Are our undergraduate engineering (BE) students being forced to publish papers?

Since the fake paper I managed to publish this weekend, I’ve been hearing disturbing reports that even undergraduate students are being forced to publish papers by college authorities.

It is my understanding that there are no University requirements that make it mandatory for undergraduate engineering students to publish papers either as a part of their BE Project, or anything else.

Update: Looks like I was partially mistaken. Here is the University of Pune’s BE Computer Engineering Syllabus. With reference to BE Projects, on page 56, bullet #5 says this:

Students must submit and preferably publish atleast one technical paper in the conferences held by IITs, Central Universities or UoP Conference or International Conferences in Europe or US.

My reading of the line indicates that submission is compulsory, but publication is not. Also, at least they’re clear in specifying what is an acceptable conference. But still, in my opinion, this can’t end well…

I have first hand experience with this. A student group who did their BE Project with me a couple of years ago were desperate to get their BE Project published (in fact, as I pointed out in my previous article, this incident is what started off the thought process that culminated in my fake paper this weekend). I protested that this requirement makes no sense, and forced them to go to their college and get the issue clarified. They came back to me and reported that they were told by college authorities that it was a mandatory requirement. What if the students were unable to get your paper published? The students were told to attach rejection letters from the conference – but submission was compulsory, they were told. At that time, my worry was that all these BE students would submit substandard BE Project reports as research papers to conferences and spoil the reputation of Indian researchers. Little did I know that the papers would actually get accepted by the conference they submitted the paper to.

Now comes something even more ridiculous.

Check out this notice from a prominent Engineering College in Pune:

Notice making it mandatory for students to publish papers
I was sent this image of a notice put up in a prominent local Engineering college, and was told that this requirement was made mandatory by the college for 3rd year BE students (October 2013). I was told that most of the students did publish papers. I have not yet verified whether this is indeed all true, but based on my past experiences, I am sure there are colleges where the students are indeed to forced to try to publish papers during their undergraduate studies.

(Note: I am neither disclosing where I got this information from, nor the name of the college – because I don’t want the students to get into trouble, and also because I’m not particularly interested in targeting any specific person or institutions. I’m more interested in seeing how we can change the system.)

I was told that this notice was a requirement for 3rd year engineering students last semester (Fall 2013)!! The only good news here is that the students were being reimbursed for (part of(?)) their expenses. But other than that, there are so many things wrong with this picture.

The worst thing was pointed out to me by a friend on Facebook:

Also, do point out that student themselves are so indoctrinated, they actually, sincerely believe that publication is a requirement. This is why the market is ripe for [conferences like these].

I know firsthand that students believe that such publications are actually good for them and their resume. I guess I am an idiot for arguing with them that this is not true.

Is this a common occurrence? Are other BE colleges making such arbitrary publication requirements? What can/should be done about this?

Fake Paper Impact: UoP VC to issue circular clarifying that publications are not mandatory

Since the fake paper I managed to publish this weekend, and the resulting Mid-Day story, the reporter from Mid-Day has been busy following up with next steps.

One day later, there are two new stories in Mid-Day.

The first one is good news. The Vice Chancellor of the University of Pune has confirmed that publications are not mandatory for getting an ME/MTech degree, just recommended. Considering that students are being given an incorrect impression, a circular is being issued to the colleges in the University of Pune clarifying this.

Read the full story here

Another, less savory aspect of this affair is the impact on the people involved in the organization of that conference. The story related to that is here, and manages to uncover some more interesting details of what was going on behind the scenes at that conference.

Fake Paper Update: My Paper has now been disqualified

Earlier today, I wrote about the fake paper I published.

Now, at 12:26pm, I received an email informing me that my paper has been disqualified. This disqualification happened many hours after the full story broke on Mid-Day, and almost a day after Mid-Day journalists had called up the organizers asking them how they let a fake paper get published by the conference. (According to the Mid-Day report, at that time the organizers responded that, “He (Kabra) might have sent it for another journal.”)

Here is the full text of the email

From: (21 mins. ago) (inbox)
Subject: Paper Disqalified
Date: Sun, 29 Dec 2013 23:56:10 -0700

Dear Riaa Seth,

It is to inform you that after going through the fake paper submitted by you
in the conference. we have stopped the publication. and we have not
distributed the proceedings hard copy also on the conference day. The
acceptance is mistakenly sent to you by our coordinator. You are disqualified
to attend any of the upcoming IRAJ Conference.

Thank you.
With Honor and Regards
Managing Editor
Official Website:
Join us Facebook/IRAJ
Mob: 91-8598978459

Yesterday, the paper had appeared in the online conference proceedings in the IRAJ website. The paper has now disappeared. We were expecting this, so we had archived the relevant webpage at the Wayback Machine. The online proceedings page is here. Compare this with the current version of the page. See the difference in paper number 20? Unfortunately, the PDF of the paper cannot be archived by the Wayback Machine. But here is a long list of people who downloaded the paper form the IRAJ website, on December 29 and morning of December 30 2013, and confirmed that the paper indeed contained nonsense.

I wonder if I should ask for a refund of my Rs. 3000 that I gave them to ensure that my paper is published…

Also, I am pretty sad that I am disqualified from attending upcoming IRAJ conferences. The next one in Pune, happening just one week from now, is International Conference Academics on Computer Science and Information Technology. But, this time, I hope the organizers read the accepted papers more carefully.