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Dear Eminent Researcher: How to assess a conference invitation and avoid predatory conferences

Published by Alison Moore

By Emily Guerrero, former SFU Reference Librarian.

We discussed predatory journals in a previous blog post, but you may have also heard of predatory conferences. Conferences are an important piece of the scholarly publishing world, and give you valuable opportunities to present research and network with colleagues. Just as it’s important to do research on journals before publishing, it’s important to look into conferences you are thinking of attending. Poor quality and deceptive conferences can be hard to spot; here is some information on what to look for, and how they operate. 

Also known as vanity conferences, predatory conferences are events which do not meet the professional standards of academic gatherings for your field. Organized by non-scholarly, commercial entities, predatory conferences invite researchers to pay a fee to speak at, chair, or attend these conferences, which are usually sparsely-attended and often lack the attendance of prestigious speakers who were advertised. Sometimes, substandard research may be presented, or multiple “conferences” from different disciplines may be presented in the same venue at the same time.

Here are some things to consider when looking into a conference:

  • How familiar are you with this event? Have you or your colleagues attended this conference before?
  • Who is associated with the conference? 
    • Are you aware of the society or the association organizing this conference?
    • Have you heard of the Editorial Committee members before?
    • Have you heard of the keynote speakers?
  • Have you read or cited proceedings from this conference before?
  • Does the conference website have contact information for the organizing committee, as well as transparent information about fees?

If any of the information about who is organizing it, where it’s hosted, and how it’s run is presented as confusing or vague, that can be a sign of a poorly organized or predatory event.

For more tips and resources, check out the initiative Think. Check. Attend, which has been created to support scholars in evaluating conferences and professional events.