"Advances in Internet of Things"

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I'm used to being solicited by email to submit papers to spamferences like WMSCI, and (less often) I'm solicited to contribute to spam journals. But the names of these conferences and journals are generally plausible idiomatic (if somewhat abstract) imitations of the genuine article. So I was surprised yesterday to get an invitation from a new journal with the extraordinary monicker Advances in Internet of Things.

Here's how the invitation read (emphasis original):

Dear Liberman M,

Considering your research in related areas, we cordially invite you to submit a paper to Advances in Internet of Things .

Advances in Internet of Things is an international, peer-reviewed, open access, online journal, publishing original research, reports, reviews and commentaries on all areas about internet of things . [...]

Advances in Internet of Things is published by Scientific Research Publishing [...] which was established in 2007 and currently has more than 100 journals. SRP specializes in the rapid publication of quality peer-reviewed journals across the broad spectrum of science, technology, life science and medicine.

There are a couple of indications that the author was not a native speaker of English, especially the anarthrous  title of the journal. But the most striking part was the listing of the journal's "Aims & Scope":

  • Classification Methods
  • Computer Vision
  • Digital Libraries
  • Gateway between Databases and Security
  • Home Networking
  • Image Processing
  • Information Forensics, Information Security, Biometrics and Systems Applications that Incorporate These Features
  • IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS)
  • IPTV
  • IPTV Platform and Standards
  • IPv6
  • Mobile Ad Hoc Network (MANET) and Sensor Networks
  • Networking Protocols
  • Neural Computing
  • Online Document Processing
  • P2P Networking and System
  • Securing Information Technology
  • Smart Grid
  • Text and Graphics Recognition
  • Web Services

This led me to wonder whether the spam journal industry might be hiring unemployed humanists to con engineers out of page charges, in a well-deserved if unintentional payback for the Sokal hoax. But it's probably a mistake to attribute to conscious irony what can easily be explained by incompetent greed.

For some background on the publisher in question, see Katharine Sanderson, "Two new journals copy the old", Nature News 1/13/2010.

(For some background on the "internet of things" idea, which should give you a sense of what it does or doesn't have to do with the items in the Aims & Scope list, see the Wikipedia article.)

Update — courtesy of Victor Mair, another link: Marc Abrahams, "Strange Academic Journals: Spam?", Improbable Research, 12/22/2009.

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24 Comments »

  1. Fred said,

    April 26, 2011 @ 7:10 am

    Perhaps you're already aware, but the "Internet of things" as a phrase used to describe networking of "things" like appliances (TVs, refrigerators) that you normally don't associate with being on the internet. In that context, the title of the journal makes sense, even if it is a little strange to parse at first.

  2. JS Bangs said,

    April 26, 2011 @ 7:10 am

    I'm a bit confused… what exactly is the business model for spamferences and spam journals? How is Advances in Internet of Things supposed to be making money for its publishers?

    [(myl) Many open-access journals follow an "author pays" model, in which it costs (between $500 and $3,500 or so) to submit an article. There's nothing wrong with this -- many excellent journals now follow this model. And conferences always have a registration fee, which is often in the $500-$1,000 range. Again, nothing wrong with this; but both business models create a flow of money and thus attract those whose interest in mainly in money rather than in science or technology.]

  3. peter said,

    April 26, 2011 @ 7:11 am

    Is your surprise at the journal title simply due to the absent definite article before the word "Internet", or the phrase itself?

    [(myl) It was the lack of an article that caught my eye. The odd (though established) phrase "Internet of Things" is a bonus.]

    "The Internet of Things" has been a major research focus of (among many others) the European Commission's IST programme for several years. Similarly, the wikipedia page for this topic seems to have been created in July 2007.

  4. richard howland-bolton said,

    April 26, 2011 @ 7:11 am

    Well I'm tempted, if only to find out how they can at once be both 'peer-reviewed' and 'open access' (emphasis theirs).

    [(myl) "Open Acess" just means that you don't have to pay to read it. "Peer reviewed" means that you have to pass through an editorial review process to publish in it. There's no contradiction at all.

    See Peter Suber's "Open Access Overview" page for additional information, or the PLoS home page, or check out Biomed Central (now owned by Springer).]

  5. Matt Heath said,

    April 26, 2011 @ 7:21 am

    @richard howland-bolton: There's no contradiction there. "Open access" means "no barriers to readers" not "no barriers to authors".

  6. peter said,

    April 26, 2011 @ 7:22 am

    Moreover, the list of journal aims and scope contains nothing that is obviously unrelated to The Internet of Things, as computing people understand the concept. To this computer scientist, neither the journal title nor the scope would suggest that the journal is a scam.

    [(myl) "Digital libraries"? "Online Document Processing"? You might be right, but combined with the revelations of dodgy behavior in the Nature New article, I'm not convinced.]

  7. richard howland-bolton said,

    April 26, 2011 @ 7:40 am

    Ah! I was thinking of open access for the authors, largely because I've aged suddenly today!

    (Slinks off singing "Now I'm sixty-four")

  8. Ian Tindale said,

    April 26, 2011 @ 7:45 am

    Here’s an example of Internet Of Things, that I’m familiar with:

    http://mbed.org/blog/entry/Example-Internet-of-Things-RFID-Tweeter2/

  9. Leonardo Boiko said,

    April 26, 2011 @ 8:21 am

    As a former comp-sci student, the only one that I felt to stand out was “Gateway between Databases and Security ”. “Digital library” is established, and “online document processing” simply makes me think of Google Docs and other attempts to kill MS Office. Yes computertalk is weird.

    [(myl) "Digital Libraries" and "online document processing" are certainly well-established research areas -- I've worked in both of them for years -- but I don't see that either of them has anything much to do with "The Internet of Things".]

  10. Derry said,

    April 26, 2011 @ 8:39 am

    Most of the list is generically appropriate for a putative journal, but "Information Forensics, Information Security, Biometrics and Systems Applications that Incorporate These Features" comes from the IEEE http://www.signalprocessingsociety.org/publications/periodicals/forensics/forensics-authors-info/ .

    The other interesting one is “Gateway between Databases and Security ” that Leonardo Boiko mentioned. Can't find that anywhere.

  11. Leonardo Boiko said,

    April 26, 2011 @ 9:20 am

    Let’s try to analyse the thing. “Gateway” in a computing context makes one think primarily of 1. A piece of hardware, or 2. A role computers can assume. “Databases” is software, so I’m primed for meaning 2—in “Gateway between Databases and X” I expect X to be another class of software, say web services, and you’re writing in-between software to connect the two. But “Security” is a generic abstraction. You can’t hook up databases to “security”, any more you could to “kindness” or “hope”.

    After looking at the sentence for a time a plausible reading pops out: let “between” have higher precedence than “and”. ((Gateway between Databases) and Security)—you are hooking up one database to another, and want to discuss the security of the whole kludge. If this is the intended meaning, we’re looking at a garden-path sentence.

    A second oddity is “Gateway” in singular. Perhaps a more idiomatic attempt would be Database Gateways and Security.

  12. S. Norman said,

    April 26, 2011 @ 9:43 am

    Internet of Things

    I think I found my next band name.

  13. KWillets said,

    April 26, 2011 @ 12:11 pm

    Is there an Internet of Non-things?

  14. Jon Weinberg said,

    April 26, 2011 @ 12:33 pm

    A quick hard drive search reveals that I submitted a work-in-progress abstract containing the phrase "Internet of things" way back in 2003. (I flagged it, though, writing: "Proponents thus point to RFID as enabling 'an Internet of things.'") I guess I have a new journal to submit to . . .

  15. tim finin said,

    April 26, 2011 @ 2:06 pm

    Another good topic for their aims and scope is "things that from a long way off look like flies".

    [(myl) Yes indeed. In the original:

    Esas ambigüedades, redundancias y deficiencias recuerdan las que el doctor Franz Kuhn atribuye a cierta enciclopedia china que se titula Emporio celestial de conocimientos benévolos. En sus remotas páginas está escrito que los animales se dividen en (a) pertenecientes al Emperador, (b) embalsamados, (c) amaestrados, (d) lechones, (e) sirenas, (f) fabulosos, (g) perros sueltos, (h) incluidos en esta clasificación, (i) que se agitan como locos, (j) innumerables, (k) dibujados con un pincel finísimo de pelo de camello, (l) etcétera, (m) que acaban de romper el jarrón, (n) que de lejos parecen moscas.

    ]

  16. peter said,

    April 26, 2011 @ 3:20 pm

    Relevant here is physicist Gerhard Mack's 1994 paper, entitled "Gauge theory of things alive and universal dynamics", which considers the question: What is a thing? The paper does not answer the question, merely describing things rather than saying what they are.

  17. Mark F. said,

    April 26, 2011 @ 4:54 pm

    Is it possible that the large number of technical articles written by non-native English speakers is changing the standards of technical English itself? Obviously they haven't changed enough to make that title acceptable, but I wonder if you can read enough papers with missing determiners to start to see that as a standard part of, say, computer science writing.

    As for Gerhard Mack's paper, I'm not sure the question of "what is a thing" is well posed. The thing is, I can't think of any things that aren't things.

  18. Steve Morrison said,

    April 26, 2011 @ 7:54 pm

    Mark F.:

    The thing is, I can't think of any things that aren't things.

    This reminds me of Raymond Smullyan's joke questions for a Metaphysics 101 exam: "Define an entity, and give a counterexample" and "Define universe, and give two examples"!

  19. Vicki said,

    April 26, 2011 @ 8:13 pm

    Gracias, Mark.

    I've seen that quoted now and then, but never before in the original. (My Spanish isn't great, but it's still worth trying now and then.)

    There's the Internet of things, and there are all those abstract Turing machines.

  20. Matt said,

    April 26, 2011 @ 9:06 pm

    [(myl) "Digital Libraries" and "online document processing" are certainly well-established research areas — I've worked in both of them for years — but I don't see that either of them has anything much to do with "The Internet of Things".]

    Well, maybe that's just because you haven't been keeping up with the new research published in Advances in Internet of Things.

  21. Tim Mantyla said,

    April 27, 2011 @ 6:09 pm

    Thinking (thinging?) aloud here…

    I'm just going to take a new, creativist (nonprescriptivist, nondescriptivist) approach and rename this ridiculous "Internet of Things." The phrase is too wacky and amorphous to catch on; it needs a hot, new brand.

    What about a Things Cloud or Thing Cloud, dispensing with that pesky ink-waster, "of"?

    A new buzzword offers food for thought, as it seems to be replacing "Internet": "The Cloud." This concept/thing is so awesomely "random" (a new word for "cool"), even experts on (those with knowledge about it, that is–not those who might be physically floating there) the Cloud have trouble defining it. That doesn't matter, though–it's super-new, it's super-cool, so it's definitely the way to go!

    It would be new and cool and hip to call Internet of Things "Cloud of Things" instead. Then the concept could use a concrete thing to represent things in aggregate, rather than a rather cloudy and conceptual (Latin-based) word like Internet to gather and represent the aggregate of things. It's more in keeping with the "thingy" nature of the concept…er, thing…er, concept?

    Eureka! Here's the answer: in the spirit of Stephen Colbert, I just FEEL the best name is "Thingyness (Thinginess?) Cloud." (Referencing Coldbert's neologism, "truthiness.")

    Love it or lose it, baby: Thingyness Cloud.

    It's so exciting to make history! And if you have a beef with it, "Hey, hey, you, you, get offa my cloud!"

  22. James Wimberley said,

    April 27, 2011 @ 8:04 pm

    "Internet" has no article in French, as if it were a country or ocean. En France, sur mer, en Internet. But SFIK it's le Web, or la Toile – one of the usually vain but sometimes ingenious attempts by a Parisian language purity committee to invent proper French words for IT innovations. Logiciel took off, even its -iel suffix as in didacticiel, but the elegant butineur for browser failed.

  23. ASG said,

    May 20, 2011 @ 1:12 pm

    Not being in this field, I've never encountered this phrase before, and I'm wondering whether the emphasis is on the "Internet" (i.e., things have always had a lot of stuff, but now they have an Internet too!) or on the "things" (i.e., the Internet covers a lot of stuff, but now it covers things too!) when it's spoken aloud. Though I suspect it's the second, I think I prefer the first pronunciation. I'm imagining the voice of Jen Barber from The IT Crowd as she introduces "The Internet of Things!" with a dramatic sweep of her hand.

  24. lylebot said,

    December 14, 2011 @ 6:52 pm

    Sorry for the comment on an old post, but I just got an email invitation to submit to this journal and I was so struck by its title and and areas of interest that I immediately had to turn to Google to find out what it was all about—and I'm a computer scientist! I've never heard the phrase "internet of things" before and the whole thing really did seem like it had been generated by some kind of statistical language model rather than a living person.

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