Friday, April 01, 2011

Citation Ponzi Sheme discovered

Berlin, April 1st 2011: The Federal Intelligence Service discovered a Ponzi scheme of academic citations lead by an unemployed particle physicist. A house search conducted in Berlin last week revealed material documenting the planning and administration of a profitable business of trading citations for travel reimbursement.

According to the Federal Intelligence Service, the hint came from researchers at Michigan University, Ann Arbor, who were analyzing the structure of citation networks in the academic community. In late 2010, their analysis pointed towards an exponentially growing cluster originating from a previously unconnected researcher based in Germany's capital. A member of the Ann Arbor group, who wants to remain unnamed, inquired about the biography of the young genius, named Al Bert, sparking such amount of activity. The researcher was easily able to find Dr. Bert scheduled for an unusual amount of seminars in locations all over the world, sometimes more than 4 per week. However, upon contacting the respective institutions, nobody could remember the seminars, which according to Prof. Dr. Dr. Hubert at The Advanced Institute is "Not at all unusual." The network researcher from Ann Arbor suspected Dr. Bert to be a fictitious person and notified the university whose email address Dr. Bert was still using.

It turned out Dr. Bert is not a fictitious person. Dr. Bert's graduated in 2006, but his contract at the university run out in 2008. After this, colleagues lost sight of Dr. Bert. He applied for unemployment benefits in October 2008. As the Federal Intelligence Service reported this Wednesday, he later founded an agency called 'High Impact' (the website has since been taken down) that offered to boost a paper's citation count. A user registered with an almost finished, but not yet published, paper and agreed to pay EUR 10 to Dr. Bert's agency for each citation his paper received above the author's average citation count at the time of registration. The user also agreed to cite 5 papers the agency would name. A registered user would earn EUR 10 for each recruitment of a new paper, possibly their own.

This rapidly created a growing network of researchers citing each others papers, and encouraged the authors to produce new papers, certain they would become well cited. Within only a few months, the network had spread from physics to other research fields. With each citation, Dr. Bert made an income. The algorithm he used to assign citations also ensured his own works became top cites. Yet, with many researchers suddenly having papers with several hundred citations above their previously average citation count, their fee went into some thousand dollars. On several instances Dr. Bert would suggest they invite him for a seminar at their institution and locate it in a non-existent room. He would then receive reimbursement for a fraudulent self-printed boarding pass, illegible due to an alleged malfunctioning printer.

Names of researchers subscribed to Dr. Bert's agency were not accessible at the time of writing.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Was Dr. Bert's full name Alfred Bert or Albert Bert?

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Hi Bee,

    This I find totally shocking and as a follow up it’s been just reported that the scheme had produced so many bogus citations and meaningless papers that a paper having a completely consistent and readily experimentally supported theory of everything had gone totally unnoticed. More sadly as the paper having been ignored by the scientific community its author, While E. Coyote, became so despondent with despair he took his own life.

    To compound this in injustice, since Nobel Prizes are only awarded to the living, the discoverer of the final and ultimate solution in physics is not eligible for the award. However, after hearing the news Dr Grigori Perelman has now changed his mind and accepted his million dollar Millenium prize for solving Poincare’s conjecture, which he is quoted as saying he plans to turn over to Dr. While E. Coyote’s bereaved widow Phoenix and his two children. Phoenix has gratefully accepted, thanking Perelman, and in doing so pointed out in an interview “that although her late husband had given the world everything, she had been left with nothing”.



  5. I'm so depressed today. Phil Warnell has clearly widened the gap in the "This post has been removed by the author at BackReAction" contest, so it looks I will have to settle for 1st Runner-Up status, yet AGAIN, dangit.

    Happy April 1st, everyone. If anyone cares to visit Peter Woit's "Not Even wrong" today, you will see not one but something like SEVEN April's Fools posts!

    My God, if I didn't know better, I might be inclined to think that Mathematical Physics had hit a rut or something and people actually have free time on their hands. My jealous.

  6. Phil Warnell wrote:
    Dr Grigori Perelman has now changed his mind and accepted his million dollar Millenium prize for solving Poincare’s conjecture

    That would be proving Poincare's conjecture, and in doing so now more properly called The Perelman Theorem, even if stupid Wikipedia hasn't caught up with that reality.

    It's a simple 69-page proof, mere child's play for a Professional mathematician who can knock off such "short" items in a single afternoon.

    You will not find a more wretched hive of scum, villainy, corruption, and lies.

    Productive academicians must be dunned a Jargon Tax on Everything. Collected citations will be rewarded to diversity faculty as the metric enabling their tenure. We will terminate historic patriarchal White Protestant oppression of ethnically diverse Peoples of Colour. We demand a future in which every child’s utterance bears the same weight as its adult oppressors'. We must begin by destroying the hateful framework of individual worth.

    Oh, wait... 01 April. So?

  8. Ah Ha!

    So that's why theoretical physics papers these days have scores and scores of weakly motivated references.

    And I thought it was all just bribes to potential reviewers!
    What reviewer can resist seeing his name duly referenced?

    Thanks for clarifying that, Bee.


  9. I thought your April 1 exercise was the best --- until I saw Peter Woit's hilarious, if rather cruel, spoof of Clifford Johnson's blog!
    "This is a typical story of the new New York. In what used to be pretty much a slum, now there’s a beautiful restaurant with some of the world’s best food. The wealthy may sometimes monopolize it, but if you’re a New Yorker and play your cards right, you too can participate in the fun and get a fantastic meal in a gorgeous place, at a not unreasonable price." [For "new York", read "Los Angeles" and you have CJ precisely.....]

  10. From Peter Woit's blog by anonymous:

    This may be a great time to mention the new element that is speculated to be the bearer of all political mass in the universe:
    Govermentium (Gov). Govermentium is normally stable and does not change under most circumstances (including new election cycles), has a transient state where it spews a great deal of negatively charged taxions. Governmentium has 1 neutron, 12 assistant neutrons, 75 deputy neutrons, and 224 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312. These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons. Since governmentium has no electrons, it is inert. However, it can be detected as it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A minute amount of governmentium causes one reaction to take over four days to complete when it would normally take less than a second. Governmentium has a normal half-life of three years; it does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places. In fact, governmentium’s mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause some morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes.

  11. This post is only partially funny, because it's only partially far-fetched. The citation scheme exhibits many aspects of void selfreinforcing mechanisms, typical for Ponzi
    Scheme (1,

    For example, scientists tend to publish positive, rather then negative articles (these denying existing theories the less) - it enables them to write more publications and to get
    better references for them. Scientists tend to publish unoriginal research (with many references to earlier work), rather then new, potentially controversial research (with few
    references to earlier work) - it enables them to get more publications and to get better references for them. The physicists are refuting to work on the topics, which don't play
    well with their existing theories and they tend to research topics, which are supporting them (6).
    It enables them to get more grants for useless but non-controversial research and to get more references for it.

    Every large community postulates its own rules, which are enabling it to grow faster despite the rest of society. The laws developed with  politicians are primarily protecting
    the government, the principles of scientific work and grant system are following the interests of scientists, not the rest of society - which is investing into this research.

    Aparently this fact is worth of censorship for many people like the Bee, even though is supported with peer-reviewed articles of this community itself. Should we respect such a people, after then?

  12. Dear Bee, with regard to your question on Woit's blog, which version of multiverse are you looking for in older works?

  13. Just the idea that all that can be exists in the same sense.

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  15. What the heck does this:

    John 11:25-26 "I am the resurrection and the life... whoever lives and believes in me will never die."

    have to do with this:

    Gamma ray burst delay times probe the geometry of momentum space
    Laurent Freidel, Lee Smolin

    Thanks from one of Bee's tweets. Either there is some sarcasm here that I missed or religion and science have finally merged, or something else

  16. Nothing very deep there. It's for those who believe that dead theories push away stones and step out of their tombs ;-)

  17. lol .... OK, I suspected as much. Thanks for the confirm. :-) However I must say, for one who was raised an atheist, you have good command of scripture. :-)

    Btw, when can we expect your next paper? Although by no means rush it on our account. The first 3 months, the first 6 months, even the first year of a new family takes priority, for sure or at least in my book. You're all just getting to know each other. :-)

  18. Well, I didn't grow up in religious vacuum. I had to attend religion class in school (protestant), and most of my friends and relatives are Christian. So I'm quite familiar at least with the New Testament and manage the Pater Noster forward and backward on the rare occasion that I find myself inside a church.

    Next paper. Ah. Good question. I hope within the next months, but I'm waiting for a collaborator to collaborate, so hard to say at this point.

  19. Here's a possible subject.

    Title: Nature's Conformal Invariance.

    Abstract: In terms of pure geometry, nature's geometry is full conformal geometry (no preferred lengths, relativity of scale). However, when the complexities of matter and dynamical laws are included, the full conformal symmetries are "broken" and restricted to discrete conformal invariance. This results in a discrete self-similar structure and dynamics for nature.

    All that remains to be done are the details. :)

    Ok, so I cannot "paint like Titian", but I can conceptualize with the best of them.


  20. Write a large Pascal's triangle. Color the numbers that end in odd number black, the numbers that end in an even number white. What emerges is a Sierpinski triangle, a fractal.

    Why is that, Rob?

  21. Dunno.

    But I might look in:

    Peitgen and Richter,

    "The Beauty of Fractals",

    or one of their other books

    for guidance.


  22. Oh, I read that book, thanks for the tip. I lost it in a mini-flood, long before my recent return to Math, along with Mandelbrot's book. I should probably re-buy.

    But no yet thanks, I'm aware of the How, I was asking about the "Why"?

    Metamathematics, anyone? It's similar (yet different) than Metaphysics, but less crazy.

  23. Personally, I find nature infinitely more fascinating than artificial mathematical constructs.

    True, we may learn something from the the latter, but I think we can learn much more from the former.



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