What kind of journal publishes nonsense?

Extract from a mathematics paper which uses randomly generated 'Mathematics'  and yet which was accepted for publication in a mathematics journal. What kind of journal would publish such nonsense? Click for a larger version

Extract from a mathematics paper which uses randomly generated ‘Mathematics’ and yet which was accepted for publication in a mathematics journal. What kind of journal would publish such nonsense? Click for a larger version

I don’t know what your mathematics is like but the above symbols are utterly incomprehensible to me. Reassuringly they are also indeed utterly meaningless, having been randomly-generated by a computer program (MATHGEN) which produces grammatical, yet nonsensical, maths papers. Less reassuringly the paper was accepted for publication in Advances in Pure Mathematics.

You can read the story here and the full version of the paper here.

The paper is obviously complete baloney. I urge you read it – it makes no sense at all. Below is a pearl selected for its lack of maths symbols which I can’t reproduce on this blog:

We proceed by transfinite induction. Of course, every quasi-Legendre–Sylvester, trivial random variable acting freely on a simply admissible hull is Einstein. 

And the Editor’s response to this twaddle was to accept the paper while asking for some revisions. Amongst others:

For the abstract, I consider that the author can’t introduce the main idea and work of this topic specifically. We can’t catch the main thought from this abstract. So I suggest that the author can re-organize the descriptions and give the keywords of this paper.

To which the ‘author’ replies:

The referee’s objection is well taken; indeed, the abstract has not the slightest thing to do with the content of the paper.

How could this happen? Well, it happens because Advances in Pure Mathematics is an open access journal which means that if you pay them $500 – a low rate – they will publish your paper. As I mentioned previously, everything happens more smoothly if the quality barrier is as low as possible. The journal staff get paid, the author gets a publication on their publication list and everyone just hopes that they don’t apply Italian standards of judgement on the work.

This is not to universally condemn all open-access publishing: far from it. But it does demonstrate an inherent potential weakness in that publishing model.

Finally, a test for the reader. I have listed the titles of 13 papers below, 12 of which are genuine. Can you spot the randomly-generated impostor in the list?

  1. An Essay on the Double Nature of the Probability
  2. On Discrete Adomian Decomposition Method with Chebyshev Abscissa for Nonlinear Integral Equations of Hammerstein Type
  3. Existence of a Nontrivial Solution for a Class of Superquadratic Elliptic Problems
  4. Independent, Negative, Canonically Turing Arrows of Equations and Problems in Applied Formal PDE
  5. On the Generality of Orthogonal Projections and e-Projections in Banach Algebras
  6. Differential Sandwich Theorems for Analytic Functions Defined by an Extended Multiplier Transformation
  7. Second Order Periodic Boundary Value Problems Involving the Distributional Henstock-Kurzweil Integral
  8. Certain Properties of Trigonometrically ρ-Convex Functions
  9. Some Criteria for the Asymptotic Behavior of a Certain Second Order Nonlinear Perturbed Differential Equation
  10. The Primary Radical of a Submodule
  11. On the Infinite Products of Matrices
  12. On Some Properties of the Heisenberg Laplacian
  13. Global Attractor for a Non-Autonomous Beam Equation

Not so easy heh?

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3 Responses to “What kind of journal publishes nonsense?”

  1. Dominic Says:

    I honestly have not got a clue but will plump for the first – who would say ‘The double nature of THE probability’ rather tahn ‘The double nature of probability’?

    A friend points out that Nature have published a piece on the problems of OA journals –
    http://www.nature.com/news/predatory-publishers-are-corrupting-open-access-1.11385

  2. Paul Matthews Says:

    Brilliant! Despite being a mathematician I had to look through the titles quite carefully to spot the fake one.

    Seriously though, as you say, this highlights one of the weaknesses of the so-called ‘gold’ model of open access where the writer pays. It encourages the formation of junk journals that will publish anything. I regularly get invitations from such journals to publish papers. In one email recently, the subject line was

    Subject: Call for paper’s

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