Wednesday, October 27

Science with patience

The words science and patience both come from Latin, but they have very different origins. Science comes from scientia, which means knowledge, while patience means pati, which means to suffer. Thus, patient, which derives from the participle patiens, refers to “the one who suffers”, although it also has other meanings, among which I am particularly interested in not getting carried away by emergencies and knowing how to wait. Science doesn’t pay off overnight. Its maturation is slow and many times the harvest is lost along the way. Unfortunately, there are also those who do science by shortcuts and those who, when financing it, feel that of those who wait despair.

When in science patience is exchanged for urgency, scientific publications of more than questionable quality appear. The pressure to publish is growing in the scientific systems of the countries and in their research institutions. The rush takes over researchers, especially those who are starting their scientific careers and want to do that, career, and not just stay at the start. This has led to the emergence of a good number of apparently scientific publishers and conferences that make cash by charging or monetizing in one way or another the pressure to publish at all costs and almost at any cost. But there is an even worse thing, and it is deception and fraud in science and the number of publications that include false data or that are built with clippings from here and there, often from works already published that, these yes, can be original and valuable. Publications “Frankenstein”, we could call them.

To try to mislead plagiarism detection software, which are also the order of the day, plagiarists often translate the document to be plagiarized into another language, and then back to the original. This back and forth between languages ​​(often English and the plagiarist’s own language) sometimes gives rise to so-called tortured expressions or phrases, which are those that, subjected to the “lathe” of the automatic translator, end up distorting the original, when not turning it into a string of nonsense. Without going any further, in my field there are works that refer to Artificial Intelligence as “false consciousness”.

To give us an idea of ​​how these tortured phrases are produced, I give you an example for which I have used the Google translator, which is not exactly bad:

Original text: We are always moving in the dilemma between using good, although scarce data, or simply and without major considerations.

Text recovered after the double translation of the original, first into English and back into Spanish: We are always in a dilemma between using good data, although scarce, or using it in a haphazard and thoughtless way.

It is obvious that the second sentence does not mean the same as the first and is even partially absurd.

But the thing does not stop there. Today commissioned publications are the order of the day. In countries like Russia, Iran and especially in China, there are real factories for the production of scientific articles on demand. In China, in particular, the need to publish for promotion has seen the number of scientific publications in English in hospitals multiply by almost 50 in the last 20 years. It is not surprising that many of these publications are beginning to be questioned or are directly ignored by the international scientific community.

By the way, automatic translation between languages ​​was one of the first objectives of Artificial Intelligence and a lot of money and efforts were invested in it, for decades now. In fact, the cold war encouraged Americans to apply machine translation to documents in Russian. It is said, but perhaps it is no more than a hoax, that the expectations of achieving it were deflated when an automatic translator gave his own version of an expression from the Bible, when translating: “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”, like: “The vodka is good, but the meat is rotten.” However, if today they repeat the process with the current automatic translators, the result is perfect. It is precisely the excellent performance that automatic translators give us today that encourages their use by false scientists. But it does not always work for them, since the same Artificial Intelligence that serves to deceive them can unmask them.

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