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

38 thoughts on “A Serbian Sokal? Authors spoof pub with Ron Jeremy and Michael Jackson references”

  1. 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…

    1. 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.

  2. 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 http://archive.is/kSLP

    1. 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.

        1. Statistics on the journal’s SCImago Journal Country & Rank page http://www.scimagojr.com/journalsearch.php?q=5800179619&tip=sid show a large spike in activity around 2008, a large drop in International collaboration after 2007 (perhaps the journal was launched to publish the proceedings of an international conference?), and large increases after 2008 in Non-citable documents and the proportion of Uncited to Cited documents.

        1. The so-called link to the paper is to a web-site called Scribd.com. This is not the official web-site of the journal. In that sense, I agree with Omnologos below. If we have no real journal and publisher web-site, and one PDF file from a suspect website and a hat tip from Mićo Tatalović, how do we know that this is not a bogus story? Scientists want to see the publisher and journal web-pages. Odd clues to strange Serbian web-sites and Scribd.com is not evidence that this nonsense was actually published. So, why were the authors not charged by the Serbian authorities for fraud? If you were to go onto Wall Streeet and play a false trade, or if you were to go to the supermarket and pay with fake money, wouldn’t you be fined and placed in prison? Surely publishing fake papers may seem funny to some of you bloggers, but it emphasizes the fact that fraud is rife, and some of it appears to be humorous to those who should be taking it seriously. Imagine we were all to start publishig fake papers in our fields of study to prove some nasty point (i.e, that we can), if there were enough “fake” papers foating around, then the publishing waters would be even more polluted. Sorry, I don’t share in the humour.

          1. If you were to go onto Wall Streeet and play a false trade, or if you were to go to the supermarket and pay with fake money, there are usually people and mechanisms that would prevent you from doing so. Nothing stopped these people. If the review system is so inadequate that it allows such nonsense to be published, it MUST be exploited and ridiculed. The same applies to the financial, legal, educational, etc systems. The website of the journal is currently offline but you can find it in google cache. Calling this a fraud is simply ridiculous. If the system can be fooled so easily, is it the Serbians’ fault?

          2. One has to pay the subscription fee to get access to the full-length articles published by the journal, that’s why it’s on Scribd.

            You may read abstracts without subscription, and that’s exactly what I did the other day… the article was there (and still is)!

    2. 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!

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

  4. 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

    1. 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.

  5. 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 – https://www.retractionwatch.com/2013/09/19/fredrickson-losada-positivity-ratio-paper-partially-withdrawn/
    as another Sokal’s joke, but they say it’s a contribution…

  6. 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!

  7. 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! http://www.sciencemag.org/content/342/6154/60.full
    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 http://www.arxiv.org and publish your rubbish. And wait for the fame!

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