« Carnival of Evolution Blogs | Main | PDF available for our Perspective in Science »

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.


I have an additional warning to those who may decide to go despite the cost:

The registration form on their website has no security whatsoever. Everything you fill in, including your credit card information, might as well be posted on a public notice board.

If they make any claims to the contrary, they're either lying or ignorant.

Hi, my boss is going to speak at this meeting in China and chair a session. How do I know that there is a problem with this group?

Any Chinese organization that makes such claims should always raise a red flag for those who rush to pay.

Combined with the total lack of security in the online sign-up forms, something here is really suspicious.


I was also enticed to be a speaker in BIT's ist annual wold congress of biodiversity 2012. They asked for my biography and what I sent was the one I posted online so no problem. When i went back to see their web site- it doesn't work probably they are updating it- but i can still see the name of thomas eugene lovejoy as a keynote speaker a renowned biodiversity expert so i think this is ok. I will never put any money out in this convention even my name will be listed as a speaker in this convention.

Dear "Name withheld" (I wonder why),

If you go, which might be difficult if you "never put any money out in this convention", I would be interested in your comments. A picture of Dr. Lovejoy speaking would be interesting, if he actually does.

I too was invited to be a speaker at The 4th World Gene Convention-2013, probably because my LinkedIn states I am a biomedical engineer (I don't see why else they would contact me).

Because I am nothing in the research field, I found it strange as soon as I read the first e-mail. Nevertheless, I played their game for a while and actually sent a really vague title for the speech I would [hipotheticaly] give. Their replies were always without any real content and I finally got the time to do some research and the first thing I come across is your post. Needless to say I already have my answer - scheme!

So, thank you for the heads-up and all the best :)

PS: That last reply to Name Witheld was pretty good :D

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Type the characters you see in the picture above.