Kim Kardashian writes paper for drug design journal
The social media star teams up with Bitcoin inventor to produce a truly memorable research report. Andrew Masterson reports.
Kim Kardashian has many accomplishments to her name, but perhaps this is the most important yet: she is now lead author on a paper published in a scientific journal.
Whether Ms Kardashian is aware of this achievement is for the moment unclear. Equally unclear is whether another of the three authors credited with the work – elusive alleged Bitcoin inventor Satoshi Nakamoto – knows of his own role in the research.
The paper, titled “Wanion: Refinement of Rpcs”, is published in the Drug Designing & Intellectual Properties International Journal.
It is the brainchild of Tomas Pluskal, a bioinformatics researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and constitutes either an elegant comment on the intersection between popular culture and materialism, or a rather frivolous joke, depending on your perspective.
Pluskal is credited as third author on the paper, but he did not, in fact, write it, any more than did Kardashian or Nakamoto. In an interview with academic integrity site RetractionWatch, he admits that the paper was created using SCIgen, an automatic science-paper generator developed by other researchers at MIT.
SCIgen uses a handwritten context-free grammar to produce randomly worded papers that look superficially like proper academic research, complete with references, graphs and figures.
On its homepage, its creators – Jeremy Stribling, Max Krohn and Dan Aguayo – state that their aim in making the program publically available “is to maximise amusement, rather than coherence”.
In the work of Kardashian, Nakamoto, and Pluskal, the program has certainly lived up, or perhaps down, to expectations. It is worth quoting the abstract in full:
“In recent years, much research has been devoted to the synthesis of the Turing machine; nevertheless, few have enabled the deployment of systems. Given the current status of ubiquitous theory, physicists daringly desire the evaluation of IPv6, which embodies the appropriate principles of cyber informatics. It might seem counterintuitive but is supported by previous work in the field. In this work, we show not only that e-commerce can be made cacheable, semantic, and client-server, but that the same is true for vacuum tubes.”
Speaking to RetractionWatch, Pluskal explained why he chose to seek computer help in writing the paper.
“I have been using SCIgen for a while,” he said.
“It is a fantastic tool that saves so much time and reduces the burden and stress associated with paper preparation. It’s cutting-edge MIT technology at its best.”
He jests, of course, but with serious purpose. Once it was completed, the paper was submitted for consideration to the selected journal – one of several published by a company called Lupine Publishers, registered in New York, US.
Lupine is among dozens of open access publishers accused of “predatory” practice – operating on a business model that extracts payments from unwary or unethical scientists in return for having work published with minimal, or no, peer review.
The publisher’s website boasts of having so far put out more than 5000 papers. In choosing them, the publishers write, “we crave to select ground-breaking research based on modernism, aptness, scientific connotation, prospective spectator’s interests, etc.”.
Commenting on his experience dealing with the company, Pluskal said, tongue firmly in cheek, that it was “just terrific”.
“DDIPIJ was just so polite and welcoming,” he continued.
“Peer review was finished in four days, and we didn’t even need to revise the paper. It’s like every scientist’s dream, isn’t it?”
Kim Kardashian’s reaction to all this is as yet unknown. However, it is not her only contribution to science.
In 2014 genome biologist Neil Hall from the UK’s University of Leeds published a paper (in Genome Biology, a proper journal) describing a mathematical model that mapped the “measure of discrepancy between a scientist’s social media profile and publication record based on the direct comparison of numbers of citations and Twitter followers”.
He termed the results the Kardashian Index. It has since become a widely used ranking system and a generator of much interdisciplinary snark.