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Ginsparg on Spotting Deceit Through Linguistic Sleuthing

Investigating language use may be a way to identify deceit in fraudulent scientific papers, but it is far from a precise method, new research suggests.

In this Science Insider article highlighting research on linguistics in retracted scientific papers, Info Sci Professor Paul Ginsparg exercises caution in linguistic sleuthing by noting that the research team’s method flagged fraudulent papers just 57.2 percent of the time. 

From the article: “This is barely better than a coin flip,” Ginsparg notes, and makes the approach “unusable” for publishers seeking to ferret out real-world fraud, at least in its current form.

Ginsparg also notes that the authors suggest “that fraudulent authors intentionally use obfuscatory language.” But an alternative explanation could be that fraudsters are as “intrinsically as poor writers as they are scientists,” he says.