I got roped into what might be a scam conference, called the “International Conference of the Humanities” (name slightly changed for anonymity’s sake) On the website they’ve published the previous year’s presenters and paper titles and lots of photos. Promising, but it all feels slightly off. The fee is $400 and the university I’m doing my PhD in has subsidized my fees, flight, and accommodation. I’ve already paid for everything.

Since it’s a famous city and during the summer, I don’t mind as I’ll take advantage and have a short vacation there with my savings. But I’m willing to cancel going to the conference and fight for a refund. I’m afraid of my work being plagiarized if I do publish it in the proceedings of the conference, as they’ve promised to do. (The concern with plagiarism comes from my underlying assumption that a scummy conference is more likely to act unethically.) Should I go and just not publish in the proceedings? I want to cancel going but I’m afraid the university won't reimburse me then for the trip.

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    In my field a fee of $400 is for sure not unheard of, and of course I can't know how broad "literally everything" actually is. If it's just one field, say chemistry, it doesn't necessarily indicate a scam. How sure are you that this is actually a scam, and on what basis? Commented May 8 at 11:45
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    I don't know for sure, but I believe many of these may actually be at best "half scams" in the sense that somebody makes a lot of money not doing that much for it, however the actual conference may happen (i.e., organisers have at least organised something) including serious and proper scientific exchange among those who come, if probably not at a really high level. Commented May 8 at 11:50
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    If you go, afterwards please write about it here. I'm curious. Personally I wouldn't worry about plagiarism that much by the way (this is a much worse way to make much money with little effort than charging a too high fee). But then I'm not speaking from experience. Commented May 8 at 12:02
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    Can you find publications from previous conferences of them on the web, or even cited? You may well be right, but in that situation researching previous conferences by the same organisers may give you more information. Commented May 8 at 12:06
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    I don't understand the concern about being plagiarised. Publication in the proceedings of a scam conference, or in a predatory journal, still establishes priority, no? Commented May 8 at 12:31

5 Answers 5


You can be plagiarized even if you never attend a scam conference

The two concepts (plagiarism & scam conferences) are unrelated. This is because plagiarism is taking someone else's work and presenting it as your own, and once you make your work public - which is a necessary part of academia - then someone can plagiarize you.

If you're very concerned, be sure to timestamp your work, e.g. by uploading it to some preprint server (because the scam conference's website might not be around for very long, its timestamp might not be available should you need it).


Do you have a supervisor? Have you discussed this with them or someone else at the university?

Surely in the long run it's better to err on the side of being totally honest with them and explaining your concerns and the situation. Even if you are going to go ahead with your travel to said city if you are sure the conference is a scam, then surely it's better to inform the university given that they (presumably your supervisor?) are paying.

I know you didn't list the above as your biggest concern, but also in view of what you say is your biggest concern (the risk of being plagiarized), I think you'd be better of taking the university in the loop. Were you sole author on the work you submitted? If not, other people's reputation is on the line as well, so you'd want to inform them as well.

If I were you I would seek some senior advise before you do anything else.

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    Thanks for your response! All totally valid concerns. I’m the sole author, and it’s my university department + graduate school of arts and sciences that are paying—not advisor/supervisor. I had to send my advisor / uni department all of the materials the conference has sent me—the advisor approved of it all, and didn’t raise any red flags with me. I totally agree about erring on the overly communicative side. I’ll ask her directly what she thinks of the conference, see what she says, and work from there. Thanks again, I hope it all works out somehow… Commented May 8 at 11:53

These conferences usually do take place. The work presented there might not be of great quality, and the sessions may be too broad, so you will not get such a relevant audience, but they usually do the conferencing they promise. They usually are not real scams, but rather low-quality and low-prestige money mills. I would not worry too much about presenting there and having a short paper in the proceedings. It may not bring you too many achievement points, it should not do a real harm either, especially at an early stage of the scientific career.

The risk of being plagiarized appears whenever you publish something. I do not think publishing at a low-tier conference raises the risk too much. You certainly should save your best results for good journal papers, if journal papers are the expected way of publishing in your subject. Still, you can show intermediate results or less important results at various conferences — sometimes more prestigious, sometimes less so.

If you think the conference is a complete scam and nothing happens, then that would be a fraud. The university's legal division would have to decide how to act, given that the university paid for the expenses and should get your conference for their money from the organizing company.


I plan on submitting work for a prize and have the same concerns, but first, regarding the conference, go and as you said have fun whether you enjoy the conference or not, you will enjoy the trip. And look at it this way, you are publishing a paper and going so technically it is an actual academic conference if you go. Maybe only one other person goes and you become great friends, you can never predict the future.

Now to protect your copyright, copyright in the sense of simply proving that you are the original author, the only real way to do this is to publish the paper ahead of time. I started a short list of places that you can submit your paper to for free and that have open access, meaning you can add it without a review process, etc.

As the first link below says on their site - "Scholars can post their early research, collaborate on theories and discoveries, and get credit for their ideas before peer-reviewed publication."

These are all of the links I have saved for open access journals and sites so far, there are many more out there but these seemed to be the more established sites from what I found in my brief search (Google Scholar also lets you track citations to your work):

SSRN Preprint Services: https://www.elsevier.com/products/ssrn-preprint-services

ARXIV Scholarly Papers: https://arxiv.org

Google Scholar: https://scholar.google.com

Springer Open Access: https://www.springernature.com/gp/open-research/about/the-fundamentals-of-open-access-and-open-research

Springer: https://link.springer.com

List of Open Access Publications: https://www.sciencedirect.com/browse/journals-and-books?accessType=openAccess

ScienceDirect: https://www.sciencedirect.com

Have a good time!


I wouldn't worry about it too much. There are many low quality conferences laying around. As long as you have an audience to present and a proceedings to have your paper in you are mostly fine. Just don't expect people to point at you and say you have attended that conference.

Just make sure you have all your documentation in case you show up and there is no conference. But the chance of that happening is very slim.

Also, whenever there is something off, first think of incompetence, not dishonesty. I lost count on how many times I forgot to open a place for students to upload their home works and I had to change the deadline due to that. This happens more if your conference indeed in humanities.

Here is an example: the conference I will soon be joining is a more prestigious one than most, but there were so many red flags in their site. This could have thrown me off if I didn't already know the conference. I am certain someone was too busy to update it on time or properly.

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