So, I tried sending one of my papers to a lower-level symposium I hadn't been to before. It was in its 7th year, proceedings of past symposia in the series had been published by IEEE, it was very much on-topic for my submission, and looked like a legit and relevant conference. It was planned for an interesting location, and the registration fees were in line with the other conferences I go to. I'll avoid naming the symposium for now, but maybe you can figure out which one it is anyway. One of my co-authors also submitted a different paper that I wasn't involved in. The plan was for this shared co-author to go and present both papers if they got in. They did both get in. Good news, right?
Now I discover that (despite seeing no hint of this on the conference web site) they are requiring one registration fee per paper rather than per conference participant. This is a big red flag for me, as well as being a practical issue for the limited funds of my co-author. I think of per-paper registration fees as being a tip-off that the conference is a scam, more interested in making money from its fees than in putting together a good scientific program. In any conference there's a strong correlation between the number of accepted papers and the number of attendees, of course, but to tie the two directly together in this way just invites blatant corruption of the review process. I don't think the review process was bad in this case — my accepted paper did get real reviews from reviewers who obviously read it carefully — but that's what I think this kind of fee leads to.
So: is this a scam? Should I and my co-authors withdraw the paper? Or am I making a big fuss about nothing?
I'm not sure it's a red flag - I've heard of this happening at a reputable systems conference (I wish I could remember the name). ISMP (the big math prog meeting) requires that every attendee give at most one talk to boost the community feel of the conference.
INFOCOM a big networking conference has this policy and it is real annoyance. One top of requiring that every paper has a separate registered attendee they also insist that it cannot be a student registrant which in my view is complete nonsense but it appears that the community is comfortable with this arrangement.
Same for ISIT. This seems to be a policy of many IEEE conferences these days.
ICDE had exactly the same policy this year. When I discussed this with a set of more senior colleagues, they indicated that IEEE had this for a few years. The "additional paper" fee was lower than the registration fee, but still substantial.
Hmm. It's starting to sound like, if this is a scam, it's one that a lot of legitimate conferences are pulling. I still don't see what the point of the policy is. If it's to ensure that each paper has a presenter, a single shared registration fee should be enough. If it's a publication fee, call it that and keep the accounting for the proceedings publication and the local arrangements separate.
We may end up sending two co-authors to the conference anyway, among the two papers. So in that case the issue may be moot.
To clarify, for ISIT, I think when you register for a paper for ISIT you can cover 2 papers.
This practice is standard for small workshops (even highly reputable ones) where the treasurer knows that the only paid registrants will be authors themselves. The only way to budget in a robust manner is to assume that there will be a full registration fee for each paper, so #papers=#fees.
IMHO this is only justifiable for small workshops. Any gathering that bills itself as a "conference" has absolutely no reason to implement a policy like this.
That does make sense. In this case it bills itself as a symposium, so I guess it's somewhere in between your two extremes.
Cocoon 2010 requires this as well. I wonder if the location (Nha Trang, Vietnam) has anything to do with it and the organizers are concerned about low turnouts from US and European researchers.
COCOON 2009 required it as well, so it isn't a question of location.
This happens in my area as well (chemical engineering) and, although annoying and depressing, it's not necessarily the sign of a scam.
Anywhere there is "desperation", someone will find a way to take advantage. These "pay-to-publish" scams succeed because some people are desperate to get published (usually, in hopes of "furthering" a career).
The authors get what they want: published papers, and the "scammers" get what they want: money. The "victim" here, I suppose, is the integrity of "scientific knowledge".
Its necessary to question *anything* in the peer-review/publication process that involves money.
Of course, there is often a large cost associated with running a conference and the hosts should not be required to carry the load themselves. Money must be somehow exchanged so that the burden is distributed among the participants. The question is then, "How to distribute the financial burden fairly and in such a way as to minimize the possibility for corruption?"
As in many case, "transparency" may be the best way to promote "integrity".
ISAAC does it too (at least the past year or two). It's a red flag for me too (it being the main technique of all those spam conferences), so I was rather shocked to see this in a reputable conference...