If you are an academic, you have probably noticed that you are getting more and more unexpected invitations via e-mail to participate as a speaker in what are presented as scientific conferences. The invitations can be confusing, as they are often not even in your subject area. But sometimes they get it right and maybe even mention your latest publication, which is praised in general terms. What is happening?
The scourge of unsolicited invitations from hitherto unknown conferences is part of the weary reality of anyone with an academic or research profile. Irrespective of how important you feel your insights are, your default approach to such contacts should be wary. A good first warning sign is the degree to which the theme of a conference obviously and directly relates to your work. For example, Gary has lost count of the number of times he has been invited to present about his “important work” at rural mental health conferences. This terrific post by Pär Segerdahl dives into the issues.
The steady stream of conference invitations to academics reflects the same dubious type of activity, but here the profit comes from conference fees and sometimes also from arranging accommodation. Within publication ethics, one therefore also speaks of predatory conferences. What do we know about these conferences? Is there any research on the phenomenon?
The first systematic scoping review of scholarly peer-reviewed literature on predatory conferences was recently published in BMJ Open. The overview was made by four researchers, Tove Godskesen and Stefan Eriksson at CRB, together with Marilyn H Oermann and Sebastian Gabrielsson.