Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Friday, 10 May 2013

Academic spam emails about fake publications and conferences

Because I have two separate academic email addresses I probably get more than my fair share of academic spam inviting me to submit my paper to a journal or conference, or (much more rarely) be on the editorial board of some new journal. I've even had the offer of submitting one of my blog posts (on communicating difficult topics) to a journal. These are all fake.

Although I work in academia and have co-authored a couple of conference papers (real ones, honest) I'm not an academic so am largely immune myself. But it seems from reading what others have had to say that these conferences and journals are quite a problem.

Two academics (Prof Anthony Finkelstein's blog post and Dr Tom Crick's blog post on this topic) have suggested that the way to tackle this is not simply by listing them as 'conferences to avoid', libel being an ever-present threat. Getting the word out about dodgy conferences is perhaps more suitable (although I quite like the list option myself).

Here are a couple of other ideas that I've not seen suggested yet, though I've no idea how practical either are.

1. Academic email - stem the problem at source via Janet, which distributes all academic email.
Janet is the UK's academic and research network and each college / uni in the UK has 'Janet registered contacts' - I wonder if a few of them might be able to investigate blacklisting known spammers. Alas this would never be a 'do once and forget about it' as spammers aren't entirely stupid and will tweak their email addresses.

Surely anything that contains the word 'Masaumnet' in an email just shouldn't reach any academic account. Unless someone's researching the spread of spam emails of course...

2. Action Fraud
I discovered this marvellous website via the Police earlier this year - it covers pretty much everything, including email fraud attempts such as phishing and malicious software, but it doesn't cover academic fraud*. Given that this is a way to extract money from academics (well, ultimately the public purse I suppose) it would seem that this could be added to the list of things to be monitored.

Since discovering the site I have forwarded a massive chunk of the spam emails I receive to them, after filing a brief report via their online form. No particular action is taken on individual emails, it simply helps the fraud people get an idea of the scale of the problem.

I've just filed a report for what seems to be a fake conference (they 'aplogized' for multiple copies of the email and even my email software flagged it up as spam) and asked if they handle academic fraud, however I might never hear back!

*I'm not referring to fraud perpetrated by academics, eg plagiarism or falsifying data.

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Comment policy: I enthusiastically welcome corrections and I entertain polite disagreement ;) Because of the nature of this blog it attracts a LOT - 5 a day at the moment - of spam comments (I write about spam practices,misleading marketing and unevidenced quackery) and so I'm more likely to post a pasted version of your comment, removing any hyperlinks.

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