Phishing for peer reviewers

Today I got an email from the ICL 2013 conference:

Dear Scott Wilson,

This is a short reminder for you to complete your reviews for the ICL/IGIP 2013 Conference.

Overall 2 submissions were recently assigned to you for reviewing, 2 are not yet completed.

We kindly remind you that we implement a “review-to-present” model. At least one of the authors from each full paper is expected to act as a reviewer of other submissions in order to have their paper(s) published in the conference proceedings.

Please log into your ConfTool account
( On the “Overview” page you can find now a review section where you will be able to download the papers and enter your reviews.

We need your reviews latest until 22 May 2013. We can’t exceed this deadline, because we would like to inform the authors about the acceptance in time.

Thank you for your support.

Best regards,

Your organizers of ICL 2013.

OMG! My two reviews are due in! I’d better go complete them!

Except of course I’ve never been asked, let alone accepted, to be on the review committee for ICL. As far as I can remember, I’ve never even been to one.

Thankfully, as soon as I read this it rang a vague bell. Where had I heard this before? Oh, I know, back in 2012:

Dear Scott Wilson,

We are now ready to start the review process of the Full Paper extended abstracts submissions for the ICL/IGIP Conference 2012.

You have been assinged up to three papers to review. To download the paper(s) and to enter your reviews please login to your ConfTool account. On the “Overview” page you can find now a review section.

For all the authors of full papers we kindly remind you that “Full Paper” is a “review-to-present” submission type. Each paper MUST have at least one author participating in the reviewing process.

We would appreciate to receive your reviews by 14 May 2012. We can’t exceed this deadline, because we would like to inform the authors about the cceptance in time.

Thank you for your support during the ICL/IGIP review process.

Best regards,

Danilo G. Zutin
Technical Program Chair

I’d just ignored it at that time. Why? Well, because back in 2011 I received:

On 1 Jun 2011, at 21:23, ICL Conference Secretariat wrote:

Dear Scott Wilson,

may we kindly remind you, that the deadline for submitting the reviews assigned to you is on Monday, 06 June 2011.

We can’t extend the review phase, because we have to inform authors about the results in time.

Thank you for your understanding and kind regards,

Conference Chairs

14th International Conference on Interactive Collaborative Learning

To which I replied, somewhat snarkily:

As far as I’m aware I have never agreed to have any connection with this conference. Please remove me from your mailing list.

Of course they ignored this, as they had when back in 2010 they sent me this:

On 25 May 2010, at 20:41, ICL Conference Secretariat wrote:

Dear Scott Wilson,

this is a gentle reminder that the paper review deadline for the ICL2010 Conference  is in four days (Saturday, 29 May 2010).

For your convenience the input of your reviews via the ConfTool is still possible until Sunday evening.

Please note that this is a hard deadline, so that the chairs can perform their duties in a timely manner and inform the authors about acceptance/rejection in time.

For your information: We have received more than 140 full paper submissions from over 45 countries and we are looking forward to a successful conference.

Calls for some submission types are still open.

Best regards,

Jeanne Schreurs

Michael Auer

13th International Conference on Interactive Computer aided Learning

To which I’d replied, confusedly:

I have no idea why I received this email – I’m not attending the conference, nor have I volunteered to join the programme committee for it?

Now, fake conferences and academic spam are becoming a real nuisance. However, I think ICL is a real conference because some real people I know have had papers accepted there!  Also, the very real Sandra Schaffert organised a mashup workshop at ICL 2009 for which I actually was on the programme committee!

But the fact is that in its communications ICL behaving like some sort of bizarre phishing scheme rather than an academic event.

You normally don’t allocate reviews for papers to random people on the Internet, you actually invite them onto your programme committee and give them the option of saying “no”.

Maybe this is just a bug in the conference organising software they’re using. Then again, who knows, maybe a spam-bait-phish model of conference peer review actually works?

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