Two science publishers have withdrawn more than 120 papers after a researcher in France identified them as computer-generated. According to Nature News, 16 fraudulent papers appeared in publications from Germany-based Springer, and more than 100 were published by the New York-based Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE).

The papers were flagged by computer scientist Cyril Labbé, of Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble, France. They were created using software called SCIgen, which was invented by MIT researchers in 2005 to prove how easy it is to publish nonsense papers in conference proceedings. Labbé developed a way to identify the papers by recognizing common words that SCIgen uses, as described in a 2012 study. He's also created a website where users can test papers to determine whether they've been computer generated.

"The papers are quite easy to spot."

"The papers are quite easy to spot," Labbé told Nature News. It's still unclear as to why the papers were submitted, or whether their authors are even aware that they were. (Labbé contacted several editors but few have replied.) Most of the papers were submitted to conferences based in China and were published with Chinese affiliations. Springer says it has reached out to the editors and authors of the allegedly faked papers, adding that they were peer-reviewed prior to publication. The IEEE has not said whether it contacted anyone associated with the papers or whether they were peer-reviewed, saying only that the publication follows "strict governance guidelines for evaluating IEEE conferences and publications."

Labbé says his findings highlight what he describes as a "spamming war started at the heart of science," saying researchers today are pressured to publish at a breakneck pace. And although he says the papers were easy to spot, he acknowledges that there may be more, since the implicated publications were subscription services, and he could not download all papers from their databases.