Friday, July 20, 2018

Mock Science

Welcome to all new readers of my blog who followed a link from the Süddeutsche Zeitung! An investigative team from the Süddeutsche, WDR and NDR spent almost a year looking into m mock science: predatory publishers and mock conferences. They will have a TV documentary "Fake Science" on Monday, July 23, 2018 @ ARD. The NDR has published a short summary in English, the Süddeutsche has a summary available in German. An Indian journalist from the Indian Express who participated in the team has also published an article online.

I prefer to use the term "mock science" instead of "fake science", because this is different from so-called "fake news". Some of the science that is published by the predatory publishers or presented at the mock conferences is good science, but the authors were lured into thinking that they were writing for well-known journals or presenting at conferences at which they would be able to network with others in their own fields. These publishers and conference organizers are making a mockery out of what should be good science communication.

I also want to make it clear that Open Access is not the villian - there are some very good Open Access publishers out there. I have found too much bad science at so-called traditional publishers that take forever to retract (if it gets retracted at all). Many traditional publishers seem to be much more focussed on generating income than on communicating good science.  

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Let's just turn off the Internet!

One of the more bizarre posts in my Twitter feed the past few days was this one from India:

To avoid fake candidates and cheating, district administration will ban internet services in Udaipur on 14th and 15th July

This is apparently not the first time this has happened, the Times of India reported on December 14, 2017 that mobile internet services had been suspended because of "a possibility of disturbance of communal harmony." This seems to be a rather regular occurence, as Medianama reported the same thing in 2015. Seems to be rather extreme measures. Perhaps they need the exams to be taken in smaller groups with more proctors instead of turning off the Internet for the general population.

The Economist dug deeper and found that in Mauritania and Algeria the Internet was turned off in the entire country during high school leaving exams this year. Iraq, Uzbekistan and Ethiopia have apparently been doing this for years.  

In other news:
  • Teachers, students and a headmaster have been sentenced to up to five years in jail for enabling cheating on high school exams in Dakar, Senegal, according to Agence France-Presse, as published in the Daily Mail
  • In South Africa, students who are caught cheating or given failing grades are resorting to violence against their teachers, according to The Witness. Teachers are complaining that their administration is not backing them up.
  • A long article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (in German) from June 2018 discusses the sorry state of medical dissertations in Germany. 
  • A study in Czechia looks into the contract cheating market and finds that 8 % of survey respondents admit to having enganged in contract cheating.  
  • The Independent reports that an artificial "intelligence" classifier was used in the UK in order to "detect" cheating at an English exam in 2014. Many international students were determined to have cheated and were often deported without a chance to defend themselves. Later testing determined that the algorithm had a 20 % false positive rate - that is, one in five persons found "guilty" were actually innocent.
Tip of the hat to Thomas Lancaster for his great Twitter feed on contract cheating!