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I occasionally receive emails inviting me to present in a predatory conference. These are usually easy to identify, given that they call me a "Dr" or a "Prof" (only a PhD student at the moment), never heard of them (6th conference on something.. What were the first 5?), weird English, bizarre locations, organised by an organisation outside the field, etc.

When you're publishing a predatory journal I guess it's not too hard to actually publish the journal eventually. Just put some PDFs on a website. What about conferences? Organising a conference is harder: you have to arrange a venue, audio/video gear, food and a bunch of other things. Let's say that I do end up submitting and paying the abstract fees. Is there an actual conference happening somewhere?

EDIT - let me focus this a bit..

  1. Is it possible that one signs up to such a conference, arrives, and then there is nothing on site?
  2. Are the (sometimes famous) keynote speakers aware they they are listed? Do they show up to the conference?

If there is an actual conference, and people end up attending it, what is predatory about it? Eventually, it's a meeting of people discussing science about a particular topic.

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    And especially: I receive a lot of conference spam from a certain Stefania; does Stefania attend all the conferences she advertise? :-) – Massimo Ortolano Mar 30 '16 at 21:05
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    Sure. The creators of scigen did it to expose a fake conference, and they actually attended it and gave a computer generated talk on their computer generated paper in a fake session there. (A fake session, because at this stage they had gotten enough publicity that they were no longer welcome at the official conference sessions, so they booked an adjacent conference room in the same hotel.) You can see a video of it here. – ff524 Mar 30 '16 at 21:11
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    @ff524 that's a funny video indeed! However, in their case there was an actual conference and you might say they were the "illegitimate" ones. Besides, no one showed up to theirs. This was 11 years ago, and the situation is different now. – Gimelist Mar 31 '16 at 21:31
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    @Michael The point of my comment is that there was an actual physical event associated with the "fake" conference they were trying to expose. – ff524 Mar 31 '16 at 21:46
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    @ff524 point taken. However, I think that this issue is becoming worse with time, so something from 11 years ago may not represent what's happening now. – Gimelist Mar 31 '16 at 21:49
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So far as I can tell, and have read online, predatory conferences typically are associated with an actual event.

To my mind, this seems to be a key difference between "predatory" and "fraudulent." If a conference takes your money and no event is organized, then there is clearly false advertising and grounds for legal action, perhaps even criminal charges. If a conference takes your money and organizes a horrible, worthless, CV-staining joke of an event, on the other hand, there is no regulatory body that you can complain to: scientific quality is considered to be a matter of judgement, and there is no way to easily distinguish between an honest-but-poor-quality conference and a intentionally predatory conference.

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Yes, in these cases the event is organized but the quality is poor, since no one important in the field goes to that conference. An example from this website with scam conferences to be avoided.

From here:

"waset are a known predatory publisher, run by a former science teacher in Turkey (and his family). Readers have complained to this site about their fradulent behaviour, inclduing Kim Guan Saw, who wrote:

"I would also like to alert you that this particular organization has been using my name as their conference committee member. I am not involved at all with this organization and their conferences and have not consented for my name to be used. My university legal office has been informed and is looking into the matter. I hope you will inform your colleagues if they happen to associate me with these conferences."—2 April 2015

See the comments at the end of this post for other experiences; or this warning. Comments from the former include:

  • "In 2012 I organised an international conference ... our list of working group titles has just been copied and pasted for a WASET conference (15–16 May 2013)"

  • "The conference is a complete scam. I know I have been on several hiring committees and if we see someone list a paper published at WASET on their CV we immediately stop evaluating their application."

  • "I went to a WASET conference and it was a complete joke. There were virtually no people there in my field, and the talks were completely unrelated to each other. Basically each person got up and spoke about their work to a completely unrelated audience. For example, the person before me talked about boat design, I talked about quantum mechanics, and the person after talked about Halal meat!"

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    Somehow I find imagining the quantum physicist talking to Halal-meat amateur audience incredibly funny. This could be the basis for a tragic comedy movie. Maybe Iñárritu should direct it. :P – fgysin Mar 31 '16 at 12:56

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