Skip to main content

The Dark Side

Scams, Attended By Frauds

A puzzled reader sent along this notice of a meeting next month in London. It’s ostensibly on natural products, but he noted a conspicuous lack of anyone he’d ever actually heard of in the field, and the more he read into the details of the conference, the more otherworldly it seemed.

He’s right. There have been conferences of this sort for years, but this is the first one I’ve seen in a high-profile venue like London, since the last time I looked, industrial cities in China were their classic habitat. (I freely admit to not having kept up with this evidently booming business, though). There are a number of giveaways, such as the way that the phrase “Pharmacognosy, Phytochemistry and Natural Products” seems to have been dropped into a bunch of template text, over and over (three times in the first paragraph, for example, which is not bad going for just two sentences). The part about how the conference proceedings will be abstracted by all sorts of people (why, even Google Scholar!) is another warning sign that this is a combination junket/CV padder. I found the phrase “The conference solicits contributions of abstracts, papers and e-posters that address themes and topics of the conference” to be particularly fetching as well. A look into the organizer’s web site shows that they have booked twenty other “conferences” in the same two days in the same hotel on a ridiculously wide range of topics. An infallible mark of quality, that.

In case you’re wondering, an “e-poster” appears to be a five-minute presentation, five slides maximum. I have seen (and given) five-minute talks, but they’re not easy to do, and my suspicion is that this format is on the program in order to increase the number of people who will pay the registration fee. That’ll be 450 euros if you want to present, and 250 euros if you just want to show up and sit through the presentations, God help you. That will, though, get you a “certificate of attendance”. The conference organizers, if that’s the word we’re looking for, have published a selection of the accepted presentations, and I’ll be hosed down if I can figure out the relevance of several of them to the supposed topic of the meeting. And if these are the ones they’re advertising, the others must really be something.

Why am I so uncharitable? Because this whole thing is sponsored by WASET, a known predatory publisher, run by a former science teacher in Turkey (and his family) whose domain is registered in Azerbaijan. Here’s a report from Armenia (we can assume that they have no love for the Azerbaijanis) on a scandal last year in the Egyptian press, when a supposed Egyptian-invented “Complete Curing Device” that could kill HIV and the hepatitis C virus from outside the body made a big splash there. (The thing seems to have been a combination of a dialysis machine and a dowsing rod, and if you Google it you will be taken on a tour of some of the least reliable news sources known to mankind). It was published in one of the array of WASET journals, which all have titles in the form “International Journal of Adjective, Adjective, Adjective, Adjective and Adjective Engineering”, and thus fooled some credulous Egyptian press outlets, until someone actually looked into the situation. An Egyptian news organization – and good for them – tried the classic copy-a-pile-of-unrelated-text trick on WASET, and got their “paper” accepted within hours along with a request for $400.

So these people publish crap. And they organize “conferences” that have the same names as legitimate ones (and sometimes the same copy-pasted organizing committee!), forcing the original organizers to send out email warning people not to fall for the WASET one. These charades allow people to fly in from around the world and listen to themselves speak for five minutes at ninety euros a minute, all for a line on their CV and a trip to London, paid for (I presume) out of someone else’s funds. It’s a scam. It’s a waste of time. Even a tourist junket to London is going to be a bit complex under these conditions, because despite the obligatory shot of Westminster on the conference home page, you’re going to be ten miles away, in the Holiday Inn out by Wembley.

And besides, how clueless can someone be? You have to have an internet connection to have heard about the meeting, not to mention sending your 450 euros to these carnival barkers. You could use that same internet connection and about five minutes of your time to find out that the WASET conferences are widely reviled as bogus. The most likely explanation by now for anyone attending one of these things is a joint exercise in fraud.

25 comments on “Scams, Attended By Frauds”

  1. MoBio says:

    I get these sorts of things at least 2 or 3 times/day. They are now showing up in venues all over the US. On my twitter feed I’ve seen ‘newbies’ (young Assistant Professors and such) asking whether these are legit.
    I guess it just fulfills a phrase attributed to PT Barnum:

    “”There’s a sucker born every minute” is a phrase most likely spoken by David Hannum, in criticism of both P. T. Barnum, an American showman of the mid 1800s, and his customers. The phrase is often credited to Barnum himself. It means “Many people are gullible, and we can expect this to continue.””

  2. RM says:

    I generally take the Groucho Marx approach – I don’t care to attend any conference which would have me as a presenter. That is, if the first I’m hearing of your conference is a solicitation to attend, I’m dismissing you as predatory and ignoring it.

    Perhaps that will change once I become world renowned [sic], but at this point I’m humble enough to realize that anyone actively trying to recruit me is scraping the bottom of the barrel and is not concerned about the quality of their conference.

  3. SP says:

    They charge almost twice as much to present as to attend? That is… unusual… compared to more reputable conferences.

  4. AG says:

    I must say, this new site is vastly more inconvenient to navigate than the old one. The two features which the old one had which this doesn’t that I think would massively improve this site are: no “read mores”. Just let me read the whole article without navigating to a new page, or at least put the default cut point low enough that most articles don’t have one. Also, (and this accomplishes much the same thing, but the old site had both) “next” and “last” buttons (or arrow buttons which also said the name of the last and next posts, which is even better), or some other way of navigating through the archive chronologically without having to go from the article page, to the main page, then scroll down a bit, then go to the next article. That’s three clicks where there should be one. These may seem trivial, but they really make an amazing difference in how frustrating the site is to navigate.

  5. Glen Weaver says:

    Someone is missing an opportunity. Increase the fees by at least a factor of ten, and hold a closing banquet in Guildhall. It is far more profitable to extract money from the rich/well financed than from students or those searching for a job.

    1. John Dallman says:

      Stealing from the poor is, however, easier than fooling the rich. Why, the Guildhall may even want payment in advance.

  6. Hap says:

    The investors in the rejected Alzheimer’s drug startups are a counterargument, I think.

    1. John Dallman says:

      Consider how much work it is to set up a plausible-looking drug company. You need offices, scientists, lawyers … loads of stuff. For running fake conferences, all you need is an e-mail address and a website. You can’t make nearly as much money, but it’s a lot simpler.

  7. Virgil says:

    What’s also laughable, is the website of the hotel in question claims they have 7 meeting rooms with enough space for 500 delegates (plus 336 guest bedrooms) Based on the fact that each of the dozen or so conferences has over 100 presenters, half of them oral, this means there will be 600 oral presentations, split across 2 days. Squeezing 12 conferences into 7 rooms, or 600 speakers into 336 bedrooms, is likely to result in some hilarity.

    AND… it’s all happening all over again in September, October and November. None in December (hotel is probably busy for Christmas holidays) then they kick right back up again in January. Actually if you keep scrolling down this page…, it just keeps populating ad-infinitum with the same conferences and venues and dates, all the way out to 2025 (I got tired of scrolling after that). Click the 2025 link and you’ll see the exact same templates, same organizing committee, etc.

    Here’s a thought – the registration costs are the same in 2025, so the financially astute reader should register now at the low low cost of E450, thereby avoiding inflationary price increases in registration costs over the next decade. Think how smart you’ll look then!

    I wonder if a polite inquiry to Holiday Inn Wembley would reveal if the hotel has been booked for March 2025? I suspect not, in which case they’re advertising a conference when they haven’t even lined up the venue yet. Add that to the list of scamming offenses.

  8. AcademicLurker says:

    My favorite recent development in conference spamming is the email that asks me to confirm my scheduled talk (that I’ve never heard of before).

  9. First world thanks says:

    Thanks for the legibility in the font today!

  10. a. nonymaus says:

    These things get mentioned as “resume-padding”, but who wants to list something like this on their CV? It might fool the people who only look at the number of line-items, but anyone actually reading it will wonder if the attendee is an idiot, trying to pull a fast one, or both. It just screams “I am an idiot and think that you are too.” As career-killers go, having presented at this on your CV seems up there with getting a facial tattoo of an organized crime logo.

  11. Anon says:

    I’ll echo AG, get rid of the “read more” and bring the back full-text entries in the front page. All this clicking is surprisingly annoying.

  12. Kumar says:

    The sponsor’s name should be ‘WASTE’ instead of ‘WASET.’ It explains the conditions they are creating and what the attendees should rightfully feel after attending this conference.

  13. But Who Is being Scammed says:

    I enjoy this blog a lot and have followed it a lot over the years. But I think this post is missing something. I don’t think the target of this particular scam is the scientific professionals. Because Derek is right. Who would pay to have this on their CV? I think these scam conferences serve to fool the people who pay for other people to attend conferences. University finance bureaucrats and company managers who pay for employees. For the people who attend, it’d be a subsidized vacation without having to present anything. 450 euros isn’t steep if it isn’t your money.

  14. Philip says:

    I am annoyed by the “Read more” buttons as well. Usually i read all articles and have to click for every article.

  15. dvizard says:

    What I’m always asking myself, is, who is actually attending or presenting at those conferences? Or who are the people who feed the predatory publishers? It’s like there must be some parallel universe in science, where in one there are the regular scientists, and in the other one there is a large organization of people sitting on their asses, copy-pasting articles from one fake journal to the next and never actually doing anything and still somehow getting paid by someone? What are these universities or research institutes doing? I don’t fully get it.

  16. I’ve seen shady companies announce all sorts of awards and presentations of “studies” at schlock conferences like this. As odious as diploma mills.

  17. Emjeff says:

    I belong to a scientific society in which you must show some activity in the field,min the form of published papers. I was asked to review an application from someone in Asia whose CV was full of journals I had never heard of. Turns out they were all on the Predatory Journal list. This kind of thing is going to get worse and worse.

  18. eugene says:

    “I don’t think the target of this particular scam is the scientific professionals. Because Derek is right. Who would pay to have this on their CV? I think these scam conferences serve to fool the people who pay for other people to attend conferences. University finance bureaucrats and company managers who pay for employees.”

    So, the people who want to have a free vacation by signing up for a fake science conference, who have to fool the university money-givers and company managers, are not ‘scientific professionals’? Being a ‘scientific professional’ does not give you a strong sense of ethics. At least wasting taxpayer money for a free vacations is in the bottom half of seriousness of offense (along with not mentioning that the reaction only worked half the time) for me. But it’s got to be flirting with that fat grey line that separates conduct I consider clearly wrong enough to cause censure. Maybe if your motivations are to pad your CV, then it’s in the top half of offenses.

  19. Ed says:

    Someone asked, “Who would pay to have this on their CV?”

    In many countries, particularly Asian countries, academic advancement is *highly* dependent on simple metrics such as quantity of publications and conference presentations without any regard for the quality of them. This is in fact a prevalent system in the lower tiers of academia worldwide. This creates a perverse incentive for low quality work that makes predatory publishing (and conferences such as the one discussed here) such a big and profitable business these days.

  20. sepisp says:

    Our university stopped funding conference trips if you organize the return yourself, typically because you first want to go to the conference and then vacation there before return. I guess these people could organize a personal “conference” for 100 € just for this purpose…

    Also, Adjective Engineering would be an interesting discipline. Maybe it would be confabulous, or outoftheboxish.

  21. Srini says:

    I agree with AG 100% on the usability of this new blog site. I love this blog and have stuck to it since I found 4 years ago. It’s the only one of its kind that I know of.

    Derek, kindly fix the page such that clicking on “read more” expands in-place, i.e. without directing to a new page. I used to read all articles that way because it was so easy. Thank you.

  22. wasetmania :: Ultimate Source : What is WASET ? Who own WASET ? Who run WASET ?

Comments are closed.