Finding the right conference

To begin with, it is important to know that there are basically 3 types of academic conferences:

  • Thematic conference: organized around a fairly specialized topic - usually quite small scale.
  • General conference: a somewhat broader focus - treats different topics within a particular field.
  • Professional conferences: not exclusively for academics; for example commercial companies contribute by giving presentations. The topics, however, are academic.

There are various ways in which one can find a conference to (actively) participate in:

  • Through your own academic institution. Many conferences advertise their call for papers through faculty heads of or contact persons in academic departments in the field of the conference. These often share these Calls with the research staff in their department – so when you are starting your PhD research, make sure you are on the relevant department mailing list(s)!
  • Through your own network (colleagues, supervisor etc.). Often, you'll be pointed to an interesting conference (i.e. call for papers) that has come up by your colleagues in the department or research group your are part of, or by your own (inter)national network of fellow researchers in your field.
  • Through mailing lists. You can sign up for mailing lists within a particular discipline so that you are then informed of upcoming conferences or calls for papers. Your colleagues/peers can point you to interesting mailing lists.
  • Through search engines or portals. It is also possible to actively search for a fitting conference by visiting websites which present upcoming conferences, such as: 

 

Pay attention when you search for a conference yourself! More and more fake or very low quality academic conferences are being organized nowadays. These conferences often have impressive titles (often stolen from genuine academic conferences), but when you arrive at the conference venue, it becomes clear that scholars of all kinds of disciplines are hurdled together – from biochemistry to neurolinguistics to theology. Although this doesn’t mean the individual contributions are bad, it does have as a result that an in-dept exchange of ideas is very unlikely. And exactly that exchange of thoughts with with fellow-specialists in your field was probably why you signed up for the conference in the first place.

How to make sure that YOU don’t end up at a conference that is something completely else then you expected when signing up for it?

  • If you have gotten the name of a good conference from a colleague/peer, make sure you apply for really THAT conference and not a pirate copy.
  • Don’t just Google for an academic conference. The people behind these (half) fake conferences are constantly organizing conferences and therefore, because of the sheer numbers, their website(s) come up very high in Google’s search results.
  • If you have just started your PhD project and the paper you have send in for a conference gets accepted right away, be aware! Easy acceptance might indicate that the organizers care more about your participation fee than about your contribution to the content of the conference. In a way this warning also applies to genuine academic conferences: the more difficult it is to get your paper accepted for presentation, the higher the quality of the conference (generally speaking).
  • If you are not sure if the conference is genuine, get in touch with at least one renowned speaker before making any payment. Often names of professors are mentioned on websites of fake conferences without their consent. I.e. they have nothing to do with the conference.

A background article on fake conferences appeared in newspaper De Volkskrant on 4 July 2015 (in Dutch):

De Boer, Richard (2015, July 4). Topcongres! (Fopcongres). de Volkskrant. Find the article via LexisNexis Academic (acces only when using Eduroam or a VPN connection).

If you want to keep up-to-date about fake conferences and predatory journals, you can follow librarian Jeffrey Beall’s blog Scholarly Open Access.