Saturday, July 17, 2010

More Fake Conferences?

I had a discussion with the GI Ethics group yesterday on the topic of fake conferences. How exactly do we decide if a conference is a fake - only there to provide researchers with publications to pad their CVs and a trip to a nice place? One of our group had submitted a paper to a conference that sounded legit, but when he arrived he was shocked that most of the week was dedicated to local tours and the few papers that he heard given were either very thin, very wacko, or given in such bad English as to be incomprehensible.

We proposed these factors:
  • Exotic location that is interesting from a tourist perspective
  • No call for papers or a call for papers that includes pretty much all fields
  • Steep registration fee
  • You must pay your registration fee before your paper is accepted
  • No referee comments
But we got to thinking - sometimes we have conferences just like this. Berlin is an interesting place, we invite people and they have to pay for coffee before we accept them, and we don't referee. Maybe we should include "Held at a hotel and not a university", although many legitimate conferences are held at hotels now, although I am not sure why: surely university rooms would be cheaper and have better WLAN?

Another member of the group sent me this gem from his inbox this morning:
Wow! Three co-located conferences in Malta! I was expecting IEEE to be the sponsor, as they tend to sponsor many iffy conferences in far-away places. But no - this is a fake IEEE! They call themselves the "Institute for Environment, Engineering, Economics"! The domain is registered via IARAS (International Association for Research and Science, a Cyprus-based organization) in Armenia. They run all sorts of conferences that have very long program committee lists with names from the Arabian, South American, and Far Eastern world. I do understand that it is difficult for them to get accepted at the big European and American conferences. But shouldn't they be organizing their own local conferences and not have some organization set up a very broad venue just so they can take a trip and get a publication?

But I want to know more about Their home page lists a Prof. Dr. Brigitte Weissenbach - in Berlin! Well, how nice! I google her, and there is an artist and a teacher with that name, but no university home page for Brigitte Weissenbach. She's listed at "Hohenzollerndamm" in Berlin, a *very* long street. I look her up in the phone book: no one with that last name in Berlin, and no institute with that name in Berlin, I looked up a number of variations.

There are other names mentioned: Prof. Andrej Resnick from Boston. That sounds like Harvard, except that there are 7 Bostons in the US, and no Andrej Resnicks there. I then searched the entire US telephone book for "A Resnick" - there were only 13 hits. Maybe he only has a mobile phone.

Oh, but wait - I can google the telephone number. Hmm, the area code is in central Iowa. There is a "New Boston" in Iowa, but it is in south Iowa and has a different area code. The same telephone number for IEEE.AM is also the Technical Conference Information Center (is perhaps a list of more fake conferences?).  A reverse phone lookup traces this to a phone in Little Cedar, Iowa. And there's a "Marc Resnick", a teacher in Little Cedar. But no Andrej.

There's a third name listed on the call for papers: Prof. Takis Mihail. I don't find a university affiliation for him, either. However, he's associated with WSEAS, "World Scientific and Engineering Academy and Society". They have been running massive co-located very broad conferences since 2002, they say. This is the list for the rest of the year:
  • 6 in Taipei, Taiwan, August 20-22, 2010
  • 3 are at the Constantza Maritime University, Constantza, Romania, September 3-5, 2010
  • 11 in Malta, September 15-17, 2010
  • 5 at the Iwate Prefectural University, Iwate, Japan, October 4-6, 2010
  • 4 at Politehnica University of Timisoara, Timisoara, Romania, October 21-23, 2010
  • one starts the next day at West University of Timisoara, Timisoara, Romania, October 24-26, 2010
  • 8 at University of Algarve, Faro, Portugal, November 3-5, 2010
  • 3 at Puerto De La Cruz, Tenerife, November 30- December 2, 2010, and 
  • 6 at Vouliagmeni, Athens, Greece, December 29-31, 2010
47 conferences in 18 weeks! They write themselves:
Approximately each year about 4000 academicians attend the WSEAS Conferences and more than 4000 papers are published by WSEAS each year out of more than 13000 submitted papers. While from 13000 papers in WSEAS Conferences, approximately 5000 are approved and from them around 4000 thousand make registration and attend the congresses.
Can this be serious science? It sounds more like academic spam to me, a business for producing publications needed for CVs and for "quality" measures. I do wonder why a university that I consider to be reputable, the University of Cambridge, will be the venue for 9 conferences next year. Maybe they are just staying at a hotel in Cambridge called the "University of Cambridge".

Back to the Malta conferences. I will be dean at my school from October and will have to approve travel applications from colleagues. If a colleague should apply to attend some such conference - how can I tell if it is a fake conference? Is there such a thing as a fake conference? Isn't scientific endeavor, especially in Germany, to be free?

What are we to make of this, and more importantly: what, if anything, can be done?

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