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Weird Computer-Generated Phrases Tip-Off Scientific Publishing Fraud


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Scientists authored six million peer-reviewed publications in 2020, and among them are thousands of fabricated articles. Modern plagiarists are making use of software and perhaps even emerging AI technologies to draft articles — and they're getting away with it.

Technology is also being used to identify fraudulent research. A computer system named the Problematic Paper Screener searches through published science and seeks out "tortured phrases" in order to find suspect work. A tortured phrase is an established scientific concept paraphrased into a nonsensical sequence of words. "Artificial intelligence" becomes "counterfeit consciousness." "Signal to noise" becomes "flag to clamor."

As of January 2022, researchers found tortured phrases in 3,191 peer-reviewed articles published, including in reputable flagship publications. They also found published papers that appear to have been partly generated with AI language models like GPT-2, a system developed by OpenAI. Unlike papers where authors seem to have used paraphrasing software, which changes existing text, these AI models can produce text out of whole cloth.

From Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
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