It’s a fair question: should abstract management software companies like Mira Smart Conferencing add an “obfuscation index” to its abstract review process? From their research, Jeff Hancock, a professor of communication at Stanford, and graduate student David Markowitz believe that this index would be a legitimate indicator of the integrity of the research.1 The key to their findings: papers with fraudulent data contained fifty-percent more jargon than those that didn’t.
“Your high school English teacher had it right: clear, concise, and correct,” John Berglund, CEO of Mira Smart Conferencing said. “Even highly technical language has to fit these three rules.”
Granted, there are times when tech speak is necessary when presenting research. “The prototype for the cohesinopathy disorders that have mutations in genes associated with the cohesin subunit”2 may sound like a mouthful, but that is a direct and accurate description of the research and appropriate for the education level of the audience. What Hancock and Markowitz found was that fraudulent authors add jargon where jargon is not needed. Although there were other measures, such as readability and abstract terms, what is most striking is that jargon provided the highest correlation to fraud, as measured by a paper being withdrawn due to falsified data.
“We work hand in hand, with all of the stake holders. The organizers and administrators have different needs than the chairs and reviewers, who are focused on different tasks than the executive directors,” John said. “But at the end of the day, we are all driving to the same goal, to have the best conference and the best conference has the best content.”
As of now, Mira’s robust and easy to use review process simplifies the human element. For example, Mira links the abstracts to CrossCheck3, an anti-plagiarism Web app, without having to leave the site. The track chairs can also access statistics related to their pool of reviewers, statistics like average score and standard deviation from the rest of the reviewers. Mira also runs algorithms to normalize tendencies of preference and bias so that the grading process is most equitable. Blind submissions is also common.
“We’ve had clients who wanted to pull data from the SQL database for their own advanced statistical analysis,” John said, “We provide the tools that society’s need to get the best product possible.”
Mira is always looking for ways to improve both the ease of use and the functionality of its suite of abstract management software. In the end, it’s the market that drives the product.
“If we learn that fraud is a major problem for our clients, then we’ll find a solution for them,” John said. “We make what conference organizers need: robust abstract management software.”
1“Linguistic Obfuscation in Fraudulent Science”, Journal of Language and Social Psychology
2”Cornelia de Lange syndrome: Further delineation of phenotype, cohesin biology and educational focus, 5th Biennial Scientific and Educational Symposium abstracts”, American Journal of Medical Genetics.