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Predatory Conferences

Section Editor(s): Simpson, Kathleen Rice PhD, RNC, CNS-BC, FAAN

MCN: The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing: July/August 2019 - Volume 44 - Issue 4 - p 185
doi: 10.1097/NMC.0000000000000532
ONGOING COLUMNS: Editorial
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Being invited to present at an international conference may sometimes be a scam. A list of potential red flags when considering participation is offered. Be sure to thoroughly scrutinize all aspects of the conference. The negative implications for presenters can go beyond spending hundreds or thousands of dollars; attendance can imply naivete and lack of scholarly due diligence (similar to publishing works in predatory journals). In some universities, participation in these types of conferences or publishing in predatory journals can be considered a type of academic fraud.

Kathleen Rice Simpson is a Perinatal Clinical Nurse Specialist in St. Louis, MO, and the Editor-in-Chief Board Member of MCN. Dr. Simpson can be reached via e-mail at krsimpson@prodigy.net

The author declares no conflicts of interest.

Imagine being invited to a prestigious international conference to discuss your research or area of clinical expertise. Your first article has just been published and you've already been “discovered” by the international community. Wow. You may have heard from colleagues who have spoken at international conferences and wondered if an invitation might someday be sent to you. Now it has. You start wondering about how to best make your presentation, who will attend, networking with research colleagues, what to wear, how to get there, and where you will stay. However, it would be prudent to thoroughly vet the conference and organizers, and check with senior colleagues. The invitation may not be from a legitimate source.

Here are some red flags that can be noted with scrutiny of the conference Web site and emails with the person sending the invitation:

  • The email invitation is full of over-the-top praise for your work and phrases not common in scholarly communication (“We've noted your vast contributions to the field”).
  • There are misspellings on the Web site and few details about the conference content.
  • The group sponsoring the conference is not well known.
  • The sponsor is associated with a publisher of predatory journals (Simpson, 2016).
  • The conference name is very similar to another conference held by an established organization or professional society.
  • The conference scope appears to be quite broad and not specific to your specialty.
  • You are required to pay your way to the conference (airfare, hotel, and conference fee).
  • An honorarium is not offered for your presentation despite being an invited speaker.

Predatory conferences are becoming common and prey on (mostly, but not always) junior researchers and clinicians. However, early career scholars are not the only ones to fall for these scams. In the last year, two of my friends who are well-established researchers were excited to tell me “I just got invited to speak at a nursing conference in China” and “I've been asked to be the co-chair of a nursing conference in Dubai.” I warned them and after they investigated, both were found to be predatory conferences. Another colleague presented at one of these conferences and had an experience similar to Davis (2019). Davis describes some of the ongoing warning signs and the discovery of being scammed when she arrived on site. There were few attendees and most were other speakers.

These conferences are a revenue-generating scheme for the sponsor with little to no scientific merit and negative implications for presenters can go beyond spending hundreds or thousands of dollars; attendance can imply naivete and lack of scholarly due diligence (similar to publishing works in predatory journals). In some universities, participation in these types of conferences or publishing in predatory journals can be considered a type of academic fraud (Darbyshire, 2018). If researchers have an academic travel budget allocated by the university, they may use them to fund the trip and conference fees. The presentation is often listed an academic achievement on the curriculum vitae. In his recent article, Darbyshire presents a strong argument for actions that should be taken by leaders in academic institutions to help prevent their scholars from being conned, responsibilities of researchers before participating or submitting, and potential academic consequences. Be aware that an invitation to speak at an international conference could be a scam. Before you consider participating, make sure you thoroughly evaluate all aspects of the conference.

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References

Darbyshire P. (2018). Fake news. Fake journals. Fake conferences. What we can do. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 27(9-10), 1727–1729. doi:10.1111/jocn.14214
Davis C. (2019). I spoke at a predatory conference, learn from my story. Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/i-spoke-predatory-conference-learn-from-my-story-colleen-davis/
Simpson K. R. (2016). Beware of predatory and deceptive publishers. MCN. The American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing, 41(1), 7. doi:10.1097/NMC.0000000000000201
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