A few months ago I submitted an abstract to a well-known conference that deals with the topic of “information” that happens to be “online”. Nothing unusual there, you might think. But what happened next certainly was.
Last week I received a response which stated that because of my “role in UXLabs” they could not accept me as a “free speaker” at this event. Now that’s odd enough – we all know that no review system is ever perfect, but surely if they strive for fairness then the reviewers shouldn’t even know my affiliation, let alone use it as a selection criterion. And anyway, what exactly is a “free speaker”? Does this mean “free” as opposed to “paid”?
But what came next was truly disturbing. The suggestion was that if I was to consider instead some “sponsorship options” then UXLabs could be “fully involved” with the conference and I could personally “have a speaking session”.
I find this kind of proposition truly shocking and disappointing – particularly for a conference at which I have presented before and hitherto had respected as a credible forum for original work. Do they really offer slots on the basis not of scientific merit, but by the size of the kickback? If so that is nothing short of shameful.
Of course, I’m sure there are folks out there who’ll say this is common practice, and that you should learn to game the system anyway. But that’s just a cop-out IMHO. And more to the point, I think the organisers owe it to the paying delegates (and prospective presenters) to make it clear just what criteria they have applied in putting together the programme, and to exercise transparency and fairness in the review process. This does neither.
Am I alone in thinking it’s time someone blew the whistle on this?