Scholarly Open Access
is quite an evidence-free paragraph. Where is the coalition, and where is
the goal stated of bringing down the traditional scholarly publishing
industry? Who has said all we need is voluntarism and server space? No one
I know of.
movement uses argumentum ad populum, stating only the advantages of
providing free access to research and failing to point out the drawbacks
(predatory publishers, fees charged to authors, and low-quality articles).
is frequent discussion of these problems. Credit Beall for bringing
attention to predatory publishers, but it’s less of a problem than he
makes it out to be (and one seemingly devoid of data- Beall would
strengthen his claims if he could document the number of authors
victimized and/or the amount of money lost). A majority of open access
journals do not charge authors, and those that do usually have waivers.
There are also plenty of high-quality open access journals like PLOS Biology,
generally considered tops in its field. And we know that “low-quality
articles” could never appear in a subscription journal.
hard to argue against “free”—and free access is the chief selling
point of open-access publishing…
open access is not just about “free.” OA means free as in cost (to the
reader) but also free as in freedom (open licensing). As a librarian,
Beall should know the barriers that copyright presents in the use of
scholarship by libraries and researchers. OA advocates know that scholarly
publishing does cost something, and are actively working on alternatives
to the broken subscription model.
the so-called gold open-access model, authors are charged a fee, called
the “article processing charge,” upon acceptance of a manuscript.
is simply wrong. Gold open access describes OA journals that publish
peer-reviewed articles. A majority of them do not have an article
processing charge (APC). APCs are just one model of providing open access.
It’s true that predatory publishing is based on this model as a
money-making scam. This is why authors need to know something about the
journals where they submit articles.
publishers and journals do not charge fees to researchers and still make
their content freely accessible and free to read. These publishers
practice platinum open access, which is free to the authors and free to
open access must be Beall’s invention, because no one else uses this
term. Open access journals (“gold” open access) includes journals with
fees and those without fees.
third variety of open-access publishing, often labeled as green open
access, is based in academic libraries…
of libraries do have repositories, but it’s not accurate to say that all
(or even most) archiving is based there. There are plenty of disciplinary
repositories, and for-profit ones like Academia.edu.
green open-access movement is seeking to convert these repositories into
scholarly publishing operations. The long-term goal of green open access
is to accustom authors to uploading postprints to repositories in the hope
that one day authors will skip scholarly publishers altogether.
some think this, but I wouldn’t call it widespread. Most scholarly
publishing in libraries (that is, journal or monograph publishing) is a
separate operation from article archiving. And no one thinks peer review
can be skipped, which seems to be an implication here.
sometimes onerous mandates, however, many authors are reluctant to submit
their postprints to repositories.
is unfortunately true, but Beall doesn’t mention that many of the
“onerous mandates” were passed unanimously by the same faculty members
who must observe them, because they became convinced of the benefits of
open access to research.
the green open-access model mostly eliminates all the value added that
scholarly publishers provide, such as copyediting and long-term digital
OA advocates agree that scholarly publishers provide value- after all,
some of them publish OA journals. But the choice of examples is odd. I’m
one of many authors who has had the experience of copy editing actually
introducing errors into my carefully composed article. And in some cases
repositories are a better bet for long-term digital preservation than
journals, which can stop publishing without a preservation plan. In short,
the value added that is claimed by many publishers is coming under
question, and rightfully so in my view.
low quality of the work often published under the gold and green
open-access models provides startling evidence of the value of
high-quality scholarly publishing.
makes little sense. An archived (“green”) article can be of the
highest quality and may have been published in one of the prestigious
journals Beall venerates. And again, there are many well regarded open
authors become the customers in scholarly communication, those with the
least funds are effectively prevented from participating; there is a bias
against the underfunded.
OA advocates have identified the same problem with APCs, especially for
authors from the developing world. But many of these journals have
waivers, most OA journals don’t have charges, and new models are being
developed that subsidize journals without charge to either author or
reader. It’s not accurate to portray fee-based publishing as the only
open access model.
journals have never discriminated on the basis of an author’s ability to
pay an article-processing charge.
they just discriminate against libraries.
open access devalues the role of the consumer in scholarly research…
Open access is making readers secondary players in the scholarly
is just laughable. Yes, we should feel sorry for all those readers who can
freely access all the peer-reviewed research that their tax dollars likely
the next section of his article, “Questioning Peer Review and Impact
Factors” Beall mostly critiques the doings of predatory publishers,
which no one really disputes. But in criticizing predatory publishers
(again unfairly extending his critique to all open access publishing) he
gives subscription publishing a free pass. If you don’t think bad
information has appeared in prestigious peer-reviewed subscription
journals, try searching “autism and immunization” or “arsenic
life.” Beall’s reverence for the journal impact factor isn’t
supported by any facts (see my post Removing
the Journal Impact Factor from Faculty Evaluation). So predatory
publishers using fake journal impact factors shouldn’t be a concern-
it’s a bogus metric to start with. Moreover, Beall fails to acknowledge
that open peer review, in whatever form, would largely solve the problem
of predatory publishing. If a journal claims to do peer review, then
let’s see it!
you’re an author from a Western country, the novelty and significance of
your research findings are secondary to your ability to pay an
article-processing charge and get your article in print.
waivers are available and the majority of OA journals don’t have fees.
It’s interesting that Beall uses words like “novelty” and
“significance” here, as if unaware of real problems in peer review
caused by these assessments (which are not attributable to predatory
advocates like to invoke the supposed lack of access to research in
underdeveloped countries. But these same advocates fail to mention that
numerous programs exist that provide free access to research, such as
Research4Life and the World Health Organization’s Health Internetwork
Access to Research Initiative. Open access actually silences researchers
in developing and middle-income countries, who often cannot afford the
author fees required to publish in gold open-access journals.
again, OA is not all about fees. It’s also odd that so many people from
the developing world are huge open access advocates. Beall fails to
mention that the large publishing companies have a lot of control over
which countries get access and which do not. If they decide that India,
for example, can afford to pay, then they don’t provide access. Wider
open access would make these programs unnecessary. The main thing
silencing researchers in developing countries is basic access to research,
which inhibits their own research efforts.
top open-access journals will be the ones that are able to command the
highest article-processing charges from authors. The more prestigious the
journal, the more you’ll have to pay.
may be some truth to this, and it’s a concern I share. However, APCs may
be subject to price competition (an odd omission from someone who is so
market-oriented). Beall has identified the biggest problem to my mind,
which is journal prestige. Prestige means that mostly we are paying for
lots of articles to be rejected, which are then published elsewhere.
Academia needs to determine whether continuing to do this is very smart,
and whether other sources of research quality or impact might be
era of merit in scholarly publishing is ending; the era of money has
laugher. Beall must be unaware of his own library’s collections budget,
or the 30-40% annual profit made by Elsevier, Wiley, Informa, etc. If he
is concerned about merit (and especially predatory publishing), he ought
to be advocating for some form of open peer review.
open-access journals compel authors to sign away intellectual property
rights upon publication, requiring that their content be released under
the terms of a very loose Creative Commons license.
opposed to subscription journals, most of which which compel authors to
transfer their copyright?
open access journals allow authors to retain copyright.
this license, others can republish your work—even for profit—without
asking for permission. They can create translations and adaptations, and
they can reprint your work wherever they want, including in places that
might offend you.
it be awful to have your work translated or reprinted? I mean, no one
actually wants to disseminate their work, do they? This is mostly
scare-mongering about things that might happen .001% of the time. And
because of the ever-so-slight chance someone might make money from your
work, or it might be posted to a site you don’t agree with, we
shouldn’t share research? This blog is licensed CC BY, and I don’t
care if either of those things happen. What’s not logical is for these
largely unfounded fears to lead us back to paywalls and
open-access publishing has made many tens of thousands of scholarly
articles freely available, but more information is not necessarily better
don’t think anyone has ever claimed this. Even if there were only
subscription journals, there would be new journals and more articles
journals threaten to bring down the whole cumulative system of scholarly
think there may be some exaggeration here.
the long term, the open-access movement will be seen as an ephemeral
social cause that tried and failed to topple an industry.
access is not looking very ephemeral at the moment. The “industry”
seems to be trying to find ways to accommodate it so they don’t go out
of business. Open access advocates are not necessarily against the
“industry,” just the broken subscription/paywall model they use.
Indeed, traditional publishers like Elsevier and Wiley are profiting
handsomely from hybrid open access, and starting OA journals or converting
existing ones to open access.
article initially published on https://blogs.lt.vt.edu/openvt/2015/05/19/a-response-to-jeffrey-bealls-critique-of-open-access/