Predatory conferences (conferences promoted to fraudulently make money from attendance fees) are becoming an increasingly common part of academic life. In this post, Mohamad Mostafa presents the Think. Check. Attend. initiative, which provides academics with an easy to use checklist to ascertain if a conference is legitimate or predatory.
As an academic, you have probably received many invitation emails asking you to attend conferences. When you come across these emails, you may ask yourself: how do I know if this conference is legitimate? Maybe it is just a spam invitation seeking to collect registration fees for a conference that doesn’t exist, or maybe it is the real thing? How do you even differentiate between an authentic conference and a fraudulent one? Is there any guidance on how to figure this out?
Think. Check. Attend. is an initiative designed to act as a tool to help with these decisions and to support you to select only trustworthy and authentic conferences. The initiative is aimed at a wide range of stakeholders in the scholarly community; researchers, librarians, funders and publishers, to help them understand what constitutes a predatory conference and how to avoid them. In 2017, I wrote the guidelines for the initiative, which has subsequently been adopted by Knowledge E and is recognised as a sister initiative to Think. Check. Submit. In brief, the initiative provides a checklist of questions to ask yourself before attending a conference based on these three points, Think. Check. Attend.
Image Credit: by Mirko Zammarchi, via Flickr (licensed under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license)
In this phase you should think: is this the right conference to attend and present your research or not? When you receive an invitation you should collect some basic information about the conference; venue, date, keynote speakers, and make sure the scope of the conference fits your field of study. Although, understandably, you might feel proud that you have been selected to attend a certain conference and present your paper, especially as an early-career researcher, you should also be cautious. Not only are the number of predatory conferences increasing, but the techniques used to scam academics into attending these conferences are also getting more sophisticated. These scams often begin with invitation emails soliciting registration fees for conferences, which after payment has been made, are suddenly cancelled with no refunds being given. In some instances, the ‘conference’ even takes place, as in the case of one international genetics conference, which mustered a grand total of 19 attendees.
After you have carefully considered whether the conference is the right fit for you and your research, the initiative offers a systematic way to determine whether a conference is the real thing or predatory, by providing the following checklist against which conferences can be assessed:
Organizers & Sponsors:
- Are you aware of the society or the association organizing this conference?
- Can you easily identify the venue of the conference?
- Is it the first time this conference has been held?
- Have you or your colleagues attended this conference before?
- Is it clear what fees will be charged (conference fee, registration fee, etc.) and if these will be waived if you are accepted as a speaker?
- Are any sponsors involved in the conference?
- Are you aware of any of them, especially with industry-related fields such as Engineering & Biomedical research?
- Did you check the conference website? Can you find all the information presented in a proper way, such as the; attendance fees, submission date, conference date, editorial committee, program details, venue?
- Have you read any papers from this conference’s proceedings before?
Agenda & Editorial Committee:
- Is there clear information about the timeline and the agenda for the conference?
- Do the scope and objectives of the conference fit your field and core interest or not?
- Have you heard of the Keynote speakers?
- Is the Editorial Committee listed on the website?
- Have you heard of the Editorial Committee members before?
- Is the Committee clear about the editorial control over presentations and the type of peer-review it uses?
- Is the Organizing Committee clear about where the proceedings will be published?
- Does the conference make it clear which indexing services it can guarantee published proceedings and to which indexers it will submit the proceedings for evaluation?
- Is the publisher of the proceedings a member of a recognized industry initiative such as COPE, DOAJ, OASPA?
You might also refer to Think. Check. Submit. for more details about publishing in the right journal.
Given that your conference meets the above criteria, you can be confident that it is legitimate, now is the time to attend and present your research!
Why attend the right conference?
Attending the right conferences is an important part of academic life and provides a vital opportunity to increase your awareness of the latest developments in your field. It allows you to network within the academic community and enhance your career prospects. Publishing a conference paper with a publisher also provides you with experience of having your work professionally reviewed, edited, indexed, and made easily discoverable, which is important for building a reputation and increasing the chances of your later published work gaining citations.
Our hopes for Think. Check. Attend. are that it becomes a useful benchmark for researchers to select which conferences they attend. This would be greatly aided by; Librarians sharing the initiative and adding it to their educational resources, funders using it to help them to efficiently allocate financial support for conference attendance and publishers applying the checklist as a means of evaluating proposals for publishing conference proceedings, thereby protecting themselves from supporting publications emanating from predatory conferences.
In the future, we also aim to communicate the Think. Check. Attend. to a wider audience. We are currently working on translating the initiative into Arabic and Turkish, and would warmly welcome any proposals to help us with this task.
Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Impact Blog, nor of the London School of Economics. Please review our comments policy if you have any concerns on posting a comment below.
About the author
Mohamad Mostafa has more than 10 years of experience in Open Access, scholarly publishing with a special focus on emerging regions and in supporting regional research communities. He is the initiator and guidelines writer of Think. Check. Attend, Publishing Editor at Knowledge E, Crossref Ambassador, and Committee Member of Think. Check. Submit. He is based in Dubai and he tweets at @MoMoostafa.