Thursday, January 19, 2017

Oxford Global Marketing's Annual Genetics in Forensics Congress

Oxford Global Marketing Ltd., with offices in Singapore and London, has attracted some big names in forensic genetics (see the email below) to its Annual Genetics in Forensics Congress, but I have to wonder what they thought of it. OGM's homepage announces that "Oxford Global provide specialist business information for the Pharmaceutical & Life Sciences industry in the UK, Europe and Asia. We run some of the most respected congresses, summits, conferences and webinars for industry leaders. We also offer bespoke event management to companies in the sector."
Email
5/12/16: Dear David, I hope my email finds you well. I would like to invite you to speak at our 2nd Annual Genetics in Forensics Congress next year in March 2017, London ... a two day event attracting over 200 senior level delegates. The subject areas suggested by our advisory board are available. However, if you would like to suggest a new topic please do get in touch. ... If you would like to arrange a short phone call to discuss the congress or have any queries you would like answered via email, please do not hesitate to contact me. ... Kind Regards, Eleanor Halsey, Producer
A couple of subsequent emails begin "Dear David, I hope my email finds you well. I was just keen to follow up with you from my previous email in regards to the speaking invitation for the 2nd Annual Genetics in Forensics Congress next year in March 2017, London." The Advisory Board for 2016 consists of
Jack Ballantyne, Professor, University of Central Florida, Associate Director – National Center for Forensic Science
John Masters, Professor of Experimental Pathology, UCL
Matthew Greenhalgh, Director Forensic Science, Cellmark Forensic Services
Thomas Callaghan, Senior Biometric Scientist, FBI Laboratory
Allan Jamieson, Director, The Forensic Institute
Bruce Weir ‎Professor and Chair, Department of Biostatistics, University of Washington
"Confirmed speakers" according to the website include
David Balding, Professor of Statistical Genetics, Centre for Systems Genomics, University of Melbourne
Jack Ballantyne, Professor, University of Central Florida, Associate Director - National Center for Forensic Science
Michael Coble, Forensic Biologist, NIST
Mitch Holland, Associate Professor, Pennsylvania State University
Henry Lee, Professor, University of New Haven
Apparently unconfirmed, but listed in the cyclic photographic display of "2016 speakers" is Bruce Weir, University of Washington. Why the website is limited to 2016 speaker information for a 2017 program is unclear. An email of 6/13/16 supplied a pamphlet that listed a 2017 advisory board with the following US members:
Elaine Pagliaro, Assistant Executive Director, University of New Haven, Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science
James Landers, Professor, University of Virginia
Jack Ballantyne, Professor, University of Central Florida
Seth Faith, Assistant, Professor of Forensic Science, North Carolina State University
The email of 6/13/16 listed "confirmed speakers":
Peter Gill, Professor, Norwegian Institute of Public Health
Sheila Willis, Director General, Forensic Science Ireland
Catherine Knutson, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Forensic Science Services for the State of Minnesota
Ann Ross, Director, Forensic Sciences Institute, North Carolina State University
Randall Murch, Associate Director, Research Program Development, National Capital Region, Virginia Tech.
Dieter Deforce, Professor, Ghent University
Eugénia Cuhna, Professor, University of Coimbra
Ayse Serin, Associate Professor, Cukurova University School of Medicine
Anna Williams, Forensic Anthropologist, University of Huddersfield
Four days later, the sender was "just keen to follow up with you." Her confirmed speaker list added these names:
Tracy Alexander, Director of Forensic Services, City of London Police
Kenneth Kidd, Professor of Genetics, of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine
Philip Danielson, Professor, University of Denver
Jack Ballantyne, Professor, University of Central Florida, USA
By the end of the month (in identical emails of 6/30 and 7/1), Eleanor Halsey was no longer so keen, but was still following up with the original form invitation and an even longer confirmed speaker list that added these names:
Geraldine O'Donnell, Director of DNA, Forensic Science Ireland
Angela Gallop CBE, Professor and Strategic Director of Strathclyde University Centre of Forensic Science
Charla Marshall, Chief of Emerging Technologies, Armed Forces DNA Identification Lab
Walter Bodmer, Professor, University of Oxford
Didier Meuwly, Professor and Principal Scientist, Netherlands Forensic Institute
John Masters, Professor of Experimental Pathology, UCL
Sree Kanthaswamy, Professor/Geneticist, University of California
Tal Simmons, Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University, USA
Jari Louhelainen, Associate Professor of Biochemistry, University of Helsinki and Senior Lecturer, Pharmacy and Biomolecular Science, Liverpool John Moores University, UK
Stefano Vanin, Reader in Forensic Biology, University of Huddersfield, UK
Sharon Derrick, Forensic Anthropologist, Identification Manager and Agency Coordinator, Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences
Nicholas Marquez-Grant, Forensic Anthropologist, University of Cranfield
Seth Faith, Asst. Professor of Forensic Science, North Carolina University
Graham Williams, Associate Director, Secure Societies Institute, University of Huddersfield
Still more news (same template, of course) came a week later (7/13/16). Gillian Tully, Director, Forensic Science Regulator, Home Office, UK, had signed on and, of course, "it would be great to have you on board."

A month later, it was Marketing Executive Guillaume Alonso (signature line) or Aonso (according to the sender  field), sending a "Registration Now Open" email from the URL GeneticsForensicsCongress@oxford-global.net on Tuesday, August 9, 2016 5:33 AM.

Producer Eleanor Halsey also seems to have been supplanted by Head of Delegate Sales Will Fox. His first email (10/4/16) promised "a unique opportunity to join over 40 highly esteemed speakers ... and participating in high-level discussions about the future landscape of the industry." It also offered a free webinar in January on "Advances in Next Generation Sequencing for Forensic Purposes" (with "Speaker 1" and "The New Challenges of Identification: Terrorist Attacks and The Role of Forensic Anthropology" with "Speaker 2."

Then came two folksy "Dear David" letters on 11/29/16: "Sorry to email you out of the blue. I wanted to get in touch with you in regards to a Genetics in Forensics Congress that my company, Oxford Global, annually holds in London. It will be taking place on the 14th-15th March in 2017. We are hoping to be able to expand the numbers of participants from outside of Europe and are aware of the increase in costs involved with the travel. For this reason, I wanted to offer you a half price pass to attend the congress, reducing the registration fee down to £250+VAT. Do you think this would be of interest to yourself or any of your colleagues? If you could come back to me before the end of the year, that would be fantastic."

In 2017, however, the emails from Will Fox grew less personal (but noted that some kinds of special offers remained available):
1/10/17: Dear David, Oxford Global is delighted to share with you the final agenda for our prestigious 2nd Annual Genetics in Forensics Congress, ... . Network with over 200 senior level genetics in forensic experts and hear world-class presentations and keynote addresses ... Join our internationally renowned speakers for their pioneering work in the field:

Peter Gill, Professor, Norwegian Institute of Public Health internationally recognised for his work in analysing the disputed DNA evidence in the Amanda Knox case will be discussing ‘Analysis of miscarriages of justice of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito’
Jack Ballantyne, Professor, University of Central Florida NGS to discuss cell type identification by mRNA profiling, single cell analysis and mixture de-convolution
Angela Gallop CBE Professor and Strategic Director of Strathclyde University Centre of Forensic Science, who has worked on the UK's most complex cases including Damilola Taylor, Rachel Nickell and Stephen Lawrence will be discussing the latest advancements and challenges of applying the new forms of forensic genetic testing to historic cases
Turi King, Reader in Genetics and Archaeology, University of Leicester highly acknowledged for her groundbreaking work on the Richard III case will be presenting ‘Richard III The Resolution Of A 500 Year Old Cold Case’, she will explore the background to this case, along with the discovery and analysis of the remains.

... The standard rates to attend this congress are £799 + VAT for industry delegates, £499 + VAT for academic institutions & £1350 + VAT for service/vendor companies. Special discounts until the end of January.
By the end of January, Mr. Fox had grown desperate (or very generous).
1/31/17: Dear David, Registration for this year’s Genetics in Forensics in London, 14-15 March, 2017 will be closing shortly. We are keen to have representation from your organisation at the 2017 meeting and in order to ensure that the quality and relevance of the delegates remains at the highest possible level, I am able to offer to a select few people, complimentary passes - free of charge - to attend the congress as delegates for the 2017 meeting. I wondered if you or any of your colleagues would benefit from attending this conference? Please be aware that the passes are available to any Academics or Pharmaceutical experts of Post-doc level and above. As registration is closing shortly and the number of places available are about to be filled, please do let me know of your interest by the end of the week. ...
Whom is he kidding? The "select few people" who receive complimentary passes are "any Academics"?

The "confirmed sponsors" are Illumina, ThermoFisher Scientific, Quiagen, Key Forensic Services, and Menarini Silicon Biosystems. What their contributions are to the conference I cannot say.

The third iteration is in the works, offering another opportunity to be on the advisory board. The following arrived (twice, at 4/27/17 6:26 AM, because OGM has two of me listed -- one for each email address):

Subject: Advisory Board and Speaker Invite: 3rd Annual Genetics & Genomics in Forensics Congress, 15 - 16 March 2018, London, UK
Dear David, I hope my email finds you well. I would like to invite you to be part of our advisory board and speak at our 3rd Annual Genetics & Genomics in Forensics Congress, 15 – 16 March 2018 in London, UK. Following on from the success of last year’s event, the congress will bring together over 200 senior level attendees to discuss the latest applications of genetic technologies to forensics, from DNA methylation analysis with NGS, to ancestral identification through phenotypic markers, to microbial genomics in biosecurity. The 2018 event will feature 4 streams ... . This congress is co-located with the Cyber Security and Digital Forensics Congress. Delegates and speakers will be able to access all the presentations over both days from both congresses. ... It would be very helpful to get your feedback on the proposed topics for the congress and learn more about your experience of the field and potential presentation subject. Please do not hesitate to get in contact with any queries or to organise a short phone call to discuss this further. I look forward to hearing from you and do hope you will be able to participate. Kind Regards, Jessica Thomson, Conference Production and Marketing Assistant, Oxford Global, Direct: +44 7375 046278 | Office: +44 1865 248455, j.thomson@oxfordglobal.co.uk
There is some irony in referring to "the success of last year's event." Instead of the promised "200 senior level delegates," there were "150+ attendees" of all kinds. Of these, 18% were "vendor companies." The report that provides these figures (viewed 4/27/17) also lists only one of the "internationally renowned speakers for their pioneering work in the field" advertised in the email of 1/10/17 as having participated in the event. The actual speakers named in the report were Jack Ballantyne (University of Central Florida), Eugénia Cunha (University of Coimbra), Seth Faith (North Carolina University), Dieter Deforce (University of Ghent), Sharon Derrick (Harris Country Institute), Randall Murch (Virginia Tech), Renata Zbieć-Piekarska (Central Forensic Laboratory of Police), and Anna Williams (University of Huddersfield).

It is early in the life cycle of the third conference. The VIEW THE AGENDA button on the conference website generates a form to "Request Prices & Agenda." However, the planning proceeds:
From: Jessica Thomson [mailto:j.thomson@oxfordglobal.co.uk]
Sent: Wednesday, May 10, 2017 9:13 AM
Subject: Follow-up - Invitation to Speak at 3rd Annual Genetics & Genomics in Forensics Congress, 15 - 16 March 2018, London
Dear David, I hope my email finds you well. I recently invited you to speak at our 3rd Annual Genetics & Genomics in Forensics Congress, 15–16 March 2018 in London, UK. I’m conscious that you must have a very busy schedule, but I was just wondering if you have had a chance to review my invitation? The subject areas suggested by our advisory board are listed below. However, if you would like to suggest a new topic please do get in touch. If you would like to arrange a short phone call to discuss the congress or have any queries you would like answered via email, please do not hesitate to contact me. I look forward to hearing from you and do hope you will be able to participate.
Kind Regards, Jessica Thomson, Conference Production and Marketing Assistant, Oxford Global, Direct: +44 7375 046278 | Office: +44 1865 248455

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