Business Models, Controversial Topics, Ethics, Open Access, Peer Review, Research

Parting Company with Jeffrey Beall

Jon Stewart: "You have a responsibility to the public discourse, and you fail miserably."

Jon Stewart: “You have a responsibility to the public discourse, and you fail miserably.”

Jeffrey Beall came to prominence because of Beall’s List, which set out to document the existence of what Beall termed “predatory publishers.”  Without addressing the question of whether Beall was right 100% of the time, I thought he was doing a good thing.  There are inherent structural problems with Gold Open Access and sooner or later unscrupulous people were going to exploit them.  Beall offered himself as the cop on the beat and helped to make ours a safer neighborhood.  Kudos to him.

Since I first became aware of Beall’s List, however, I have been following some of Beall’s work with growing unease.  Here and there some (to me) distasteful political ideology peeked through (with my pragmatic mindset, any kind of ideology makes me queasy), but you don’t have to agree with somebody all the time to agree with them some of the time.  But now, in a recent screed, he has crossed the line.  While I continue to admire Beall’s List, the broader critique (really an assault) of Gold OA and those who advocate it is too strong for me.  Sorry, Jeffrey, but I’m not with you on this.

So what is that Beall is expounding?  The following comes from the conclusion to his essay: 

The open-access movement isn’t really about open access. Instead, it is about collectivizing production and denying the freedom of the press from those who prefer the subscription model of scholarly publishing.

It’s the English major in me who notes the odd disconnect between the content of these two sentences and the rhetoric.  We are talking about a way of publishing academic articles–not the stuff of a revolutionary, or counter-revolutionary, movement; as my kids would say, Bor-ing!  But someone is invoking one of the Big Principles, “denying the freedom of the press.”  If the word “collectivizing” went by you, slow down and read again.  Yes, the OA movement is out to deny life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  All this blather about open access is the work of a bunch of commies who have taken over the university.  I am not making this up.

At the heart of Beall’s argument is that “The OA movement is an anti-corporatist movement.”  (Perhaps you are reaching for your dictionary, as I did, and have concluded that Beall really means “anti-corporation.”)  No doubt there is some truth to this; you can find strong feelings against corporate America just about everywhere and maybe with greater frequency in the academy.  But not every OA advocate is singing Jefferson Airplane’s “We Can Be Together” (“Tear down the walls *&%$#*&”).  There are extremists among those supporting OA, but there are also moderates and even conservatives who speculate about the social benefit of openly available research material.  They may all be wrong, but the charge of collectivization, especially in a country that is only beginning to awaken from the nightmare of the Cold War, is a naked appeal to emotion, and not the best of emotions.  Let’s dial this back a bit.

Beall’s error is a common one, and that is to characterize a group by its most extreme elements.  This is an old and easy rhetorical trick; read the columns of David Brooks in the Times, for example, or the highly entertaining, but over-the-top essays of Evgeny Morozov.  What this does is enforce an excluded middle, an us-against-them frame of mind.

A good part of my disappointment in Beall’s latest is that much of what he says seems to me to be correct, but simply overstated and stuffed inside a political wrapper.  There are in fact predatory publishers, and Gold OA is more likely to produce them than will traditional publishing.  The traditional form of peer review seems to me to be superior to the “methodology-only” policy of PLoS ONE.  The economics of Gold OA shuts out some researchers.   The measure of the value of research is its value to other researchers, not the general public.  And citations are the coin of the realm, which are captured in journal impact factor, not in altmetrics.  In opposing Beall’s argument, I am not opposing all of it.  But his outrage clouds his judgment and expression and undermines his best arguments.

Surely there must be a way to talk about scholarly communications without having MSNBC on one side and Fox News on the other, something more reflective than a broken dialogue between Stevan Harnad and Jeffrey Beall.  I have to pinch myself and remember:  this is scientific publishing we are talking about.

About Joseph Esposito

I am a management consultant working primarily in the world of digital media, software, and publishing. My clients include both for-profits and not-for-profits. A good deal of my activity concerns research publishing, especially when the matter at issue has to do with the migration to digital services from a print background. Prior to setting up my consulting business, I served as CEO of three companies (Encyclopaedia Britannica, Tribal Voice, and SRI Consulting), all of which I led to successful exits. Typically I work on strategy issues, advising CEOs and Boards of Directors on direction; I also have managed a number of sticky turnarounds. Among other things, I have been the recipient of grants from the Mellon, MacArthur, and Hewlett Foundations, all concerning research into new aspects of publishing.

Discussion

57 thoughts on “Parting Company with Jeffrey Beall

  1. “The traditional form of peer review seems to me to be superior to the “methodology-only” policy of PLoS ONE.”

    Er…that’s a much more extreme view than anything Beall has said. You’re essentially saying that commerical interests (which results are interesting enough to sell copies of the journal) should be allowed to determine publication? Good science is good science regardless of what the results happen to be. ‘Boring’ results may not sell journals but if they’re true, they should be published.

    Posted by Neuroskeptic (@Neuro_Skeptic) | Dec 16, 2013, 5:35 am
    • “Commercial interests”? Every journal I’ve ever worked with builds a firewall between sales and editorial, and the editor’s job is to accept research that is determined to be of quality and significance to the field. Ditto for the peer reviewers. There may be some small number of journals that choose their articles based on perceived sales value, but it is unfair to characterize all journals in this manner. To quote the article above, “Beall’s error is a common one, and that is to characterize a group by its most extreme elements,” and it appears you have made the same error.

      I agree with you that all results that are valid should be published, but I disagree that all results that are valid should be published in every journal. This removes a valuable filtering mechanism from the system and makes the work of researchers hoping to keep up with their field more difficult.

      Posted by David Crotty | Dec 16, 2013, 7:10 am
      • “I agree with you that all results that are valid should be published, but I disagree that all results that are valid should be published in every journal.”

        That’s an interesting take on PLOS ONE-style peer-review, and one that I don’t think I’ve heard explicitly stated before. I could get on board with that. (For myself, I plan to send all my papers to journals of the if-it’s-good-we’ll-publish-it variety, since I don’t want to fritter away my time playing Russian roulette with reviewers’ guesses at what might be perceived as sexy, but I guess I don’t have that much objection to such venues existing so long as I don’t have to waste my time with them.)

        Posted by Mike Taylor | Dec 16, 2013, 7:16 am
        • A few years ago, Peter Binfield was suggesting a future where you’d have the high-end journals publishing the best work, then a handful of megajournals publishing everything else. What he predicted they’ll do is not compete with Science, Nature or eLife, but instead gobble up all the papers in smaller society journals that publish in particular niches. The extremes will still thrive, but the middle ground gets devoured.

          Posted by David Crotty | Dec 16, 2013, 7:52 am
        • The question about whether access to scientific and other scholarly literature by the general public (taxpayers, contributors to charities, etc.) has any utility for society is probably deserving of a full-fledged post all by itself. It is a very important, even central, question as we debate how best to disseminate the work of scholars.
          Most of us haven’t read Homer in the original Greek though that might be the best possible route to understanding. Instead, we read translations into languages we are more conversant with. There is also a good bit of analysis and commentary on the works of Homer that we can consult. With a little help from our friends, we can understand some of the deepest ideas that man has ever grappled with.
          So, exposing the works of the physical and social sciences to a general audience might not have great and direct benefits but there is the possibility that the best of that work will be translated into lay terms usable by those who participate in societal decision making. Could this activity be an impact factor?
          Given some of the bizarre scientific assertions made by some of our elected leaders (e.g. resistance to rape precludes pregnancy), such an outlet might actually improve things.

          Posted by Frank Lowney | Dec 16, 2013, 10:18 am
          • The question about whether access to scientific and other scholarly literature by the general public (taxpayers, contributors to charities, etc.) has any utility for society is probably deserving of a full-fledged post all by itself.

            Look, I don’t want to come across as all aggressive here, but this simply isn’t up for debate. If you want to make a case that access to published research is not of value to wider society, then you have to explain to Christy Collins that the work she’s done on macrocephaly-capillary malformation is useless; you have to tell AnnMaria De Mara that she has misunderstood how her own business works; you have to BJ Nicholls that he’s mistaken about what materials he needs in order to prepare fossils without irrevocable damage to unique ancient specimens. The list goes on. These are real people, outside of academia. They say they need access. Who are we to disagree?

            Posted by Mike Taylor | Dec 16, 2013, 10:44 am
            • Frank misstated the policy issue. The question is whether the utility of free access is sufficiently great to justify the forced restructuring of the industry? That is far from clear. Obviously there is some utility, as even lining bird cages is useful. “Any utility?” is not the question; it is “Enough utility?”

              I do not think your examples are very good, by the way, because people can always get specific papers of great interest.

              Posted by David Wojick | Dec 16, 2013, 12:29 pm
              • I do not think your examples are very good, by the way

                I look forward to watching you explain this to Christy, AnnMaria and BJ.

                Alternatively, I suppose I could pass on your insight that “because people can always get specific papers of great interest” and cite it as an argument that academic libraries should cancel all their subscriptions.

                Posted by Mike Taylor | Dec 16, 2013, 12:33 pm
      • Just to echo David’s point about filtration helping the end-user. I frequently meet busy researchers and physicians who have trouble staying abreast of their topic despite being flooded with information. This I think is one of the most important topics in STM publishing today but paradoxically little discussed.

        The desire by some to blunt the rigorous selection process by science journals or to cloud it, for instance by eschewing ranking of journals by impact factor, likely exacerbates the issue.

        Posted by Andrew Miller (Elsevier) | Dec 16, 2013, 7:35 am
        • I am not against journals that filter on perceived quality by their editor and reviewers however that is not the only way the issue you raise can be addressed. There is no reason a filter couldn’t be created that would provide the same service over journals like PLoS One or many of the BMC and other journals that just filter based on methodology and ethics. So for example, these are the key articles a busy family physician should read each month to stay current with links to the articles. That allows a very efficient publication system and avoids the wasted time and effort of resubmitting descriptions of perfectly sound research that some editor doesn’t feel fits or is important enough for their journal.

          Posted by David Solomon | Dec 16, 2013, 12:30 pm
          • I take the view that more filters are better, and that each reader can choose for themselves which are valuable and which are not.

            The overlay journal concept is a really interesting one, but it remains unproven, nor is it clear how the efforts involved would be accomplished and the costs paid. Faculty of 1000 is perhaps the closest equivalent we have to this now, and from what I’ve heard, it has never been financially sustainable.

            Posted by David Crotty | Dec 16, 2013, 12:33 pm
            • There was a buzz a year ago around the ‘Episciences’ overlay journal concept, which was supposed to launch in April but nothing yet.

              http://gowers.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/why-ive-also-joined-the-good-guys/

              http://episciences.org/

              Posted by Andrew Miller (Elsevier) | Dec 16, 2013, 12:45 pm
            • I take the view that more filters are better, and that each reader can choose for themselves which are valuable and which are not.

              Ah, now we hit a truly substantive point of disagreement. I take the view that since each level of filtering irrevocably discards information, more filters are not better. Your filter may discard something that I was interested in. That’s why a favour publishing everything that’s sound, ignoring journal brand completely, and using dynamic filters such as good search engines.

              Posted by Mike Taylor | Dec 16, 2013, 12:46 pm
              • By “more filters are better” I mean the availability of more filters, not necessarily the use of more filters by each individual. Each reader needs to find the information appropriate to his/her needs and as noted above, will need to make the appropriate choice of filters to do so. A filter that may be problematic for you may be incredibly helpful for someone else. Hence, it’s better that they all exist, but not be mandatory.

                Posted by David Crotty | Dec 16, 2013, 12:49 pm
              • “That’s why a [sic] favour publishing everything that’s sound, ignoring journal brand completely, and using dynamic filters such as good search engines”

                I for one am thankful you’re not a physician.

                Posted by Andrew Miller (Elsevier) | Dec 16, 2013, 12:52 pm
              • By “more filters are better” I mean the availability of more filters, not necessarily the use of more filters by each individual.

                Ah, interesting. It seems we agree on a availability of more filters. My presumed point of disagreement with you was that I understood you to favour journal rejection as one of the filters — in which case the rejected papers are at best pointlessly delayed, and often lost completely. If that’s not what you’re saying then perhaps we agree.

                Posted by Mike Taylor | Dec 16, 2013, 1:08 pm
              • I’m okay with the peer review process. I agree it does introduce delays, but think the improvements it often adds to papers is generally worth the wait. And solutions like bioarXiv may be better routes than reducing peer review scrutiny.

                Posted by David Crotty | Dec 16, 2013, 1:11 pm
              • I am desperately trying not to get sidetracked onto peer-review :-) But I do find this article terrifying, and I’d welcome your thoughts on it. Perhaps in a separate post?

                Posted by Mike Taylor | Dec 16, 2013, 1:18 pm
              • In reference to David’s comment:

                “I’m okay with the peer review process. I agree it does introduce delays, but think the improvements it often adds to papers is generally worth the wait. And solutions like bioarXiv may be better routes than reducing peer review scrutiny.”

                I think mega journals offer a middle ground for both for the author and the reader between a selective journal with a long delay and a higher chance of rejection and something like arXiv. With a journal like PLOS ONE the author gets a fair amount of credit for a peer reviewed publication in a decent journal and the reader a basic level of filtering on methodology/ethics lacking in something like arXiv. Clearly a lot of authors at least are finding this model attractive.

                Posted by David Solomon | Dec 16, 2013, 1:50 pm
            • I enthusiastically agree with David on this. We need to add conversations about “all metrics” to those about “altmetrics.” The right tool for the job. Why limit ourselves? Would we want a surgeon to operate with only 1 or 2 tools when he could use dozens of precise instruments for specific tasks?

              Posted by Adam Etkin (@adametkin) | Dec 16, 2013, 1:24 pm
        • Andrew, I don’t people are saying journals shouldn’t be ranked by impact factor. Rather that papers and people shouldn’t be ranked by IF. Ranking journals is what the IF was designed for!

          Posted by drgunn | Dec 21, 2013, 9:49 pm
          • This is correct: IF measures journals (and their editors). Article-level metrics, altmetrics, and so forth measure different things. IF is predictive, other measures are after the fact. Another apples-and-oranges argument.

            Posted by Joseph Esposito | Dec 21, 2013, 9:59 pm
            • IF measures after the fact, too. Actually, lagging by two years.

              I think considering IF predictive is wrong. IF of journal is a self-fulfilling prophecy of future impact of yet unpublished articles in it, because we scientist continue the idiotic transfer of worship from vessel to its future contents. Everything else (includind scientific and societal value) being equal, article in high-IF journal still gets cited more just because it is stamped by the borrowed prestige of its container. We should stop considering IF predictive. Sign DORA.

              Don’t get me wrong, it is perfectly fine to measure and praise the quality of a journal, and perfectly fine to elevate some journals above others (though the gap seems disproportionate). Freedom from the self-fulfilling aspects would make IF a better measure, not undermine its value.

              Posted by JanneSeppanen | Dec 22, 2013, 1:46 am
      • It appears to me that in a traditional reader-pays journal the revenue motivation (regardless of the taxation status of publisher) and scientific interest are aligned, no need for firewalls?

        The solemn vow on “firewalls” comes usually into play only in situations where an open-access publishers says authors who can’t pay can ask for waivers, and that the decision on waivers is supposedly absolutely independent from editorial decisions. And there, the lady doth protest too much, methinks.

        Posted by Janne Seppanen | Dec 18, 2013, 2:05 pm
        • I think there’s always a need for firewalls, always a desire to have editorial independence from business concerns. For example, should a journal from Johns Hopkins University Press be pressured to publish articles from Johns Hopkins researchers? It will surely bring more grant funding in to the parent organization. Or should a medical journal be pressured to publish articles that show the drug products of a prominent advertiser in a positive light?

          Best for all concerned, regardless of the business model, to separate the two.

          Posted by David Crotty | Dec 18, 2013, 2:14 pm
          • Ah, I did not come to think about these kinds of pressures resulting from vested interests tangential to the primary publishing business itself. Shows I come from the relatively nonprofitable field of ecology, not from pharmacology.

            You are right, a solid firewall is indeed absolutely necessary to stop things like that. But how do you set up one that is credible and transparent beyond “because I say so”?

            The relationship between medical journals and pharma companies is of course one that has been not entirely credible in maintaining that firewall: http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pmed.0020138

            http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/27383/title/Elsevier-published-6-fake-journals/

            Posted by JanneSeppanen | Dec 18, 2013, 2:44 pm
            • I don’t really know how you’d set up a system for transparency in this manner. Suggestions? At some point the proof simply has to be in how the journal is run and what it publishes. It perhaps helps (at least for some journals) to have the editor be a working academic researcher rather than a publisher employee. It removes another pressure point, and you’re set with an editor who would be committing career suicide (in their real job) by doing anything less than above board.

              Posted by David Crotty | Dec 18, 2013, 3:30 pm
  2. It will be no surprise that I am generally in agreement with Joe this time. Just two quibbles, but I think they’re important ones:

    The measure of the value of research is its value to other researchers, not the general public.

    This I reject totally. Researchers who want to do research only for the benefit of themselves and their friends can go fund themselves. Researchers who take money from the state and from charities need to justify that by providing value to the general public. The research articles are of course not the only form of benefit that can accrue, but they are an important part of it, as documented repeatedly at Who Needs Access?.

    And citations are the coin of the realm, which are captured in journal impact factor, not in altmetrics.

    No disagreement on the first half of this; much on the second. Impact Factor is admittedly some kind of proxy (though a statistically illiterate one) for the citation rate across a journal. It’s no kind of proxy at all for the citation rate of individual article. (Indeed in the case of my own papers, the plot of citation-count against impact factor has a negative slope: the higher the IF, the less my work is cited!)

    I share much of the widespread caution over the value of, say, tweet-count as a way of gauging the value of a piece of research. But where altmetrics does score highly is in measuring aspects of the article itself rather than the venue it appears in — it’s the equivalent of judging some one by his intelligence rather than what university he went to.

    Posted by Mike Taylor | Dec 16, 2013, 6:47 am
    • The general public is not the group I want determining the value of research outputs, frankly. Already, science is playing it too safe, as numerous observers have noted, and this may be because of — ironically — funding increases and as the resultant catering to public perceptions of value. This has made science more incremental and short-term oriented, and it runs more like a business than science.

      If the public’s understanding of science today is supposed to drive research funding, then we are stuck. Researchers know a lot more about their particular fields and where the interesting discoveries are pointing. Besides, not all science is supposed to “return value to the general public.” They are not buying stock. They are funding science. I doubt even the general public feels this way about science funding — that everything scientists do should provide the public with a direct return on investment.

      Science is fascinating, aspirational, and all about discovery. Did it “return value to the general public” to discover the Higgs boson? No. But is it fascinating? Am I glad it was funded? Yes to both.

      Posted by Kent Anderson | Dec 16, 2013, 7:40 am
      • It’s a big reason why basic research no longer gets funded. It’s all about incremental results and a quick turnaround, which bodes poorly for the future.

        Posted by David Crotty | Dec 16, 2013, 7:56 am
        • I am puzzled by your claim, David. Several US agencies say they are funding basic research. Are the mistaken?

          Posted by David Wojick | Dec 16, 2013, 8:17 am
          • I run mostly in the medical and biological worlds, and increasingly I hear dismay from researchers that basic research is no longer of interest to the NIH. If your work is not directly “translational” (meaning your work must directly lead to treatment for a medical condition) then it is unlikely to be funded. If you work in a model organism other than human, then your work is unlikely to be funded. There’s a sense that more certain, incremental work is favored over bold but risky innovations. The notion is that the funding agency basically wants you to know the answer to your experiments before they’re willing to fund them.

            Take it for what it is–it may be agency specific, and it may just be the typical grousing by a community that feels it is underfunded. But I suspect if you polled life science researchers, you’d find this concern in the majority.

            Posted by David Crotty | Dec 16, 2013, 10:10 am
            • I agree that there is probably greater emphasis on long term practical applications. But a lot of what is being funded is still stuff that industry will not do, which I think is the core definition of government funded basic research. The budget crunch may account for this shift.

              Posted by David Wojick | Dec 16, 2013, 12:33 pm
      • You do insist on talking as though the general public is a homogeneous lump, and that because there exist members of the general public that watch Big Brother and X Factor it follows that no-one outside of academia can make use of published research papers. This isn’t something we need to speculate about. We know from numerous account that academic papers are useful to many, many groups outside of universities. To pretend otherwise is not just arrogant, it’s ignorant.

        Posted by Mike Taylor | Dec 16, 2013, 7:59 am
        • You are the one who talks about the general public as a homogeneous lump. That’s what made me react the first time. To quote you just a couple of comments prior, “Researchers who take money from the state and from charities need to justify that by providing value to the general public.”

          I’m trying to get to some gradations. I do not think that surveys of the general public should set research or funding agendas. If they did, we’d only have anti-aging and weight-reduction research, and hardly any basic science research. So what do you mean? That a subset of the public you can’t determine a priori should drive research agendas? That people who download scientific papers gain the magical ability to anticipate research directions, and should be the focus of research funding decisions?

          I just don’t understand what you’re saying. It falls apart every time I try to pick it up to examine it.

          Posted by Kent Anderson | Dec 16, 2013, 8:09 am
          • What on Earth can you be talking about? I never said one word about driving research agendas. That is absolutely orthogonal to what we’re discussing here, which is the public’s right to derive maximum benefit from what it funds.

            Posted by Mike Taylor | Dec 16, 2013, 8:35 am
            • “Researchers who take money from the state and from charities need to justify that by providing value to the general public.”

              If you are justifying your funding to the general public, then ipso facto the general public is driving research funding decisions and agendas. Now you’re saying the public has the right to “derive maximum benefit” from research it funds, which is slightly different from justifying taking money. So, who determines what is “maximum benefit”?

              I repeat, I do not understand what you are saying. it falls apart every time I try to pick it up to examine it.

              Posted by Kent Anderson | Dec 16, 2013, 8:45 am
        • To repeat what I wrote below, but earlier, if the articles themselves are valuable to the public then their writing should be funded as well, separately from the research. This is not generally done at present. This implies that the public does not value the articles. In fact I once asked a US Federal funder about getting a grant towrite up research I had already done and was told that they did not pay people to write articles. If the public wants the articles then they should pay for them.

          Posted by David Wojick | Dec 16, 2013, 8:14 am
        • Inventiones Mathematicae? Annals of Mathematics? Communications in Mathematical Physics? The Journal of the American Mathematical Society? Theory and Applications of Categories? The Journal of Functional Analysis? Journal für die Reine und Angewandte Mathematik?

          How do these fit into your numerous accounts, MT?

          Also, the sloganeering

          “Researchers who want to do research only for the benefit of themselves and their friends can go fund themselves. Researchers who take money from the state and from charities need to justify that by providing value to the general public.”

          puts you neatly in line with Stephen Harper, which may not be company you wish to keep. (Or it may; I really don’t know anymore.)

          The opposition is not between “friends” and “public”, btw. I have never done anything that provides value NOW to the daily lives of the public; I hope I have done things and will do things that contribute to the clarification, refinement and growth of my discipline so as to yield future understanding and progress that may benefit civilization in the future.

          Posted by Yemon Choi | Dec 16, 2013, 5:59 pm
    • It is not a question of benefiting their friends, but rather of how science advances. We fund science to get beneficial results, not to get articles about those results. Communication among scientists is important but it is not what the public is paying for, which is the research itself, the creative thinking and doing of science.

      If the articles are themselves are valuable to the public then their writing should be funded as well, separately from the research. This is not generally done at present. This implies that the public does not value the articles.

      Posted by David Wojick | Dec 16, 2013, 7:51 am
  3. Indirectly, I came to understand that the editor of the journal this screed was published in urged Beall to “dial it up” and make it more hard-hitting than what he originally submitted, which I guess might have been comparatively tame.

    The journal this was published in is, “Communication, Capitalism, and Critique,” which defines itself as having:

    “a special interest in disseminating articles that focus on the role of information (cognition/knowledge, communication, cooperation) in contemporary capitalist societies. For this task, articles should employ critical theories and/or empirical research inspired by critical theories and/or philosophy and ethics guided by critical thinking as well as relate the analysis to power structures and inequalities of capitalism, especially forms of stratification such as class, racist and other ideologies and capitalist patriarchy.” (http://triplec.at/index.php/tripleC/about/editorialPolicies#focusAndScope)

    The editor (not sure if this is the one Beall worked with, but the overall editor) is Christian Fuchs, who when asked about the relevance of Marx (a 19th century philosopher) to the 21st century, replied:

    “I do not terribly like the way you phrased this question because somehow it gives the perception of Marx as being outdated, old, that society is new and has completely changed through neoliberalism and so on. . . . there is a lot in Marx that helps us understand the media within the context of society. Quite obviously there is a huge crisis of capitalism, of the state, imperialism and ideology.” (http://fuchs.uti.at/blog/)

    I agree with you that Beall’s paper was shrill, over the top, and strangely populated with the vocabulary of the Cold War. However, all this makes me wonder how much of this was Beall and how much of it was due to the journal he chose to publish in. Could it be that even when a fan of Marx controls the means of distribution, strange editorial outputs are possible?

    Posted by Kent Anderson | Dec 16, 2013, 7:26 am
    • You can make excuses if you want but Jefferey Beall wrote this article and chose the journal in which to publish it.

      Posted by David Solomon | Dec 16, 2013, 8:09 pm
  4. When I first heard about Beall’s list I read some of his early papers. My conclusion was that he did not like a particular business model, basically the low budget, broad spectrum, author pays model. Some of these outfits employ deceptive practices, but others do not. Some are just annoying. What bothers me most is that the list does not say why each listed publisher is there; what sins they specifically have committed. This seems to me to be unfair, as there is no way to judge the accusations.

    Posted by David Wojick | Dec 16, 2013, 8:08 am
    • For what it’s worth, back when Beall’s list was shorter, it did contain a paragraph or two on why each listed publisher was included. I think he removed all that information when the listed started growing rapidly. I agree it’s a real shame. He basically presents one bit of information about each publisher, which is silly given the amount of research he’s evidently done to arrive at that single bit.

      Posted by Mike Taylor | Dec 16, 2013, 8:34 am
      • I think each case is buried in his blog. I tried searching his blog on a listed publisher to see what his case against them was but it did not work. Moreover I found arguments I did not like, for example that a publisher was suspect if their mailing address was an apartment building. I am not making this up.

        The funny part is that last I looked the only links out from the blacklist were to the outlaw publishers’ websites. This boosts their Google PageRank.

        Posted by David Wojick | Dec 16, 2013, 9:53 am
  5. Great post. Jeffrey’s opinions are dogmatic and his list is a shame. He tells “I do not like this publisher”, he put them in his list and somehow he’s ruined their business. No open assessment. No chance to defend. Just unilateral judgement.
    I feel his list has gained too much fame. Who is he to judge publishers or the open access movement? He represents his own opinion and he’s crossed the red line too many times…

    Posted by Carlos Vázquez | Dec 16, 2013, 8:50 am
    • I don’t agree with this comment. I think Beall’s List serves a valuable purpose. I assume it could be improved, but someone had to get this going.

      Posted by Joseph Esposito | Dec 16, 2013, 9:53 am
      • I disagree Joe, for the reasons I present above. I dislike blacklists where no specific charges are laid. Beall should have stuck with publishing articles laying out his charges against specific publishers, some of which I found unconvincing by the way. For example, being the publisher of last resort (which he complains of) is not predatory; it is actually a valuable service. A vanity press.

        Posted by David Wojick | Dec 16, 2013, 10:14 am
  6. The inactivity of the community at large has enabled Beall to firmly establish himself as self-appointed judge, jury and executioner in all matters relating to predatory publishing. More worryingly – considering how Beall has been adopted as the mouthpiece by some of the most reputable publications and organisations (including this one), are his regular and unseemly asides:

    “None of the journals has any content yet, but they have thrown together some editorial boards, mostly people from India.”

    “The publisher claims to be based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but the poor and non-standard English throughout the site belies its true location: I think this is really an Indian operation”

    “Is this the future of scholarly publishing, dumbed down and offshore?”

    Beall has always sought to distort the threat posed by predatory publishers in order to further his own extreme anti-OA agenda and ridicule (where possible) scholarship that is from the global south. I’m amazed it has taken this long for someone with a higher profile than me in the industry to call him out.

    Posted by rob virkar-yates | Dec 16, 2013, 10:43 am
  7. I think it’s interesting Jeffrey Beall chose to publish in a journal that is … open access! The journal in question charges neither authors nor readers. The “Journal Sponsorship” link simply lists Christian Fuchs, University of Westminster, as the publisher, and gives no indication of other sources of support. The journal uses “Open Journal Systems” software supplied by the Public Knowledge Project (PKP), “a multi-university initiative developing (free) open source software and conducting research to improve the quality and reach of scholarly publishing.” (Sponsors of PKP are listed on its website.)

    The paper contains a number of statements that should raise a red flag to many reviewers and editors. Take this: “OA advocates want to make collective everything and eliminate private business, except for small businesses owned by the disadvantaged.” No cite is given for where “OA advocates” (whoever they are) supposedly expressed this desire, and a sinister motive is imputed with no documented evidence. There are many other examples. Did anybody really peer review this stuff? At the very least, statements claiming to see a supposed motive should be supported by cites.

    Beall also makes the ridiculous claim, “OA journals don’t have any space restrictions.” Peer reviewers either were not familiar with journal editing or they just plain missed this one. As an editor myself, I know our real limit is the capacity of our editorial team to properly review and select articles. Even without print, legitimate journals indeed have space restrictions.

    With more rigorous review and editing, Jeffrey Beall might have had himself a pretty good article. He covers a lot of important issues, such as mega “editorless” journals, and has a great deal of facts at his disposal to make his arguments. I think Jeffrey Beall’s blog has performed a great public service in alerting us to the growth of predatory publishing. I admire what he is doing and will just chalk this one up to an overabundance enthusiasm for his cause.

    Posted by Ken Lanfear | Dec 16, 2013, 2:28 pm
    • According to the TOC, the section of the journal in which Beall’s piece appeared is not peer-reviewed. Thank goodness.

      Posted by splutchak | Dec 16, 2013, 2:55 pm
  8. I think Jeffrey Beall raises some important questions albeit with a fervor that I don’t possess. I am, however, very offended by Esposito’s linking of MSNBC and Fox (Faux?) News. That, to me, is more egregious than any thing in Beall’s article.

    Posted by Dana Roth | Dec 16, 2013, 11:42 pm
  9. Thank you so much. Now I know what really is going on. I stumbled on this article purely by accident. I came to know about Jeffrey Beall’s list of predatory publisher’s long time back. It looked like great work for the benefit of scholars and science. I took a fancy to it and read his every post on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s. Initially it appeared good reading but as time went by I had an uneasy feeling that something was wrong and started to analyze his work, his comments and replies. As I saw many people commenting about OA publishers who they felt to be below par, in mid-November ’13, I posted a comment on his blog about a publisher whose membership from OASPA was terminated. The comment was never published. I followed by few more comments in coming weeks, some of which were critical of his methodology, and none was published. Then one of my comments on his criteria for predatory publishers (no, in all honesty this term does not belong in context of scholars and scholarly publishing) was published but again a follow-up comment was blocked. After that I have posted about 15 comments in the last 2-1/2 months and every single one has not been published. I was wondering why this was happening and i searched in Google for “jeffrey beall is an idiot” (For everyone – please don’t take offense) and this was the first article that came up. After reading it I now know why my comments were not published.

    For my two bits on Open Access, if I look 10 or 20 years into the future, with technological advances, the publishing of print journals will become redundant. With print versions gone, the advertising revenue for big publishers (currently) will be gone and subscription prices of electronic versions of today’s print journals will be reduced as there will be no need for paper printing. More and more open access journals will come up. Some will become great scholarly journals and some will wither and die. Institutes will give more funds to publish in open access journals and make the research of their researchers available to others or may be self-archiving will start. In this process today’s big publishers will stand to lose the most and will probably have three options, i) stop print versions and go all electronic which will reduce revenue many time over, which they won’t want; ii) go open access to challenge new open access journals and maintain their position which will again reduce revenue many time over and which some have already done; iii) try to kill open access movement as one of them tried to do recently and continue as today, which is the best scenario. If you cannot kill a thought (a good thought), kill the person who has that thought. This is what appears to be happening with open access journals. May be my brain is in overdrive but open access is the way of the future. And then I wonder, is this post going to be published?

    Thank you once again.

    Posted by Geo Scholar | Jan 6, 2014, 8:46 am
    • “I can’t comment on Geo Scholar’s comments on Jeffrey Beall’s blog, not having seen them, but given the nature of this post and the absence of the author’s given name, I am not surprised that Beall would not post them.

      Posted by dzrlib | Jan 7, 2014, 2:45 pm
      • @dzrlib

        Thank you Dr. Z.R. Lib. I hope I got your name right.

        First let me confess that when I started reading Jeffrey Beall’s blog it was my honest opinion that the blog did some really good work. However, following him over the years, now I am forced to question his motives. Isn’t it true that criticism – positive and negative – is important to improve something and make it better, whether it is scholarly publishing or Jeffery Beall’s criteria?

        As I mentioned above my first post on his blog was about a publisher whose membership from OASPA was terminated. My comment was never published. This publisher was on Beall’s list initially then was removed. Then Gerald Dorey of Taylor & Francis published a comment trashing Medwell journals in response to Beall’s post about the same publisher and the comment was published.

        Here are some of my comments on his blog:

        One of the criteria that Jeffrey Beall gives to identify predatory publishers is – “The journals have an insufficient number of board members, have concocted editorial boards (made up names)…”

        I have seen journal operating with two board members and I have also seen journal operating with more than 100 board members. I posted the following query on Beall’s blog – “I have a query. In your opinion how many editorial board members should be there as a minimum, in the editorial board (i) of a new journal before it can start accepting papers for publication, (ii) of an established journal to be called as sufficiently large editorial board?”

        This comment was not published. Is it a very difficult question?

        One of the criteria that Jeffrey Beall gives to identify predatory publishers is – “Two or more journals have duplicate editorial boards (i.e., same editorial board for more than one journal).”

        I posted a query – “Having duplicate editorial boards (exactly same) on two or more journals of the same publisher is included as one of your criteria for classifying journals as predatory. What are your thoughts about one editor being on the editorial board of two or more journals of the same publisher, for example in a journal on geology (a broad specialty) and in a journal on marine geology (a sub specialty)?”

        This comment was not published. Is it a very difficult question?

        It might seem to some that I was questioning the validity of Beall’s criteria. Yes, I was doing exactly that. I believe critical analysis and asking questions are the hallmark of any scholar. If I don’t understand something I ask questions. If I choose to follow Beall’s advice which he so graciously gives at the end of every post:

        “Therefore, I strongly recommend that all scholarly societies avoid doing business with this publisher, including all three of its brands and including all journals. There are many better options.”

        “In my opinion, researchers thinking of submitting their work to any of InnoVision’s journals ought to consider finding a better outlet. Similarly, doctors and other readers would do well to find higher-quality outlets than these six journals.”

        …then I have a right to question his methods of arriving at the conclusions before I applaud him for being a “Crime fighter” and an “Angel” guarding open access movement.

        My very first post had a PS – “PS: (Before you ask – I don’t give my personal name on public forums…).”

        Oh!! yesterday I read Beall’s paper “The Open-Access Movement is Not Really about Open Access”. I have to confess that he does raise some good points but I have never ever seen such a crass piece of scholarly work. As someone commented above – I really hope it was a hoax and have a really good mind to write a rebuttal of this paper and publish it.

        With regards

        Posted by Geo Scholar | Jan 9, 2014, 7:50 am

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