As I wrapped up a research sabbatical in Canada in March 2015, I started searching for conferences to present my research at. A quick Google search highlighted a shocking number of events and organisations that I had never even heard of – and an even more shocking list of conference fees.
But perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised. Invitations to what University of Colorado librarian Jeffrey Beall calls “predatory conferences” now compete for attention in academics’ spam folders with solicitations from dubious open access journals, of which Beall keeps a well-known blacklist.
One question such emails raise is whether the conferences ever actually take place. My 10 months of research on the topic suggests that while pure scams do exist, they are the exception. And while predatory conferences are often shambolic, with last-minute venue changes or even greater disasters, such as running out of coffee before 9am, the more sophisticated and longer-lived organisers offer a veneer of legitimacy, recognising that repeat customers mean greater profits.