Scientific Hoaxes and Bad Academic Writing

A new case of scientific hoax, that happened six years ago, is currently circulating:

Six years ago I submitted a paper for a panel, “On the Absence of Absences” that was to be part of an academic conference later that year—in August 2010. Then, and now, I had no idea what the phrase “absence of absences” meant. The description provided by the panel organizers, printed below, did not help. The summary, or abstract of the proposed paper—was pure gibberish, as you can see below. I tried, as best I could within the limits of my own vocabulary, to write something that had many big words but which made no sense whatsoever. I not only wanted to see if I could fool the panel organizers and get my paper accepted, I also wanted to pull the curtain on the absurd pretentions of some segments of academic life. To my astonishment, the two panel organizers—both American sociologists—accepted my proposal and invited me to join them at the annual international conference of the Society for Social Studies of Science to be held that year in Tokyo.

These kind of hoaxes get public from time to time and it is not a new phenomenon (see Wikipedia’s Hoaxes in science category). While it is exhilarating to read about it, it also shows us, as scientists and laymen alike, that we should be more careful in the appreciation of scientific texts.

I disagree in some parts with his argumentation against small niches of research with texts he does not understand and I can see no reason to introduce politics (“leftists”, “left-wing academics”, etc.) in the debate. An interesting read, nevertheless.


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