Jeffrey Beall: “I am an academic crime fighter”

Beall is fighting with his Blog and a List of Publishers. Listed publishers he calls „predatory“ (characterized by plunder, robbery, or exploitation; acting with or indicative of rapacious, greedy, or selfish motives). “… Beall [is] acting as prosecutor, judge and jury on who’s predatory and who’s not. Remarkably, hundreds if not thousands of librarians and others seem to take Beall’s word as gospel.” (Crawford 2014a

) But it seems he has been going too far and people have started to turn away from him. “… the lists should be ignored.” (Crawford 2014b)

Beall: Fighting with Blog and List of Publishers

Jeffrey Beall

holds a BA in Spanish and an MA in English as well as an MS in Library Science. He does not hold a PhD. He worked as cataloger and metadata librarian. Presently he works as scholarly communications librarian at Auraria Library in Denver, Colorado, USA in the rank of  Associate Professor. He has published extensively in the LIBRARY JOURNAL in the field of astronomy (sun, comets, plantet, alien intelligence, death from the skies), space science (building spaceships), meteorology (tornados, climate change), medicine (AIDS), geography (San Andreas Fault). He has written against metadata in general and specifically against Dublin Core. He is against Google Scholar. Beall is against Open Access publishing, but publishes himself also Open Access on occasion.

Jeffrey Beall is (in)famous for his often libelous blog posts against Open Access publishing on http://scholarlyoa.com. He is also (in)famous for his extensive list of about 700 publishers. Publishers on this list are called “potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers”.

According to his definitionpredatory publishers … exploit the gold open-access model just for their own profit, pretending to be legitimate publishing operations but actually accepting any and all submissions just for the money.” (Beall 2013) As such by definition, “predatory publishing” exists only among Open Access publishers. Subscription based publishers can never be “predatory” no matter how much they charge for subscription or for various page charges and no matter how small their service and reputation might be.

Controversy

Overall Analysis

Beall’s blog includes this statement under each discussion: “All comments are subject to moderation, including removal.” This in itself is certainly acceptable because some moderation is necessary. Also SCIRP has published its Blog Policy. SCIRP had heard however, comments politely written and well argued (but against Beall’s position) never made it online. It is hard to prove comments get deleted by Beall. Comments could just “get lost”. Probability of this scenario is low if it happens several times in a row, as it did. Luckily, here is written evidence. Joel Kinnamann reports: “My comments went through initially. When I checked again today, I noticed that all my comments are gone. I can only assume that Mr Beall deleted them.” This is how it happened: “I posted a comment to ask if Jeff has further evidence to back up the claim … As a response by Mr Beall, this comment was removed along with my other comments.”

Controversy about Beall’s List starts already with the wordingpredatory open access publisher”. “As former Springer Publisher Jan Velterop put it … ‘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.’ ”(Poynder 2013) Even Beall himself states: “In many cases, the predatory publishers are not doing anything illegal.”(Elliot 2012) The term “predatory open access publisher” is used predominantly in the USA. In Europe e.g. at OASPA or DOAJ use of the term is carefully avoided. Lars Bjoernshauge from DOAJ derives based on a dictionary definition: “A predatory publisher can then be described as a publisher who intends to injure or exploit others for personal gain or profit.” (Bjoernshauge 2014). The tem “predatory” was also challenged on Wikipedia Talk.

Beall was asked

“could you please clarify the difference between potential, possible, or probable predatory publishers, for instance a potential or possible would not have same detrimental effects as if confirmed?” In the answer, Beall did not clarify the difference between “potential” and “confirmed”. Beall continues to remain vague about what is apparently wrong with publishers on his list. Important for him seems to be to stigmatizes publishers. In case he may get an innocent publisher on his list, he can easily back off saying: “It was only a possibly predatory publisher”.

Beall’s list consists only of links to the publishers. Beall claims he has done the evaluation of publishers in accordance with his criteria, but he does not give any kind of  evaluation from which it would be possible to determine why a publisher is on his list.

Beall’s criteria (2nd edition) are negative criteria. They list the “bad things” publishers could possibly do. Criteria fall into 2 major groups Primary Criteria (“predatory” criteria) with 4 sub groups and Secondary Criteria which are not further grouped. The number of criteria are given below in brackets. There are 25 Primary Criteria and 23 Secondary Criteria. Beall does not specify how his criteria are applied. We can only assume the toughest measure is applied: To be found “guilty” of already one of the Primary Criteria will get a publisher on Beall’s list. To be found guilty of Secondary Criteria has no effect with respect to getting on the list because Secondary Criteria are introduced with “The following practices are considered to be reflective of poor journal standards and, while they do not equal predatory criteria, potential authors should give due consideration to these items”. In an e-mail Beall was asked how his criteria are applied. Beall answered the e-mail with respect to other questions, but did not respond to the question about the application of his criteria.

Beall’s Criteria

1. Primary Criteria (25)

  1. Editor and Staff (7)
  2. Business Management (5)
  3. Integrity (7)
  4. Other Criteria (6)

2. Secondary Criteria(23)

They are reflecting ,,poor journal standards …, while they do not equal predatory criteria“. „potential authors should give due consideration to these items prior to manuscript submissions.“

Some of the criteria are questionable.

Questionable Primary Criteria (“predatory” criteria)

1.2.3) “Depends on author fees as the sole and only means of operation with no alternative, long-term business plan for sustaining the journal through augmented income sources.” Open questions: Is it necessary to publish the “long-term business plan” online? How many years of successful existence of a publisher will imply the business plan can sustain the journal? Why is it not allowed if a journal is successful on author fees as the only means?

1.3.3) „The journal falsely … uses some made up measure (e.g. view factor), feigning international standing.“ Debate: It is custom to show number of views and downloads with online journal articles. If showing these numbers helps „feigning international standing“ remains highly subjective.

1.4.3) „Operate in a Western country chiefly for the purpose of functioning as a vanity press for scholars in a developing country.“ Open questions: Corporations work globally. When does a company „operate in a Western country“? When is it chiefly for what purpose? How is vanity press defined? What is the distinction between “developing country” and “Western country” about in the first place? Remark: Criterion seems a little arrogant and written from a Western perspective.

1.4.5) „Publish papers that are … obvious pseudo-science.“ Remark: This seems to be the criterion Beall chiefly works with when no other criteria are at hand. It is always possible to label a paper „pseudo-science“. When is it „obvious“? For whom is it „obvious“? Beall (2013) indicates what this could mean for him: „Some of these ideas include issues relating to sea-level rise…, anthropogenic global warming.“ These are issues others would call mainstream science. We can also take Beall’s own extensive publications in the LIBRARY JOURNAL about topics ranging from astronomy, geography, medicine, meteorology to space science. Maybe everything below that level of scientific novelty and rigor is defined as pseudo-science.

Questionable Secondary Criteria

2.3) “The publisher publishes journals that are excessively broad“. Remark: Beall (2013): „Predatory publishers discovered the megajournal model by copying ‚successes’ like PLOS ONE.” All megajournals are automatically dubious for Beall.

2.5) “The publisher requires transfer of copyright and retains copyright on journal content. Or the publisher requires the copyright transfer upon submission of manuscript.” Remark: This means that nearly all subscription-based journal publishers engage in questionable practices.

2.8) “The publisher engages in excessive use of spam email to solicit manuscripts or editorial board memberships”. Open questions: When is it “excessive”? When is it “spam”? E.g. in the USA, Unsolicited Commercial E-mails (UCE) are legal as long as they adheres to 3 basic types of compliance defined in the CAN-SPAM Act.

2.9) “The publishers’ officers use email addresses that end in .gmail.com, yahoo.com some other free email supplier“ Remark: The connection with journal quality is unclear.

2.20) „The publisher or its journals are not listed in standard periodical directories or are not widely cataloged in library databases.“ Remark: „not widely“ needs to be specified more. It takes some time to get cataloged. This has to be kept in mind when assessing startup journals

2.22) “The publisher uses text on the publisher’s main page that describes the open access movement and then foists the publisher as if the publisher is active in fulfilling the movement’s values and goals.” Remark: Everyone who is publishing quality OA can be seen as part of the “movement”. The criterion is hence unclear. Its evaluation is subjective.

UPDATE 0n 2015-01-06: Beall’s criteria (3rd edition) got published on 2015-01-01 including small changes and additions. With respect to the questionable criteria from above: 1.2.3 got deleted. 2.5 only applies now when APC have to be paid. A new questionable criterion (next to last): “There is little or no geographic diversity among the authors of articles in one or more of the publisher’s journals” Remark: A national journal can well be scientific. Question: Does this also apply to purely US journals? Remark: In this criterion we see a general problematic logic used by Beall. His verdict from one journal is transferred to the publisher and back to all journals of the publisher. Why punish other journals at the publisher for what happens with one journal?

SCIRP and its journals are set up such that they are not "guilty" of any of Beall's criteria.
Look through SCIRP’s website to check for yourself (as long as the evaluation is not on this blog).

Publishers can appeal if they think they should not be included on the list. The email will be forwarded to a four-member advisory board. It is not transparent who is on the advisory board. The only case reported so far was Hindawi getting off the list. With this in mind, it does no make much sense to appeal. We learn: Either Beall takes a publisher off the list by himself or nothing will happen.

Beall’s criteria got changed little from the first edition to the second edition. The criteria were discussed on his blog primarily when they were initially published as first edition.

Other People’s Analysis

Many very critical comments can be found under Beall’s posts of the criteria. David Solomon, a professor in the department of medicine at Michigan State University and a founding member of OASPA concludes his comment with respect to Beall’s criteria: “I think you [Beall] have made your point but it is either time to do something constructive or quit this nonsense.” More detailed comments: Lars Juhl Jensen: Comment; Dirk Pons: Comment.

“… Beall acting as prosecutor, judge and jury on who’s predatory and who’s not … Recent posts have made it clear that Beall’s own criteria are all that matter: He’s the one-man authority on predatory — but only predatory OA — publishing. Remarkably, hundreds if
not thousands of librarians and others seem to take Beall’s word as gospel.” (Crawford 2014a)

Bjoernshauge (2014) about Beall´s list:

  • Maintained by one (1) person, a serials librarian
  • with remarkable ignorance about just serials
  • who explicitly dislike OA and
  • operates as prosecutor, judge and jury
  •  …

“My primary conclusion is that Beall’s lists constitute a sideshow full of distorting mirrors, having little or nothing to do with OA as a whole except to serve as a platform for Beall to take potshots at OA. I believe the lists should be ignored.” (Crawford 2014b)

SCIRP’s Initiative

No matter if justified or not, Beall’s critique has initiated activities in publishers’ pursuit for continous improvements. SCIRP has invited Beall to come to Wuhan to SCIRP’s offices and Principal Place of Business. Maybe a discussion over coffee or tea will make a difference.

What Beall Really Thinks about Open Access Publishing

Beall’s tripleC Article

There is a famous publication where Beall speaks out what he really thinks about Open Access publishing:

BEAL, Jeffrey, 2013: The Open-Access Movement is Not Really about Open-Access. tripleC : Communication, Capitalism & Critique, vol. 11, no. 2 (2013), pp. 589-597 [non peer-reviewd comment]. Available from: http://triplec.at/index.php/tripleC/article/view/525

It is interesting to read in this publication. The best pieces get quoted here:

I am an academic crime fighter.
(Compare with the title of this blog post!)

I am here to set the record straight.

predatory publishers, the focus of my research

The open-access movement is a failed social movement and a false messiah, but its promoters refuse to admit this.

The open-access movement is a Euro-dominant one, a neo-colonial attempt to cast scholarly communication policy according to the aspirations of a cliquish minority of European collectivists.

This kind of [OA] movement, a movement to replace a free market with an artificial and highly regulated one, rarely succeeds. In fact, the gold open-access model actually incentivizes corruption, which speed the path to failure.

The open-access movement is really about anti-corporatism.

The real goal of the open access movement is to kill off the for-profit publishers and make scholarly publishing a cooperative and socialistic enterprise.

the open-access movement isn’t really about making content open-access; it’s really about shutting down journal publishers.

Virtually all the publishers and journals on my lists have devoted no resources to digital preservation nor do they have a business plan or strategy for it. 

Open-access advocates are polemics; they have an “us versus them” mentality and see traditional publishers as the bad guys.

They do not respect the freedom of the press when the free press doesn’t adopt their collectivist values.

OA advocates want to make collective everything and eliminate private business 

OA advocates … have a large portfolio of mutual funds in their retirement account.

OA advocates … have … high-salaried comfortable positions.

 

Criticism of Beall’s tripleC Article

So much about Beall’s campaign. If you now wonder: “Something is awkward here, only I do not know exactly what.” Read the rebuttal from Bivens-Tatum (2014). The bottom line from this rebuttal is:

“the argument [from Beall] fails because the sweeping generalizations with no supporting evidence render it unsound.”

“argument fails because its improperly distributed terms when in syllogistic form render it invalid.”

Beall was also criticized for his views by Esposito (2013) and Eisen (2013).

Does Beall Publish Open Access in Accordance with His Own Criteria?

We make the test based on the journal “tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique”. Beall published in this Open Access journal as detailed above. The journal does not charge author fees. Beall supports journals when “publication costs [are] supported by volunteer work and benevolent funders” and adds: “… but it’s not sustainable … The only truly successful model that I have seen is the traditional publishing model.“ (Elliot 2012)

tripleC” fails on some of Beall’s Primary Criteria (predatory criteria):

  • Fails on 1.1.1: The publisher is identified as the editor of the one journal published.
  • Fails on 1.2.1: Demonstrates a lack of transparency in publishing operations because it does not declare where the money is coming from to run the journal.
  • Fails on 1.2.3: The journal publishes no business plan (see also 1.2.1)
  • Fails on 1.4.4: Does no copyediting. It asks authors to use the layout template and to take full responsibility for their own proofreading.

Critical observations in line with Beall’s Secondary Criteria:

  • The journal does not use DOIs.
  • The journal confuses copyright and reuse rights: „Contributors to tripleC retain rights in their works because we use a (by-nc-nd) Creative Commons license“.
  • The journal does not specify the CC license correctly in the PDF.
  • The publisher lacks a published article retraction policy.

If Beall is so critical about Open Access journals, how can it be that he overlooks so many points from his criteria when selecting a journal for his own Open Access publication?

Any help from OASPA or DOAJ?

OASPA could be viewed as little more than a cosy club of predominantly Western-based publishers more focused on maintaining their dominance of the scholarly publishing industry than embracing the new publishers that are emerging from the developing world, or of helping them to learn about and conform to world-class scholarly publishing standards. Certainly, OASPA has demonstrated little interest in addressing the problems posed by predatory publishers.” (Poynder 2013)

OASPA was asked to start a discussion with a blog post about “blacklisting versus whitelisting”, but could not make up its mind to do so.

“new [DOAJ] management will presumably need to remove some of the journals in its database. This would likely spark further guerrilla warfare, or at least angry exchanges and bad feeling. Moreover, it would still appear to leave OA publishers in an undesirable binary world of good and bad. Either they are in the DOAJ, or they are out of it. And since the DOAJ is a Western-based initiative, suspicions will surely remain that the process is discriminatory.” (Poynder 2013)

DOAJ is taking a clear position: “Our ambition: DOAJ to be the white list! and make other lists superfluous – that is: if a journal is in the DOAJ it complies with accepted standards” (Bjoernshauge 2014)

Let’s see if there is help from OASPA and DOAJ and an objective and fair evaluation. Let’s hope for it!

Conclusions and Recommendations

Beall’s has never obtained formal training in doing self-guided research. He is doing his “research” as an autodidact. Based on his article in tripleC (Beal 2013) Bivens-Tatum (2014) proved that Beal is not capable (or willing) of logical conclusions. His criteria to assess publishers are questionable. Beall does not specify how his criteria are applied to come to a verdict about a publisher. His own application of his criteria with respect to publishers is non-existent (or hidden). His verdict “predatory” is libel for the vast majority of publishers on his list who are not guilty of criminal activities. At the same time Beall is mocking also all hard working authors, reviewers, editors, and staff of all decent publishers on his list.

Publishers have a responsibility to protect the reputation of their authors, reviewers, editors, and staff. A lawsuit against Beall will be complicated, lengthy, and costly. He will point to the Freedom of Speech. Although defamation is not covered by Freedom of Speech, Beall will probably get away with his insertion “potential, possible, or probable” before “predatory scholarly open-access publishers”.

For reasons as given above, SCIRP is asking all academics at universities, in research labs, in industry, and in scholarly publishing to stick to these rules:

  • Replace the term “predatory” by “questionable” when referring to publishers which are not fulfilling your minimum requirements.
  • Do not refer to Beall’s blacklisting criteria. Instead refer to the whitelisting criteria established by DOAJ, OASPA, COPE, and WAME.
  • Do not refer to Beall’s blacklist of publishers and journals. Be patient and wait for DOAJ’s whitelist. In the mean time look at the whitelisting criteria and decide for yourself.

References

BEAL, Jeffrey, 2013: The Open-Access Movement is Not Really about Open-Access. tripleC : Communication, Capitalism & Critique, vol. 11, no. 2 (2013), pp. 589-597 [non peer-reviewd comment]. Available from: http://triplec.at/index.php/tripleC/article/view/525

BIVENS-TATUM, Wayne, 2014: Reactionary Rhetoric Against Open Access Publishing. tripleC : Communication, Capitalism & Critique, vol. 12, no. 2 (2014), pp. 441–446 [non peer-reviewd comment]. Available from: http://www.triple-c.at/index.php/tripleC/article/view/617/574

BJOERNSHAUGE, Lars, 2014: About questionable publishers (Meeting of the National Scholarly Editors’ Forum, Sourth Africa, Cape Town, 2014-07-30). Available from:
http://de.slideshare.net/doaj/lars-nsef-meeting-cape-town-july-30th-2014

CRAWFORD, Walt, 2014a: Ethics and Access 1: The Sad Case of Jeffrey Beall. Cites & Insights, vol. 14, no. 4, pp. 1-22. Available from: http://citesandinsights.info/civ14i4.pdf

CRAWFORD, Walt, 2014b: Journals, “Journals” and Wannabes: Investigating The List. In: Cites & Insights, vol. 14, no. 7, pp. 1-24. Available from: http://citesandinsights.info/civ14i7.pdf

EISEN, Michael, 2013: Beall’s Litter. it is NOT junk, 2013-12-14 [blog post]. Available from: http://www.michaeleisen.org/blog/?p=1500

ELLIOTT, Carl, 2012: On Predatory Publishers: A Q&A with Jeffrey Beall. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Brainstorm, 2012-06-05 [blog post]. Available from: http://chronicle.com/blogs/brainstorm/on-predatory-publishers-a-qa-with-jeffrey-beall/47667

ESPOSITO, Joseph, 2013: Parting Company with Jeffrey Beall. The Scholarly Kitchen, 2013-12-16 [blog post]. Available from: http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2013/12/16/parting-company-with-jeffrey-beall

POYNDER, Richard, 2013: The OA Interviews: Ashry Aly of Ashdin Publishing. 2013-01-17. Available from: http://poynder.blogspot.de/2013/01/the-oa-interviews-ashry-aly-of-ashdin.html

Follow the whitelist not a blacklist!
Follow the whitelist not a blacklist!

Graphic courtesy of Alwaleed Alkhaja produced during COASP Asia, Bangkok, Thailand, 2-3 June 2014 and distributed via Twitter.

About scirp

(SCIRP: http://www.scirp.org) is an academic publisher of open access journals. It also publishes academic books and conference proceedings. SCIRP currently has more than 200 open access journals in the areas of science, technology and medicine. Readers can download papers for free and enjoy reuse rights based on a Creative Commons license. Authors hold copyright with no restrictions. SCIRP calculates different metrics on article and journal level. Citations of published papers are shown based on Google Scholar and CrossRef. Most of our journals have been indexed by several world class databases. All papers are archived by PORTICO to guarantee their availability for centuries to come.
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