Presenting research at a conference is a major highlight of any academic’s career. Choosing the right conference is important. Not only is attending expensive (travel costs, conference fees, lodging costs), but it is also a large time investment. The conference may span 3-7 days itself, but also preparing abstracts and the presentation takes a significant amount of time.
Not only do researchers need to make sure they choose a conference with the right audience, but we now have to be alert to avoid predatory conferences. Like predatory journals, predatory conferences are scams that prey on unwary researchers and especially researchers from developing countries.
Predatory conferences concern themselves with money, and no interest in scientific or business ethics. They falsely advertise that top academics in the field are presenting (but they do not), there is no peer-review, and high fees. If the conference is cancelled, and they often are after fees have been collected, there are no refunds. If the conference does take place, it is barely attended, and only by other scammed researchers.
In this article, we outline how to identify and avoid predatory conferences.
1. Check the Email
We can often identify and avoid predatory conferences by their initial emails. Is the “Call for Papers” conference related to your field? For example, are you receiving invitations for an Engineering conference when you research Oncology?
Is the conference the 1st, 2nd, or even 3rd annual conference in some generic name? While being a new conference does not in itself invalidate a conference, it is a red flag.
The language in emails from predatory conferences will often be overly informal (such as “Dear Friend”, “Dear Esteemed Colleague), in badly written English, or appear unprofessional.
2. Check the Website
If the email looks legitimate, the next place to check for signs of a predatory conference is the conference website. Does the website have bad English, or misspell key words in your field? Does the website look unprofessional? Are there multiple conferences for the same days at the same location? To save money, predatory conferences will pack many scam meetings into the same location.
3. Check the Organizers
Be wary if OMICS or conference series is organizing the conference. They have a lawsuit filed against them by the US Federal Trade Commission for allegedly deceiving academics with their predatory journals and predatory conferences. If the conference is organized by a different group, what is the goal or theme of the conference? The goal or theme should be specific. For example, the Annual meeting for the Society for Neuroscience is “for scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system”. If the goal is something generic like “promoting innovation” or “disseminate research findings” than avoid the predatory conference.
4. Check the Invited Speakers
If the organizers also appear legitimate, then take a look at the invited speakers. The invited speakers may actually be scammed researchers or fraudulent. Do the speakers have relevance to the conference? Are they well-known and respected? Try to contact them to see if they are actually going to speak at the conference. Many predatory conferences fraudulently list high-ranking speakers that are never aware of and never show up to the predatory conference.
5. Check Prepared Lists
Like predatory journals, a list was kept of known and suspected predatory publishers by Jeffrey Beall. Unfortunately, he took down his lists in January 2017, but a cached version of his list of predatory conferences is available from the internet archive.
Academics are under high pressure to “publish or perish”. Unscrupulous companies will continue to take advantage of this situation and scam unsuspecting researchers. Knowledge is the best defence. By following this outline, you can identify and avoid predatory conferences. Please spread this knowledge to your colleagues.