Category / Guidance

Research & Knowledge Development Framework – give us your feedback

It’s been over 18 month since Bournemouth University launched its new Research & Knowledge Exchange Development Framework, which was designed to offer academics at all stages of their career opportunities to develop their skills, knowledge and capabilities.


Since its launch, over 150 sessions have taken place, including sandpits designed to develop solutions to key research challenges, workshops with funders such as the British Academy and the Medical Research Council and skills sessions to help researchers engage with the media and policy makers.


The Research & Knowledge Exchange Office is currently planning activities and sessions for next year’s training programme and would like your feedback about what’s worked well, areas for improvement and suggestions for new training sessions.


Tell us what you think via our survey and be in with a chance of winning a £30 Amazon voucher. The deadline date is Wednesday 28th March.

What is Open Access?

Open access is about making the products of research freely accessible to all. It allows research to be disseminated quickly and widely, the research process to operate more efficiently, and increased use and understanding of research by business, government, charities and the wider public.

There are two complementary mechanisms for achieving open access to research.

The first mechanism is for authors to publish in open-access journals that do not receive income through reader subscriptions.

The second is for authors to deposit their refereed journal article in an open electronic archive.

These two mechanisms are often called the ‘gold’ and ‘green’ routes to open access:

  • Gold – This means publishing in a way that allows immediate access to everyone electronically and free of charge. Publishers can recoup their costs through a number of mechanisms, including through payments from authors called article processing charges (APCs), or through advertising, donations or other subsidies.
  • Green – This means depositing the final peer-reviewed research output in an electronic archive called a repository. Repositories can be run by the researcher’s institution, but shared or subject repositories are also commonly used. Access to the research output can be granted either immediately or after an agreed embargo period.

Article first published –

To encourage all academic communities to consider open access publishing, Authors Alliance has produced a comprehensive ‘Understanding Open Access‘ guide which addresses common open access related questions and concerns and provides real-life strategies and tools that authors can use to work with publishers, institutions, and funders to make their works more widely accessible to all.

To access and download the guide, please follow this link –

For any other open access related queries, please do get in touch with Shelly Anne Stringer in RKEO.

BORDaR – a new dedicated research data repository.

Thursday 8 February saw the launch of BORDaR (Bournemouth Online Research Data Repository), Bournemouth University’s new research data repository, which provides a secure and open access home for data emanating from BU’s world leading research projects.

Our support for Research Data Management (RDM) begins here and is complemented by a RDM Library Guide which has been developed specifically for BU staff.  Use this guide to help you deposit your data Open Access as mandated by your research funder and to increase your research impact for REF 2021 – you can find guidance on developing a Data Management Plan, managing, documenting, depositing, sharing and securing your data.  You can also email with your query.

Back in November a repository naming competition was held and from the Faculty of Science & Technology, Paul Cheetham’s suggestion of BORDaR was chosen as the winner by BU’s RDM Steering Group.  As his prize Paul received a much cherished copy of Armin Schmidt’s Earth resistance for archaeologists, from Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor (Research and Innovation), John Fletcher.

There’s no such thing as a bad metric.

Lizzie Gadd warns against jumping on ‘bad metrics’ bandwagons without really engaging with the more complex responsible metrics agenda beneath.

An undoubted legacy of the Metric Tide report has been an increased focus on the responsible use of metrics and along with this a notion of ‘bad metrics’.  Indeed, the report itself even recommended awarding an annual ‘Bad Metrics Prize’.  This has never been awarded as far as I’m aware, but nominations are still open on their web pages.  There has been a lot of focus on responsible metrics recently.  The Forum for Responsible Metrics have done a survey of UK institutions and is reporting the findings on 8 February in London.  DORA has upped its game and appointed a champion to promote their work and they seem to be regularly retweeting messages that remind us all of their take on what it means to do metrics responsibly.   There are also frequent twitter conversations about the impact of metrics in the up-coming REF.  In all of this I see an increasing amount of ‘bad metrics’ bandwagon-hopping.  The anti-Journal Impact Factor (JIF) wagon is now full and its big sister, the “metrics are ruining science” wagon, is taking on supporters at a heady pace.

It looks to me like we have moved from a state of ignorance about metrics, to a little knowledge.  Which, I hear, is a dangerous thing.

It’s not a bad thing, this increased awareness of responsible metrics; all these conversations.  I’m responsible metrics’ biggest supporter and a regular slide in my slide-deck shouts ‘metrics can kill people!’.  So why am I writing a blog post that claims that there is no such thing as a bad metric?  Surely these things can kill people? Well, yes, but guns can also kill people, they just can’t do so unless they’re in the hands of a human.  Similarly, metrics aren’t bad in and of themselves, it’s what we do with them that can make them dangerous.

In Yves Gingras’ book, “Bibliometrics and Research Evaluation” he defines the characteristics of a good indicator as follows:

  • Adequacy of the indicator for the object that it measures
  • Sensitivity to the intrinsic inertia of the object being measured
  • Homogeneity of the dimensions of the indicator.

So, you might have an indicator such as ‘shoe size’, where folks with feet of a certain length get assigned a certain shoe size indicator. No problem there – it’s adequate (length of foot consistently maps on to shoe size); it’s sensitive to the thing it measures (foot grows, shoe size increases accordingly), and it’s homogenous (one characteristic – length, leads to one indicator – shoe size).  However, in research evaluation we struggle on all of these counts.  Because the thing we really want to measure, this elusive, multi-faceted “research quality” thing, doesn’t have any adequate, sensitive and homogeneous indicators. We need to measure the immeasurable. So we end up making false assumptions about the meanings of our indicators, and then make bad decisions based on those false assumptions.  In all of this, it is not the metric that’s at fault, it’s us.

In my view, the JIF is the biggest scapegoat of the Responsible Metrics agenda.  The JIF is just the average number of cites per paper for a journal over two years.  That’s it.  A simple calculation. And as an indicator of the communication effectiveness of a journal for collection development purposes (the reason it was introduced) it served us well.  It’s just been misused as an indicator of the quality of individual academics and individual papers.  It wasn’t designed for that.  This is misuse of a metric, not a bad metric. (Although recent work has suggested that it’s not that bad an indicator for the latter anyway, but that’s not my purpose here).  If the JIF is a bad metric, so is Elsevier’s CiteScore which is based on EXACTLY the same principle but uses a three-year time window not two, a slightly different set of document types and journals, and makes itself freely available.

If we’re not careful, I fear that in a hugely ironic turn, DORA and the Leiden Manifesto might themselves become bad (misused) metrics: an unreliable indicator of a commitment to the responsible use of metrics that may or may not be there in practice.

I understand why DORA trumpets the misuse of JIFs; it is rife and there are less imperfect tools for the job. But there are also other metrics that DORA doesn’t get in a flap about – like the individual h-index – which are subject to the same amount of misuse, but are actually more damaging.  The individual h-index disadvantages certain demographics more than others (women, early-career researchers, anyone with non-standard career lengths); at least the JIF mis-serves everyone equally.  And whilst we’re at it peer review can be an equally inadequate research evaluation tool (which, ironically, metrics have proven). So if we’re to be really fair we should be campaigning for responsible peer review with as much vigour as our calls for responsible metrics.

Bumper stickers by Paul van der Werf
Bumper stickers by Paul van der Werf (CC-BY)


It looks to me like we have moved from a state of ignorance about metrics, to a little knowledge.  Which, I hear, is a dangerous thing.  A little knowledge can lead to a bumper sticker culture ( “I HEART DORA” anyone?  “Ban the JIF”?) which could move us away from, rather than towards, the responsible use of metrics. These concepts are easy to grasp hold of, but they mask a far more complex and challenging set of research evaluation problems that lie beneath.  The responsible use of metrics is about more than the avoidance of certain indicators, or signing DORA, or even developing your own bespoke Responsible Metrics policy (as I’ve said before this is certainly easier said than done).

The responsible use of metrics requires responsible scientometricians.  People who understand that there is really no such thing as a bad metric, but it is very possible to misuse them. People with a deeper level of understanding about what we are trying to measure, what the systemic effects of this might be, what indicators are available, what their limitations are, where they are appropriate, how they can best triangulate them with peer review.  We have good guidance on this in the form of the Leiden Manifesto, the Metric Tide and DORA.  However, these are the starting points of often painful responsible metric journeys, not easy-ride bandwagons to be jumped on.  If we’re not careful, I fear that in a hugely ironic turn, DORA and the Leiden Manifesto might themselves become bad (misused) metrics: an unreliable indicator of a commitment to the responsible use of metrics that may or may not be there in practice.

Let’s get off the ‘metric-shaming’ bandwagons, deepen our understanding and press on with the hard work of responsible research evaluation.


Elizabeth Gadd

Elizabeth Gadd is the Research Policy Manager (Publications) at Loughborough University. She has a background in Libraries and Scholarly Communication research. She is the co-founder of the Lis-Bibliometrics Forum and is the ARMA Metrics Special Interest Group Champion



Creative Commons LicenceOriginal content posted on The Bibliomagician reposted here with permission. Content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

REMINDER: ADRC presents NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) Wessex Seminar this Wednesday

You are cordially invited to this lunchtime seminar which is open to all BU staff.

Please feel free to bring your lunch.

Wednesday 24th January 2018

1 – 2 pm

B407, Bournemouth House, Lansdown Campus

The NIHR is the UK’s major funder of applied health research. The NIHR develops and supports the people who conduct and contribute to health research and equally supports the training of the next generation of health researchers. The NIHR CRN Study Support Service helps researchers set up and deliver high quality research to time and target in the NHS in England.

We are fortunate to have two Research Delivery Managers from the NIHR CRN  Wessex, David Higenbottam and Alex Jones  coming to BU who  will be presenting a seminar about the network, funding opportunities and forthcoming strategic plan for 2018, followed by Q & A session.

Please email Michelle O’Brien ( if you are planning to attend.  See you there!


David Higenbottam
Has worked in research since 2012.
2012 – 2014 South Coast DeNDRoN Network Manager.
2014 – to date Research Delivery Manager for Divisions 2 and 4 (Division 4 includes dementia as one of its specialities).


Alex Jones
Worked for Hampshire & Isle of Wight CLRN from July 2013 – April 2014.
Division 5 Assistant Portfolio Manager then Portfolio Manager April 2014 – December 2017 (Division 5 includes ageing as one of its specialities).
Currently Acting Research Delivery Manager for Division 5.

Wessex CRN
The Wessex CRN was formed  in April 2014, its geographic footprint is Hampshire & Isle of Wight, Dorset and South Wiltshire. It comprises 12 partner NHS organisations and 10 clinical commissioning groups. Research specialities are spread across 6 Divisions.

ECR Policy Lab on the determinants of food choice for healthy and sustainable diets

The BBSRCs Global Food Security (GFS) programme invites expressions of interest from post-doctoral researchers to take part in a Policy Lab on the determinants of food choice (e.g. biological, social, environmental, physical and economic) and the combination of interventions across these that will lead to healthier and more sustainable diets. Policy Labs bring together early career researchers from different disciplines to scope a policy-relevant issue, with teams forming at the workshop and then competing to write a synthesis report. The winning team at the workshop will receive a £5,000 Policy Lab award to write a policy-facing report.

See the website for details of the eligibility criteria and how to apply

Closing date for applications: 19 February 2018

NERC Call for ideas for strategic research

NERC invites ideas for scientific advances that will, over time, contribute to addressing some of these major challenges of the 21st century: benefiting from natural resources, resilience to environmental hazards, and managing environmental change. The ideas will be used to inform the development of new strategic research investments through either highlight topics (HTs) or strategic programme areas (SPAs).

Ideas can be sent to NERC at any time and can come from any individual or group, and any part of the environmental science community (including researchers and those who use environmental science research). Ideas must be submitted using the template provided for either highlight topics or strategic programme areas; this should be up to two sides of A4 written in language that is clear to a broad section of the NERC community.

Once an idea is sent to NERC, the proposer relinquishes ownership of that idea and transfers it to NERC. NERC may choose to publish or share material received.

Please refer to the guidance below, which explains what they are looking for in more detail.

Guidance for developing and submitting ideas for strategic research (PDF, 231KB)

For further information, they have also compiled some frequently asked questions (FAQ), which cover the different aspects of the ideas process and role of SPAG.

FAQ for developing and submitting ideas for strategic research (PDF, 111KB)

You can download the appropriate template for submitting your ideas below.

Highlight topic idea template (Word, 48KB)

Strategic programme area idea template (Word, 49KB)

A summary of the ideas received by the 2016 and 2017 cut-offs is provided below.

Summary of the ideas 2016 cut-off (PDF, 124KB)

Summary of the ideas 2017 cut-off (PDF, 318KB)

Cut-off dates

Please note that timings are indicative only and so may change.

HT timetable

Cut-off date for HT ideas – 15 May 2018

New HTs announced, feedback on ideas available – November 2018

SPA timetable

Cut-off date for SPA ideas – 7 September 2017

Potential SPA(s) for further development announced, feedback on ideas available – February 2018

New SPA(s) announced – Autumn 2018


NERC encourages ideas from all parts of the environmental science community and NERC staff are available to discuss potential ideas and provide advice. If you have any queries on the process or would like advice on a potential idea please contact them at in the first instance, and they will put you in touch with a NERC colleague who can help.

EPSRC Building a Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing Community workshop

EPSRC is holding a two-day workshop on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing. The workshop will be highly multidisciplinary as well as bringing together those who are developing platforms and standards with researchers deploying and evaluating in real world environments.

In the Balancing Capability exercise, Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing was selected as an area to grow. While this is likely to happen due to the increasing economic and social influence of the Internet of Things and related technologies, EPSRC believe that some effort is required at this stage to ensure a balanced portfolio of funded research by the end of the delivery plan period.

Moreover, while they believe this field has a key role to play in contributing to the achievement of their cross-ICT priorities, they think that to achieve the objectives described in the priorities: People at the Heart of ICT, Safe and Secure ICT and Cross-Disciplinarity and Co-Creation a mature community discussion will be required.

Further information about EPSRC‘s portfolio and strategies, see our website.

What is Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing?

Put broadly, Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing (PUC) is the fundamental and applied research that aims achieve the integration of computing into any device in any location that interacts with our lives.

Research in this area is necessarily multi-disciplinary and in order to achieve success will draw-on and synthesise ideas at the boundary of numerous other strands of research. This includes:

  • Context awareness and affective computing in mobile systems and fundamental research into smart devices.
  • Communication and information management between trillions of devices as well as new forms of distributed data handling and processing at scale.
  • Research into the software or hardware of devices that have mobility as a unique aspect of their application. This includes the solutions to challenges of building systems on a grand scale such as interoperability, reliability and scalability.

Research into new forms of interaction with pervasive computer systems and related research into trust, privacy and security. This will require novel computer science and engineering while incorporating research from the social sciences, humanities and law.

How to apply

Those wishing to attend the workshop should complete the short Expression of Interest (EoI) form on this page.

This is a fantastic opportunity for BU academics as a lot of our research would be classed as ‘Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing’.  If you do get a place, please can you let your RKEO representative know as we are interested in how this area will grow and what calls may come out of it.

EPSRC Physical Sciences Early Career Researchers workshops

EPSRC is holding two one-day workshops for Early Career Researchers who work in the area of Physical Sciences.  This is a great opportunity for BU ECRs (especially those who are new to funding) in these areas to get a first hand insight to strategies and policy changes, and to network with peers and funders.

The workshops will be held in:

  • Glasgow – 06 March 2018
  • Nottingham – 14 March 2018

The workshops will provide an update to EPSRC and Physical Sciences strategies and will communicate recent and upcoming policy changes, such as the New Investigator Awards. The workshops will be attended by a number of EPSRC staff but also by experienced academics and current or previous Early Career Fellowship holders from across the Physical Sciences portfolio who will provide guidance and mentoring. The workshops will also include opportunities for networking with other ECR colleagues.

EPSRC anticipate this event will be of greatest interest to Physical Sciences researchers who are eligible to hold an EPSRC grant and hold few or no grants as a Principal Investigator.

The aims of the workshops are to:

  • To develop early career researchers understanding of EPSRC, including strategic priorities and funding mechanisms.
  • To develop relationships with Early Career researchers who will become future advocates for EPSRC.

Those wishing to attend the workshop should complete the Expression of Interest (EoI) form on this page. This will be used to select participants based on their justification of attendance as described in their EoI submission and will take into account how their research aligns to the EPSRC Physical Sciences remit and research areas. In addition, EPSRC will also ensure a balanced representation of organisation, research area, expertise and career stage.

Places are limited and the number of participants from a given organisation may have to be restricted in the event of multiple applications. Selection will primarily be based on the justification of attendance and completion of the survey is not a guarantee of attendance.

The EoI will close at 17:00 on 31 January 2018.

If you do get a place, please let your RKEO contact know as we are interested in what information will be shared, particularly if there are new initiatives for ECRs.

Free BBSRC Workshop on sustainable intensification

 Sustainable Intensification Research NetworkVisit Defra websiteVisit Natural Environment Research Council website
Date:28 February and 1 March 2018
Venue:The Woodland Grange Hotel, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, CV32 6RN

BBSRC, Defra and NERC, in partnership with the Sustainable Intensification Research Network (SIRN), are holding a workshop for researchers with interests in or expertise relevant to the sustainable intensification (SI) of agriculture. This workshop aims to build on the legacy of Defra’s Sustainable Intensification and provide opportunities to link with other current sustainable intensification activities. The aims of the workshop are:

  • To bring together the wider UK SI community with researchers involved in SIP to facilitate networking and the identification of opportunities for collaboration, building on the legacy of SIP.
  • To stimulate the development of high quality research proposals related to SI that address relevant research challenges and explore new ways of approaching SI.
  • To raise awareness of relevant Government and Research Council interests and potential funding opportunities.

There is no cost to attend the workshop, overnight accommodation (on 28 February 2018) and meals will be provided free of charge. Attendees will be expected to cover their own travel costs.

The workshop will include:

  • The legacy of SIP
  • Research challenges (and gaps) to address policy and practice needs for SI
  • Scientific opportunities to address those challenges
  • Defra and Research Council perspectives and priorities for SI research
  • Facilitated networking to explore collaborative opportunities
  • Subsequent access (limited to applications led by workshop participants) to modest funding opportunities from SIRN and Defra to facilitate the further development of collaborative proposals

The Sustainable Intensification Research Platform

The SIP is a Defra and Welsh Government funded initiative that was established to identify ways of increasing farm productivity, while reducing negative environmental impacts and enhancing ecosystem services. SIP is a multi-partner research programme including farmers, industry experts, academia, environmental organisations and policymakers. The Platform consists of three linked and transdisciplinary research projects designed to explore opportunities and risks for sustainable intensification at the farm and landscape scale. The SIP will end in November 2017 and through this workshop BBSRC, Defra, NERC and SIRN hope to help the SIP community and others to build on its legacy.   That legacy is a broad one, which includes data, tools, resources, experimental sites and capabilities, and a large and well-connected community of practice.

How to attend

This workshop is for research leaders currently working on or with interests relevant to SI.

Please fill in the from below and return to by 5 January 2018, 4pm. If you have any questions, please use the above email address. Successful applicants will be informed by email during the week beginning 15 January 2018.

Expression of interest form for workshop participation (DOCX 147KB)You may need to download additional plug-ins to open this file.

Expression of interest form for workshop participation (ODT 130KB)You may need to download additional plug-ins to open this file.

Update to the RCUK Research and Training Grant Terms and Conditions

The Research Councils have reviewed the current grant terms and conditions and are making changes to include additional information on up and coming legislative changes and additional clarity on the guidance provided these changes will start on Monday 15 January 2018.

The aims of the changes are to clearly communicate and clarify the responsibilities which are part of holding a Research Council Grant.

The changes include:

  • Compliance with Modern Slavery Act 2015
  • General Data Protection Regulation changes coming into effect May 2018
  • Transfer of grant assets to UKRI
  • Adding NHS Clinical sessions to the list of approved tasks
  • Clarity of training grants

Links to the full terms and conditions can be found in the press release.

NERC report: Emerging trends and threats to biodiversity in 2018

Gene editing to eradicate unwanted animal populations, deep water lasers for trawling the sea, radiation threats from next-generation mobile phone networks and how to protect the 44% of the Earth’s surface covered by no-mans-land oceans.

Earth from space

These are among the 15 environmental challenges and trends cited by a diverse group of 24 researchers and experts tasked with identifying the as yet little-understood issues that could have a big impact on our natural world in the coming year.

This was the ninth NERC-funded Horizon Scan of Emerging Issues for Global Conservation & Biological Diversity, led by William Sutherland, Professor of Conservation Biology at Cambridge University, and published in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution.

The annual report looks at new developments and threats that authors believe could present risks and opportunities in the coming year. The international team reviewed 117 potential emerging issues, whittling down to the 15 they believe may have the biggest impact – positive or negative – but are the least well-known.

Click here to see what the 15 emerging issues for 2018 were identified as.

Knowledge exchange between universities and the creative arts

New research was published this week titled ‘The Hidden Story: Understanding knowledge exchange partnerships with the creative economy’. The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded the project, led by Kingston University in collaboration with University Alliance and four other institutions.

The research analyses institutional knowledge exchange data relevant to the Creative Industries from across the Alliance Universities. This is used as the basis for a new methodology for understanding the extent, nature and impact of universities’ knowledge exchange partnerships within England and Wales’ Creative Economy.

In addition to a dedicated website and the forty-page main report, there are briefings tailored to national, regional and university leaders, as well as those wishing to use the data taxonomy and evaluation tool.

Research impact at the UK Parliament

The UK Parliament is delighted to announce the launch of a new web hub for academic researchers.

‘Research Impact at the UK Parliament’ provides comprehensive information for researchers and universities on how they can engage with Parliament.

The hub answers three key questions:

  • What is Parliament interested in?
  • How does Parliament use research?
  • Why engage with Parliament?

It provides essential information on ways to engage with Parliament and stay up to date, as well as contact details of parliamentary teams and staff who work with research to support Parliamentarians. The pages feature a variety of case studies in which researchers from across the UK, and from diverse disciplinary backgrounds, write about their experiences of working with a number of parliamentary offices.

Research Professional – First Round-Table Discussion on: “Successful Strategies for Deploying Research Professional”

BU subscribes to Research Professional (RPro), which is a funding opportunities search engine and higher education sector news compiler.

RPro ran its first Round-Table Discussion in London for its client universities on 12 September 2017 on the topic of “Successful Strategies for Deploying Research Professional”.

The aims of this Discussion meeting were to:

  • Share experiences of use of RPro by each university’s academic cohort;
  • Pick and discuss different ideas of implementation;
  • Network with staff of other research support offices;
  • Gauge various institutional approaches for academic engagement with RPro.

To spark discussion around the table, an officer from the Grants & Funding Unit in the University of Central Lancashire was invited to present the strategies they have implemented to roll-out the use of RPro and the monitoring/evaluation they have conducted on RPro usage. Tom Walters from RPro facilitated the discussion.

The presentation slides can be found here.

RKEO at BU has been and is continuing to deploy most of these strategies, with varying levels of success in academic engagement over time.

The first tension is to increase academic access and use of RPro – many methods have been used to deliver this such as RPro training for new academics, webinars, references in academic inductions, monthly Blog posts and so on.

The second tension is to increase effectiveness of use by the academic at each point of access – ie. that he/she will find a relevant hit and submit an application to that call.

Effectiveness of use is difficult to measure and is reflective of the use of RPro for different reasons by its users – in general:

  1. Senior level academics may use the ‘precision’ strategy to do focused, targeted searches which hone in on the specific; whilst
  2. Early career academics may use the ‘recall’ strategy which is to acquire as many hits with funding opportunities as possible to see what is out there.

Tom Walters’ concluding question to the Round-Table for reflection was “What does success look like?” in relation to research activity in our universities. The general agreement on what success looked like was:

  • Measuring increase in submissions rather than awards;
  • Spreading out applications over a wide range of funders, rather than targeting a few;
  • Empowering academics to do their own funding opportunities searches; and
  • Widening the number of academics engaging with / using RPro.

Discussion continued to what universities typically requested their RPro consultant to do during their (usually) annual ‘consultation’ visit to their client university and some ideas were shared. BU will be arranging a RPro consultation day in 2018, keep an eye on this space!

RKEO is always working to ensure that the RPro service is suitable for the purposes of each academic at BU. Regardless of whether you are a RPro newbie or in need of refresher training or may need more help on advanced functionality, please contact the RKEO Funding Development Team and we’d be happy to help you.

Fake conferences are not fake news: beware predatory conferences


Academic have been warned for a decade about predatory Open Access publishers (van Teijlingen 2014). These are commercial organisations charging academics a publication fee on submission of their manuscripts with a promise to publish their work quickly online. The problem is twofold: first, these commercial organisations don’t offer proper peer-review and editorial quality assurance; and secondly, academic are being tricked into believing the journal is a legitimate scientific publication.  The second author receives on average six to eight invitations a week to publish in this kind of predatory journals – see below for examples. The first author, who despite having not worked in an academic institution for over three years, still receives such invitations to publish in ‘Journal X’.

Predatory conferences

A similar phenomenon to predatory journals is the predatory conference (Moital 2014; Nobes 2017; Grove 2017). These are pretend academic conferences of questionable value, established first and foremost to make money, not for the greater good of the academic discipline.

Both authors have received bogus and legitimate invitations to attend conferences. A predicament with such an invitation, which 99% of time arrives by email, is that it is not easy to distinguish between fake and real offers. For example, the first author recently received an offer (at short notice), to attend a conference in Miami in November 2017 (see below). This was on the back of an editorial he had published couple of months earlier. For a career researcher going from contract to contract, the appeal of being invited to present a keynote at a conference can be flattering, far less an honour and a boost for one’s career. Therefore, while the idea that if it seems too good to be true, is a prudent one to hold; there is also a temptation to follow through.

The author replied to the request quizzing the reason for the invite out of the blue. The answer was less than convincing, and a swift email by the author saying “Don’t tell me… You are offering me a keynote with travel and accommodation… Lol!!” called their bluff and ended correspondence.

But digging a little deeper he found there was a webpage dedicated to taking payments to attend the conference. In the digital world, a fool can be easily and quickly separated from his or her money.

Of course, it may have been a real conference at a real venue, and they really wanted him to speak. But discerning this is not easy at first…

Some of the warning signs/What to look out for

  • The conference email invitation looks very convincing (if not don’t even read it!).
  • The venue is good location as Nobes (2017) highlighted, “the organizers are more interested in marketing the tourist destination rather than the academic value of the conference”.
  • The conference covers too many different aspects or topics, as if the advert is designed to catch the eye of many people as possible who are vaguely connected to the discipline.
  • Mentions on associated predatory journals and ‘important’ organisations in the discipline.
  • Email and bank accounts that don’t look professional/ official.
  • Little mention of attendance fees, but after acceptance emails demanding a high conference fee and other charges.
  • Conference organisers are not academics, or unknown names.
  • Conference does not peer-review submission/ not provide proper editorial control over presentations
  • Signs of copying of names of existing academic conferences or scientific organisation and even copying of their webpages
  • Even more advertising than normal at a scientific conference.

Furthermore, Andy Nobes (2017) offered some helpful advice on quality of the conference websites in the list below. Andy is based at AuthorAID, a global network providing support, mentoring, resources and training for researchers in developing countries.

Who is at risk of falling for predatory conferences?

Academics need to be aware of money-making conferences and meetings without a true commitment to science. But some academics might be more at risk than others. Young researchers, PhD students and fledgling academics, living from contract to contract may feel any conference attendance is a potential career boost. Thus, such an invitation might seem flattering and an opportunity to good to miss. A way to show that he or she is a capable and independent academic.

Final thoughts

Most academics go to conferences for a combination of presenting their work to get critical feedback, making new contacts, sharing ideas and to be inspired. With such broad combination of motivating factors, the exact purpose of conferences is difficult to ascertain because there is no a priori agreed role and value of conferences (Nicolson, 2017a). However, there is evidence that academic conferences function to facilitate commodity transactions, be that knowledge, tools, skills, reputations, or connections, which reflects the neoliberal ethos in the modern academy (Nicolson 2017b). The predatory conference can be viewed in this light, where academia is more and more focused on generating revenue. It is at best scurrilous, and worst, criminal, for organisations to make money using such a confidence trick.  Always check which conferences are organised and advertised by recognised scholarly organisations in your own discipline. If uncertain ask a more experienced academic, a senior colleague or mentor.



Donald J. Nicolson

(Health Services Researcher, NHS Fife, and Independent Scholar; twitter @_mopster )

Edwin R. van Teijlingen

(Centre Midwifery, Maternal & Perinatal Health)



Moital, M. (2014) Ten Signs of a Bogus/Fake Conference.

Grove, J. (2017) Predatory conferences ‘now outnumber official scholarly events’  (26th Oct.)

Nicolson, D.J. (2017a) Do conference presentations impact beyond the conference venue? Journal of Research in Nursing. 22(5), pp.422-425.

Nicolson, D.J. (2017b) Academic Conferences as Neoliberal Commodities, Palgrave Macmillan

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van Teijlingen, E. (2014) Beware of rogue journals.


Help us choose a name for BU’s new Research Data Repository

We are now in the final stages of developing a repository solution for Bournemouth University research data.  Like its partner BURO (Bournemouth University Research Online), BU’s open access research output repository that shares your BRIAN deposits with the world, the new research data repository will provide a secure yet open access place to archive and showcase all of your research data once your research projects are complete.

Now we really need your help and creativity in suggesting a good name for this new Research Data Repository.

Some keywords to consider, but not exclusively, are Bournemouth University, research, data, repository and archive.  Remember, the name will be something that identifies our data repository and BU’s high quality research for many years to come, so think carefully.  Please note Data McDataface has already been discounted!

Please email your suggestions to by Friday 24th November?

If your suggestion is judged to be the winning entry by the RDM Steering Group you will receive a mystery prize!

Find out more about Research Data Management (RDM) at BU via:

You can sign up to attend a RDM workshop here.