Friday, January 20, 2017

Oxford Symposium: "A ... Meeting of London Symposia"

I am suspicious of the Oxford Symposium on ... whatever. The first email went like this:
1/20/17: We are pleased to invite you and your institution to participate in in the 4th Oxford Symposium on Population, Migration, and the Environment. The symposium will be held 15 and 16 March 2017 at the Oxford University Club, Oxford, U.K. Keynote speaker - Robert Rowthorn, Emeritus Professor of Economics at University of Cambridge and Research Fellow at University of Oxford. We invite you to present a paper that encourages the exchange of interdisciplinary ideas about the main themes of the conference: world population increase, human migration, and environmental sustainability. Alternatively, you may wish to attend as an observer or panel member. The Symposium seeks to cover a broad agenda that includes disciplines such as economics, education, environmental studies, agriculture, law, political science, religion, and social studies. Topics for presentation may reach beyond these areas, and our website contains an extensive list of suggested topics. Papers presented at the meeting will be subsequently peer-reviewed by external readers for possible inclusion in Symposium Books or sponsored academic journals. Email Lydia at contact@oxford-population-and-environment-symposium.com if you have questions.
The agenda is way too broad for a focused academic conference. What are "Symposium Books" and "sponsored academic journals"? Sponsored by whom? Why is there no mention of an actual academic organization or professional society? No address and no contact information (except for an email address for "Lydia")?

The webpage offers the tantalizing statement that "The Oxford Symposium on Population, Migration, and the Environment is a special interest meeting of London Symposia, an organization devoted to scholarly research, writing, and discourse." But there is no link to that organization, and no such organization emerges on the first several pages of Google search results.

The symposium website is similarly devoid of things like an organizing committee and named outlets for publication. It has no list of speakers (except for "Robert Rowthorn, Emeritus Professor of Economics at University of Cambridge and Research Fellow at University of Oxford").

The website asserts that "The Symposium has grant support from the Education Policy Research, Inc., United States and is jointly sponsored with the United Nations Association, Cordell Hull Chapter, United States." Nothing turned up in a quick Google search for "the Education Policy Research, Inc." There is a Cordell Hull Chapter of the United Nations Association. It is the Nashville branch of the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA), which "is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to building understanding of and support for the ideals and work of the UN among the American people. Its education, policy and advocacy programs emphasize the importance of cooperation among nations and the need for American leadership at the UN."

The website also states that "Announcements for the meeting are enhanced by the Maryland Population Center, Maastricht Centre for Citizenship Migration and Development and the Environmental Migration Portal and the Oxford Human Rights Hub." No links to the "enhancements" are provided. A search of the Oxford Human Rights Hub website for "symposium" produced 23 entries. This particular symposium was not among them. There is no Maryland Population Center, but the Maryland Population Research Center does have a link to a "call for papers" for this conference.

Who or what is behind these efforts? They appear to be organized far from Oxford by the International Round Table Symposiums, which is said (6/2/17) to have have a "location in Oxford" at the Harris Manchester College. But a webpage on its history -- which does not indicate when and where this group was founded -- reveals that
The Round Table is, thus, not an academic programme conducted by the umbrella University. Harris Manchester College is the venue, the situs, location of the Round Table. The colleges, themselves, in their private corporate capacity, traditionally host an array of academic conferences assisted by Conference Oxford. The Round Table is one such conference. Harris Manchester College was selected as the location for the meeting because of its reputation, its location in the heart of Oxford, and because of its congenial working relationship with the members of the Round Table Programme Committee and Advisory Board.
I have not located the names of any members of the committee or advisory board. The history webpage ponderously advises that
The International Round Table Symposium is an international educational organization whose purpose is to promote education, art, science, religion and charity ... effectuated by the conduct of interdisciplinary symposia and the publication of meritorious manuscripts emanating therefrom. ...
The lack of sponsorship by Oxford University is a virtue because it advances "Academic Independence":
Academic Independence is an important aspect of the Round Table. As a private charitable educational organization, the Round Table is not under the control of the hosting Oxford colleges, most of which are established as endowed sectarian foundations, nor is it in anyway under the aegis, restraint or sanctions of the University of Oxford; rather, the Round Table is free-standing, apolitical and non-denominational.
When accused by an Oxford faculty member of deceptive advertising, the group sued her. The domain name oxford-population-and-environment-symposium.com is registered to Shenette Alexander, London Education Research Symposium, Sand Dune Aly, Saint Augustine, Florida 32080, telephone: (562) 676-6382, email: internationallawsymposia@gmail.com. Shenette describes herself as "Dedicated Wife, Loving Mother, Assistant to Oxford Round Table." Her husband, Fieldon King Alexander, is the chancellor of Louisiana State University and A&M College and president of the LSU system. The group, which has existed under various names and corporate charters (mostly in the US) is a creation of the Alexander family.
Email
Sent: 4/19/17, 6/2/17 (from lydia@oxford-population-and-environment-symposium.com)
From: Oxford Symposium [mailto:contact@oxford-population-and-environment-symposium.com]

To: oxford.academic.symposia@gmail.com
Subject: INVITATION - AUGUST AND DECEMBER SYMPOSIA, OXFORD, UK
... We are pleased to invite you and your institution to participate in in the 5th International Oxford Symposium on Population, Migration, and the Environment. The symposium will be held 3 and 4 August 2017 at St Anne’s College, Oxford, U.K. Alternatively, you may wish to attend the December session. We will meet on the 7th and 8th at St Hugh’s College, Oxford. Consult our webpage for abstract submission and registration deadlines.•  Keynote speaker – David Coleman, Emeritus Professor of Demography; Associate Fellow, Department of Social Policy, University of Oxford.
• We invite you to present a paper that encourages the exchange of interdisciplinary ideas about the main themes of the conference: world population increase, human migration, and environmental sustainability. Alternatively, you may wish to attend as a panel member.
• The Symposium seeks to cover a broad agenda that includes disciplines such as economics, education, environmental studies, agriculture, law, political science, religion, and social studies.
• Topics for presentation may reach beyond these areas, and our website contains an extensive list of suggested topics.
• Participant abstracts will be published online in the conference proceedings. Papers presented at the meeting will be subsequently peer-reviewed by external readers for possible inclusion in Symposium Books or sponsored academic journals.
"Sponsored academic journals"? Sponsored by whom? The Oxford Round Table Symposium publishes a Forum on Public Policy. As of 6/2/17, it was not on "the whitelist of reputable titles" maintained by JournalGuide.com.

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