Real conferences have a few main goals (not necessarily in the following order): to disseminate researchers' new findings, to allow researchers to get feedback on ideas in progress, and to bring scholars together more informally to get the creative juices flowing. (Some would also say to have an excuse to get blotto and hit on people you'll never see again, but we'll leave that to one side for now.)
Fake conferences' goals are two: to make money for the organizers, and to give cash-strapped academics a way to get their universities to pay for travel to an exotic locale.
Now, depending on your own personal bent, your university's available funds, and the climate of your university's locale compared with that of the conference venue, you may indeed feel it worthwhile to apply to a fake conference. I won't presume to judge. But you almost certainly don't want it ever to show up on your CV. So here's your handy guide to telling if something is a fake conference. If you answer "yes" to only one of the following, that doesn't necessarily mean you're dealing with a fake conference. But two or more, and you may need to think about it:
- Is the conference location somewhere that a non-academic might plan a once-in-a-lifetime vacation?
- Does the conference venue have the word "resort" or "spa" in its name?
- Does the conference invoke "interdisciplinarity" to allow them to accept papers from over a dozen different disciplines, but with no central organizing principle or theme?
- Is the registration fee (not counting hotel and transportation) unusually high for an academic conference?
- Does the organizer appear to be an individual or a commercial business, rather than an academic or creative organization or a university-related entity?
- Do they appear to accept all papers?
- Does the publication venue (if there is one) make the main criteria payment of registration fee rather than quality of the paper?
As I said, one or two of these things doesn't necessarily mean that it's a fake conference. Some very good conferences may be held in nice locations, are interdisciplinary in nature, or have financial support from businesses who want to use some of their profits to support culture, or are under government mandate to do so. Go, have fun, take some pictures -- but know what's legit and what's not.
**UPDATE: Historiann makes a good point in the comments. Technically, these conferences aren't "fake": academics go to them, give papers, and even attend other people's sessions. "Bogus," as she suggests, is probably more accurate (and more fun to say). But since I've already titled the post using "fake," I'm going to leave it, and figure that my meaning will be understood.