The list of outlaw conference organizers works on a demerit points system and a list of 12 ‘fatal’ criteria:
- Owned and run by an outlaw publisher
- Conceals or misrepresents the organizer’s identity and/or location
- Makes demonstrably false or misleading non-trivial claims other than contact claims
- Fails to reveal the details of committee members or speakers 2 months out from the event
- Lists real committee members or speakers without telling them
- Lists fictitious or dead committee members or speakers
- Lists stock or fictitious speakers or committee members with clashed-date engagements
- Lists the same committee for unrelated conferences
- Lists the same non-stock speakers at different conferences on the same days
- Fails to clearly state fees or charges
- Guarantees a speaking position without peer review of an abstract
- Guarantees full article publications as proceedings in its own journals
The first criterion carries 100 demerit points. Each of the other 11 others carries 50 demerit points There are a number of ‘non-fatal’ criteria carrying 30 demerit points, and a number carrying 10 demerit points. Examples of the former are having committee members who are not at their stated locations and are difficult or impossible to trace, and failing to specify important dates in the lead-up to an event; examples of the latter are using conspicuously bad English on the website or having conference titles that combine unrelated areas of research. The threshold for listing is 150 demerit points and at least 50 must come from the ‘fatal’ criteria list above.
The points system is not meant to be definitive. Complex human behaviour and its manifestations can’t be described by numbers alone. The tallies of demerit points serve only to summarise a lot of detail and provide comparable justifications for outlawing, without long-winded and repetitious accounts.
To sum up, to be on the list of outlaw conferences, a conference peddler must be demonstrably deceptive (fraudulent), but must be guilty of other transgressions besides. It will be clear at once that this avoids all the borderline cases that have bedevilled the debate in the past. The whole exercise is heavily weighted in the conference peddler’s favour. Even outlawed publishers are not automatically outlawed for their conferences – they have to be in violation of at least one other ‘fatal’ criterion. And to get unlisted is so easy: fix the fatal error(s). Most of the entire mess can be cleaned up overnight with just a single correction: get Alireza Heidari and other fictitious and stock characters off your committees and out of your lists of speakers.
You will not find many entries in the list right now, but the ones that are there include several of the godfathers of the outlaw conferences market. Nor have I yet fully documented the transgressions of those listed; it suffices for now that they all carry more than the threshold number of demerit points. There are many more conference ‘predators’ to be listed, and it will take me a while.