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Critical Analysis of Jeffrey Beall's Blog - Open Access Publishing

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Predatory Blogger: Jeffrey Beall

Posted on June 10, 2015

Beall’s list was controversial from the start

Beall’s list was controversial from the start, not least because it was often not clear on what basis he had concluded that a publisher was predatory. Moreover, when last year he finally published the selection criteria he uses to make his decisions he met with some angry criticism, with researchers questioning both their validity and usefulness.

It also became apparent that Beall’s list included publishers who appeared to be entirely ethical, and to all intents and purposes keen to publish high-quality OA journals. To add to critics’ distrust, publishers’ names would sometimes disappear from Beall’s list without explanation.

Nevertheless, as it became increasingly evident that researchers were indeed being targeted by unscrupulous OA publishers, Beall and his list began to attract the attention of the scholarly press.

 

Last year, for instance, his activities were featured twice in The Chronicle of Higher Education (here and here), as well as in The Times Higher, The Scientist, and most recently in Nature.

Disinformation
This publicity clearly annoyed the publishers on Beall’s list, not least those who believe that they have been unfairly characterised as predatory.

At the same time, however, the publicity has confirmed Beall’s claim that there are some extremely doubtful OA publishers operating. The Nature article, for instance, sparked a campaign of disinformation against Beall.

The comments alleged that Beall was withholding or removing the names of publishers from his list when paid to do so.

Did not end there

But the campaign of disinformation did not end there. A few weeks later, messages began to circulate on the Web alleging that Beall was emailing publishers on his list and offering to reassess them for a fee. As “proof” of this claim an email said to have been written by Beall was attached to the messages. “I can consider re-evaluating your journals for 2013 edition of my list,” the email read. “It takes a lot my time and resources. The fee for re-evaluation of your publisher is USD 5000.”

Evidently the email was intended to suggest that Beall was trying to extort money from publishers on his list.

I became aware of this campaign on 17th December, when a number of attempts were made to post the allegation as a comment on the interview I had conducted last year with OMICS’ Srinubabu Gedela. A copy was also posted under Beall’sNature article (oddly, given that the comment feature had been closed on 4thDecember), as well as on other blogs, mailing lists, and the sites of OA publishers (here is an example).

Many of these messages were subsequently taken down by site owners. Even so, the accusation against Beall continues to circulate widely on the web. At the time of writing this, a search for “Jeffery Beall is blackmailing small Open Access publishers” produced nearly 4,000 hits.

Aly’s preface read, “Now a days anyone can open a blog and start doing things like Jeffrey Beall which is harmful for science and open access journals. Nature should also be very alert from Jeffrey Beall who is now using Nature's reputation to broadcast his bribery and unethical business model.”

So I suggested to Aly that someone had tried to confuse him by posing as Beall. Aly, however, continues to insist that the message came from Beall — for reasons he outlines in the Q&A interview below.

Significant challenge

Perhaps we should not end the discussion here. After all, everyone appears to agree that the prevalence of unscrupulous OA publishers poses a significant challenge to the OA community, and indeed for scholarly communication at large.

Some deny that the problem is as serious as Beall maintains. Others suggest that the wholesale categorisation of hundreds of publishers as “predatory” is not only inherently unfair, but was always bound to attract retaliation of some sort from those placed on the list. As former Springer Publisher Jan Velterop put it to me by email, “using such a term as ‘predatory’ is asking for trouble if malicious intent can’t be proven. To question the journals’ prestige is one thing, but an almost criminal accusation quite another.”

On the other hand, if any honest publisher has been falsely accused of being predatory they will doubtless feel as victimised as Beall presumably feels.

All in all, it is hard not to conclude that there are genuine reasons for concern with the current situation. Obviously, any publisher still on Beall’s list who believes that it has been unfairly branded as predatory will be concerned.  

This article initially published on http://poynder.blogspot.ca/2013/01/the-oa-interviews-ashry-aly-of-ashdin.html