Sunday, November 29, 2009

Conference fraud actually happens

Some time ago, I wrote about the possibility of fraud in academic publishing. We all get spam promoting new academic conferences, but this spam seems to enjoy a presumption of legitimacy. As I argued, this presumption could be exploited.

It appears I was right to be wary. The Scientist has uncovered two recent cases of fraudulent conferences.

The first case unfolded largely as I thought: a general invitation went out for the "1st International Cardiology Conference" in Shanghai; invitees were directed to a legit-looking web page (since removed), and registration fees were charged. Not only was the conference bogus, but registrants' credit card numbers were used for further fraudulent charges, totaling $2000 in one case.

The second case is more reminiscent of the traditional Nigerian scam: a prominent researcher was invited to appear at the "Seventh Annual International Global combine Conference on Global Economy and Human Welfare", with free airfare and accommodation; the invitee had only to provide certain personal information. The recipient of this message was wary enough to check with the supposed sponsoring organizations and venue, none of whom had ever heard of the conference.

I guess I'll be sticking with the usual IEEE conferences for the time being.

[via BoingBoing; h/t @adhamilton.]

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

He was the learner, but now he is the master.

My first master's student just successfully defended his thesis. Congratulations, Nariman!

Running with memes

Let's go with this.

The answers are: yes, more than lawyers but less than doctors, sometimes, no, depends on when you ask, better than baristas but worse than doctors and lawyers, mostly, I sure am, I sure am, and I hope I'm not.

In a computer science and engineering department, this is the kind of question that can start riots.

Are they indeed? (Sadly, if you follow this search it takes you to pages of lame "computers are like women/men" jokes).

Friday, November 6, 2009

Time-travelling censorship

I read this a while ago and kind of laughed. But then this happened. I mean, really? A piece of baguette dropped perfectly in the wrong place? Somewhere, Douglas Adams is smiling.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The future of tenure

Picking up where Anand left off a couple of weeks ago, the current issue of Academic Matters features a three-way debate on the future of tenure: Michiel Horn argues in favor of tenure, while Michael Bliss and Mark Kingwell argue against. Kingwell's article is, verbatim, the one from Inside Higher Ed.

Bliss's article comes across as a rant, while Kingwell continues his tendency of writing articles that are more attention-grabbing than well-thought-out.

However, I'm struck by Horn's argument: abolition of tenure could lead to the worst of both worlds (worst, at least from the tenure critics' point of view): hard-to-fire professors who are never required to demonstrate their productivity. Horn puts tenure in historical context, showing that it emerged in the 1960s as a financial perk, and a codification of the long-established practice of respecting the academic freedom of professors. Without tenure, the system could well revert to the historical norm of automatic contract renewals -- but this time without the need for pre-tenured faculty members to demonstrate high achievement.

A university without tenure might resemble the public school system, where it is rare for teachers to be dismissed for poor performance. I suspect this is not what Bliss and Kingwell have in mind.