Saturday, August 19, 2017

Predatory Conferences and Journals

My newest pet peeve is the amount of emails I receive from predatory conference organizers. Many are not even remotely related to what I do and are fairly easy to delete. To make them look more real, they sometimes include the title of one of my publications in the email. My favorite is when they just copy the name of the first author from the publication, assuming incorrectly that this is the corresponding author.

A few however, sound relevant and are located in interesting places.  I wish there was a list of predatory conference organizing companies the way there is a list of predatory journal publishers.

The first one on my list is BIT Congress Inc. These folks are the worst. They are constantly changing their email address so I can't block them. They organize conferences for just about every topic imaginable. They don't even bother to include a fake unsubscribe button. They start their emails with guilt inducing statements like "I'm writing to follow-up on my previous email" or "we've tried contacting you multiple times."

On the predatory journal front, I've gotten used to the daily barrage of emails requesting me to submit articles and serve on editorial boards. Those I can ignore without a second thought. Recently though, a new wrinkle has emerged. These journals are inviting me to review manuscripts for them. The titles and abstracts are included in the requests and some of the manuscripts actually sound interesting and relevant to my field.

I wish they would include the names of the authors so that I could contact them and inquire whether they realize they are submitting to a predatory journal. Are the actual manuscripts much worse than the abstracts suggest? Do the authors not read? Are there other reasons they are submitting to these journals? I guess I could agree to the review, since usually the author names and corresponding author contact info are provided along with the entire manuscript, but it feels unethical as a reviewer to contact the authors. So I just delete the emails without responding. A few times I declined writing back to the editors that I don't review manuscripts for predatory journals like theirs. I've never received a reply in those instances. Internet folks, should I start fake reviewing so that I can contact the manuscript authors?

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A new adventure

Semester is over! I love my summers. The escape from committee work makes academia bearable. I've been spending time in the lab recently and remembering how much fun/frustration it can be. This obviously is not the best use of my time, but my group has gotten small with several graduations during the last year and projects still need to move forward. What I'm really excited about though is that I'll be on sabbatical, so I won't be teaching this coming fall/spring, and more importantly, I won't be on almost* any committees! It'll be my first break from that in seven years.

* I say almost because my department has started spiraling toward dysfunction, and so there are a few things that I'm sure will remain on my plate, or that I'll have to get involved with. Tenure has definitely made me feel like a citizen with responsibilities to the department/college/university, which would be fine if all of my tenured colleagues equally shared this notion, and were willing to sacrifice a bit for the greater good. It's fascinating how a few bad apples can dishearten an entire group.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

New Frustrations

So I haven't posted much since getting tenure. As most faculty in science/engineering will tell you, life only gets harder after tenure. I've become even more busy. Just as stressed as always because students still need to be paid, supplies still cost money. In fact, even more stressed because I no longer qualify for most early investigator opportunities. I got two separate proposal rejections yesterday. How's that for a kick in the nuts.

I started working on a post a few weeks ago while at a conference, then never got around to finishing it up. So I'm doing it now instead of grading.

I've observed multiple instances a conference recently that highlighted how much science is not a meritocracy.

First, I attended an event that was hosted by one of the more specialized societies to which I pay an annual membership. I wasn't "classically" trained in this field by one of the few select old men that invented the field, so I'm already looked at as an outsider. But what really grinded my gears was that the board members didn't recognize my name. Normally, one would not expect board members to recognize names, except that I've run for a board position multiple times at this point. Obviously, I didn't win, but my name and brief bio were one of a handful of candidates. And this is a society that has less than one hundred members.

Meanwhile, there are golden boy new professors that are winning awards without yet even accomplishing anything. They don't even have a signature publication as a PI that they could point to, but they reap the benefits of having been trained by one of the big-wigs in the field. They are introduced and promoted within the community and immediately part of the old boys club.

A separate scenario involved my students. One of the big-wigs came into the room where students were giving their oral presentations. He sat through two mediocre presentations from new PhD students from his former students lab, and then got up and left when my student got up to give their talk. First, this wasn't the big-wigs former student, it was his academic grandchild he came to support, and then he couldn't be bothered to listen to even one talk from someone that he's not affiliated with.

How am I or my students supposed to get big-wigs to recognize the value of our work if they are walking around with blinders on?