Predatory conferences, not computer-generated papers, are the real story

I hesitate to dignify this story with a post, but…

There’s nothing to the way this story is currently being framed by most people (this link is to the original report by Nature). For the most part (and maybe even entirely), the conferences that accepted these papers and then published them as proceedings are predatory, fraudulent conferences that exist strictly to suck in a few desperate folks and make them pay large fees to register.

Most academics haven’t heard of these conferences. Most of the ones who have heard consider the emailed solicitations to be spam. Most who submit a paper to these conferences–even a legitimate paper–lose credibility as soon as they list this as a real professional development activity. In fact, a search I ran a couple of years back received an inquiry from someone who listed one of these conferences on their CV. That was reason enough to exclude them from the pool.

So if there is a story here, it’s this:

  1. Predatory conferences, just like predatory publishers, exist, but they’re an infinitesimal and easily identified percentage of the available presenting and publishing venues. Shame on Springer and IEEE for partnering with them to publish the proceedings.
  2. There is a an equally small percentage of scholars who are desperate enough to submit to those conferences. For the most part they will harm their careers by doing this. It matters very little if the presentation/paper is legitimate. As soon as a choice is made to present a conference like this as a real professional development activity, then that scholar loses credibility. See #1 above for how obvious it is to everyone inside academia. See also the story above about the applicant that included a presentation/publication like this on their CV.
  3. Apparently, some folks were listed as co-authors on computer-generated papers without knowing it. (That would actually be really difficult at most conferences I attend, which require all co-authors to confirm participation using their institutional email addresses.) Looks like it’s time for people to make sure they haven’t been fraudulently listed as a co-author.

So please, people, stop the “The Academy is a Fraud” train and safely disembark. Higher education is facing some legitimate challenges that deserve our attention. This isn’t one of them.

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