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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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February 4, 2013

A Word We Didn't Know We Needed

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Posted by Derek

I've written here about the strange-sounding conferences that keep sending out invitations to all and sundry. They tend to be in provincial Chinese cities, have grandiose names like the "First International Summit Meeting of Advanced Medical Science", and feature so many sections, sessions, tracks, and breakouts that you wonder if anyone attends who isn't giving a talk. And you get invitations to submit invited talks in fields you've hardly even touched on in your career; that's another reliable sign.

Well, I've had one this morning whose title really rises to the top of the list. I present to you the "1st Annual Symposium of Drug Designology". No, I did not make that up - if I had, I wouldn't tell anyone, believe me. And I'm not about to provide a link to the conference site. If you want more, I'm willing to bet that a search for "drug designology" will yield only highly relevant hits, since I'm not aware of that phrase ever appearing in English until this morning. Here's hoping it submerges again.

Comments (31) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: The Scientific Literature


1. rab on February 4, 2013 8:43 AM writes...

Like everyone in science (I guess!) I get these invitations too.

The really weird thing is that I quite often get reminders from them a couple of weeks later using an injured tone to enquire whether I want to come. Anybody actually ever been to one of these meetings?

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2. Pete on February 4, 2013 8:46 AM writes...

It would appear that the Scientific Advisory Board are yet to arrive...

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3. Electrochemist on February 4, 2013 9:12 AM writes...

First it was drug discoverers, then "drug hunters," and now you have to be a "drug designer" to be hip and with-it. More mindless jargon from those who spend more time talking about innovation than contributing to it.

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4. petros on February 4, 2013 9:14 AM writes...

These invites often request read receipts and the message headers often look more like spam

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5. anchor on February 4, 2013 9:37 AM writes...

Derek: You should what I do, and that is redirect the same to "discard". I lost the count of the same.

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6. Anon on February 4, 2013 9:42 AM writes...

Drug Designology ... the Final Frontier.

These are the voyages of the Starship Stereoisomer.

Its five-year mission to explore strange new bioprecursor prodrugs.

To seek out new combinatorial syntheses, and new quantitative structure-activity relationships.

To boldly go where no chemist in their right mind has gone before.

Make it so!!

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7. Anonymous on February 4, 2013 9:46 AM writes...

The business model for these companies is to charge speakers attendance fees to make profit. These would include keynote and plenary speakers who would generally pay more. There are enough suckers from the west to attend them so they are proliferating.
It is quite flattering to receive an invitation as a keynote/plenary speaker to a conference, plus one would get a company/university sponsored trip to China. There are generally good attendances in the plenary session, but very few (just speakers) for the breakout sessions. It is a good way for the westerners to socialize among each other since there is very little local attendance. They have search engines to troll the publications to pull out email address and associate them with key words and send out spam emails.
It is quite a good business, as the organizers don’t have much of a financial risk in the secondary cities. The government picks up some of the cost. So this will continue in the foreseeable future. Most of the readers can name the biggest perpetrator.

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8. Helical_Investor on February 4, 2013 9:49 AM writes...

Is there a drug design blogology breakout session or discussion panel?

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9. opsomath on February 4, 2013 10:00 AM writes...

I have been getting several of these as well - messages which address me by the name I put on publications in its exact form, and which refer to efforts in the past to contact me which have failed. (Not sure if these efforts actually exist.)

Can someone explain these conferences? Are they the conference version of vanity open journals where you pay to publish absolutely anything? Are they the product of some Chinese initiative to get more foreign scientists of any reasonable caliber on their soil for professional reasons? What's going on here exactly?

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10. SP on February 4, 2013 10:15 AM writes...

They have some other nonstandard science terms too- Medichem, Biobetters.

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11. TX Raven on February 4, 2013 12:18 PM writes...

Sounds like "scientology"...

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12. RKN on February 4, 2013 12:30 PM writes...

I could tie up a lot of time if I agreed to attend every China conference I've been invited to speak at. And when I don't respond to the first e-mail request I often get a reminder:

"Hello, how are you? Perhaps you not see my first request for speaker. Would you please reply."

Something like that.

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13. Rock on February 4, 2013 12:37 PM writes...

I received one of these emails today too, but not the one you mentioned. The ones I find amusing are those that clearly have not been proofread by someone fluent in English. Most of these emails show a single first name in the "from" section to add that personal touch.

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14. Nekekami on February 4, 2013 12:45 PM writes...

I've wondered these last few years why chemists, biologists etc don't form a social club called Intelligent Design Society, just to mock the kooks that join.... The comedy factor would be huge....

Not to mention that membership can be rejected with the ID10T form...

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15. Anonymous on February 4, 2013 12:53 PM writes...

Anyone remember these guys getting randomly generated papers accepted by cash-cow conferences a few years back?

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16. Lyle Langley on February 4, 2013 2:07 PM writes...

@7, Anon...
"There are generally good attendances in the plenary session, but very few (just speakers) for the breakout sessions."

So, in other words, just like an ACS meeting. Good to know.

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17. newnickname on February 4, 2013 2:45 PM writes...

@9 mentioned the "vanity" journals. Almost everyone knows about "affinity credit cards" with the co-branded logo of your alma mater or a sports team or other institution that wants your loyalty and a %-age of your purchases. Affinity cards led to vanity cards that you could personalize with a picture of your dog, your wife or yourself.

I predict the forthcoming series of Personalized Conferences in China. "First International Summit Meeting in Honor of Your_Name_Here." "Be sure to get all of your friends and relatives to register early in order to get the best hotel accommodations and seats at the awards ceremony. Please also indicate your preferred subject area."

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18. Secondaire on February 4, 2013 8:07 PM writes...

Oh man. I get so many of these things. Two weeks ago I got invited to speak at the Malaysian Journal of Computer Science Something-or-other, which I found rather odd considering a) I am not Malaysian and do not live near Malaysia, and b) I'm not in computer science something or other.

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19. Nodz on February 5, 2013 2:48 AM writes...

I dont know why you havent heard of it, its a perfectly cromulent word...

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20. Cymantrene on February 5, 2013 3:20 AM writes...

Well, just one step from Demonology...

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21. Anonymous on February 5, 2013 8:58 AM writes...

Those who laugh at conference in China may want to take a look at this one:

I have little publication in the last 5 years, but was invited as session chair, not bad idea?

"Integrative Biology-2013 is comprised of 11 tracks and 55 sessions ..."

Vegas, gambling, beauty and beast...

come on baby :-)

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22. Vader on February 5, 2013 9:59 AM writes...

It needs more cowbell.

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23. Design on February 5, 2013 1:25 PM writes...

As a board certified drug designologist, I resent this post. This guy is one of the worst blogologists I have ever read. I am going to ask him to chair a session at one of my conferences only 5 more times, and then never again!!

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24. Design on February 5, 2013 1:26 PM writes...

As a board certified drug designologist, I resent this post. This guy is one of the worst blogologists I have ever read. I am going to ask him to chair a session at one of my conferences only 5 more times, and then never again!!

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25. Design on February 5, 2013 1:30 PM writes...

As a board certified drug designologist, I resent this post. This guy is one of the worst blogologists I have ever read. I am going to ask him to chair a session at one of my conferences only 5 more times, and then never again!!

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26. Design on February 5, 2013 1:33 PM writes...

As a board certified drug designologist, I resent this post. This guy is one of the worst blogologists I have ever read. I am going to ask him to chair a session at one of my conferences only 5 more times, and then never again!!

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27. Anonymous BMS Researcher on February 5, 2013 9:56 PM writes...

Junk mailers like these folks also mine names from patents. There also are some rather dubious "journals" that solicit papers. If you get a call for papers from somebody you've never heard of, investigate them first!

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28. Rob on February 6, 2013 6:44 AM writes...

@19 Bravo, eating my lunch in front of in the pipeline embiggens my soul.

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29. Jonadab on February 6, 2013 8:28 AM writes...

@ 3. Electrochemist:
So when are we going to have drug design artists, drug design gurus, drug design consultants, drug design specialists, and drug artisans?

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30. WB on February 7, 2013 1:43 AM writes...

@29 Don't forget drug design groupies!

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31. Martin on February 22, 2013 1:25 AM writes...

I received the catchall email for this one and the other (many) concurrent symposia again this morning. Particularly like the over-arching motto of the conferences: “Discovery for Happiness and Health”

They also offer "matchmaking activities" which can only end well

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