Thursday, February 22, 2007

Serial conference fraud

Yesterday my co-editor and I were brainstorming titles for the proceedings volume of the workshop we organised last year. After running through all the bad puns we could think of, we turned in desperation to the original title of the workshop. Let's call it Boring but Unambiguous: Easily Searchable Workshop Title 2006. So we googled "Boring but Unambiguous" to make sure there wasn't already a book or paper out there with the same title.

And oddly enough, one of the hits to our search solved a six-month-old mystery.

One of our presenters for Boring but Unambiguous: Easily Searchable Workshop, who had submitted her abstract, had it peer-reviewed and accepted, and who had not triggered any mental alarm bells, had then simply failed to show up, both to her scheduled session, and (as far as we know) to the conference in general.

But the search for "boring but unambiguous" returned, among other hits, her CV. And that woman has no shortage of conferences listed there. Under a section called "Conference papers" she lists hundreds of titles, each with "accepted" next them in brackets. She doesn't specifically say that she attended and gave the paper, but she has the date and place, so what else is the reader/potential employer meant to assume? I can only conclude that she is a serial conference-submitter-and-not-turn-upper who then profits from this to pad her CV.

Maybe I'm naive, but I found this more than a little bit shocking. Do any of you know, does it happen a lot?


wolfa said...

I've never heard of that used. I've seen it when you win some grant but turn it down, but then they say "declined".

Why hasn't this person's name gotten around? Field's not that huge.

And I really think there should be a talk called "Boring but unambiguous". It can hit almost any subfield. But the title is so good.

betty said...

It probably doesn't happen in my field because having an abtract accepted isn't considered a huge deal - probably since they are very easy to write. What people keep track of in my field is conference presentations - and they distinguish between posters, talks and platform talks (an honor because these talks are at a time when there are no competing talks when the conference is made up of mostly concurrent sessions).

i can't believe people would do what this lady has done though. i agree with wolfa - i'm surprised word hasn't gotten around.

StyleyGeek said...

Yeah, we don't tend to have posters so much, so we only distinguish between conference talks and plenary (invited) talks. And I don't think having an abstract accepted IS a big deal, which is why I think it is fraudulent to do what this woman has done: she is implying she has a lot of experience presenting her research to large groups of people internationally, but really all she has is a bunch of accepted abstracts.

Wolfa, the list of confs on her CV are almost all international ones (she is based in Europe), so presumably word does not get around in her immediate community, and I don't think she is internationally well-known enough for it to spread elsewhere. We were admittedly a little surprised that someone with no connection with our centre would travel right across the world for our workshop, but we held it concurrently with the major Australian Linguistics conference, to which lots of people often come from overseas. And we did have three other speakers at the workshop who are based in USA/Europe, and who DID show up.

Kristen said...

WTF? That is ridiculous! I have never heard of anyone doing that...if only there was someone that you could report her to.

ZaPaper said...

Totally lame. Kind of like the people who have a long CV of exciting things "forthcoming" ... and then you still can't find them published anywhere TWENTY YEARS LATER! Okay, I live in a slow-moving field where a twenty year old paper may still be useful, if only one could get one's hands on it...

Dr. Brazen Hussy said...

Oh yeah, I know of people who submit abstracts, list them in their CV, and then cancel the talk. I know one particular person who does that regularly. It's sick.

Weekend_Viking said...

That's a bit odd. I've got the odd conference paper on my crappy papers list that never made it into the conference proceedings (due to it being crap, and me preferring to submit my thesis, rather than dick around rewriting a paper I knew was crap), but yeah, submitting and then not showing is definitely bad pool

Anastasia said...

Well, I'm scandalized. It would never occur to me to do such a thing.

Geeka said...

Ok, so on this same note: I got an abstract selected for a talk at a conference. There was some traveling difficulties, and I actually didn't show up to the conference until the next day. The organizers told me that they didn't have time to reschedule my talk.

So: do I say that I got the abstract accepted for presentation? I don't know how that works out..

Also, there were tonnes of people who didn't show up/got it standard not to have a make-up session?

StyleyGeek said...

I don't know about what's standard, but from the point of view of someone organising the sessions, it's pretty difficult to reschedule sometimes. For instance, we had to book rooms, projectors, etc months in advance, and when we wanted (a few weeks before the conf) to extend onto a morning of the third day, we couldn't do it, because the university admin where the conf was held was pretty inflexible. Also, letting people know that things have been shifted around is tricky, so make-up sessions might not be very well attended.

But in your situation, with so many people delayed, you'd think something could have been arranged.

As for whether you state that the abstract was accepted, I think that depends on what your field is like. In my field, at least in Australia, conference presentations are pretty much the bottom of the list of stuff people care about on CVs, and then they only care about them because it means you might have some recognition beyond your own university. But if you didn't get to actually present, I'm not sure that people in my field, at least, would really want to know you had an abstract accepted.

But there are two situations in which I think you might want to mention it: (1) if it was a big-name big-deal conference that is known to be picky about who they accept, or (2) if you don't have any publications or much else to list on your CV. In the latter case, I guess you need as much filler stuff as you can muster :)

That's just my opinion, though. Does anyone else want to weigh in?