Beall’s list of predatory open access publishers – scholarly publishers with limited scientific credibility who charge fees to publish work with little or no peer review – increases in length every year. For many researchers, emptying their inbox of dubiously worded invitations to submit to questionable journals has become a daily routine.
But as the marketplace becomes more crowded, predatory publishers are increasingly turning to the lucrative world of conference planning. In a recent article in the Huffington Post, Madhukar Pai and Eduardo L. Franco draw attention to the burgeoning industry based around predatory conferences. Exploiting the need for academics to gain international recognition for their work, predatory conferences invite participants – for a fee – to present their research to leaders in the field. The invitation might include the opportunity – for a higher fee – to chair an entire session. Accommodation, transport, meals and even guided tours can all be arranged courtesy of the organiser’s commercial partners.
Unfortunately, prospective speakers discover only on arrival that the conference has few attendees and that the big names promised on the invite are not present. In some cases, these individuals might have had no association with the conference, their details having been lifted from the internet. Just as predatory open access publishers risk tarring the reputation of the open access model, so predatory conferences risk undermining science communication.