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'Predatory' int'l conferences flourish to make money, not for academic reasons

This picture shows a paper submitted and published to a predatory online journal in 2014 by a U.S. researcher to prove the medium's sloppiness. Predatory academic conferences are also mushrooming in Japan and overseas along with such journals. (Mainichi)

OSAKA -- "Predatory" international conferences faking scholarly gatherings that are apparently organized to make money out of participation fees are mushrooming in Japan and abroad, according to experts on the subject.

Those conferences rarely screen presentations beforehand for quality control, and researchers can count their participation as academic achievements just by paying the fees, the experts said.

Professor James McCrostie at Tokyo-based Daito Bunka University says it is wrong to use those "meaningless" conferences to embellish scholarly performances, and a waste of research funds.

As part of his survey of predatory conferences, McCrostie sent presentation proposals with no scientific meaning to organizers of conferences suspected of being predatory in 2014. Organizers of six conferences based in Taiwan, Thailand, Poland and other places accepted them, allowing the actual presentations to proceed. Participation fees were approximately between 45,000 yen and 80,000 yen.

Presentations at international academic conferences, like the publication of academic papers in journals, are counted as research achievements, and they are including in research reports for studies conducted with government grants. Organizers of scholarly meetings usually conduct prior checks on presentation proposals to find out if they are worth presenting. This screening renders some international academic conferences difficult to attend as presenters.

In contrast, predatory conferences accept essentially anyone who pays fees as presenters even if their research results are questionable, and participation in them still can be counted as research achievements.

According to experts specializing in such gatherings, their organizers tend to hold joint meetings covering unrelated multiple disciplines, and send out mass invitational emails. Predatory conferences are often organized by the publishers of predatory journals that accept papers without proper screening in return for fees. Some of such organizers invite frequent participants of their conferences to send their thesis to their predatory publications. Predatory conferences are held worldwide including in Japan, and the total number and participants are unknown.

Professor Masamitsu Kuriyama of library and academic information at Tokyo Metropolitan University, an expert of predatory journals, says that it is "problematic for predatory publishers to organize conferences and attract participants as presentations at international academic conferences serve as a yardstick to measure researchers' academic performance."

(Japanese original by Shinpei Torii, Osaka City News Department)

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