Thursday, October 06, 2005

"Poxford"

I did a little more digging yesterday about the Fabulous Conference Opportunity of the Oxford Round Table. Or Roundtable*. I still felt a bit suspicious, partly because of the fee, and partly because of the how-the-heck-did-they-find-me? aspect. It reminded me in flavor just a bit too much of those vanity press mailers that promise to publish your wonderful poetry--for a $300 fee. Was this a "vanity conference"? True, there were shining press releases about those who had attended, but in a way this added to that flavor. (Press releases of cognitive dissonance, perhaps?)

I found the name of someone at a nearby university who had attended one of the conferences, and I emailed them to ask how it had been. I also emailed a former prof of mine who had attended undergrad at Oxford.

The person who had attended replied, in part:
Hosting roundtables is one of the ways that Oxford generates revenue during the summer, ... Overall it was fun and educational and I met a lot of very interesting people, but that the quality of the presentations varied greatly. ... I had discretionary funding for the trip, but if one had to pay for their own ticket and registration there are probably better academic conferences to invest in.
And my former prof who'd been to Oxford replied, more definitively yet humorously crushing my hopes of international research renown:
OK, as for the Poxford thing...it’s a fake conference. The sort of thing that’s equivalent to those e-mails telling you you’ve won the lotto in Nigeria...It’s not under the auspices of the university proper, merely using Oxford facilities on a conference rental basis, and if you go to the website you’ll see that registration is around $3000. Someone is making a mint, and everyone with a chequebook is invited. Don’t bother.
So, yes. Vanity conference. It's real, in that it exists and people attend, but ... it's not exactly the bastion of exclusivity they make it out to be. I've put away the "chequebook".

(But if my department paid for it, I would still totally go. After all, I'd still get to present my research to a bunch of strangers in various fields, while taking a vacation in Oxford! And TheLimey wants to have a pint on the old stomping grounds of C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, so I'm sure he'd find a way to accompany me. As I said before, I can fantasize, can't I?)


*I want to make sure that I include the search terms future invitees will be searching with when they are looking for nonexistent information about this event. 'Cause I sure didn't find any like this.

31 comments:

Tim said...

On the one hand, I'm immediatly inclined to scream -- "what a freakin' scam!" Then, my dark side kicks in, and I find myself saying -- "maybe I should organize a fake conference?"

liz said...

I have had exactly the same response.

Of course, the reason *their* fake conference is so successful is that it has the cachet of the Oxford name.

But--our saving grace is, we *could* organize real conferences that are actually based on people's real work! (Unlikely to make much money, though, sorry.)

Tim said...

Well, as we all know now, L. Ron Hubbard was smart enough to make millions off a fake religion. I say we could do better than that sham artist. Of course, if we started a legit conference, what would be the theme?

liz said...

I believe the phrase "Think Tank" should at definitely in the title. And the one other word.

Hmmmm, let's see--what's a popular issue these days that people like to argue about??

Tim said...

Oh yeah, Think Tank's a good idea. Maybe we should figure out some way to incorporate "jive" as well...

liz said...

Oh, wow---you are so on the right track. How about Leftwing Jive Think Tank??

argotnaut said...

Poop! How shoddy.

I'm with Xenu.

kilburina said...

with reference to your comment on my blog - sorry to hear you had a dream about being bitten by a serpent - the intention of my blog is not to give nightmares!

liz said...

I don't think most of us *want* to create nightmares...but it's still pretty funny!

liz said...

Well, Xenu sounds like something that would be held out in, I don't know, Oregon or something.

liz said...

Oh, you're probably talking about this Xenu....

Liddy said...

Sounds like a pyramid marketing conference to me! Invite your researching friends and relatives and charge them an arm and a leg, and perhaps they'll throw in a few assorted organs (they are family, after all).

Tim said...

We should do a "catch all," so we can get people from all areas of study. Something like...

Ponderous Think Tank (Jive)

liz said...

Ah, so one year "Jive" is the topic, and the next year...?

Tim said...

Well first, we have to make it through the first year. But, assuming we did, then I guess we'd have to move on to other terms of endearment from the 70s -- Primo or Narly perhaps.

liz said...

"Dy-no-mite"!

Mavs said...

Ha, I found this investigating the Oxford Round Table after receiving my invitation and am embarrassed I even told anyone I'd received it and took it seriously for a single second. Those institutional news articles from the poor duped attendees (librarians, retirees, even criminals) who thought they were being honored. .well thank God I didn't approach my chair person. It reminds me that the Dianetics Corp. dupes people by handing out a test called The Oxford Personality Test.

liz said...

Don't feel bad. I sent an email to my department chair before I figured out the scamminess of it.

Anonymous said...

hi folks,

a colleague in my department just announced very excitedly that she had been invited to present at this very prestigious conference "sponsored by Oxford University" and I looked it up and found your blog. should i tell her? i'm afraid i will hurt her feelings? how many people get invited to these things? did you find out any more information?

thanks!

liz said...

Just anonymously send them a link to this post. If you're a close friend, then it doesn't have to be anonymous.

Anonymous said...

I just got my invite today, and by many signs (especially the vagueness and high fees) assumed it must be a scam. But then I Googled and found stacks of schools sending out press releases announcing their faculty's invitations and attendance at this "prestigious" forum, and professional folks puffing it in their resume ... perhaps my suspicious first reaction was wrong? I wanted to believe the flattery of the invitation.

This evening I looked more closely at who and where all those notes came from, and decided no, this was more gimmick than honor after all. Glad I only told my wife.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad I'm not the only one who was excited about this ... until my ego quieted down enough to hear the "cha-ching, cha-ching" of the fee and start wondering about it.

Anonymous said...

I'm awfully glad I checked this deal out before asking for fundng from my university. (And my husband was the only other one who saw the letter.) My confusing issue was that the focus area for discussion in the upcoming conference ('09) has been my research interest for years, I've published in this area, and have been teaching various classes devoted to the topic for about 12 years. And...the letter came from a professor I do not know at the "Big-5" university where I received my Ph.D. However, I would never under any circumstances be considered "1 of 35" top people related to this topic. I was extremely suspicious and the cost seemed quite high. Thanks to everyone for saving me a lot of humiliation!
A professor from S. California

lewisja said...

These comments are interesting as I don't see any from those who have attended an ORT event. I have attended twice and I have learned more about how my profession is viewed, taught and promoted by my colleagues than I could have ever learned from any professor, and I have more than 30 years of experience. Yes, the price is enormous for most budgets but the experience is life changing. I hope to attend again sometime in the future!

liz said...

It may be very useful indeed. However, usefulness is not the same as legitimacy.

Anonymous said...

I have three weeks before my defense, I lost and found a chapter last night. I'm at the looney part of the process. I was delighted this morning to be invited to the roundtable. I never laughed so hard in my life. I needed this. And I did imagine for one moment touring London. My collegues are jealous. They've never been invited to a phoney conference. I think I'll recomend them. Poxford. Love it.

Anonymous said...

My Chair, a colleague and I are all going to the conference this year and we can't wait. We have a paper prepared and we will rework it for our profession's conference in the Fall. But we get to see London again and are even taking a side trip to Paris for 3 days while there - all on the State's dime. Love academia!!!

liz said...

It sounds like great fun: practice-presenting your topic, and touring--all for free! I think that's about the only way I'd go.

Anonymous said...

I went to an Oxford Roundtable and had an outstanding time. There is nothing phony or fake about staying at Oxford - absolutely gorgeous and in itself an experience. The presentations were terrific, and I learned something new in my field. I made friends I am still in contact with today. I was a doctoral student when I was invited, and met others that were comparably trained and experienced, but we still had things to offer one another. The whole experience was very well organized and worthwhile, even though it was expensive. What makes something "authentic" - is it a pedigree? A cheaper ticket price? The people who presented were not newbies in the field. I want to go back!

liz said...

Once again, not saying it's not useful.

And though I used "legitimate" I'll go with "authentic." What would make this conference authentic?

1. Sponsorship by the university, rather than by a conference organizer purchasing space on the uni grounds, primarily for profit.

2. Peer review of participants' work, not simply choosing a theme and seeing who's working on that this year.

Anonymous said...

I am invited and I am delighted but the funding is the issue. Could anyone come up with some suggestions on funding? It will be fun to be at Oxford, my dream university. The Round Table should be a way of networking and perhaps discovering talent.