PD and “dubious” conferences

Last May, the Professional Development Committee started to receive PD requests to attend conferences that seemed somewhat peculiar.  The admin rep on the committee started to question some and spent a few minutes developing an “abstract” that was sent to the organizers of several conferences. This bogus abstract was accepted at most of these. What were some of the “red flags”?

* Very expensive registration fees, even for presenters, and distant, desirable locations.

*Short conferences with little time for presentation, e.g. a three day conference, with only one day for presentations and two days for tourism and events.

*No actual theme for the conference, but people can submit abstracts on a wide range of topics.

*A “peer-review” process for papers which takes a very short period of time, sometimes 48 hours.

* Spelling and other English-language mistakes on the conference website, although the conference is in English.

* No program for the conference, until shortly before it is held.

* The name of the university offering the conference has a name very close to the name of a well-known university (so one could easily think that the well-known university was sponsoring the conference).

We would ask teachers to check conferences very carefully, especially in regards to the points noted above, before they put in a PD request. In the light of last year’s experience with “dubious” conferences — and executive members had to agree that there were dubious conferences — we agree that the PD Committee has to look at applications for conferences carefully to make sure that our PD funds are not paying for “dubious conferences.” The administration has articulated its position as follows:

The Administration wants you to have a meaningful and productive PD experience. Please choose your conferences wisely as we have found there are dubious conference organizers purporting to offer high-level conferences when in fact the conferences they promote are ‘vanity’ conferences. They cater to a clientele not wishing their research to be exposed to peer review. In other words, anyone can present a paper at the conference without any real vetting. Applications to attend such conferences will be denied.

The PD Committee is a parity committee in the Collective Agreement, meaning that each side (the admin and the VCTA) has one vote.  If one side does not agree to an application, then it is not approved.