The 9th World Multi-Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics  
July 10-13, 2005 - Orlando, Florida, USA
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With regards to the bogus papers submitted to WMSCI 2005


With regards to the bogus papers submitted to WMSCI 2005
 

The organizing committee received several bogus papers. Some of them were randomly generated. In fact, one of them was detected by one of its 3 reviewers and it was refused. We had no reviewing feedback for the second one. By the acceptance deadline we had a low percentage of papers from which we had no evaluations. These papers could not be accepted and could not be refused. We believe that it is unfair to refuse a paper that was not refused by any of its three selected reviewers. So, we decided to communicate the respective authors that we had no reviews yet of their paper and due to this the acceptance is stated as a NON-REVIEWED paper. We were very clear that the paper had not been reviewed, and we were explicit about it. The possibility of non-reviewing acceptance has been stated in the conference web page.

Several conferences that announce the possibility of reviewed and non-reviewed papers simultaneously can be found on the Web. Authors of non-reviewed papers, as well as invited papers, have complete responsibility of the content of their paper. Indeed, there are prestigious conferences that accept papers with an abstract of no more than 50 words, so there is no full paper reviewing before accepting the paper.

Our conferences are not oriented just to research papers, but also to position papers, invited papers, invited session’s papers, panels’ presentations, etc. This has been clearly and explicitly stated in the conferences’ call for papers. This is one of the reasons why we have not been using the phrase of "refereed proceedings"

In our automated support system for the reviewing process, a computer program selects at random three reviewers for each paper. If by the acceptance deadline we have not received reviewing feedback for a given paper, the program sends a reminding message to the selected reviewers and selects one additional or more reviewers for the same paper. We do this in order to avoid human intervention in the selection of the reviewers. We were aware about some bogus papers we had in the past, and we were trying to find ways to eliminate, or at least minimize, the probability of these kinds of situations.

This year we had a variety of malicious hacking on our conference web sites. They have been hacked frequently and continuously in the last few months. In fact, some files were even cracked, moved, deleted, changed, etc. We had to stop some of the conferences’ processes, disabling the link of the menu's option related to "papers submission" because of the quantity of bogus papers being sent.

The quality level of WMSCI conferences has been tested for about 9 years by their participants who, in many cases congratulated the Organization and the Program Committee. How could you otherwise explain the conference attendance increase from 45 to a range of 900-1150 attendees in the last years?

In our opinion, and it has been our experience, the acceptance of a small percentage of non-reviewed papers does not significantly decrease the quality level of a conference, in fact, it could well increase the probability of not refusing a good paper with a content differing from established paradigms. Different kinds of reasoning can be found in the specialized literature on the subject, explaining why non-reviewed papers might be, and even should be, accepted. Robin and Burke (1987, Peer review in medical journals. 91(2), 252-255), for example, affirms with regards to journals, that “Editors should reserve space for articles…that receive poor review…they should publish unreviewed material...” (In A. C. Weller, 2001, Editorial Peer Review, Its Strength and weaknesses, p.317).

It was established for the Database PubMed Central (following suggestion made by Harold Varmus, then Director of the National Institute of Health: NIH) that “the non-peer-reviewed reports will also enter PubMed Central…reports may never be submitted to a Journal for a traditional peer review, yet will be deposited in PubMed Central…” (Weller, 2001, Editorial Peer Review, Its Strength and weaknesses, p.320).

Gordon (1978, Optional published refereeing. Physics Today, 31(10), 81) championed the idea of adopting an optional published refereeing where “the publication of almost everything will be guaranteed with the requirement that referees’ comments be published along with the articles.” (Weller, 2001, Editorial Peer Review, Its Strength and weaknesses, p.317).

These are a few examples with regards to what is supposed to be the most formal reviewing, which is the journals’ one. Being almost unanimously accepted that conferences reviewing is informal or non-formal because the inherent time restrictions and the timeliness objective of these kinds of publications, then we think it is legitimate and academically respectful to accept non-reviewed papers, especially if we take into account that in the call for papers in our conferences has always been clearly stated that we accept NON-RESEARCH papers submission, as it is the case of position papers, invited papers, case studies, panels’ presentations, reports, etc. which are usually accepted, or not, on a non-reviewing base. This policy with regards to papers submissions is a direct consequence of the essential stated purpose of the conference with regards to bringing together researchers and practitioners, and to be a “an international forum for scientists and engineers, researchers and consultants, theoreticians and practitioners in the fields of Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics [where] participants from academies, governments, and industries share ideas and experiences among different disciplines.” To achieve this objective it is necessary to accept research and non-research papers, as well as reviewed and non-reviewed papers.

Furthermore, there is a general understanding that even in the scientific/technical communication, “formal communication is not the only mean of communicating ideas within the scientific/technical community. “The formal media may be the more permanent means of recording ideas but are only part of the overall enterprise. [The formal media] are complemented by informal, but well established means of exchanging ideas. The formal media are also not all equally formal. In addition…at least three of [the non-formal media] - patents, technical reports and conference proceedings - are sometimes considered fugitive forms of scientific/technical literature…The informal exchange of information among colleagues is much more important at certain periods of the research process than the formal media…along the informal-formal continuum, conference papers may rest at or near the middle…papers presented at conferences may not have gone through the same development or review process as that required of the journal article…the conference is the place for highlighting research effort before publication in a journal. In others, it is a place where ideas are tested, a place to distribute research results or the place to claim priority… National societies in the same discipline often sponsor international conferences in order to encourage both informal and formal exchange of ideas.” (Walker and Hurt, 1990, Scientific and technical Literature, American Library Association, pp. XX, 79-80) And this is what we have been trying to do. Due to this, we have been encouraging, since the beginning, the submission of different kind of papers: research, reports, review papers (tutorials), case studies, position papers, etc.; abstracts and full papers. Due to this we have been trying to bring together to the same conference, researchers and practitioners, academics and professionals.

Because of this we preferred not to use the phrase “refereed proceedings” to refer to our conference proceedings. Weller (2002, Editorial Peer Review, p. 15), for example, states that “Since editorial peer review is a process, its definition can and does vary according to how the process in envisioned.” There is a general obvious definition: “evaluation by one’s peers”, but the meaning of “one’s peers” differs according different editorial policies and according different universities’ regulations.

Pettigrew and Nichols state explicitly the ambiguity of the term: “‘Refereed journal’ is not a precise term, but rather covers a continuum of peer/controlled quality assessment that reaches its most strict definition with double-blind peer review by several scholars working in the research area, and a minimal ability of the editor to override clear decisions by the peer reviewers” (Pettigrew and Nichols, 1994, Publication patterns of LIS faculty form 1982-1992: effects of doctoral programs. Library and Information Science Research, 16, 139-156.) So, depending on the meaning of “minimal ability” the same journal’s editorial policy may be considered as “peer reviewed” or “not-peer reviewed”. Since conference proceedings reviewing is less formal than the journal reviewing process, or informal, then the imprecision of the term is significantly higher.

DeBakey (1990, Journal peer reviewing. Anonymity or disclosure? Archives of Ophthalmology, 108(3), 345-349) asked “is a reviewer of a manuscript…always a peer: a person who has equal standing with another, as in rank, class or age?” So, according to this definition of peer (equal standing of academic rank, for example) we are definitely not making “peer reviews”, and this kind of “peer reviews” is definitely not the base of our paper acceptance policy. We have no feasible way of knowing if the reviewers have the same academic ranks as those of the authors of the paper being reviewed.

After examining several definitions of the phrase “peer-reviewed journal”, Weller (2002, Editorial Peer Review, p. 16) states that “These definitions contain a common element in that they each require some type of review of a manuscript other than the editor. Some definitions are more prescriptive than others, incorporating the number of processes and requirements. These definitions do not address such issue as the percentage of material in a journal that should be peer reviewed, or many other details of the process.” Weller consequently makes a definition which is “intended to be as inclusive as possible.” Accordingly, she states that “A peer-reviewed journal is one that has a portion of submitted manuscripts evaluated by someone other that the editor of the journal.” Again, this is a very elastic definition because it depends on the magnitude of the “portion” of submitted manuscripts evaluated by someone other that the editor of the journal. An acceptable “portion” for a given journal, or as given university, might be completely unacceptable for another. And, if we take into account that conferences proceedings reviewing are less formal that those of journals (or informal), that some (or all, depending on the conference) of the paper acceptances are based on abstracts, and not on full papers, and that a percentage of the papers might be accepted as non-reviewed ones, then the level of imprecision of the definition increases meaningfully.

Consequently, being prudent and cautious with regards to what the term may mean to different scholars and practitioners we preferred not to use the phrase “peer reviewed proceedings” or “refereed proceedings” in our conferences. We did say that “Submitted papers will be sent to reviewers.” And we did send the submitted papers, and abstracts, to at least three reviewers in order to: 1) identify the best 10% of the papers presented at the conference in order to invite their authors to make possible modifications and extensions for their publication in the Journal, as it was stated in the Call for Papers of the conference; and 2) identify the next best 10% of the papers, which along with the sessions’ best papers (selected by the session chair) would go to another reviewing process to be done by the Journal’s reviewers, in order to select the best 30% of them. With this policy, non-reviewed good papers still have the possibility of being published timely in the conference proceedings, and later in a Journal, with a more formal reviewing. We think that, in this way, we are diminishing the probability of refusing good papers. It is known from several studies that papers that had been refused by a journal, were accepted for their publication in another one, and then became some of the most cited papers. Accordingly, we have had no target for a minimum of refusals for the conference proceedings, but we do have a stated target for the related Journal.

Prof. Nagib Callaos


 
     
 
 
About the Conference  |  Why WMSCI 2005  |  Conference Fees  |  Hotel Information  |  Evolution Graphics  |  Program Committee  |  Organizing Committee  |  Academic / Scientific and Technical Co-Sponsors  |  Call for Papers  |  Important Dates  |  Major Themes, Areas and Suggested Topics  |  Interest Form  |  How to Organize an Invited Session  |  Invited Sessions Organizers  |  Invited Sessions Being Organized  |  Organized and Programmed Invited Sessions  |  AuthorsĀ“ Kit  |  Registration Guide  |  Papers Submission  |  Camera Ready Upload  |  Online Registration  |  Conference Program  |  Reviewers  |  Contact Us  |  Papers Acceptance