PREDATORY CONFERENCES: THINKING ALOUD
One of the hallmarks of the some of the promoters of predatory conferences is their concerted effort to sell exotic locations for their advertised meetings. It is in this vein, three years ago, that I, oblivious to the concept of a fake or non-existent library conference, decided to merge professional pursuits with my bucket list and bask in the whitewashed glow of my #1 bucket list destination. In 2016, I was not a neophyte at attending conferences. I had gone through the process of registering for and attending professional library conferences so participating in this one was a fait accompli. Unlike the norm, in this instance, there was no flattering conference invitation arriving via email. Instead, I discovered it while researching library conferences worldwide. I asked around but my librarian network was unfamiliar with this conference.
Before I even knew the term “predatory conference” existed, I noticed that this was a mega-conference organizer with a year-long schedule of multidisciplinary conferences and I was impressed at this level of organization, hosting several conferences per month, year long. I did not know it then, but predatory conference organizers are very savvy at organizing “international conferences” without clear themes à la 3rd Annual International Conference on Library and Information Science or USA International Conference 2018.
Overall, the conference website did not impress as it lacked the usual sound structure. More importantly, there was no registration link e.g. early registration deadline, standard registration deadline, onsite registration. When I wrote asking for further information. I was re-directed to the website. I eventually shelved the trip for personal reasons. One year later my interest piqued again, and I wrote the conference organizers indicating that I missed the abstract submission deadline and instead requested participant information. The response was that the deadline date was not final and that I should go ahead and submit my abstract. This was odd since no extensions were on the website. Nothing was said about registration. Another email later, I was informed that I would have to submit an abstract, which, when accepted would secure me my letter of acceptance with the registration information. In my experience, conference registration information is released well in advance to aid participant planning. Was this a red flag?
Furthermore, a conference of worth announce its venue months in advance. This website gave a TBA for the conference venues - a mere 12 days before the scheduled start of the meeting!
By this time, 2017, I was becoming sensitized to the existence of predatory conferences. A cursory check of papers from previous years’ conferences yielded no results but I note that some have appeared since then. I also noted that the conference was linked to a variety of publications ranging from e-journals to abstracts books, which were all open-access and cost-free. Altogether more positive than negative as far as publications were concerned.
Of lesser importance, language and choice of words caused my eyebrows to raise. On professional library conference websites, I had never seen hotel accommodation described using statements such as: ......the hotel must be used only to go and sleep and not to stay all day inside the room. This year I read on the same website: “[name omitted] arranges for a hotel in a resort area (away from downtown) ………. This happens when all downtown hotels are fully booked because of other events, such as big rotated conferences, sports events (Olympic Games, football games, etc), and/or because few [nationals] want to change their society by demonstrations and civil disobedience.”
While these are not entirely valid reasons to deem a conference as predatory, there were no authority conference guides to establish authentic library conferences and I was unwilling to practice ignorance based on a willful dismissal of the warning signs, minor as they were. Plus personal financial loss was at stake if this was indeed a fake meeting- the fee structure plus air travel was no small figure.
Flash forward to 2019. Before publishing this Libguide I repeated my efforts. Here is a summary of the email exchange between me and the conference administrator:
Conference expert is not a notch on my professional librarian belt but in an era of high tech scams, phishing scams and identity theft, this is enough to continue second-guessing this conference. It is listed on an Internet listing of predatory conferences. Is it 100% legitimate? I am not sure. I err on the side of caution.