Non-existent conferences
Article published on 1 November 2013

by Irna

Relations with Semir Osmanagic having recently reached somewhat of a nadir, Professor Debertolis is now finding himself rather marginalized over the Bosnian "pyramids" affair. So, accompanied by the SBRG, Debertolis is now forging ahead with his "archaeo-acoustics" research, his purpose apparently being to prove that various "sacred" sites across Europe are linked by the generation of ultrasound or infrasound at certain frequencies that might possibly have some "spiritual" effect or engender some mystical feeling. The group has studied various sites in Italy (the Abbadia San Salvadore at Monte Amiata; the Celtic Hypogeum at Cividale del Friuli) and in England (Wayland’s Smithy and the Rollright Stones), that, admittedly, could be classed as sacred; but its research also focuses on sites of a much more debatable nature, whether completely natural, such as the mountain of Rtanj, in Serbia, which various Semir-Osmanagic-wannabes (bs) would have us think is a pyramid even larger than the ones in Bosnia; or locations probably completely devoid of any "ritual" aspect, as in the case with two sites studied by the group in the Visoko valley, the Ravne tunnel, and the hill of Visocica, on which stands the medieval fortress of Visoki.

This article is not concerned with the methodology or content of this research [1], but solely with the fact of Professor Debertolis’ triumphal announcement (it) about the peer-review acceptance and publication at two international conferences of two papers on archaeological acoustics in the Visoko valley.

The two SBRG papers in question are:

 The phenomenon of resonance in the Labyrinth of Ravne (Bosnia-Herzegovina), which attempts to demonstrate that the existence of sound resonance phenomena in the Ravne tunnel: 1° is supposedly the result of intention on the part of the tunnel’s designers; and 2° implies that it might be much more than just an old mine, perhaps a ritual location similar to Neolithic sites studied by the PEAR group (Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research) in the south of England.

 Archaeoacoustics in ancient sites, which analyzes the presence of infrasound and ultrasound at the Abbey of San Salvatore, in Italy, and at the fortress of Visoki, in Bosnia, and seeks to draw a correlation between the locations of these "sacred” sites (the fortress of Visoki, for the purposes of this argument, being summarily transformed into a monastery), and the existence of a natural source of sound frequencies bringing about a feeling of spirituality.

So the publication of these papers would therefore represent, for the first time ever, an endorsement by the scientific community, if not actually of the existence of the "pyramids", at least of the existence of unusual phenomena in the Visoko valley resulting in human modifications (the construction of the Ravne tunnel, and the "remodelling" of the hill of Visocica) at a very early period.

However, a closer examination of the two conferences at which these papers were presented reveals a few surprises.

The first lecture, entitled ARSA (Advanced Research in Scientific Areas), took place in Slovakia in December 2012. But it was hardly a scientific conference in the classic sense of the term: it was a virtual conference, taking place entirely online. Although the home page contained the logos of a dozen partner institutions, mainly small universities in Eastern Europe, the names of the organizing institutions, oddly enough, were nowhere to be found. Another curious fact was the extremely diverse nature of the list of topics covered by the conference: the call for papers mentioned more than twenty, ranging from marketing to linguistics, veterinary medicine to electronics, psychology to religion and mathematics ... never before have I come across a scientific conference covering such a wide range of subject areas! Details of the scientific committees were given, but I note that there was no archaeologist, nor any expert in ancient or medieval history, so we are left to wonder quite who could have been responsible for evaluating the paper presented by the SBRG .

The second conference was no less startling : entitled Scieconf 2013, or International Virtual Conference on Advanced Scientific Results, it was held in June 2013 and, just like the previous one, had links with Slovakia, lacked the names of any organizers, and contained exactly the same list of topics. There was even an identical misspelling ("conntact us" with two ns) on the websites of both conferences! [2] Nor did Scieconf specify the composition of its scientific committees, confining itself merely to a "call for reviewers"... Also missing was the list of partners: there were only two institutions, based in Macedonia; together with a company called Thomson, based in the city of Žilina in Slovakia.

Another unusual aspect connected with these two conferences were the reviews, for which Professor Debertolis provides links respectively here - for the article on the Ravne tunnel - and here - for the article on Visocica. I don’t think I have ever seen such poorly composed reviews: the first contains no more than a few basic comments on the form of the paper; the second is more or less blank ...

Finally, a search for the domain names (.com) of these conferences reveals that both domains are registered by the same company, Websupport , s.r.o., a host that, based in Bratislava, also functions as the administrative and technical contact. So it is impossible to connect these two "virtual conferences" to any institution in particular.

All these factors raise questions about the validity of these virtual conferences. A quick internet search has come up with at least two other conferences of a similar nature, the Global Virtual Conference, whose partners are the same Macedonian university and the same Slovakian company - Thomson, Ltd., of Žilina - the same list of topics , the same call for reviewers, etc., and the Electronic International Interdisciplinary Conference.

Despite the fact that these are virtual conferences, they are not free of charge. On the one hand, those authors wishing to attend the conference and submit a paper have to pay an entrance charge of 70 or 80 euros, depending on the conference; and, more especially, those authors whose papers are accepted (and we cannot imagine that any are not ... ) are offered publication - in return for payment in one of the seven journals offered by each conference. These journals (the same ones appear on each of the four sites of the four conferences) are all published by the same organization, Sci-pub. And guess who owns Sci-pub? A company called Thomson s.r.o., based in the city of Žilina in Slovakia ...

Recently, some critical articles have appeared - in the United States, for example – about "scams" involving "conferences" and mediocre "scientific journals" (sometimes called "predator" journals, as in this list of "Potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access journals"). Could Professor Debertolis have fallen victim to this kind of scam?

Virtual conferences, newspapers that have never published anything (a search with the titles of the seven Sci-pub journals turns out to be very instructive ) ... After vanishing web articles, and phantom film festivals, are we now presented with phantom conference? It was Professor Debertolis, of course, whose idea it was to call his group after the "ghostly entities" in the Ravne tunnel [3]...

Update - December 2013

Surfing the Internet recently, I chanced to come across yet more "virtual conferences" organized by the same company, Thomson Žilina: "QUAESTI", "RCITD", "HASSACC" ... As ever, the same - extraordinarily varied - list of subjects, the same misspelling of "conntact", the same registration fee (amounting to 95 euros for 2013) ... The sole novelty consists of the fact that, from now on, the composition of the "scientific committee" is visible only to registered members; or, to put it another way, participants must first of all part with the registration fee before finding out the identities of the "international experts" who sit on these committees!

However, I should like to make a minor correction to my previous statement about the various journals published by Thomson: it’s not quite true to describe all of them as “phantom” journals, as some of them have now published an issue.