* * * * * * * * TERRIE’S (TOURISM) TAKE – BY TERRIE LLOYD * * * * * *
A bi-weekly focused look at the tourism sector in Japan, by Terrie
Lloyd, a long-term technology and media entrepreneur living in Japan.

Tourism Sector Edition Sunday, Jan 20, 2019, Issue No. 976

SUBSCRIBE to, UNSUBSCRIBE from Terrie’s Take at:

+++ The Type of MICE Tourism Japan Really Doesn’t Need

The Mainichi newspaper doesn’t have a lot of foreign readers, and that
shows in its sparse selection of foreign-language news. But every now
and again a pearl pops up. This week it was an editorial about
predatory academic journals and their related (also predatory)
international conferences, and how they are mushrooming here in Japan.
What is a predatory journal or conference? Basically it’s an
academically or professionally focused event or publication that
pretends to have the same rigor and controls as mainstream operators,
but in fact is really just set up to make money and which ignores
basic ethics, support, curation, and investment put in by reputable

http://bit.ly/2CyyFyl [Good primer on how to spot a fake conference.]

This article rang a bell for me at several different levels. Firstly,
I recall a good 15 years ago a company out of Singapore who I shall
call “MX” (because they may have excitable lawyers), which held what
appeared to be legitimate high-end (semi-academic) technology
conferences, but which, after you dived under the hood, was less about
quality and more about money generation. Now they may have cleaned up
their act in the intervening years, because I see that they are still
in business, but my experience back then was that the programs were
left to the last minute while the sales staff ran around aggressively
pushing for sponsors and paid signups. Then, if those were sufficient,
there was a sudden burst of last-minute activity to create the actual

Their events were usually pre-publicized with high-profile speakers
from overseas, talking about advanced subjects that were popular at
the time. While some of these appointments turned out to be real, more
often than not the advertised presenters would get replaced or crowded
out by local speakers (often paying to speak) from various Japanese
technology firms and who were presenting what essentially amounted to
an advertisement for their product(s). Needless to say, the audience
were not impressed, and following the first few conferences I started
hearing more and more people wonder if MX was a scam or not. I guess
the word got around that the conferences were low-grade, because
they’re down to 8 events a year now – with only one in IT.

The predatory sector exists because as an academic, getting your
papers into high-grade journals, and presentations into credible
conferences, is a major challenge. Generally the mainstream journal
publishers are extremely picky about the quality of research, the
submitting academics’ existing credentials, and the attractiveness of
the presentation so as to ensure maximum audience attention. From a
commercial perspective this is fair enough, but it also means that
unless you’re one of the top 5%, you’re left out in the cold. And this
is a huge problem for academics in countries whose tenure systems
reward those who are published and who have presented at major
international conferences.

Which brings us to Japan and the second “bell ring” from the Mainichi
article. Currently there are many Japanese researchers working on
projects that are either unscientific and outliers, or which are in
areas of low-to-no international interest, or which are mired in
decade’s-long pure research that may never have a pay-off. This is not
a peculiarity of Japanese universities, but it seems to me that Japan
has more than its fair share of low-performing (but perhaps
hard-working) academics who want to hide out in their lab for years
and avoid public scrutiny. Unfortunately for them, the Abe government
is peeling back the protective layers and the pressure is on. So, the
ability to pay out a slab of your grant money to get your name in
headlights even at an ersatz international conference, without having
to have had a scientific breakthrough, sounds like a career-saver.

And this is exactly the type of customer that the predatory journals and
conferences target.

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[…Article continues]

As to who actually runs such conferences, it seems that most roads
lead to one man: Srinubabu Gedela. Mr. Gedala apparently owns a
plethora of companies in India, but two which come up repeatedly are
OMICS, his main publishing arm, and ConferenceSeries, his conference
arm. Gedala operates on a massive scale and according to his website
the firms run more than 3,000 events and conferences around the globe.
Here in Japan, ConferenceSeries lists 155 professional and academic
conferences for 2019, which is far more than any other single player.

OMICS and Gedela’s related companies were subject to a law suit in the
USA in August, 2016, as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) identified
the business practices of the group as unethical and at times an
outright scam. The FTC complaint stated that the defendants had been,
“…deceiving academics and researchers about the nature of its
publications and hiding publication fees ranging from hundreds to
thousands of dollars.” And further, “OMICS regularly advertises
conferences featuring academic experts who were never scheduled to
appear, in order to attract registrants”. Just over a year later, in
October 2017, the FTC won an injunction against OMICS and group
companies, and in 2018 sought damages of US$50m from the company,
which is the amount that the FTC estimated OMICS and its related firms
took in during the complaint period. That’s big money for a fake
conference company.

http://bit.ly/2T2CJh9 [FTC’s Summary Judgement motion against OMIC and Co.]

So what’s the tie-in to tourism here?

Well, just as there is a clear market need by under-achieving Japanese
academics and their universities for a public forum, there is also an
equally pressing need by regional governments who are trying to move
their tourism sector towards MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences,
and Exhibitions). MICE can mean big money flows for the local hotels,
dining and entertainment, and convention facilities sectors. One
well-attended conference of 500-1,500 participants can run 3 days,
with attendees typically arriving two days early to overcome jet lag,
and leaving a day later to see a bit of that part of Japan. The
attendees generally stay in the vicinity, which means significant
expenditure on outside meetings, drinks, food, gifts, clothing, and
all the other services that temporarily lonely academics may need.

The problem for most would-be MICE host cities is that not many groups
actually want to go to Japan, let alone to a particular corner of
Japan. Among foreign multinationals that typically do MICE, Japan is
still perceived as too expensive and as having a limited choice of
facilities. Much easier instead to hold your large events in Bangkok
or Singapore, which have great facilities at significantly cheaper
rates, and which are also generally cheaper to get to.

So when a company like OMICS/ConferenceSeries comes along and offers
to bring hundreds if not thousands of high-spending academics to its
155 conferences, heads are turned and local MICE authorities excitedly
offer attractive terms to get that business. Although I don’t know of
any specific examples, I would not be surprised if one of the
incentives was collaboration with a local university, to increase
credibility for the event. For a normal conference this would not be
problematic, but if the promoters behind the conference have low
integrity and don’t care about the content of that conference, that
type of MICE tourism will quickly get Japan a bad name and further
impact efforts to feed the MICE sector.

Another unwanted effect of predatory conferences is that if they can’t
draw top people from developed countries, the flow starts to come from
more vulnerable populations – attracted by junkets or
low-barrier-to-entry forums that promise a spotlight but in reality do
nothing more than relieve hopeful attendees of their money. And once
here, such audience members are less likely to have the budget and
inclination to contribute to the local economy – so both sides lose.
Japan shouldn’t be holding fake conferences that are obviously luring
developing country academics – it’s shameful, deceptive, and

I think that the Japan Tourism Agency (JTA) should get together with
the Education Ministry, and issue some guidelines on what is
acceptable as an academic or professional conference held on Japanese
soil. Convention companies should be required to undergo a rigorous
licensing regime similar to travel agents, and for those that fail or
who have had successful legal actions taken against them overseas –
well they should be blacklisted. At the same time, the education
ministry needs to set some guidelines about what types of conferences
and journals will earn academics their career “points” (e.g.,
Continuing Medical Education – CME – credits for the medical industry)
and what to avoid. They also need to run some fraud awareness classes
for each college to replicate and expose their academic staff to.

And if you run a travel, events, or marketing business, no doubt you
have already been approached by, or will soon be approached by the
OMICS group or someone like them. We had a period about six months ago
where we continually got contacted by various firms (always the same
MO) who wanted to “collaborate” with us – usually with us offering
services, support, and sales. When we first heard the pitch – hundreds
of booking customers in one go – we were excited, but then I recalled
the MX company and started doing some digging. It pays to stay
vigilant and remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it
probably is.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of companies related to Srinubabu
Gedala, put together by Brisbane journalist Graham Readfern:
* OMICS Group – named in the FTC case
* OMICS Publishing Group – named in FTC case
* Conference Series LLC – named in the FTC case
* iMED Publications – named in the FTC case
* EuroSciCon Ltd – conference organizer registered at UK’s Companies
House by Srinubabu Gedela
* Allied Academies – conference organizer and journal publisher
registered at UK’s Companies House by Srinubabu Gedela
* Trade Science Inc – journal publisher, shares contact address with
OMICS Publishing
* Meetings International – science and technology conferences with a
web domain registered to Srinubabu Gedela

http://bit.ly/2W736o1 [Link to Mr. Readfern’s list.]

…The information janitors/


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