The IIIS/SCI Conferences on Systemics, Cybernetics, and Informatics

Over the last few years, the organisers of the SCI World MultiConference on Systemics, Cybernetics, and Informatics have often circulated invitations to participate. But what exactly is SCI?

This highly-successful event -- a remarkable 1,859 papers were accepted for the 2001 event -- is run by the International Institute of Informatics and Systemics (or IIIS). This is "a non-profitable international Organization which takes into consideration the globalization process". It appears to have no officers or location, and is not associated with any academic institution. Its only public role appears to be to host the SCI conference.

The conference organisers widely circulate invitations to join the program committee. This year, a PhD student of mine was personally invited to join, a surprising honour for an individual with a single minor publication. Several newly-qualified junior staff received the same invitation. Visiting the web site, a substantial PC was already in place. Some of these may be important researchers in their field; however, of the several where I investigated further, only some appeared to have academic posts, and none had a significant number of publications. Yet the web site is a convincing document that appears to reflect a substantial enterprise.

The call-for-papers was circulated even more widely. It explicitly states that papers will be reviewed. As an experiment, I arranged for submission of three papers to the 2002 conference, by different authors. All three papers are superficially reasonable submissions, on the first page at least, and all three were accepted without comment. Yet the merits of these papers as research publications are far from clear:

The organisers of the conference invite the contributors to pay the registration fee, with a separate fee for each accepted paper, and state it is not necessary to attend so long as the publication fee is paid -- a highly unusual practice. I have repeatedly requested the referees' reports, but there has been no response. The organisers have however rapidly responded to queries about the financial arrangements. Although this conference may well be legitimate, the reviewing process appears to be nonexistent and the statements in the call-for-papers misleading.

Exactly the same cast of characters was listed in the web pages for 2003, under exactly the same questionable arrangements (although the web pages have moved).

Update. The University of Texas at Austin is hosting a related 2004 event, CCCT. Some of the individuals have changed; the structure has not. Make your own judgements before becoming involved.