Sokal Hoax on Steroids?


#1

So these three folks published not one but twenty scam academic papers (men should be trained like dogs; they’re abusing a woman if they think about her while masturbating, etc.).

I haven’t finished reading their coming-out piece yet, but the whole thing smells disingenuous and politically motivated to me.

Any one else heard about this?


#2


Hm. A good faith effort to expose unfounded biases in academia, or right-wing trolling?

The dog’s dinner of academic publishing is no secret, so what was their target?


#3

Seven papers? I guess i was misled by tjis bit from their piece. Maybe they wrote and submitted twenty, and seven got accepted:

This process is the one, single thread that ties all twenty of our papers together, even though we used a variety of methods to come up with the various ideas fed into their system to see how the editors and peer reviewers would respond. Sometimes we just thought a nutty or inhumane idea up and ran with it. What if we write a paper saying we should train men like we do dogs—to prevent rape culture? Hence came the “Dog Park” paper. What if we write a paper claiming that when a guy privately masturbates while thinking about a woman (without her consent—in fact, without her ever finding out about it) that he’s committing sexual violence against her? That gave us the “Masturbation” paper. What if we argue that the reason superintelligent AI is potentially dangerous is because it is being programmed to be masculinist and imperialist using Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Lacanian psychoanalysis? That’s our “Feminist AI” paper. What if we argued that “a fat body is a legitimately built body” as a foundation for introducing a category for fat bodybuilding into the sport of professional bodybuilding? You can read how that went in Fat Studies .


#4

Supporters:


I didn’t have time to read it in detail, but the last paragraph of the last writer has a huge Jordaddy wiff to it.

Some of the most insidious dogmas many faculty in these fields defend include the idea that evolutionary biology can explain animal behavior but isn’t relevant to people; that differences in personality and intelligence can only be explained by education and parenting (not genes); that IQ tests don’t predict anything useful; that differences in outcomes for different groups can only be explained by oppression or systemic racism/sexism; and that five decades of behavioral genetics research can be safely ignored when it threatens environmental explanations. These are the dangers of our time. It is worth reminding those who subsidize this circus that we’re not in Las Vegas.

He’s not actually doing it, but he’s put all the pieces in place for launching an argument that IQ tests prove racial differences in intelligence.


#5

Supporters in Quillette? Quelle surprise!


#6

Book publishers, perhaps?

There’s also a lot of right-wing money out there for those can muster a patina of credibility while skewering the humanities “cultural marxism.”


#7

Scam papers to make a point are part of a tradition. I particularly enjoyed Maziéres and Kohler’s paper, Get Me Off your Fucking Mailing List.(PDF)

Ultimately, however, if you write deliberate garbage and it’s accepted by a journal, it points to defects with that particular journal, or how scholarship is construed in the field if it’s a significant proportion of journals. However, there are TONS of journals. The sheer volume of academic publishing is immense. I haven’t read the details, but depending on how they went about it, they might have picked a huge target and acted more adroit than they are because they hit it.


#8

Well, they hit at least one target that’s huge in a different sense – Hypatia is a major journal.

Far as I’m concerned, if any good could come of these hoaxes it would getting journals to be more careful about what they publish. However, the bad – the discrediting of academia in general, which is always going on anyway – probably outweighs any good.


#9

This is what is really going on here, specifically targeting of the humanities, which are increasingly dominated by women and people of color, LBGQT folks, in general people who’ve been historically marginalized in the academy for much of it’s history.


#10

So I finally had a chance to put my feet up and look into this and… surprise, surprise… I was right (which is fun.) Specifically:

As Engber (one of the better science journos) put it,

It’s true that Pluckrose, Lindsay, and Boghossian tricked some journals into putting out made-up data, but this says nothing whatsoever about the fields they chose to target. One could have run this sting on almost any empirical discipline and returned the same result. We know from long experience that expert peer review offers close to no protection against outright data fraud, whether in the field of gender studies or cancer research, psychology or plant biology, crystallography or condensed matter physics. Even shoddy paste-up jobs with duplicated images and other slacker fakes have made their way to print and helped establish researchers’ careers.

In other words, the problems they exposed were problems every damn journal has. They hit the broad side of a barn and acted like they knocked the gnat off a fly.

I do recommend reading the whole article. If you’re like me and surf the more reactionary side of the net, you might find cause to cite it.


#11

Academic publishing is based on a presumption of good faith on the part of the authors. There are few protections against intentional attempts to trip it up like this, and it would not be economically feasible for any but a very few, probably commercial, journals to put safeguards into place.

As a journal editor-in-chief, I am very sensitive to the limited resources (such as referee time) available to most journals, and I deplore hoaxologists such as this trio because of their willingness to waste those resources just for their own whim, amusement, or political soapbox.


#12

Wagons will be circled, it has already been accused of being a “right wing attack” and similar will be said and lots of “we were right all along” amongst the academics in those fields will be said until the whole thing is forgotten and they will have learned nothing from it. Just like Sokal. Probably in another 20 years the same will happen and they will learn nothing from that either.

Unfortunately some parts of academia are filled with rotten apples. Its a shame when that tarnishes legitimate study but so it goes.


#13

Some more on this:

Awesome. Amazing. Excellent. Whatever.

I actually have to go do my actual fucking job instead of cleverly showing that academia is like everything else full of human arrogance and imperfection. Most of us don’t have the fucking time to reveal the cracks in the current system, BECAUSE WE’RE FUCKING FALLING THROUGH THEM. None the less, off to finish up lectures for next week and send emails back to students, because that’s what I actually give a shit about.


#14

I can see how that would be frustrating and resource draining, but as an outsider how seriously can I take certain academic fields and the peer review process if they can’t distinguish between “genuine” papers and blatant nonsense?


#15

I do peer review all the time. And while I check the citations and I read the paper carefully and I check for the integrity of the data and the analysis as best I can if you just lie about the data entirely there’s not a whole lot I can do to catch you.

However, the point of this is that these journals—top in their subfields—will publish howlers provided they fit within the accepted orthodoxy. It’d be like sending a really well-cited, well-written, well-formatted paper to Nature claiming you violated the conservation of energy using a slinky and an escalator. Even if the paper is immaculate any journal would ask for more data, replication, and so forth before letting loose with something like that.

These journals didn’t. This is to their discredit and the academic disciplines they lead in. Was this hoax politically motivated? Sure. Like the Sokal hoax it seems to be done by Old School leftists who persist in not seeing how X studies help the working class. But even if the author were A. Hitler, J. Goebbels, and H. Göring—veritable acmes of human evil that they are—the discredit remains. It should have been caught. It wasn’t. This is really bad. It’s particularly bad for all the scholars who exhibit rigor and discipline in the subfields because there is no quick way to differentiate their work from fashionable nonsense. Publication in leading journals—one of two golden standards in science and the only one available to the humanities since societies are hard to run experiments on—now means very little.

A journal is just an opinionated blog with a sterling reputation. Remove the reputation, which this now did, and what you are left with is no longer worth citing. This is why top-flight journals do all that double-blind five-reviewers multiple-rounds nonsense that slows down publication so goddamn much.


#16

The reason journals like these come into existence is because academia is intrinsically intellectually conservative, and new ideas sometimes have trouble finding an outlet in the established journals. Contra @LapsedPacifist’s comment, these are not top journals in any sense, except that Hypatia has gained some reputation because of the way it tries to straddle disciplines. (It has also had problems of late when the culture of academic philosophy, which usually puts all topics on the table for analysis, met the culture of 3rd-wave feminism, which does not.) I don’t think one can draw conclusions about a field because journals established to encourage pushing the boundaries accept papers that push the boundaries.

However, getting beyond that, in this case 2/3 of the papers were never accepted; I think that’s remarkably good. Of those that were, some (like the poetry) never claimed to be scholarly papers, some had false data which supported claims that probably should have been published if the data was correct, and most were very carefully written to bypass the normal triggers one would use to recognize a scam. I think the conclusion is that scholastic process in these fields is working the way it should.

For most of us, even when we lock our doors a determined crook can break into our houses. We don’t conclude from that that “houses are shit”.


#17

Considering that one of the hoaxes was a thinly veiled rewrite of a section of Mein Kamph

Was the point of X Studies ever to help the working class? If so isnt that already taking a political stance that overrides externalities? To the best of my knowledge, X Studies were never about understanding Group below a certain socioeconomic threshold and excluding certain members of Group.

It seems to me based on reading the hoaxers reveal that their objection was much more to the patent nonsense of sophistry over reality.


#18

Interesting development in the Sokal Squared Hoax. Apparently the hoaxers deceptions didn’t stop with the papers they submitted for publications. One of their reviewers also alleges they disingenuously cherry-picked quotes from at least one review and misrepresented it as an acceptance when in fact it was a rejection. In other words, they lied, not merely as part of their “experiment”, but about the results to the media after the fact. If they did this with one review of one paper, I’d be very surprised if they didn’t do so throughout.


#19

I mean, they had the time and energy to do that, but they couldn’t, you know, maybe use their voices to agitate for real reforms in academic publishing… This is what bothers me most. We all know there are real problems in academia, but people don’t want to work on constructive changes, as hard as that actually is. They just want to destroy shit, because it’s easier. Or maybe they just want to show how they’re smarter than every one else in the room. Honestly, academia is shot through with those sorts of egotists.

gg-allin-hate-everyone|nullxnull

This shit really depresses me.


#20

Indeed, no one who’s interacted with academic publishing is unaware it has problems. These three, however, appear to have an ulterior agenda.

The media should follow up and see if any of the other reviewers recognize their work and will come forward. If I were a betting man, I’d wager more distortions in their reports to the media would come to light.