Learn to avoid ‘predatory’ academic conferences

Are you sure that the conference you plan to attend is really all that it appears to be? We’ve recently seen an upsurge in the number of ‘predatory’ academic conferences. Is the email you’ve just received inviting you to attend a conference the real thing, or not?


Working academics get lots of emails every day. I 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.


Although I now work for The Charlesworth Group writing and delivering author educational content (like this article), I’ve built up an academic reputation over the years writing and publishing my own research on fossil reptiles, especially dinosaurs. This is important information to bear in mind because the other day I received an email invitation to give a talk at ‘The World Congress on Gynecology and Obstetrics’ to be held in October in Madrid, Spain.


The very professional-looking message I received is a good example of how ‘predatory’ conferences reach out to academics, mailing email lists almost at random (as in this case: my research area and the subject area of the meeting do not match up, at all). I just deleted the email.


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 accomodation, food, and drink). I once went to a meeting in Brazil that looked super cheap (the registration fee was low) but it was hosted at a remote resort and the costs for food were astronomical!


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 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.


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.


Sign up for our next Webinar on Tuesday 25th June at 10:00am BST or 14:00pm BST and learn how to plan effectively for meeting with like-minded colleagues at conferences. These events can be HUGE networking opportunities that can make or break careers.


Share with your colleagues

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