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Depiction of Health. 2024;15(2): 129-133.
doi: 10.34172/doh.2024.10
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Health Information/Library

Commentary

Predatory Conferences: An Emerging Challenge for Researchers in Medical Science

Masoud Isa Khajehlou 1* ORCID logo

1 Department of Medical Library and Information Science, School of Management and Medical Informatics, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Tabriz, Iran
*Corresponding Author: Email: masoud.khajelou@gmail.com

Abstract

This Commentary aims to shed light on the growing issue of predatory conferences, their characteristics, and the profound impacts they have on PhD students and faculty members. Despite the fact that predatory conferences have been an issue for at least a decade, a resurgence has occurred due to a lack of attention to the problem (1). Additionally, it reviews various defensive strategies that can be employed by researchers to counter these exploitative practices. By enhancing awareness and encouraging proactive measures, the academic community can safeguard the integrity of scholarly work and support the development of credible research environments.
The exchange of ideas through legitimate medical conferences plays a vital role in advancing medical research. It fosters collaboration, the dissemination of groundbreaking discoveries, and ultimately accelerates progress in improving patient care. However, a concerning trend has emerged: the rise of predatory conferences. The coinage of the term "predatory publishing and conferences" is attributed to Jeffrey Beall. In 2013, he unveiled this scientific misconduct by publishing a list of predatory journals, publishers, and conferences on his personal blog. However, his blog was soon shut down (2). Beall's actions had a notable impact, prompting even the Ministry of Health to compile a list of invalid journals. With the closure of his list, predatory conferences and gatherings have resurfaced. These deceptive events masquerade as legitimate platforms for scholarly exchange, but their true aim is to exploit the academic environment, particularly young medical researchers.

Characteristics of Predatory Conferences
Predatory conferences share characteristics with predatory journals and use various methods, such as flooding researchers with unsolicited invitations (3). Identifying these conferences is becoming more challenging as they employ intricate strategies to mask their underlying commercial intent. These conferences are analogous to predatory journals and are characterized by a lack of proper peer review and high registration fees.
Organizers often exploit the pressures on academics and PhD students to publish and present their work, thereby advancing their careers and enhancing their CVs. Lacking rigorous peer review, they readily accept and present low-quality research, frequently devoid of qualified reviewers with expertise in the specific medical field (4). This creates a breeding ground for the dissemination of misleading or unsubstantiated medical information.

The Consequences of Predatory Conferences in Medical Research
The consequences of predatory conferences in medical research are far-reaching. They undermine the credibility of genuine medical research, potentially delaying or hindering advancements that could improve patient care. Healthcare professionals, misled by these conferences, may base crucial treatment decisions on flawed research, jeopardizing patient well-being.
Furthermore, the public's trust in the validity of medical research findings erodes (5), potentially discouraging participation in clinical trials and adherence to evidence-based medicine. These deceptive conferences also have a detrimental impact on PhD students and faculty members in medical fields. Financial resources, often limited for PhD students, are drained by high registration fees, travel, and accommodation expenses associated with these predatory events (6).
Consequences for PhD Students and Faculty Members in Developing Countries
Disguising themselves as genuine platforms for scholarly discourse, these deceptive events harbor an ulterior motive, namely, exploiting the academic landscape, specifically targeting young researchers in the medical field. Although these conferences exist to some degree worldwide, developing nations constitute the primary target audience (7). Presenting at such conferences not only yields no tangible academic benefit but can also tarnish one's scholarly credibility. Retractions of publications associated with predatory conferences can severely damage academic careers. Faculty members, especially those mentoring PhD students, play a critical role, as misguided advice can lead students down a path of wasted time and resources.
The financial strain is just one aspect of the consequences participants may face. It can affect the overall funding of a PhD program, potentially limiting opportunities for future research, travel to legitimate conferences, and access to essential resources. Additionally, the time and effort spent preparing for and attending these conferences detract from genuine research activities and academic progression.
In a broader picture, the proliferation of predatory conferences can dilute the overall quality of academic communications, making it harder to distinguish between rigorous and subpar research, and repeated interactions with predatory conferences can erode trust in academic processes and institutions.
Identifying and Avoiding Predatory Conferences
To combat the spread of predatory conferences, several strategies can be adopted:
· Organizing workshops and seminars to educate researchers about predatory conferences. Providing clear examples and warning signs can help researchers make informed decisions.

· Encouraging researchers to verify the legitimacy of conferences through trusted directories and by consulting colleagues.
· Developing clear guidelines to discourage participation in predatory conferences and not recognizing such activities for tenure or promotion. Institutions can provide lists of recognized and reputable conferences.
· Establishing strong mentorship programs where experienced faculty members guide young researchers in navigating the academic landscape, including identifying reputable conferences.
· The creation of a list of predatory conferences and meetings similar to the list of invalid journals by the Ministry of Health.
By implementing these strategies, the academic community can protect researchers from the pitfalls of predatory conferences and ensure the integrity of scholarly work. Combating the spread of predatory conferences requires a multi-pronged approach within the medical research community (8). Researchers should be encouraged to utilize databases of reputable medical conferences maintained by established medical societies and organizations.
In summary, the rise of predatory conferences presents a significant threat to the integrity of medical research. Researchers, institutions, and healthcare organizations share a responsibility to combat these deceptive practices. By fostering a culture of awareness and implementing robust verification processes, we can safeguard the quality of medical research, ensuring evidence-based practices that ultimately translate to improved patient care.

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Submitted: 01 Jun 2024
Revision: 04 Jun 2024
Accepted: 08 Jun 2024
ePublished: 09 Jun 2024
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