Transgressing the boundaries: towards a transformative hermeneutics of quantum gravity,” caused the journal substantial chagrin.

A litany of previous work supports our use of self-learning archetypes [8]. Our heuristics is broadly related to work in the fieldof hermeneutics by Sokal [Error! Reference source not found.], but we view it from a new perspective: random theory. [6]

We highly recommend reading the article, whose endless inside jokes make it effectively an infinite jest. In it you can find gems like this modest contextualization:

Our work has been inspired and directly founded on various astonishing research by intellectual giants in various interesting fields of social science and practically conducted and supported by the advances in multiple technical disciplines, thus giving this work a veritable multidisciplinary aura. We place our work in context with the prior work in several multidisciplinary areas.

Or this circular figure caption:

The decision tree model proposed in this paper is shown in Figure 7. It clearly presents the proposed model, which might be useful to EU analysts, but also to theorists who might judge the validity of this model using the new proposed heuristics.

Or this:

As we will soon see, the goals of this section are manifold. Our evaluation could represent a valuable research contribution in and of itself. The first experimental results came from 2500 trial runs, and were not reproducible. The next batch of results come from only 50 trial runs, and were not reproducible. Continuing with this rationale,the many discontinuities in the graphs point to improved precision introduced with our decision tree algorithms. Such a hypothesis at first glance seems unexpected but fell in line with our expectations. As hypothesized, the final run was sufficiently consistent, which shows the useful convergence of our heuristics. Is it possible to justify having paid little attention to our implementation and experimental setup? Yes, but only in theory. Our evaluation strives to make these points clear.

According to In Serbia, the Romanian magazine

which is otherwise full of Serbian authors, published it in its entirety, without a single correction.

Hat tip: Mico Tatalovic

Written by amarcus41

September 23rd, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Posted in romania,serbia

  • ferniglab September 23, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    Just the bibliography is a riot, there is a lot there! I wonder how long before something like this gets into the SI of a so-called ‘top ranking’ journal? Reading some SI material, I wonder if it hasn’t been done already…

    • Dave September 23, 2013 at 5:07 pm

      The superb humor of the article is even more amazing considering that it is written in a 2nd language for the authors. Humor is likely one of the most challenging things for those who speak a 2nd language because it is based both on language & culture. Just to be this funny in one’s native language would be quite commenable.

      Thanks much for posting this. I may give it to my students to evaluate next year.

  • szescstopni September 23, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    In 2006 a paper generated with SCIgen and automatically translated with ETAP-3 was used to discredit the Russian Журнал научных публикаций аспирантов и докторантов (Journall of scientific papers for aspirants and Ph. D. candidates”). Soon after that hoax became public the journal was removed from the official list of accredited journals in which young scientists had to publish to get their Ph.Ds. The story is archived here

  • omnologos September 23, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    I mean…what is hermeneutic doing in a journal about metals??

  • Statistical Observer September 23, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    “Stari Grad” in slavic languages is “old city”. Could be real, may be fake.

    • JATdS September 23, 2013 at 8:00 pm

      Very strangely, I cannot seem to link to the journal web-site of Metalurgia International. Yahoo and Google searches reveal an error page. Even the links to all papers listed on Google Scholar have magically lost their links. My server? Or has the journal just suddenly evaporated as a result of this scam? If anyone is successfully able to link to the journal pages, please indicate the working links.

    • Sale September 24, 2013 at 7:08 am

      Your note on etymology is correct, but “Stari Grad” is actually the name of one of Belgrade city municipalities. See here: .

      Its municipal clinic, where one of the authors work, is named accordingly.

    • slava January 7, 2014 at 12:47 pm

      It is actually the municipality of Stari Grad, in downtown Belgrade, Serbia. Apparently it references a health center, i.e. a clinic in downtown, just next to the Dutch embassy in Simina St. The multitude of other references, both from science and popular culture, is interesting, and ti proves that nobody read the paper in the Romanian ‘magazine’. These guys made it to prove the point and it really worked. Hillarious!

  • omnologos September 23, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    do we have any way to independently verify if this story is true?

  • Goofy September 24, 2013 at 3:56 am

    Fortunately, there are bibliographic databases that can confirm that the story is true and that the article was published by Metalurgia International:

  • Goofy September 24, 2013 at 4:00 am

    And there is a usual Hitler Downfall parody that describes the context in an amusing way:
    English subtitles:
    Serbian subtitles:

  • DEUS ex MACHINA September 24, 2013 at 6:37 am

    Dr Dragan Z ĐUIRIĆ moustache is FANTASTIC.

  • Prof. Dr. Alexander Lerchl September 24, 2013 at 7:55 am

    Reference 2 is also great: “Journal of Iranian Homological Combinatorics” :)

  • Elizabeth Wagner September 24, 2013 at 9:24 am

    So, who would retract this ‘paper’? Adam, have you heard anything from the journal editor? What agency is responsible for accrediting the journal?

  • aceil September 24, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Wonder if the authors even used their real names!

    • DEUS ex MACHINA September 26, 2013 at 4:37 am

      Or real hair, moustache, etc…

  • skeptic guy September 24, 2013 at 11:42 am

    1) The sokal thing – AT the time, the editors who accepted sokal’s paper had serious doubts; they thought he was goofy, but decide to publish anyway, so that whole story isn’t as clear as it seems
    2) more importantly,even if you accept sokal as a single datum point, one datum isn’t enough to support the idea that the “hard” sciences are better then soft or humanities
    In fact, there is a great deal of rubbish in the “hard ” sciences’ we know this cause ~ 50% of all papers never get more then ~1 citation, per science citation index
    further, who can tell if someone writing about string theory, or rhodium catalyzed oxidations, or stain stress creep in high pressure perovskite is serious or a BSer ???
    I challenge the people who wish to diss the humanities to come up with more then a sokal datum point

    • ScavengerEthic (@ScavengerEthic) September 25, 2013 at 6:43 am

      Who can tell? For string theory, a mathematician. For rhodium-catalyzed oxidations, a chemist. For creep in perovskite under high pressure, a geologist or maybe a mechanical engineer. The point is, in the hard sciences a claim has an unambiguous meaning and is both measurable and testable. It could be wrong, but it can’t be *incoherent*.

      There are plenty of cases of papers being accepted for publication where it is widely suspected that they don’t really *mean* anything useful, but it’s hard to tell because they are written so badly. We only know for sure that some journals are uncritically publishing nonsense when the hypothesis is tested a la Sokal. It isn’t tested all that often; call that a lack of data points, but it’s tiresome to keep proving the same old bullshit really is what it smells like, when the universe is so full of more interesting things to find out.

  • pyshnov September 24, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    People ask the question: why this journal (and also Social Text in 1996) did not spot the mockeries? This is very simple: they were truly indistinguishable from the “genuine” contributions. Nobody sees it this way? But that’s why Sokal’s joke can be repeated again and again. Why, I could have easily taken the Fredrickson article –
    as another Sokal’s joke, but they say it’s a contribution…

  • xpusostomos September 24, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    Just the photos alone should have alerted something wasn’t right, lol.

  • Koshmar October 10, 2013 at 9:34 am

    You may have missed the reference [18], translation would be: Goofy, Gyro Gearloose. “A Responsible Task”, in M. Meraklija (a comic), Tika Luftika (also a comic) etc… that number 1233 of a Disney Mickey Mouse comic actually exists, and actually that comic is there (my kids like these)… Consistent and genuine!

  • Pyrrho November 6, 2013 at 3:34 am

    Excitation is understandable but unjustified. ” Metalurgia International” had only to state in the subtitle that “the authors are responsible for the contents of the published articles” and the problem would disappear. Eventually this is always the author who is entirely responsible for the text. You can fool any journal with an article that contains bad science – you even do not have to be particularly cunning. Bohannon published a text in Science last month where he committed all errors – the same as the journals for which he exposed them in the very article– and Science published his text without hesitation!
    Look up for the scandals and scientific frauds; they are all in the top journals. Our impression that the value career is the journal is simply false and is created by the journals which only interest is “to sell”. Number of journals does not have regular peer reviews, some publish everything what is submitted, and in some online publications the text is even immediately visible online. The responsibility is on the authors. If you are so smart go to the famous Cornel University and publish your rubbish. And wait for the fame!

  • JATdS September 24, 2013 at 8:49 am

    PS: Are you somehow suggesting that EBSCO and the Russian agency are charging money to download and access this fake paper?Please someone confirm that the PDF file is on sale for download at EBSCO.

  • JATdS September 24, 2013 at 9:41 am

    A 60-minute research revealed the following:
    a) None of the papers show the submission, acceptance or publication date. One serious flaw of the journal.
    b) I could only track 5 MI papers on Arxiv:
    c) The last page of a PDF file that is floating around the web have some comments that are of concern to me (
    1. It states (see page 174 of the PDF below) that the journal is abstracted in EBSCO and Elsevier’s Scopus. So, if the web-site is dysfunctional, if the journal seems to have died, then what do EBSCO and Elsevier have to say about this. About time we got some formal comments on this blog from companies who boost their profiles and make profits from this type of journal.
    2. Was there an Impact Factor for this journal? It seems to have been listed on TR’s Master list, SCI, JCI, ACS…
    3. Seems like the copyright is transferred to the publisher (who is what?), but no copyright mark appears on the PDF. Does this not make the material free for the public to use without infringing on copyrights?
    4. A quote: “Every manuscript will be referred, their reports form the basis of the Editor’s decision.” NO comment.
    5. Another quote “The manuscripts sent to the Editor will not returned to the author, even they are not by published.” No comment.
    So, it seems clear that this journal has serious quality issues. What Djuric, Delibasic and Radisic proved was that the journal was a scam, no peer review, no quality control. But, is what these three “scientists” did the correct way to expose the fraud? One of these days, if scientists from all fields of science start to publish fake papers in journals to prove that the journals are fraudulent or that the editors are incompetent, then this will ruin the publishing landscape. Perhaps fraud needs to be exposed as case studies, instead, published in a journal, following a separate, independent peer review.
    My conclusion (although I have e-mails journal editors and authors for clarification):
    Journal is sloppy, publisher is misguided and editors are incompetent. As for Djuric, Delibasic and Radisic, personally I think they did wrong and further stained the literature with noise and nonsense.

  • tekija September 24, 2013 at 11:06 am

    Oh, yes, Metalurgica Internationalis is listed in the SSI and has an IF of 0.134. Here is the journal data from Thomson Reuters and the IF buildup:

    Full Journal Title: Metalurgia International
    ISO Abbrev. Title: Metal. Int.
    JCR Abbrev. Title: METAL INT
    ISSN: 1582-2214
    Issues/Year: 8
    Language: ENGLISH
    Journal Country/Territory: ROMANIA
    Publisher Address: CALEA GRIVITEI, NR 83, SECTOR 1, O P 12, BUCHAREST 010705, ROMANIA

    Journal Impact Factor Information

    Cites in 2012 to items published in: 2011 = 72 2010 = 50 Sum: 122
    Number of items published in: 2011 = 286 2010 = 627 Sum: 913
    Calculation: Cites to recent items 122 = 0.134
    Number of recent items 913

    This IF is mostly generated by journal self-cites. Of all listed years 283 cites altogether 180 came from MI itself. The second and third most citing journals were ACTUAL PROBL ECON (no IF) and REV CHIM-BUCHAREST(IF 0.538).

  • aceil September 24, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    JAT ds,
    Why not give it a taste of its own medicine

  • blackwatertown September 25, 2013 at 5:46 am

    Yes there is always the risk that the cure (exposure, daylight) may rival the disease (slapped together publications) if the resulting furore discredits research in general, rather than cleanses it.

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