Saturday, June 16, 2012

Mock Conferences

After being forced to remove pages from my blog dealing with what I called a "fake conference" and naming a name, the lawyer who tried (unsuccessfully) to discredit me at my university wrote a "thank you" note to the university stating what a fine person I am and then tried to get me to give her some specific information. I said "No", and remembered that I wanted to revisit the topic of fake conferences. But since the name "fake" seems to be hotly contested because the conferences do tend to take place, I am now using the term "mock conference", in addition to "junk journals" and "pretend publishers" for things I want to be writing about in the near future.

What is a mock conference? Here's the discussion from one of the pages I had to remove, minus the reference to a particular conference and enhanced by points from the discussion that ensued.

I feel that a mock conference is one that has some (or all) of the following properties:

  1. Has an extremely wide call for papers.  
  2. Is co-located with many other conferences that are all in the same manner, but with another field, or is located in the same place a similar conference happened a few days before (see my table about the suspicious Chinese conferences from 2009). 
  3. Is located in a place people would want to visit as a tourist (Las Vegas, Orlando, Hong Kong, etc.) or even at a tourist hotel. 
  4. The same person organizes multiple international conferences in one year (one national conference is enough to tire anyone). 
  5. The sponsors are dodgy - for example, IEEE seems to sponsor anything that pays for the use of the logo. IEEE has, however, begun to crack down on mock conferences and has decided not to publish the proceedings from quite a number of conferences in 2010 and 2011.
  6. Or the "sponsors" are just the department that specific professors are associated with, but the advertising is done with the university logo. Sometimes logos are just used without the institution involved knowing about its so-called sponsorship.
  7. Even though they may brag about the number of citations they have (and in my book, if you have to announce that people have cited papers from the conference, then it is not an important conference), one needs to factor out the self-citations. These are when the author of a paper at the conference is citing own work submitted to a previous version of the conference.
  8. Makes sure you pay your fee before the paper is published. Although it seems that there have been to many authors not showing up at conferences after getting a paper accepted, which rather defeats the purpose of a conference. Having paid the conference fee is supposed to increase the chance of actually presenting the paper.  
  9. Offers a special deal if you "take" two papers.  
  10. Accepts papers just days before the conference as long as you pay the fee.
  11. Accepts papers only on the basis of an abstract. 
  12. Often chooses a publisher that sounds very similar to a renowned publisher, or publishes at a print-on-demand house. Some even just publish online (but with ISBN number) to save trees.
  13. Accepts papers without sending out reviews. Many of these conferences insist that they "do" peer review, but there are often no substantial comments made about the individual papers. Or the reviews only come back when explicitly requested.
  14. Has many, many parallel sessions that are only sparsely attended, usually because they are on such vastly different topics.
  15. The program committee of the conference is unreasonably large, e.g., more than 100 members.
  16. The number of accepted papers is in the 100s.
  17. Criticism is answered by lawyers instead of replying to honest criticism with openness, transparancy and actual arguments.
  18. Anything else?
Panos Ipeirotis had also noted: "The way that you separate the legitimate from the fraudulent event is through the community. Unfortunately, if there are academics that form a mutual admiration clique and decide to meet once a year, exchanging citations, it is very difficult to separate an event like that from other legitimate fields that are rather insular and do not communicate much with other fields."

I hope we can continue discussing the properties of mock conferences, without resorting to names. 

Updates: Split 1. into 1. and 2. Maybe I need to start sorting the properties into categories?
Added 17. from a comment.


  1. About a year ago, I was contacted by a Chinese outfit and invited to visit a conference about 'the history of science excellence'. The web address listed a conference for paediatricians, and was put in excruciating English. It turned out these people were just harvesting a journal I'd recently published in - a colleague who had published in the same issue got an invite on the same days as me. And I suspect they must be successful some of the time due to the locale - not everyone gets a chance to go to China often - and the possibility for to invitees to take a break and make their trip look 'genuine'.

  2. I feel that some indicators produce very few false positives (1,2,4,9,10,11,12"a",13,14), while there are many legitimate conferences sharing some of the other properties. For example, I know of a huge IEEE-sponsored conference with typically more than 10 parallel tracks and >1000 attendees, which often takes place at attractive locations and has a large program committee. Papers are only included in the proceedings after an author has registered for the conference (for > 500 USD).
    I would not consider it as one of the best conferences, but it's not a mock conference either; people submit actual research results, there is a serious peer review (though it seems the sheer size of the conference inevitably has an impact on the selection process), and there are always reputed researchers both in the committees and at the conference itself.

  3. 17) Criticism is answered by lawyers instead of replying to honest criticism with openness, transparancy and actual arguments. ?
    (The latter should be at least the first step, lawyers should only come in when one cannot
    resolve difficulties in direct conversation - ESPECIALLY in the scientific realm where arguments
    should be the means to solve disputes not force).

  4. Excellent point, I'll add that to the article!

  5. Big organizations like SIAM make also a lot of frauds. For example the well-known conference:
    International Conference on Data Mining has been hijacked by SIAM.
    Many SIAM Conferences are also bogus


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