The palliative times special investigation in to predatory conferences

By Dr Joseph Hawkins, Consultant in Palliative Medicine, Clinical lead for End of Life Care, Ashford and St Peter’s NHS Foundation Trust. Twitter: @JoeHawk75825077

Photo of Jo Hawkins

In this special edition we are proud to present the groundbreaking findings of our roving reporter Simon De’ath. 

Over recent years there has been a rise in the prevalence of predatory conferences. These sub-sufficient seminars often pose as legitimate meeting places for great minds. Luring in unlucky lecturers from all fields they are often found to be unsupported venues, vacant of any but the few individuals lured in by the promise of inspiration in their field but left clutching worthless tickets with high face values.

It was to investigate the validity of the claims made about these conferences that super sleuth Simon writes about today.

Aberystwyth-nursing for life and death.

On a sleepy Thursday morning I made my way to the promised haven of learning that was to be my first conference of dubious providence: Nursing for Life and Death. Held in soggy Aberystwyth the roads on my drive in empty save for a few sheep, I made my way to the concrete building subtly signposted by a single cardboard sign- already sagging in the rain. To my lack of surprise there was no greeter or table of conference attendee name badges. Instead there was another, dryer sign pointing in to the first room. Ominously labelled ‘Death’ I stepped though heavy curtains in to a hot and humid space characterised by absolute darkness. Fumbling for my phone I quickly switched the torch function on and found myself in a room, empty save for two other attendees, huddling in corners and gently rocking.

Accompanied by my new comrades I gathered my courage and stepped in to the following room. Inside we found a large space, dominated by around fifty chairs. No more than ten were occupied and in accordance with the rules of seating choice in all lectures they were all sat at the rear of the forum. I hurried over to join the silent group who were all staring at a blank screen ahead of us, a single cube bouncing around the screensaver. After ten minutes I whispered to my companions: “what are we waiting for?”, I uttered.

The response chilled me to the bone as they turned as one and said: “we thought you knew”.

I stood and left without a word, they may all still be there for all I know, probably not, but I wasn’t staying to find out. Walking to the end of the room I saw a new cardboard sign, laminating and bowing under its own weight. The writing appeared to be Sans New Roman and declared that in the next room I would find ‘birth and death’.

As I stepped in to this new space I was greeted by a wall of sound. My ears were bombarded by cries of what I assumed to be recorded sighs and moans, punctuated by the occasional blood curdling scream. In a space the size of an aircraft hanger I saw small items, oddly spaced and generally mounted on small plinths. Papier-mâché objects-a rainbow, a urine bottle, a skull and many more sat arrayed in an order that I could not decipher.

Finally I made it to the other side and stumbled out of a door that was marked with the Omega sign.

Emerging in the ever present drizzle I felt like I had experienced a dream that had devoured two hours of my life. For £200 I’d been promised two days of talks, posters and art pieces on life and death in nursing and instead I had experienced a surreal homage to human indifference and greed.

Photo of rainbow archway on conference room
Underwhelming scenery

This was Simon De’ath reporting for the Palliative Times.

(This report is a fictional account that has no bearing on real events and any similarity is incidental and not deliberate. It was inspired by a Tweet by Professor Mark Taubert.)

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