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David Cox, the co-director of a prestigious artificial intelligence lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was scanning an online computer science bibliography in December when he noticed something odd: his name listed as an author alongside three researchers in China he didn’t know on two papers. which he did not recognize.

At first he didn’t mind. The name Cox is not uncommon, so he thought there must be another David Cox doing AI research. “Then I opened the PDF and saw my own photo looking at me,” says Cox. “It was unbelievable.”

It’s not clear how common this type of academic fraud is or why anyone as a co-author would name someone not involved in the study. Checking other articles by the same Chinese authors, WIRED found a third example, where the photo and biography of an MIT researcher was listed under a fictitious name.

It could be an attempt to increase the likelihood of publication or gain academic prestige, Cox says. He says he has heard rumors of academics in China being offered financial rewards for publishing with researchers from prestigious Western institutions.

Whatever the reason, it highlights the weaknesses in academic publications, according to Cox and others. It also reflects a wider lack of rules around publishing articles in AI and especially computer science, where many articles are posted online without prior review.

“This stuff wouldn’t be so harmful if it didn’t undermine public confidence in peer review,” says Cox. “It really shouldn’t happen.”

Cox, who leads the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab, a collaboration exploring fundamental challenges in AI, was credited as co-author of two articles in the niche journal Cluster Computing. One paper addressed a machine learning method to protect mobile networks from cyber attacks; another outlined a network plan for a smart transportation system in Macau.

The article identified by WIRED, on another smart transportation project, listed as an author “Bill Franks,” reportedly a professor in MIT’s electrical engineering department. There’s no Bill Franks in MIT’s electrical engineering department. The article, which appeared in IEEE Transactions on Industrial Informatics, featured a biography and photo for a real-life MIT professor, Saman Amarasinghe, in addition to the false name. Amarasinghe did not respond to requests for comment via email and an MIT spokesperson.

“The article in question has been withdrawn”

All three papers have since been withdrawn and the publishers say they are investigating. But Cox was upset that the magazines would publish something so obviously fake. He says IEEE quickly withdrew the paper list of Bill Franks.

“Our investigation found evidence of a violation of IEEE policy and, in accordance with our editorial procedures, the article in question has been retracted,” said Monika Stickel, director of corporate communications and brand marketing at IEEE.

But Cox says it wasn’t until he threatened legal action that Springer Nature, the publisher of Cluster Computing, removed his name from the two newspapers and issued a retraction. He was informed that the magazine had received an email confirming him as an author, although it came through a Hotmail address.

“The fundamental challenge we face is that publishing houses have operated on trust for decades,” said Suzanne Farley, director of research integrity at Springer Nature. “Unfortunately, it has become apparent that there are some individuals and groups who have the intent to cheat and abuse this trust, as well as instances where there are honest mistakes and misunderstandings.”

Farley says academics sometimes don’t use an institutional email address, in which case an attempt is made to confirm that the address and author are legitimate.

According to Retraction Watch, a website that tracks academic fraud cases, one of the Chinese authors, Daming Li, a researcher at the City University of Macau, blamed a junior author, Xiang Yao, who is affiliated with a Zhuhai company. Da Hengqin Science and technology development. Li told the publication that Yao added Cox’s name after “listening to his good ideas” and said the investigator had been fired. Li and Yao did not respond to email requests for comment.

Ruixue Jia, a professor at UC San Diego who has studied Chinese academia, says the authors may have wanted to “fake an international collaboration, which is often encouraged by universities.”

“Creating the Appearance of a Scientific Dialogue”

In a previous example of academic fraud, more than 1,000 papers were withdrawn between 2012 and 2015 because one or more of the peer reviewers were found to be fake, according to Retraction Watch.

Cox says the incident shows the poor quality of some published academic works. “In a way, I think what happened to me was that the system was working ‘as it should,'” he says. “It’s all about creating the appearance of a scientific dialogue.”

Brent Hecht, a researcher at Microsoft and Northwestern University who studies ethical issues surrounding computer science, says the lax approach is broader. Many papers are first published without peer review on arXiv, a server where researchers can read the latest work. He notes that without peer review, authors’ preferences on these papers can serve as a proxy for legitimacy and quality. “Science works on an economy of credit, so when credit is misallocated or obtained, everyone loses,” Hecht says.

This story originally appeared on wired.com.

By akfire1

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