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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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January 2, 2014

It Just So Happens That I Have A Conference Right Here

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Posted by Derek

Here's a good addition to the "bogus conferences" file. The folks at Retraction Watch have the story of Navin Kabra, an Indian engineer who's blowing the whistle on a racket peculiar to that country.

There are apparently many universities in India that have a requirement that everyone attaining a certain degree has to have their work accepted at an "international conference". So. . .a number of "international conference" organizers have stepped up to fill that market niche, with hefty registration fees and talk of rigorous peer review and high standards. They do nothing of the kind, of course. People pay their cash, pay their own way to the conference, and get to present to a scattered audience of other people who've done the same thing. No one else shows up - why would anyone?

So Kabra sent them a manuscript full of gibberish and stretches of dialog from "My Cousin Vinny", and (you guessed it), the thing passed the brutal review process as soon as the cash appeared. After revealing his hoax, the paper seems to have been taken down from the conference web site, but up until then, it was available for interested scholars, or people interested in Joe Pesci and/or Marisa Tomei. As long as the universities pretend that everyone coming through their programs has done work that's fit to present, there will be people there who will pretend to hold conferences for them. The real losers are the students, many of whom apparently think that these are real meetings. How do you recognize the real thing if all you've ever been exposed to are the scams?

Comments (7) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: The Dark Side | The Scientific Literature


1. Teddy Z on January 2, 2014 8:44 AM writes...

There is also the practice (how widespread?) of asking people to speak and then listing them as speakers. That happened to me for a conference in China (link above). First, how dumb are the organizers to think that I would be a draw? Most importantly, how many other of the distinguished speakers are not actually attending?

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2. The Iron Chemist on January 2, 2014 9:10 AM writes...

Well, ideally the student's advisor would be able to steer him or her clear of these sorts of things. If the advisor is too clueless or indifferent to do so, paying to get a presentation into a joke conference is likely the least of the student's problems.

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3. Anonymous on January 2, 2014 9:42 AM writes...

No, the real losers are the employers who can't distinguish between good students and those who have faked their way through their degree, as well as the good students who can no longer stand out above the fakers.

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4. Esteban on January 2, 2014 9:44 AM writes...

@2: Perhaps advisors are evaluated based on the success rates of their advisees?

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5. anonymous on January 2, 2014 10:56 AM writes...

@1. Teddy, this practice has become all to common even among the more 'reputable' meetings stateside and in Europe. If you read the fine print, the early meeting adverts qualify that the speaker line-up has been invited but not necessarily confirmed. I've found myself thinking 'if they can get the majority of those speakers then this could be a good meeting and one that I might accept' but all too often the final line-up is less noteworthy. More of a problem with the 'for profit' meetings so I'm inclined to now opt for the GRCs, Keystones, AACR and the like.

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6. Kannan Hariharan on January 2, 2014 11:55 PM writes...

Such rackets are common in India. Most engineering courses require the submission of a "project report" in the final year. It is possible to contract out this work (for a consideration of course) and get the job done without strain or pain. You could even outsource your Ph.D thesis work to ready and willing parties.

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7. souls_at_zero on January 6, 2014 9:47 PM writes...

As shameful as the situation is, I really had to laugh at their choice of "My Cousin Vinny". I bet it was fun putting together the bogus manuscript.

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