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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 25, 2015


Beall has Gone Bananas: Beall has essentially discredited himself

This one is from Anton Angelo posted on or before December 10, 2013 at mumbles. (The post doesn’t Cites & Insights April 2014 8 include a date, but I tagged it on December 10 and the first comment appears on that date.) He leads with this: Jeffrey Beall has essentially discredited himself. The time has come to take his important work in identifying predatory publishers from him, and run another list, one that can be trusted. 

Angelo appreciated Beall’s list and “forgave certain amount of self-aggrandizement”…until the triple C article appeared. His argument boils down to the following: the OA movement is really a monolithic stalking horse behind which there is a cabal wanting to establish centralised control of academic publishing. Which is, of course, nonsense. It’s a pity, because the moderates that support OA will see him as a bit of a loony, and will no longer trust his good work on predatory publishing. Those on the libertarian right will think he’s entertainingly provocative, and those on the infantile left (to borrow from Lenin) will see him as a traitor.

There’s more, but that may say enough. There are two comments—one from Joe Esposito, no friend of OA himself (or at least he’s never appeared to be) expressing his disappointment in the article…and one from Jeffrey Beall indulging in a personal attack on Esposito.

Beall’s Litter

Michael Eisen responds to Beall in this December 14, 2013 post at it is NOT junk, and it’s fair to say that he’s not entirely convinced by Beall: The piece is so ill-informed and angry that I can’t really describe it. So I’m just going to reproduce his article here (it was, ironically, published in an open access journal with a Creative Commons license allowing me to do so), along with my comments.

There follows a complete reprint of the article— with inserted red-text paragraphs where Eisen feels the need to offer a response. For example, here’s the first commentary, immediately following the first paragraph of the abstract: It is rather amusing to hear open access described as “anti-corporatist” seeing as the primary push for open access has come from corporations such as PLOS and BioMed Central, a for profit company recently purchased by one of the world’s largest publishing houses.

There’s a lot more—this is a very long post, not quite a fisking but close to it. I won’t attempt to include all of Eisen’s comments (some of which I might take issue with). Indeed, as I skim through them, I won’t include any more: You should read them in the original, in the context of Beall’s article. If you don’t read any other response to Beall, you should read this one.

Parting Company with Jeffrey Beall

I rarely cite the scholarly kitchen just as I rarely cite Jeffrey Beall’s blog or Stevan Harnad’s lists: in general, I find extremists less useful to consider. But this post by Joseph Esposito on December 16, 2013 is an exception, if only because Esposito not only finds the Beall article over the top but was (like some of us but not, unfortunately, like Beall’s devoted followers) getting uneasy about Beall in general. It is Esposito and Skitch, so we get this: “There are inherent structural problems with Gold Open Access and sooner or later unscrupulous people were going to exploit them.” Hell, there are inherent structural problems with Big Deal subscription publishing— serious ones—whereas “platinum” OA (which is to say most actual Gold OA, not including all the phantom journals) does not invite unscrupulous people. The unstated equation (that all Gold OA includes article processing charges) continues to be false and to undermine the credibility of anybody saying it. But let’s proceed:

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.

The “recent screed” is, of course, the triple C article. Esposito quotes two sentences from Beall’s conclusion—” 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.”—and comments: 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.

Esposito nails one major issue with Beall’s article: “characterize[ing] a group by its most extreme elements.” Not unusual and, as he says, an easy rhetorical trick, but not really helpful. Ah, but then Esposito shows his true colors: 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. [Emphasis added.] Look at the heart of that paragraph, bolded for your convenience. The first is an opinion that can’t be falsified as an opinion (if someone says say “it seems to me the Moon is made of green cheese,” you can’t prove that it doesn’t seem so to them) but is otherwise arguable. The second one is simply false for most Gold OA journals: Free is free. The third is a nice way of pooh-poohing arguments for OA based on the need for anybody but other researchers to gain access to research articles.

The fourth is difficult— because journal impact factors say nothing about article quality, only about journals. The post is followed by 57 comments covering a wild range. If you appreciate which of the commenters are Skitcheners, there are interesting discussions going on. In the interests of focus and keeping this essay from being way too long, I won’t attempt to comment on the comments (that might be another 5,000 words right there!).

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