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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 15, 2015

Beall Doubles Down

And then this happened:

The Open-Access Movement is Not Really about Open Access

That’s the title of Jeffrey Beall’s contribution to a special OA section of non-refereed articles in triple C: communication, capitalism & critique (11:2). It may be worth noting that this journal (which includes both peer-reviewed articles and other stuff, all of it clearly labeled) is, ahem, a gold OA journal— albeit one that (as with most gold OA journals) does not charge article processing fees.

If that fairly startling title isn’t enough, here’s the abstract in full:

While the open-access (OA) movement purports to be about making scholarly content open-access, its true motives are much different. The OA movement is an anti-corporatist movement that wants to deny the freedom of the press to companies it disagrees with. The movement is also actively imposing onerous mandates on researchers, mandates that restrict individual freedom.

To boost the open-access movement, its leaders sacrifice the academic futures of young scholars and those from developing countries, pressuring them to publish in lower-quality open-access journals. The open-access movement has fostered the creation of numerous predatory publishers and standalone journals, increasing the amount of research misconduct in scholarly publications and the amount of pseudo-science that is published as if it were authentic science. 

Say what? First there’s the odd suggestion that there is one thing called “the OA movement.” Then there’s the suggestion that the OA movement—not the NIH and Congress, not university faculties—is somehow imposing “onerous mandates.” Since the article is itself OA, you can download the PDF and read it yourself. It’s pretty astonishing, and I hesitate to quote much of it because I don’t want to be confused with The Onion. Consider this blanket claim about (all?) OA advocates: “OA advocates want to make collective everything and eliminate private business, except for small businesses owned by the disadvantaged.” While I’ve called myself an OA independent, by Beall’s lights I am doubtless an advocate—and have been involved for 24 years, far longer than he’s been critiquing. My interest in general collectivizing and eliminating large private businesses is nonexistent, which I strongly suspect is true for most OA advocates.

We are also told, “The open-access movement is a negative movement rather than a positive one. It is more a movement against something than it is a movement for something.” That’s also nonsense: it is a movement for access to scholarly research. We also hear that “the gold open access model actually incentivizes corruption.” Oddly enough, given that Big Deals generally trap libraries into maintaining subscriptions to journals they would otherwise cancel, Beall claims just the opposite: “Publishers always had to keep their subscribers happy or they would cancel.” He takes a swipe at the Semantic Web (which he says is dying a slow death) for reasons that I can’t fathom, except that it allows him to call OA “the ‘Semantic Web’ of scholarly communications.” I’ll quote another bit here—but with the prefatory information, admittedly repetitious, that a higher percentage of subscription journals charge author- side fees, typically called page charges, than the percentage of OA journals that charge article processing charges.

That’s important, given this: Money, a source of corruption, was absent from the author-publisher relationship (except in the rare case of reasonable page charges levied on authors publishing with non profit learned societies) in the traditional publishing model. Ask scholars about those “reasonable page charges” and how they’re only levied by non-profit societies sometime. You may get an earful.

Beall claims that “only a few publishers” employ the gold OA model ethically—and that most of those are cutting corners and lowering standards. He’s gone beyond raising alarms about “predatory” publishers to general condemnation of gold OA (published in a gold OA journal). I confess to not going through the whole nine page article carefully; I lacked the stamina to deal with it. Rather than doing my own fisking of an article that appears to deserve paragraph by paragraph refutation, I’ll turn to other commentaries. The issue must have appeared in late November or early December 2013; the reactions mostly appeared in mid-December.  

Source: Crawford, W. (2014). Ethics and Access 1: The Sad Case of Jeffrey Beall, Cites & insights, 14(4), 1-22.