Punked 2.0: Indian engineer uses “My Cousin Vinny” to publish fake paper, expose “science” conference

Joe Pesci, engineering scholar, by Yausser via Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/yausser/
Joe Pesci, engineering scholar, by Yausser via Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/yausser/

A technology entrepreneur from Pune named Navin Kabra has pulled back the sheets on a local conference, the International Conference on Recent Innovations in Engineering, Science & Technology, by submitting two bogus manuscripts for presentation — both of which were accepted.

Although the conference organizers were charging 6,000 rupees — about $100 — apiece for submission, Kabra bargained them down to half that amount

by haggling with them in the same way we haggle with vegetable vendors.

Kabra, in an illuminating post on his blog titled “How I published a fake paper, and why it is the fault of our education system” that was first covered by mid-day.com, says he used computer software to auto-generate the two papers, written by two scholars at the Sokal Institute of Technology. He submitted both, which he describes as “gibberish,” but paid the registration fee only for one, which was published in the conference proceedings.

The abstract is a gem:

Determining the box-office performance of a movie remains one of the most challenging grand problems posed by Hilbert. It has not only theoretical implications, but the commercial value of a solution would also be tremendous. In this paper we show that this problem can be solved to a high degree of accuracy through the use of cloud computing techniques, and the use of social media networks. We also provide a hybrid approach which works the best.

In an echo of the recent case of punking from Serbia, the  published paper includes significant passages from “My Cousin Vinny”:

He: I don’t know, he’s got a boar, a bear, a couple of deer.

She: Whoa. You’re gonna shoot a deer?

He: I don’t know. I suppose. I mean, I’m a man’s man, I could go deer hunting.

She: A sweet, innocent, harmless, leaf-eating, doe-eyed little deer.

He: Hey Lisa, I’m not gonna go out there just to wimp out, you know. I mean, the guy will lose respect for me, would you rather have that?

[She gets up, walks over to the bathroom and shuts the door]

He: What about these pants I got on, you think they’re O.K.?

[Looks down]

He: Oh!

She: [comes out of the bathroom] Imagine you’re a deer. You’re prancing along, you get thirsty, you spot a little brook, you put your little deer lips down to the cool clear water… BAM! A fuckin bullet rips off part of your head! Your brains are laying on the ground in little bloody pieces! Now I ask ya. Would you give a fuck what kind of pants the son of a bitch who shot you was wearing?

As Kabra puts it:

Paragraph #2 of the introduction, on the first page itself, says: You should read any paragraph that starts with the first 4 words in bold and italics – those have been written by the author in painstaking detail. However, if a paragraph does not start with bold and italics, feel free to skip it because it is gibberish auto-generated by the good folks at SCIGen.

One section of the paper consists entirely of dialogues from the movie “My Cousin Vinny.”

And the conclusion section of the paper actually has this: And we’ve managed to reference Hilbert, HHGTTG, Sholay, My Cousin Vinny, Jeff Naughton, the Wisconsin Database Performance Paper, Xeno’s paradox, Meeta Kabra and the wogma.com website, and we even referenced the Sokal Affair in the heading of the paper (actually in the name of the institute that the authors are from, but you get what I mean, right?) proving once and for all that nobody has read this paper.

Kabra even embedded a taunt to what he knew would be non-existent reviewers:

It is a self-evident truth that Sholay is the best movie ever made (at least according to the wife of the author of this paper). Now, if you’re paying attention, the first author of the paper appears to be Riaa Seth, which would indicate that she cannot have a wife, because the Supreme Court of India just upheld Section 377.

But, samajhne ki baat yeh hai ki, Riaa Seth is not really the author of this paper – instead it is Navin Kabra, whose wife is Meeta Kabra, the owner of wogma.com. Please visit wogma.com for great movie reviews, which don’t give the movie away. She is currently reviewing Dhoom 3, and we predict that she will give it a rating of “Even the keen, wait for DVD”. But our AAF algorithm indicates that it will be a box-office hit.”

Kabra said he decided to embark on his expose for the following reason:

Two years ago, I was an external advisor for a B.E. Project. My students told me that the University has a requirement that all B.E. Projects must be published in an international conference. This is such a patently ridiculous requirement that I tried to convince them that they must be mistaken. However, I couldn’t convince them.

So, I tried to prepare them for failure by pointing out that an average or even above-average B.E. Project report is not of the quality that can get published in a good conference. Imagine my surprise when the paper actually got accepted. And nothing I could do could prevent my students from paying Rs. 6500 as registration fees and going all the way to Kanyakumari using their own money to present at that conference.

This convinced me that misguided policies are forcing students into paying money to get papers published in conferences with low or non-existent quality standards. And I was sure that there must be many such conferences. And I needed to do something about this issue.

Update, 11 a.m. Eastern, 1/2/14: Kabra reports on a few updates in Mid-Day.

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8 thoughts on “Punked 2.0: Indian engineer uses “My Cousin Vinny” to publish fake paper, expose “science” conference”

  1. Good job. There is no other way to expose fraud. Let alone compulsory participation in serving the interests of commercial entities.

  2. Is exposing this stuff even worthwhile? Can’t everyone tell some of these journals and conferences are super low prestige? Why not stick to higher end stuff. Plenty of retractions and fraud up there.

    1. is this a duplicate of the earlier study by the Science journalist? just the study subjects are different? what do we call this?

    2. Rubbish is rubbish wherever it crops up and it’s always worthwhile to expose it. While some forms of rubbish may seem more important than others today, who’s to say what will happen tomorrow if the ‘unimportant’ stuff is left to grow? Expose, expose, expose.

    3. This is what happens for taking active steps by participating and taking responsibility.



      Only talking/ignoring instead of participating responsibly will not help and make things worse, like a non-voter complaining about the abysmal governance of the country or state without voting.

    4. I see the point you are making. For myself, I have little interest and I see little point in publicizing the latest frauds to come out of Iran. But I recognize this is a bias of we who are lucky enough to work in the first world of science.

      In this case we have the situation where students in India are obligated to publish their work in a conference proceedings are a requirement of their program. They become victims of predatory practices and in any case it teaches them a very bad lesson about publish-or-perish.

      Also, I think there is a rising problem of spam coming from bogus journals and conferences.

    1. someone disliked my point above..”.is this a duplicate of the earlier study by the Science journalist? just the study subjects are different? what do we call this?”

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