Avoiding Predatory Academic Conferences

Working academics get lots of emails every day. We get quite a few invitations each week, either to write papers for journal special issues or to participate in conferences. Sadly, quite a few of these ‘invitations’ are actually ‘predatory’: journals or conferences that are not as reputable as they sound, and, in fact, are really only after money. Some of these messages, which are very professional-looking, are a good example of how ‘predatory’ conferences reach out to academics: mailing email lists almost at random. Often, our research area and the subject area of the meeting do not match up at all. We simply delete such mails.

How can you tell in future which email invitations are real and which are not?

The first thing to bear in mind is that academic research is very collegial and works largely based on personal networks. This means that your time, energy and money will be much better spent attending conferences within your own field and, above all, accepting invitations to present and contribute from people you’re already familiar with from within your research area. Random invitations to attend and present at far flung meetings are likely to be expensive. (Tip: investigate the costs of conferences, including hidden costs like accommodation, food and drink).

Also ask yourself: how much are the registration fees? The ‘predatory conference’ business model is to invite academics to seemingly attractive international meetings and then charge a large registration fee. You don’t have to search very hard to find horror stories of people flying half way around the world to attend what they thought was a major event, only to find a small conference room in a hotel and just a handful of other people.

Here are just a few questions to ask yourself if you get one of these emails

    • Is the conference you’ve been invited to within, or relevant to, your own research field?
    • Do you know (or have you heard of) any of the other participants? Are there any listed on the conference website? Send a few emails (known as making presubmission inquiries) to people and look online to verify.
    • Are the registration fees reasonable and within the range for other meetings you’ve recently attended?
    • Is the company or organisation hosting the meeting reputable?
    • Do they have a website other than the conference site, or publish a journal in the field? Do you know any of the members of the editorial board? Again, send some emails and check that everything is as it appears before signing up.

End note

Attending reputable academic conferences is well worth your time. We can help you to manage your time wisely and plan effectively for such events, including how to put together conference platform presentations and posters.


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