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News Feature: Conference Proceedings

June 20, 2023, #43

In the Retraction Watch blog on 15 June 2023, Frederik Joelving wrote that a “Plague of Anomalies in Conference Proceedings Hint at ‘Systemic Issues’”¹ His example is “the U.S.-based Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE)”¹ where the concern is that “hundreds of conference papers … show signs of plagiarism, citation fraud and other types of scientific misconduct…”¹ This is a serious criticism toward a highly respected organisation. Some of the critique comes from Kendra Albert, a “clinical instructor at Harvard Law School and a lecturer in women, gender, and sexuality at Harvard University”¹, who has worked with Guillaume Cabanac, “a professor of computer science at the University of Toulouse”¹. They use the tool Problematic Paper Screener which “flags tortured phrases”¹ that may suggest copying or the use of “paraphrasing software that also renders scientific terminology near-unintelligible”¹. This is apparently not the first time that IEEE has faced problems that forced them to retract. Last year IEEE withdrew “400 conference papers at once, and “[i]n previous years, IEEE has retracted thousands of papers, accounting for a sizable chunk of the retractions”¹ in the Retraction Watch database. One reason for the problem may be reviewing practices. A concerned author was told that “it was standard procedure to recruit reviewers from the host institution, which also supplied most of the papers for the conference…”¹. A critique writes: “[T]hey [...] motivate all the faculty members and students to submit a low quality article which will be accepted through a fake peer review by a fellow colleague…”¹ This means “a large number of ostensibly peer-reviewed publications for the host institution”¹. It is hard for publishers to police the peer review process of every organisation that publishes with them and of course, the more organisations that use a publisher’s platform, the better for the publisher. The iSchools make every effort to avoid conflicts of interest of this sort through a carefully managed reviewer selection process. This is one reason why staff handle this, rather than leaving it to the hosts.

 

1: Frederik Joelving, ‘Plague of Anomalies in Conference Proceedings Hint at “Systemic Issues”’, Retraction Watch (blog), 15 June 2023, https://retractionwatch.com/2023/06/15/plague-of-anomalies-in-conference-proceedings-hint-at-systemic-issues/.

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