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I recently received an invitation to review a mathematics paper for a conference called "International Conference on Physics, Mathematics and Statistics". It's not one I'm familiar with, but their proceedings are to be published by what appears to be a reputable publisher (IOP; Journal of Physics: Conference Series).

The invitation said "The review period will be 1 week." This seemed quite unusual based on my experience with math journals - reviewers are usually given at least 2-3 months and often more, as it is necessary to carefully check the proofs for logical correctness. It made me wonder whether the conference was "real" or predatory.

I declined the invitation with a somewhat snappish comment about the review period being unreasonably short, but I wonder if I was out of line. I don't have a lot of experience with conferences that publish proceedings. Was their timeline at all normal or reasonable by prevailing standards?

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    The name of the conference alone is a sure sign the conference is fake/predatory. – Dan Romik Mar 24 '18 at 0:54
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    A review period of one week is, in my opinion, ample reason to decline a review invitation. As far as I can remember, the only times I've ever been able to finish a review in a week were when the paper was garbage (and I could finish the review in an hour). – Andreas Blass Mar 24 '18 at 3:37
  • There is a site at: pmsconf.org (no comment about it, I just searched for "International Conference on Physics, Mathematics and Statistics", judge by yourself) – Rolazaro Azeveires Mar 24 '18 at 11:08
  • Was the paper actually close to your research area, or at least something you could reasonably review? – Kimball Mar 24 '18 at 12:45
  • @Kimball: It was in the right general area, such that I wouldn't have been too surprised to get a paper on that topic from any other journal. – Nate Eldredge Mar 24 '18 at 13:44
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I see a few different aspects in your question:

  1. Reputation of a journal / conference.
  2. Conference paper review vs Journal paper review.
  3. Acceptable behaviour when responding.

1. Reputation

A sure red flag is a single "international" conference that covers multiple large specialized fields of study. Each one of Physics, Mathematics and Statistics usually have enough size to warrant their own conferences, and in this case typically super specialized conferences. A conference that is so broad is not really valuable to any specialist that attends it. Another red flag is that the website has a date agnostic URL, which means you cannot go back and see past conference outcomes and attendance. Red flag number 3 is that this is the first run of that conference, so no reputation or track record has been established. You mention IOP but the two other's in that same list are both from china, that has to date not been at the forefront or quality reputable research.

2. Conference vs Journal review

You are correct, usually for journals one gets multiple months to review a paper, from my experience conference review cycles are much shorter, but still in the order of 3-6 weeks. This is heavily dependent on the conference and journal. A 1 week review time should raise another red flag with point (1) above.

3. How to respond when you want to say no

Always be polite, but clearly state why you said no. Snappish was maybe not the best way, but since this conference has a high probability of being fake, no harm done. Remember to also indicate if you can be considered for future reviews for that journal even if you said no this time (e.g. when your reason was that you don't have the time right now or that the time available is too short).

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