Today’s post consists of two emails. One is from OMICS Publishing Group to a scientist who attended an OMICS conference, and the second is the scientist’s reply to OMICS.
Email from OMICS Publishing Group
Dear Dr. Jim,
Greetings for the day!! We are really thankful to you for your consistent support towards the conference Genetic Engineering 2013 and for efficiently managing the conference.
We would like to know about your experience during the conference days. Also, I would like to have your feedback for Genetic Engineering 2013 and Suggestions for the upcoming Genetic Engineering 2014.
Your Suggestion and feedback value a lot for us for further proceedings. Thank for your cooperation. Awaiting for your early response
Genetic Engineering 2013
Email to OMICS Publishing Group
Hello! I am happy to provide you my honest feedback about Genetic Engineering 2013. I hope you take my comments/suggestions to heart. If not, I will certainly never attend another OMICS meeting. Frankly, it was by far the worst, most unorganized meeting I have ever attended in my nearly 30 years as a scientist. It was a total sham of a meeting. In no particular order, here are my complaints:
1) The meeting was shortened to 2 days from 3 with no notice. We were not notified of this change in any way other than when the final program was available online, it covered only 2 days instead of 3. People came from all over the world for this meeting. They need time to make flight changes etc. Personally I drove so it wasn’t a problem, however, I did end up paying for an extra night for a room that I did not need. In these tight budget times, as a Government scientist, we can only attend at most one meeting per year. To waste money on a room we did not need is inexcusable. We should be all notified in advance before the length of a meeting is changed.
2) I was asked to be on the “Organizing Committee” and was never asked my opinion on anything. The meeting was “organized” without any input from any organizing member, at least anyone that I talked to. Only 2 out of 19 listed organizing members were actually at the meeting. I even emailed one member that was not at the meeting and she told me that she never had any input on the meeting either. Why have an organizing committee if they cannot do anything? It appears you wanted us on a “committee” to look good, to make the meeting look legit.
3) The meeting is billed as a major event but it is far from it. At the “height” of the meeting, 19 people were in the room. By the second day, there were perhaps half as many. If all the supposed organizing committee members were present, we would have had twice as many attendees!
4) On the first day, we had 13 scheduled talks. Of these, we ended up having only 8. The other speakers never arrived. Having nearly 40% of the speakers never arrive indicates a HUGE organizational problem. Do attendees think this is the fault of the organizing committee that never had a say in these matters? Is that why there is an organizing committee, to take the blame? I certainly fielded plenty of complaints while at the meeting. I finally found myself saying, I am not associated with OMICS. I have never seen a meeting where more than a few percents of the scheduled talks were missing. The other keynote speaker and I each gave 2 talks, so between us, we gave a full 50% of the talks on the first day!
The second day was worse. Of the 10 scheduled talks, only 3 were given. A whopping 70% of no shows! Thus, the meeting actually ended at lunchtime on the second day. So a meeting that was supposed to run 3 days, was actually at most 1.5 days and that is being generous. Did we get 50% of our registration fee back? In a word, no.
5) There was no acknowledgment/apology from the OMICS organization about the poor turnout for the meeting even though the founder was there.
6) There was no real guidance from the OMICS organizers on how to run the meeting. I was tapped to moderate the meeting, which I did. However, that quickly turned into running it from start to finish with no guidance. It was only after many emails and in-person questions that I figured out what was wanted. How the actual meeting proceeded seemed to be of little importance to OMICS. I feel very used.
7) What seemed more important to OMICS was presenting awards. When I arrived I had to sign a huge stack of awards. Anything from being a chairperson, to presenting a talk, to attending the meeting was grounds for an award. This seems very much like being in elementary school. A large amount of time was taken up on the first day by handing each other awards and having our pictures taken doing so. Why? I strongly suspect these photos will be used for the promotion of further OMICS meetings. See all the smiling scientists! I did not attend this meeting to promote OMICS, but I strongly suspect that is what I will be doing. Why else have me sign these “awards”? OMICS wanted to have my name and affiliation associated with everything that happened at the meeting.
8) OMICS is not fully honest. Not only was this meeting much smaller than billed, shortened without notice etc, but it is also being advertised as a bigger success than it was. There is a report page that can be found here: http://www.omicsgroup.com/conferences/past-conference-reports/genetic-engineering-2013-past/
On this page, it shows twelve different scientists that gave “expert presentations” at “Genetic Engineering 2013”. The problem is, 3 of those scientists were not even there! This will be discussed further below but I request my picture and name be removed from that page. I do not endorse Genetic Engineering 2014 in any way. I do not want people to think that I do.
9) As one of my duties, I was asked to judge the poster presentations which I was happy to do. Near the end of lunch on the second day, Dr. Oshimura, the chair for the day stood up and announced that he had just been told that the rest of the meeting had been canceled. Everyone still in attendance was shocked. This cancellation was because none of the afternoon speakers were present. Furthermore, he announced that the poster presentation would start immediately. There were a couple of problems with this, neither of which were his fault. I know of at least two attendees that had already left the lunchroom and thus did not get his announcement. They came back at the assigned poster time, 4:10, to put up their posters and found out then that the meeting was over. Thus, their posters were never judged through no fault of their own. They came all the way from Mexico to present their posters which were never viewed by anyone but a few of us that felt badly for them. When the announcement was made at lunch, I went and asked the OMICS representative, Monalisa, what I needed to do as far as judging the posters; did she have a form for it or what the procedure was. She informed me that Dr. Srinubabu Gedela already judged them! I don’t know when this happened (must have happened before lunch as we and they were in the same room and I didn’t see him.) but he 1) for certain did not see all of the posters as at least two were not up yet and 2) likely is not qualified to judge posters on genetic engineering. Again, science comes second in these “meetings”. The attendees that traveled great distances at significant cost deserve better.
I could go on and on but this is probably more time than I should waste on this already. In summary, this meeting was far too expensive for a far too little meeting. It was “organized” (and I use that term loosely) with no help by an organizing committee, yet we take the blame. Many appearances are made to make it look like a fantastic meeting, but it is not. I do not wish to be a part of this meeting in the foreseeable future. Thus, please remove my picture(s) and name from this website: http://www.omicsgroup.com/conferences/past-conference-reports/genetic-engineering-2013-past/ I do not want anyone to be confused into thinking that I endorse your product. I also do not want my name and/or picture to appear on any other promotional material for any upcoming OMICS meeting. I respectfully ask that you follow my wishes. I wish to cut all ties with OMICS group.
Also, I am currently writing my resignation letter to resign from the editorial board of OMICS’ Advancements in Genetic Engineering for all of these and other reasons.
James Sawitzke Ph.D.
Center for Cancer Research
National Cancer Institute
Frederick, MD 21702
Note: Dr. Sawitzke has sent several additional emails to OMICS repeating his requests but they have not responded, and his requested action has not been taken.