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This month in the spotlight we focus on predatory conferences, particularly tips for spotting them in bursary applications.

Predatory conferences are exploitative events which are expensive and offer little or no scientific benefit to attendees. Recently, there has been an increase in the number of predatory conferences, and in 2017 it was estimated that predatory conferences had started to outnumber legitimate ones

Recently, a number of Member Network Committees have come across potentially predatory conferences when judging applications for travel or conference bursaries, therefore we advise that you demonstrate particular caution when assessing events that people are applying to attend. 

The organisers of these conferences are getting better at disguising their illegitimacy. Therefore, determining whether an event is predatory can be incredibly difficult. Our Grants and Events teams have collated a list of “red flags” that may indicate that a conference is predatory. The first two points are particularly suspicious:

•    The conference organiser is holding multiple meetings on the same days and in the same location.
•    The conference venue does not reflect the supposed size of the meeting (e.g. a “World Congress” that is held in a hotel, rather than a conference  centre).
•    There is an unusual combination of words and phrases, or loosely related fields of study, in the conference name.
•    Photos of previous meetings on the organiser’s website only show meetings of about a dozen participants in a small meeting room. 
•    The conference has an unusually broad subject matter coverage.
•    The language of the website is unusual for your professional practice or has grammatical errors.
•    The editorial board or conference organisers are not well-known in your research field.
•    The “business” address of the organiser is unusual (e.g. if Google Street View shows it to be a residential address).
•    The registration fee is high.
•    The conference website does not include subject matter that is at the frontier of knowledge.
•    The high-level speakers in the programme are listed “subject to confirmation”.
•    You simply don't recognise the journal, conference or participants.

Please note that none of these red flags 100% indicate an event is predatory, and so we encourage committee members to exercise judgement when assessing events. If you have good reason to believe an applicant may be intending to attend a predatory conference, it is best to let them know as soon as possible to minimise the chance that they have already ordered a ticket which will be difficult to refund if the event is predatory. 

For more information please see our Chemistry World article on predatory conferences, as well as our advice on predatory conferences within our Researcher Develop Grants guidance.

If you have any concerns about predatory conferences please email the Networks or Grants teams at or respectively.

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