The ‘Problematic Paper Screener’ (PPS, WCRI’22, this URL) flagged 12k+ questionable articles featuring tortured phrases, such as ‘glucose bigotry’ instead of ‘glucose intolerance.’ It daily screens the literature for ‘fingerprints’ from a list of 4k tortured phrases known to reflect nonsensical paraphrasing with synonyms. We identified a concentration of ‘tortured articles’ in IEEE conferences and reported our concerns in November 2022 (this URL). This WCRI submission unveils ‘tortured conference series’: questionable articles that keep being accepted in successive conference editions.

Expert Commentary

The identification of problematic academic papers is an ongoing concern in the research community. The ‘Problematic Paper Screener’ (PPS) described in this article is a valuable tool in detecting articles that feature tortured phrases, which can indicate nonsensical paraphrasing with synonyms. By daily screening the literature for ‘fingerprints’ from a curated list of 4,000 such phrases, the PPS has successfully flagged over 12,000 questionable articles.

One particularly notable finding of this study is the concentration of these “tortured articles” in IEEE conferences. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is a prestigious organization that hosts numerous conferences in various fields of engineering and technology. The fact that a significant number of questionable articles have been identified in IEEE conferences raises concerns about the quality control and review processes within these conferences.

The authors also mention that they reported their concerns regarding these problematic articles to the relevant parties in November 2022. It would be interesting to learn more about the response and actions taken by IEEE and other conference organizers to address this issue. Transparency and accountability in the academic publishing process are crucial for maintaining the integrity and credibility of research.

Furthermore, this submission to WCRI reveals another alarming trend – the acceptance of these questionable articles in successive conference editions. This pattern suggests a systemic issue in the review and selection process, as these papers seem to pass through multiple rounds of evaluation without being properly vetted. Conference organizers should thoroughly investigate these findings and take appropriate measures to ensure that only high-quality and rigorously reviewed papers are included in future conference proceedings.

Moving forward, it would be beneficial for the research community to adopt similar screening tools like the PPS to identify and mitigate the presence of problematic articles. Additionally, conference organizers must review and strengthen their review processes, including enhanced scrutiny of submitted papers, improved quality control measures, and potentially implementing an appeals system for researchers who believe their work has been unfairly rejected or overlooked.

In conclusion, this article sheds light on the issue of problematic academic papers and emphasizes the need for robust quality control mechanisms both at the individual article level and within conference proceedings. It is reassuring to see researchers actively identifying and addressing these concerns, but ongoing efforts are required to maintain the credibility and reliability of scholarly publications.

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