TOS Letter to NYT - A Parallel World of Pseudo-Academia

Dear Ms. Kolata:

Your April 7, 2013, article on knockoff scientific conferences hit home with me. During my 2012 term as President of the Obesity Society (TOS) we had our own experience with one such meeting, from the OMICS Group.

TOS is the primary North American professional and scientific (not-for-profit!) group devoted to the study and treatment of obesity. Our annual scientific meetings had for a number of years been titled “Obesity [year]”. Our meeting last year, Obesity 2012, was held in San Antonio in the fall. A very few months earlier, we learned of another meeting called “Obesity-2012,” which was also to be held in San Antonio in the days immediately before our meeting started. What a coincidence! It was an OMICS Group production.

It only took one letter from our lawyer to convince the OMICS Group to reschedule their meeting for another date and city, but we had to invest much time in efforts to ensure our potential attendees did not fall for the other meeting.

In addition to the problems these for-profit imitators pose for legitimate scientific societies, the more tragic impact is on individual scientists and clinicians who are willing to invest in attending a conference to learn about an area new to them, only to find that the conference consists primarily of presentations by speakers with few credentials in the topic area. These misled attendees also pay an opportunity cost, as they likely miss attending the authentic scientific conference they were looking for, which would have probably cost less.

Thanks again for shining a light on this problem.

Yours truly,

Patrick M. O’Neil, PhD

Past President

The Obesity Society

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