At MIT we created SCIgen, which generates gibberish science papers that continue to fool academic conferences. Ask us anything!
Hi! 10 years ago, as grad students at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), we were fed up with all of the bogus journals and conferences that spam researchers and charge crazy fees for articles they don’t even read before accepting.
So we created “SCIgen”, a program (available here) that randomly generates grammatical nonsense computer-science papers. SCIgen made major headlines when our SCIgen paper “Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy” got accepted to the World Multi-Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics (WMSCI).
WMSCI un-invited us from attending the event in Orlando, but we managed to crowd-fund $2,500 to fly from MIT, rent a room inside the conference space, and hold our own series of randomly-generated talks, wielding fake names, fake business cards and fake moustaches.
SCIgen continues to be used hundreds of thousands of times a year. Last year IEEE and Springer Publishing got rid of more than 120 papers from their websites after a French researcher determined they were “written” by SCIgen.
A little bit about us…
Dan Aguayo (@aguayoooooo)
* worked on the Roofnet project at MIT until 2006 when he left to join Meraki, which had spun out of the project
* he has remained a member of the technical staff there since (Meraki is a part of Cisco since 2012)
For the 10-year anniversary of SCIgen, we made a new program called “SCIpher”, which hides messages inside the “calls for papers” (CFPs) emails that bogus conferences like WMSCI are always barraging grad students with.
With SCIpher, you put in a secret message you want to tell a friend, and SCIpher creates text that looks like a CFP; send it to your friend, and if they put it back into SCIpher, the message will reveal itself.
We'll be here starting at 2 p.m. EST. Feel free to ask us questions about anything, including:
- how and why we created SCIgen and SCIpher
- what it’s like to perpetrate a hoax
- our favorite programming language
- what it was like to be at MIT (we were all in CSAIL’s Parallel and Distributed Operating Systems group)
Disclaimer: we are by no means speaking for MIT, Cisco Meraki or Keybase in any official capacity!
UPDATE 4:05 EST: thanks for all of your questions! Hope to be on again soon.