Fake World Congress of Agricultural Biotechnology?
I got an invitation to speak at a "World Congress of Agricultural Biotechnology" in China. I was a bit surprised, because I'm better-known as a critic of biotechnology -- a constructive one, I hope -- than as a biotechnologist. So I did a little web research.
The business model of the organizers, a company called BIT Life Sciences, seems to bear some resemblance to a pyramid scheme, according to information on the website of The Scientist about an earlier conference they sponsored:
Dan Fintel a cardiologist at the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at Northwestern University in Chicago, is listed as one of the plenary speakers on both the defunct program and the current program, and already booked a flight for himself, his wife and his son. But he said that BIT has now told him he must pay a $700 registration fee, unless he recruits four other cardiologists to participate in the meeting. In that case, in addition to waiving the fee, "they will give me $500 and pay my hotel," Fintel said.
The web site for the World Congress of Agricultural Biotechnology did nothing to assuage my fears. Their Program Committee, as of May 6, consisted of "Foreign Experts Databank of SAFEA-Dalian Biotechnological and Medical Experts Subdivision, China." A real scientific conference would have a program committee consisting of individually identifiable scientists with strong reputations -- reputations they wouldn't put at risk through association with a low-quality or imaginary conference. Reputations like mine, for example. If my name shows up in the program, against my explicit instructions, you'll know the conference is a complete fake.