Sad Ending? Jeffrey Beall’s Blog was shut down

On 15th of January 2017, it has come to our attention that Jeffrey Beall’s blog ( was shut down for  unknown reasons. It could be due to lawsuit of US government or simply someone might have hacked it. Whatever it is, his attempt and movement, in general, have been questioned by leading scholars around the world (see previous posts on this blog) and his personal views and opinion are not favored anymore. In lieu of this, people, universities and institutes  would prefer to rely on consolidated lists released by organizations such as DOAJ, SCOPUS, Thomson Reuters,PubMed (Medline) and other leading indexing services. A journal/publisher would be a potential venue for publication if their ethical practice has been approved by COPE or any other similar organizations. ( for further info see: Choose the right journal for your research=]

Update 1.

It seems that the shutdown of Beall’s blog has become a hot issue on twittter today (#Jeffrey Beall – Some have expressed their concerns on mysterious disappearance  of the blog and its content, others are worried  and not comfortable about the announcement we made. Nevertheless, it is quite peculiar to see that no one is asking about Jeffrey himself, which is our utmost concern at the present time. We never consider him as a foe, rather someone who has devoted most of his life to disclose the fact behind publishing, be it open access or pay toll journals, though his approach is not professional and have been challenged over the time. Regardless of his strong positions (right/wrong), he is a human being and the academia owes him too much. It is suggested that people should start asking where he is. Is he safe? why does not he respond? What has happened to him? Attempts have to be made to discover the fact very soon, if you claim to be a true follower of him. There are dozens of copies of his blog on the internet and it is unnecessary to dig and republish them. What matters now, we believe, is Jeffrey  himself.

Update 2.

@Lacey E. Earle @CabellsPublish: Jeffrey Beall, whom we all we know very well, is not someone to be afraid of threats. Lots of them have already been around for the past few years. (see legal threats, Everyone must stop speculations and convey the facts, if they can. “Cabell’s is in no way involved”  has already been tweeted. Completely opposing views, however. Interestingly no further insights are given.

Vanishing mysteriously and simply wiping out  the blog, facebook account and the academic profile is not what academicians were expecting to face all of a sudden. So many have trusted him and used his lists, but it sounds all have been in vein. What is the distinction between Beall’s lists and those unethical journals which have gone dark over a night. He is an only individual, perhaps does not believe in teamwork, behind the operation and ostensibly an individual-based work won’t last too long. It was crystal-clear that a single handed  challenging work (partially illegitimate and biased) through sever attacks on individuals, journals and publisher along with unfounded and baseless allegations and harsh tones (regardless of OA/Subscribed) won’t go too far. No guarantee and No warranty!

@A truly wonderful analogy, Disappearance of MH370 vs. Jeffrey Beall

All are impatiently waiting for him to drop a line and respond to clear off the baffling situation.

Update 3.

‘CU Denver spokesperson told ScienceInsider that Beall made a “personal decision” to take down his list’. So if the establishment and managing the the list was for personal reasons, opinions and  views were personal, and finally the shutdown was due to personal decision, why would the public be concerned about the disappearance of his blog? The academia might have been fooled to some extent by trusting him.

Update 4.

While Jeffrey Beall’s Blog is down and there is no reaction from his side (some expected to see his immediate reflection from his Twitter account) , we decided to list out probable  reasons why Beall’s list (questionable journals/publishers) should not have been considered seriously and subsequently it should not be used as a reference point any more in the future.

At this point the cause of shutdown is not clear, but many believe the lawsuits prompted the shutdown and this makes room for alternative organizations like OASAP and DOAJ to lead the mission properly. For now, it is advisable to consult with before submitting a paper for review and publication.

However, his hijacked journal’s list and the list of misleading metrics are still admirable.

Some reasons;

  1. J. Beall has constantly blamed the publishers/journals on his list that there is only one single person behind them and he/she manager everything on the journals. This same claim is true for us to raise at the moment. Jeffrey Beall was an only person behind his blog, acting ac a cop to OA journals/publishers and never considered anyone’s else comments. His appeal page was for a show merely. He had pointed out that content of his blog are personal views. In doing so, do you think personal views should be entertained?
  2. One of the items in his criteria for journal/publisher evaluation was ‘digital archiving policy of journal/publisher’. What about his own blog? He would have a secondary source for a rainy day if he was right. Now, an opportunity has been created for everyone to exploit his list and offer a new list, like this one;
  3. Criticizing OA journals with any model in any filed was out of his capability. He wanted to be Jack of all trade. (Read more
  4. J. Beall never respected the organizations to which their mission was to evaluate and assessed the quality of the journals and their content.

Update 5.”reported that Beall doubles down.. Predatory blog shutdown

Jeffrey Beall will be criminally prosecuted in USA for fraud, extortion, bribery and money laundering shutdown. No information where about predatory Blogger Beall
Predatory Blogger, Beall’s university profile is also gone.
Predatory blogger Beall created own his criterions and directed alot of false claims, causing tremendous injury, personal and professional, to countless numbers of individuals, publishers and organizations. He should be made to release the full content of every blog post he ever published, because that information was in the public domain. So, by suddenly removing all information, he has not only acted cowardly, but irresponsibly.


Our stance

One of the missions of this blog is to share reflections on Beall’s movement and we basically document these reactions and republish them. All published posts are acknowledged by providing the source of information beneath the post. This blog has no intention to project itself as an anti-Beall activist.

Disclaimer and Source:
 We have no connection with the mysterious disappearance of him or his blog and the source of knowing the shutdown of the blog is personal observation of Beall’s Blog and early tweets.



Beall’s List: List of Hijacked Journals & Misleading Metric Companies

Despite the mission an vision of this blog and partial disagreement with  Beall’s views, we decided to maintain a copy of latest updated list. Indeed it was a huge contribution of him to publishing integrity. At times, we will continue and  update the list.

Source:”Beall, J.2016″.

Published under CC-BY.

Misleading Metrics

This is a list of questionable companies that purport to provide valid scholarly metrics at the researcher, article, or journal level.
Last updated: November 3, 2016
Criteria for Determining Misleading Metrics
  1. The website for the metric is nontransparent and provides little information about itself such as location, management team and its experience, other company information, and the like
  2. The company charges journals for inclusion in the list.
  3. The values (scores) for most or all of the journals on the list increase each year.
  4. The company uses Google Scholar as its database for calculating metrics (Google Scholar does not screen for quality and indexes predatory journals)
  5. The metric uses the term “impact factor” in its name.
  6. The methodology for calculating the value is contrived, unscientific, or unoriginal.
  7. The company exists solely for the purpose of earning money from questionable journals that use the gold open-access model. The company charges the journals and assigns them a value, and then the journals use the number to help increase article submissions and therefore revenue. Alternatively, the company exists as a front for an existing publisher and assigns values to that publisher’s journals.

Hijacked Journals

“Sometimes someone will create a counterfeit website that pretends to be the website of a legitimate scholarly journal. The website creators then solicit manuscript submissions for the hijacked version of the journal, pocketing the money. In some cases the legitimate versions of the journals are only published in print form and they may not have websites.
In the table below, the hijacked journal is listed in the left column; the corresponding authentic version of the journal is on the right.  In cases where no website can be found for the original journal, a link is made to a bibliographic record for the journal.”
Hijacked Journal Authentic Journal
ACADEMIE ROYALE DES SCIENCES D OUTRE-MER BULLETIN DES SEANCES Bulletin des séances- Académie royale des sciences d’outre-mer
Acoreana Journal (Journal of Acoreana) Açoreana: revista de estudos açoreanos
Acta Bioethica Acta Bioethica
ACTA CIRURGICA BRASILEIRA Acta cirúrgica Brasileira
Afinidad Afinidad
AIMS Report Journal AIMS report
The Journal of Albertiana Albertiana
Amoeba Journal Amoeba: NJN-mededelingenblad
Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciências Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciências
Anare Research Notes ANARE Research Notes
Journal Andamios Andamios, Revista de Investigación Social
Archives des Sciences Archives des Sciences
Aula Orientalis Aula Orientalis
Ayer Also here Ayer: Revista de Historia Contemporánea
Baltica Journal Baltica
BEITRAEGE ZUM NATURSCHUTZ IN DER SCHWEIZ(Switzerland Nature) Beiträge zum Naturschutz in der Schweiz
Blue Jay Journal Blue jay
Bothalia Journal Bothalia – African Biodiversity & Conservation
Bradleya Bradleya
Buletin Teknologi Tanaman also here Buletin Teknologi Tanaman
Bulletin of the Georgian National Academy of Sciences Bulletin of the Georgian National Academy of Sciences
Busqueret Es Busqueret
Cahiers des sciences naturelles Les cahiers des sciences naturelles
CAHIERS DE PAIOLIVE Les Cahiers de Païolive
Chemical and Process Engineering Chemical and Process Engineering
Chemical Modelling Journal Chemical Modelling: Applications and Theory
Ciência e técnica Ciência e técnica vitivinícola
Comptes rendus de l’Académie bulgare des Sciences Comptes rendus de l’Académie bulgare des Sciences
Contributions in Science Contributions in Science
Doriana Doriana : supplemento agli Annali del Museo civico di storia naturale “G. Doria.”
DU Journal Published By Verlad Niggli AG (VNA) Du
Education Journal Education
Electronics Information & Planning Electronics information & planning
Emergencias Emergencias
Ephemera Also here. Ephemera: revue d’éphéméroptérologie
Epistemologia Epistemologia
FAUNA ROSSII I SOPREDEL NYKH STRAN Fauna Rossii i sopredelʹnykh stran
GAIA-ATHENS Journal Gaia
GAZI UNIVERTESI GAZI EGITIM FAKULTESI journal Gazi University Journal of Gazi Educational Faculty
GMP Review GMP Review
Hermes Journal France Hermès
Hospital Materials Management Hospital material$ management
HFSP JOURNAL HFSP journal: frontiers of interdisciplinary research in the life sciences
Iheringia Série Botânica Iheringia. Série botânica
Journal of Information System Management Information Systems Management
Interciencia Association Interciencia
International Journal of Academic Research (IJAR) International Journal of Academic Research
International Journal of Game Theory International Journal of Game Theory
International Review of Social Psychology La Revue internationale de psychologie sociale
JNCC REPORT JNCC report series
Journal of Engineering Technology (JoET) Journal of Engineering Technology (JET)
Journal of Information System[s] Management Information Systems Management
Journal of Psychology and Theology Journal of Psychology & Theology
JOURNAL OF RENEWABLE NATURAL RESOURCES BHUTAN Journal of renewable natural resources, Bhutan
Journal of Technology Journal of Technology
Jokull Journal Jökull
JNSS: Journal Namibia Scientific Society Journal / Namibia Scientific Society
Jurnal akademik: Indonesia Academic Journal Jurnal akademik
Kasmera Journal (Revista Kasmera) Kasmera
LUDUS VITALIS Ludus vitalis: revista de filosofía de las ciencias de la vida
MAGNT Research Report MAGNT Research Report
Martinia Martinia: bulletin de liaison des Odonatologues de France
Meanjin Meanjin
Mitteilungen Klosterneuburg Mitteilungen Klosterneuburg
Nationalpark Berchtesgaden Forschungsbericht Nationalpark Berchtesgaden: Forschungsberichte
Nationalpark-Forschung in der Schweiz Nationalpark-Forschung in der Schweiz
The Naturalist Journal The Naturalist
Nautilus Journal The Nautilus
Natura Natura: orgaan der Nederlandsche Natuurhistorische Vereeniging
Odjeljenje prirodnih nauka
Odonatological Abstract Service Odonatological abstract service
OTECHESTVENNAYA ISTORIYA Journal Российская история = Rossiĭskai︠a︡ istorii︠a︡
Pensee La Pensée
PHILIPPINE SCIENTIST Philippine scientist
Ponte: International Scientific Researches Journal Il ponte: rivista mensile
PraeParator Der Präparator
PHYTON Annales Rei Botanicae Phyton: annales rei botanicae
Recht & Psychiatrie Recht & Psychiatrie
Reef Resources Assessment and Management Technical Paper Reef resources assessment and management: technical paper
Research-Technology Management(Res Tech Manag) Research-Technology Management(RTM)
The Revista Brasileira de Medicina do Esporte Revista Brasileira de Medicina do Esporte
SALMAGUNDI Salmagundi: a quarterly of the humanities & social sciences
Revista Técnica de la Facultad de Ingeniería Universidad del Zulia Revista Técnica de la Facultad de Ingeniería. Universidad del Zulia
Saussurea Saussurea, journal de la Société botanique de Genève
SCANDIA Scandia: Tidskrift för historisk forskning
Scientia Guaianae Scientia Guaianae : a series on natural sciences of the Guayana region
Scientific Khyber Scientific khyber
Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal
South African Journal of Business Management also here South African Journal of Business Management
Survey Methodology Survey Methodology
Sylwan (English ed.) Sylwan
Systems science journal Systems science
TECH REV: Technology Review journal MIT Technology Review
TERAPEVTICHESKII ARKHIV Terapevticheskiĭ arkhiv
Transactions of the Natural History Society of Northumbria Transactions of the Natural History Society of Northumbria
Transylvanian Review Transylvanian Review
Veliger The Veliger
VERIFICHE Verifiche: Rivista di scienze umane
VITAE-REVISTA DE LA FACULTAD DE QUIMICA FARMACEUTICA Vitae, la revista de la Facultad de Química Farmacéutica
Walia Journal Walia, journal of the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society
WIWO Report WIWO report
Wulfenia, Wulfenia Wulfenia




Beyond Beall’s List: We need a better understanding of predatory publishing without overstating its size and danger.

Although predatory publishers predate open access, their recent explosion was expedited by the emergence of fee-charging OA journals. Monica Berger and Jill Cirasella argue that librarians can play an important role in helping researchers to avoid becoming prey. But there remains ambiguity over what makes a publisher predatory. Librarians can help to counteract the misconceptions and alarmism that stymie the acceptance of OA.

If you have even a fleeting interest in the evolving landscape of scholarly communication, you’ve probably heard of predatory open access (OA) journals. These are OA journals that exist for the sole purpose of profit, not the dissemination of high-quality research findings and furtherance of knowledge. These predators generate profits by charging author fees, also known as article processing charges (APCs), that far exceed the cost of running their low-quality, fly-by-night operations.

Charging a fee is not itself a marker of a predatory publisher: many reputable OA journals use APCs to cover costs, especially in fields where research is often funded by grants. (Many subscription-based journals also charge authors fees, sometimes per page or illustration.) However, predatory journals are primarily fee-collecting operations—they exist for that purpose and only incidentally publish articles, generally without rigorous peer review, despite claims to the contrary.

Of course, low-quality publishing is not new. There have long been opportunistic publishers (e.g., vanity presses and sellers of public domain content) and deceptive publishing practices (e.g., yellow journalism and advertisements formatted to look like articles). It is also not unique to OA journals. There are many mediocre subscription-based journals, and even respected subscription-based journals have accepted deeply problematic submissions (e.g., Andrew Wakefield et al.’s article linking autism to vaccines in The Lancet and Alan Sokal’s nonsense article in Social Text).

Although predatory publishers predate OA, their recent explosion was expedited by the emergence and success of fee-charging OA journals. No matter how strong our urge to support and defend OA, librarians cannot deny the profusion of predators in the OA arena; John Bohannon’s recent “sting” made abundantly clear (despite methodological flaws) that there are many bad actors. Rather, we should seek to understand their methods, track their evolution, and communicate their characteristics to our patrons.

Blacklists, whitelists, and other defenses against predatory publishers

The highest-profile watchdog of predatory publishers is Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado-Denver, who curates a blacklist of “potential, possible, or probable” predatory OA publishersand journals. Beall’s list has become a go-to tool and has even been featured in The New York Timesbut it is not the final word on predatory publishing, partially because Beall himself has a complicated, and not entirely supportive, attitude toward OA in general.

Without a doubt, Beall has amassed considerable knowledge and greatly increased awareness of predatory publishing. He is recognized as a leading expert and has gone largely unchallenged, probably both because nonexperts are eager for blacklists that seemingly obviate the need for individual analysis of publishers and journals, and because little empirical research has been done on the phenomenon of predatory publishing. However, in 2014, Walt Crawford took Beall to task in an article called “Ethics and Access 1: The Sad Case of Jeffrey Beall.

Crawford criticizes Beall for not contextualizing predatory or low-quality publishing as a phenomenon that predates OA and is not exclusive to OA journals. He also points out that Beall favors toll-access publishers, specifically Elsevier, praising its “consistent high quality.” However, a simple Google search for “fake Elsevier journals” reveals Beall’s position as tenuous. Furthermore, Beall conflates OA journals with “author pays” journals, and reveals his skepticism, if not hostility, about OA. Politics aside, Beall’s laser-like focus on predatory publishers may prevent him from having a broader perspective on scholarly communication. Case in point: Beall has blithely declared the “serials crisis” to be over, but those of us who manage resources beg to differ.

Another concerning aspect of Beall’s work is his evaluation of OA publishers from less economically developed countries. Crawford, Karen Coyle, and Jill Emery have all noted Beall’s bias against these publishers. Imperfect English or a predominantly non-Western editorial board does not make a journal predatory. An interesting example is Hindawi, an Egyptian publisher once considered predatory that improved its practices and standards over time. If we accept that there is a continuum from devious and duplicitous to simply low-quality and amateurish, then it is likely, as Crawford believes, that some of the publishers on Beall’s list are not actually predatory. Although Beall’s contributions are arguably compromised by his attitudes about OA, the criteria he uses for his list are an excellent starting point for thinking about the hallmarks of predatory publishers and journals. He encourages thorough analysis, including scrutiny of editorial boards and business practices. Some of his red flags provide a lot of “bang for your buck” in that they are both easy to spot and likely to indicate a predatory operation. These include editors or editorial board members with no or fake academic affiliations, lack of clarity about fees, publisher names and journal titles with geographic terms that have no connection to the publisher’s physical location or journal’s geographic scope, bogus impact factor claims and invented metrics, and false claims about where the journal is indexed.

Beall also lists common practices indicative of low-quality but not necessarily predatory journals. He is rightfully wary of journals that solicit manuscripts by spamming researchers, as established publishers generally do not approach scholars, as well as publishers or editors with email addresses from Gmail, Yahoo, etc. Also, he wisely warns researchers away from journals with bizarrely broad or disjointed scopes and journals that boast extremely rapid publication, which usually suggests no or only cursory peer review.

Given the fuzziness between low-quality and predatory publishers, whitelisting, or listing publishers and journals that have been vetted and verified as satisfying certain standards, may be a better solution than blacklisting. The central player in the whitelisting movement is the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). In response to the Bohannon sting, DOAJ removed 114 journals and revamped its criteria for inclusion. Journals accepted into DOAJ after March 2014 under the stricter rules are marked with a green tick symbol, and DOAJ has announced that it will require the remaining 99% of its listed journals to reapply for acceptance.

At the basic level, a journal must be chiefly scholarly; make the content immediately available (i.e., no embargoes); provide quality control through an editor, editorial board, and peer review; have a registered International Standard Serial Number (ISSN); and exercise transparency about APCs. Journals that meet additional requirements, such as providing external archiving and creating persistent links, are recognized with the DOAJ Seal. DOAJ receives an assist from the ISSN Centre, which in 2014 added language reserving the right to deny ISSNs to publishers that provide misleading information.

An organization that whitelists publishers by accepting them as members is the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA). Members must apply and pledge to adhere to a code of conduct that disallows any form of predatory be-havior. OASPA has made errors in vetting applicants, though: it admitted some publishers that it later had to reject (e.g., Dove Medical Press).

Of course, no blacklist or whitelist can substitute for head-on investigation of a journal. Open Access Journal Quality Indicators, a rubric by Sarah Beaubien and Max Eckard featuring both positive and negative journal characteristics, can help researchers perform such evaluation. Furthermore, any tool or practice that gives researchers more information is a boon. For example, altmetrics provide a broad picture of an article’s impact (not necessarily correlated to its quality), and open peer review—i.e., any form of peer review where the reviewer’s identity is not hidden—increases transparency and allows journals to demonstrate their standards.

The role of librarians

As librarians, we need to understand the hallmarks and methods of predatory publishers for several reasons. Most obviously, we must help researchers avoid becoming prey and help readers recognize low-quality journals. In addition, we need to counteract the misconceptions and alarmism that stymie the acceptance of OA.

For example, many researchers conflate journal quality with publication model or business model, and librarians can help untangle those concepts. To do so, we must arm ourselves with clear, convincing explanations that quality and reputation are independent of openness, that OA journals do not necessarily charge fees, and that fees do not necessarily imply predatoriness. We should be ready with examples of high-quality and well-respected OA journals, as well as reassuring facts about fees (e.g., as of January 2015, 63% of journals listed in DOAJ have no fees) and efforts to marginalize predatory publishers.

Furthermore, we need to make sure that researchers understand that OA can be achieved not only through OA journals but also through self-archiving in repositories. Confusion on this point is still rampant, and too many researchers write off OA entirely because they’ve encountered suspect OA journals.

Clarifying the two approaches can reengage these researchers with the prospect of opening scholarly literature. Of course, it is always strategic to explain the benefits of OA in general, including increased readership and citations. In other words, we need to be able to describe the beast, its implications, and its limitations—neither understating nor overstating its size and danger. By informing ourselves and our patrons, we not only counter confusion about OA journal publishing but also help starve predators and therefore contribute to the future of scholarly communication.

More broadly, librarians play an important role as participants in blacklisting, whitelisting, and other projects endeavoring to deter predatory publishers and promote best practices. We are key stakeholders in scholarly and professional conversations reimagining various aspects of scholarly communication.

This originally appeared in the March 2015 issue of College and Research Libraries NewsBerger, Monica, and Jill Cirasella. “Beyond Beall’s List: Better Understanding Predatory Publishers.” College & Research Libraries News 76.3 (2015): 132-5. This article is reprinted with the authors’ permission.

Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of the Impact of Social Science blog, nor of the London School of Economics. Please review our Comments Policy if you have any concerns on posting a comment below.

About the Authors

Monica Berger is Associate Professor and Electronic Resources and Technical Services Librarian at New York City College of Technology, CUNY. Her academic interests include scholarly communications as well as popular music.

Jill Cirasella is the Associate Librarian for Public Services and Scholarly Communication at the Graduate Center CUNY, where she leads numerous scholarly communications initiatives, including the GC’s new institutional repository, Academic Works. Jill is a vocal advocate of open access and seeks to promote understanding and adoption of open access at CUNY and beyond.

Finding Reputable Open Access Journals

You have three options when choosing to make your work open:

  • Publish in an explicitly open access journal, which might involve paying article processing charges (APC)—a fee that is commonly used to offset the lack of a paid subscription to support the journal.
  • Publish in a hybrid journal that uses both open access and subscription models for making its content available to readers. APCs for these journals can be just as high (if not higher) than OA-only journals. High-profile journals and publishers in a number of disciplines are developing hybrid options for authors who either choose (or are required to because of funding mandates) to make their work open.
  • Publish in a traditional subscription journal, and either negotiate to retain some rights to your work, or self-archive a pre-print of your article in your institutional or disciplinary repository.

All three options will allow you to share some version of your work with the wider world. However, your decision will likely depend on two key factors:

  • Amount you are willing or able to pay (either out of pocket or via research funds) to publish your article.
  • Importance of publishing in particular kinds of publication venues for the purposes of securing tenure or promotion.

This combination of factors can produce many different results. For example, early-career scholars often have access to fewer research funds or grants to cover publication charges, and often feel pressure to publish in particular journals in order to satisfy tenure requirements. These individuals might choose to publish in a subscription journal and make use of other means to provide access to their work. Scholars who work with translational research and who want to ensure their materials will be available to communities beyond the academy might choose an open access journal to ensure the broadest possible access to their work, regardless of fees. Some researchers might have publication requirements imposed upon them by funding agencies, mandating that they share their work openly in accordance with the funder’s rules. It’s even possible that a top journal in your field might have very author-friendly agreements, allowing you to publish your work in accordance with open access principles without having to compromise on your need (or desire) to have it appear in a particular journal.

The most important thing to remember is that there are many ways to make your work open. Choose the method that works for you and your co-authors.

In order to make an informed decision, educate yourself about the default copyright policies of any journals you are considering as publication venues. It’s possible they have author-friendly policies already. If you have received funds to support your research, educate yourself about any mandates or conditions upon receipt of those funds. It’s possible your funding agency has requirements for publishing that you weren’t aware of previously. If you need help finding an appropriate publication venue, consult a librarian in your field.


A Response to Jeffrey Beall’s Critique of Open Access


I recently became a member of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and today was dismayed to see Jeffrey Beall’s article What the Open-Access Movement Doesn’t Want You to Know in the latest issue of its journal, Academe. (I joined because as a member of Virginia Tech’s Faculty Senate, AAUP has been helpful in advising us on increasing the role of Faculty Senate in university governance.)

For those who may not know, Jeffrey Beall is a librarian at the University of Colorado-Denver, and through his blog Scholarly Open Access exposes academic “predatory publishers” (pay-to-publish scams that perform little to no peer review) and other sketchy doings in academic publishing. While this is a tremendous service to the scholarly community, he has unfairly blamed these problems on open access as a whole. It became apparent just how off the rails Beall had gone when he published The Open-Access Movement is Not Really about Open Access in the journal TripleC (in the non-peer reviewed section; also see Michael Eisen’s response, Beall’s Litter). If you enjoy right-wing nuttiness (yes, George Soros is involved) you really should read it.

Beall’s critiques of open access are not always as factual as they could be, so as an open access advocate I am concerned when his polemics are presented to an academic audience that may not know all the facts. So below is my response to selections from his article:

The open-access movement has been around for more than a dozen years

Actually it has been around longer than that- Stevan Harnad made his “subversive proposal” in 1994 on a Virginia Tech email list.

The open-access movement is a coalition that aims to bring down the traditional scholarly publishing industry and replace it with voluntarism and server space subsidized by academic libraries and other nonprofits. It is concerned more with the destruction of existing institutions than with the construction of new and better ones.

This 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.

The 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).

There 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.

It’s hard to argue against “free”—and free access is the chief selling point of open-access publishing…

Actually 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.

In the so-called gold open-access model, authors are charged a fee, called the “article processing charge,” upon acceptance of a manuscript.

This 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.

Some 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 the readers.

“Platinum” 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.

A third variety of open-access publishing, often labeled as green open access, is based in academic libraries…

Lots 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

…the 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.

Maybe 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.

Despite sometimes onerous mandates, however, many authors are reluctant to submit their postprints to repositories.

This 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.

Moreover, the green open-access model mostly eliminates all the value added that scholarly publishers provide, such as copyediting and long-term digital preservation.

Most 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.

The 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.

This 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 access journals.

When authors become the customers in scholarly communication, those with the least funds are effectively prevented from participating; there is a bias against the underfunded.

Many 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.

Subscription journals have never discriminated on the basis of an author’s ability to pay an article-processing charge.

No, they just discriminate against libraries.

Gold open access devalues the role of the consumer in scholarly research… Open access is making readers secondary players in the scholarly communication process.

This 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 paid for.

In 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!

If 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.

Again- 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 publishing).

Open-access 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.

Once 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.

…the 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.

There 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 available.

The era of merit in scholarly publishing is ending; the era of money has begun.

Another 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.

Most 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.

As opposed to subscription journals, most of which which compel authors to transfer their copyright? Many open access journals allow authors to retain copyright.

Under 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.

Wouldn’t 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 all-rights-reserved copyright.

Scholarly open-access publishing has made many tens of thousands of scholarly articles freely available, but more information is not necessarily better information.

I don’t think anyone has ever claimed this. Even if there were only subscription journals, there would be new journals and more articles published.

Predatory journals threaten to bring down the whole cumulative system of scholarly communication…

I think there may be some exaggeration here.

In the long term, the open-access movement will be seen as an ephemeral social cause that tried and failed to topple an industry.

Open 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.

Be wary of predatory publishers…

Finally, something we can agree on!


Open Access “Sting” Reveals Deception, Missed Opportunities

On Thursday, Science journalist John Bohannon (some of you will recognize his work organizing the annual “Dance Your PhD” Contest) released the findings of the largest studyof the peer review systems of open access journals, and it didn’t look good: The majority of publishers tested in his study accepted a bogus scientific paper, most with little (if any) peer review.

Critics of the investigation were quick to point out that the experiment lacked a control group–a group of subscription based journals to which the open access journal group could serve as a comparison. The lack of a control means that it is impossible to say that open access journals, as a group, do a worse job vetting the scientific literature than those operating under a subscription-access model. The study does reveal that many of the new publishers conduct peer review badly, some deceptively, and there is a geographic pattern in where new open access publishers are located.

Some critics assailed Bohannon (and Science) for undertaking such a study in the first place, accusing Bohannon of “drawing the flagrantly unsupported concluding [sic] that open-access publishing is flawed,” using the opportunity to come up with an equally unsubstantiated conclusion, that “peer review is a joke,” or arguing that by publishing the piece, Science failed in properly conducting its own peer review (ignoring the fact that Bohannon’s article was a piece of investigative journalism published in a Special News section). Science does indeed give the article credibility, inasmuch as Nature and The Lancet and Physics Today conveys credibility upon news reported by its journalists.

While I agree that Bohannon missed a great opportunity to include a control group in his study, this is not grounds to dismiss his investigation completely. Previous attempts to unearth unscrupulous publishers or a flawed peer review process provided little more than anecdotal evidence. Bohannon approached and documented his investigation systematically, and while the lack of a control group clearly limits what can be concluded from his study, much can be learned.

First, there is evidence that a large number of open access publishers are willfully deceiving readers and authors that articles published in their journals passed through a peer review process–or any review for that matter. It is simply not enough to declare that a journal abides by a rigorous review process.

Similarly, the results show that neither the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), nor Beall’s List  are accurate in detecting which journals are likely to provide peer review. In spite of an editorial and advisory board on the DOAJ, nearly half (45%) of the journals that received the bogus manuscript accepted it for publication. And while Bohannon reports that Beall was good at spotting publishers with poor quality control (82% of publishers on his list accepted the manuscript). That means that Beall is falsely accusing nearly one in five as being a “potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open access publisher” on appearances alone.

It would be unfair to conclude from Bohannon’s work that open access publishers, as a class, are untrustworthy and provide little (or no) quality assurance through peer review, only that there are a lot of them, their numbers are growing very quickly and that many willfully deceive authors and readers with false promises, descriptions copied verbatim from successful journals, and fake contact information. Bohannon refers to this new landscape as an “emerging Wild West in academic publishing.”

New frontiers eventually become tame when groups of civil-minded individuals get together to develop laws and norms of good conduct. In the publishing world, there are organizations like COPE (Committee on Publication Ethics), and OASPA (Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association), both of whom include, as members, several of the deceptive publishers revealed in Bohannan’s investigation.  The real test will be to see how these membership organizations react to the investigation. If they are to uphold their credibility, they will need to censure and delist the offenders until they can provide evidence that they are abiding by the guidelines of their organization. This means stripping these publishers of the logos many display proudly on their web pages.

It also means that the DOAJ, if it is to remain a directory of open access journals that uses a “quality control system to guarantee the content” must provide stricter guidelines and require evidence that publishers are doing what they purport to be doing. The DOAJ may also require independent auditing to periodically verify a publisher’s claims. It is simply not enough to take promises of quality control on word alone. Finally, it means that librarian, Jeffrey Beall, should reconsider listing publishers on his “predatory” list until he has evidence of wrongdoing. Being mislabeled as a “potential, possible, or probable predatory publisher” by circumstantial evidence alone is like the sheriff of a Wild West town throwing a cowboy into jail just ‘cuz he’s a little funny lookin.’

Civility requires due process.


Should We Retire the Term “Predatory Publishing”?

Recently I was reading the latest installment in Richard Poynder’s frequently-excellent series of interviews with figures in the open access (OA) community, this one a joint interview with the founder and the Chief Production Officer of MDPI, an OA publisher whose publishing practices have been variously attacked, defended, and formally examined in recent years by members of the scholarly and scientific community.

Inevitably, the various discussions of MDPI’s practices have also involved discussion of the concept of “predatory publishing,” a term that came into common usage with the establishment of Beall’s List, a famous (or notorious, depending on your perspective) clearinghouse of information on “potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers”—a category into which Beall has placed MDPI, for reasons outlined here. (MDPI’s response can be found here.)

It’s important to note that Beall uses the term “predatory” in a fairly specific way. For the purposes of his list, a “predatory” publisher is one that falls short on some or all elements of a multi-page list of criteriaof good publishing practices, many of which have to do with the publisher’s honesty (does it falsely claim editorial board members or impact factors?), business practices (does it engage in spam solicitations or steal content from reputable journals?), and transparency (does it hide author charges until after manuscript acceptance or hide its content from search engines?). Publishers that fail on these criteria are suspected of being “predatory,” then, in that they seem to be attracting revenue by deceiving their authors, their readers, and/or those trying to evaluate the scholarly achievements of their authors.

Beall’s List has been controversial since its establishment for a variety of reasons, some of them obvious (no publisher, whether legitimate or not, appreciates being publicly branded a “predator”), and some of them less so. One of the more subtle reasons for the controversy around Beall’s List lies in the fact that it focuses entirely on OA publishing. Predictably, this has aroused the ire of many in the OA community, who have accused Beall of targeting these publishers out of an animus towards OA itself—a charge to which Beall provided a fair amount of ammunition when he wrote an impassioned attack on the OA movement in the journal tripleC.

Of course, the question of whether Beall is an enemy of OA is ultimately peripheral to the question of whether his list sheds light on a real and serious problem with author-pays scholarly publishing—which, while not synonymous with OA, is highly relevant to OA, given that the majority of OA articles published each year are funded by author-side charges. That question has been debated in many forums, including the Scholarly Kitchen, and probably doesn’t need to be rehashed here. Instead I would like to discuss a different question: what do we mean when we say “predatory,” and is that term even still useful?

This question has become relevant because of that common refrain heard among Beall’s critics: that he only examines one kind of predation—the kind that naturally crops up in the context of author-pays OA. What about toll-access publishers that jump on the OA bandwagon “just… for the fees,” or who publish fake journals themselves? What about publishers who simply do an unconscionably poor job of fulfilling their obligations to authors, or who unethically leverage their monopoly power to maximize revenue at the expense of libraries—a practice some characterize as “predatory pricing”? And what about the authors who intentionally use the services of fraudulent publishers in order to deceive their colleagues or employers, or who engage in dishonest manipulation of the peer-review process? Aren’t they “predators” as well?

It may be true that these behaviors deserve exposure and shaming just as much the behaviors of those publishers branded “predatory” by Beall’s List do. The problem is, all of these behaviors are different enough from each other that I’m not sure lumping them all together under the epithet “predatory” is useful. (On whom is a lazy peer reviewer “preying”?)

So I suggest that we simply do away with the term “predatory” in the context of scholarly publishing. It’s a nice, attention-grabbing word, but I’m not sure it’s helpfully descriptive, given the wide spectrum of behaviors to which it can reasonably be applied; ultimately I think it generates more heat than light. More helpful, I think, might be simply to talk in terms of bad faith. Publishers who falsely promise peer review or lie about having an Impact Factor are operating in bad faith; so are authors who intentionally pay for (and benefit from) review and certification services they know to be fraudulent; so are peer reviewers who only pretend to do rigorous review.

I would suggest that scholarly bad faith can be expressed in multiple ways, including:

  1. Attempting to deceive authors into paying for nonexistent or shoddy editorial services
  2. Selling authors fake or meaningless credentials in order to help them deceive their peers
  3. Deceiving one’s peers by purchasing fake or meaningless publishing credentials
  4. Publishing journals or books (whether on an OA or a toll-access basis) that are presented to the marketplace as rigorous and scholarly, but consist in fact of whatever nonsense or garbage authors may wish to submit
  5. Leveraging monopoly power excessively to exact maximum revenues from academic customers
  6. Taking advantage of one’s role as, say, the certifier of academic programs to require that those programs have access to one’s commercial products
  7. Stacking a “big deal” package with weak or sub-par journals in order to inflate those journals’ usage data and/or justify otherwise indefensible price increases

Another question that sometimes arises in the context of “predatory publishing” is about real-world impact rather than intent. The line of argument often goes like this: “Sure, there are dishonest publishers out there who sell fraudulent credentials to authors, but no one with half a brain would be fooled into thinking that these publishers’ products are really serious scholarly publications. Just take a look at them, for crying out loud; they’re obvious fakes.” This may generally be true, though recent research suggests it’s not that simple. In any case, this argument misses an important point: fraudulent credentials are not usually encountered in the context of the publications that conferred them. When we’re faced with them it’s usually in the context of a CV, where the fraudulent credentials will look just like (and may actually be embedded among) legitimate ones. Fake or shoddy journals, in fact, often have titles formulated with just that kind of camouflage in mind, a tendency that Beall documents amply in his list. In other words, a citation to a fake or shoddy journal looks exactly like a citation to a real one, and this is one important aspect of the real-world danger of predatory or bad-faith scholarly publishing: the danger isn’t so much that smart and well-intentioned authors will accidentally publish with a fraudulent journal, but that busy search committees will (inevitably) fail to vet carefully every citation provided in a job candidate’s CV, and thereby accidentally hire a fraudulent scholar. Doing so can have nasty consequences for the institution’s reputation when the fraud is exposed later.

Of course, one problem with the concept of bad faith is that it addresses intentions more than actions, and the intentions of others can be pretty tough to divine. This means that in practice, bad faith ends up being, to some degree, in the eye of the beholder: there are some who see the imposition of access fees on scholarly content as an inherently bad-faith exercise, and others who see the institutional imposition of CC-BY licensing on authors as an inherently bad-faith exercise. But without knowing the thoughts and intents of those who do these things, it’s not really possible to know whether they’re operating in good or bad faith. Being wrong doesn’t mean that one is insincere or malicious, and authors can indeed be fooled by journals that go to significant lengths to hide their fraudulent intentions.

Another problem with the term “bad faith” is that it’s just not as grabby as “predatory.” But I don’t see a universally acceptable definition of that grabbier term anywhere on the horizon, and until we all agree on what it means it’s going to be difficult to have useful and constructive conversations about the problem of predation. So maybe we should let the term die.


Flawed sting operation singles out open access journals

In a sting operation, John Bohannon, a correspondent of Science, claims to have exposed dodgy open access journals. His argument seems to be that, because of their business model, some journals are biased towards accepting scientific articles, regardless of their quality. Sadly, Bohannon’s operation adds little to what we already know.

Much new knowledge, often created by the use of taxpayers’ money, is locked behind paywalls of subscription-based journals. But there is a growing movement to make this knowledge freely available. Researchers around the world are being urged to publish in open access journals, and many are seeking to do so.

Where there is demand, the market learns to supply. This has come in form of thousands of open access journal publishers. But in this rapid rise, the journal Science finds in a sting operation that many such journals will accept anything in the hope of earning some money.

For the sting operation, Bohannon confected a scientific paper and sent it to more than 300 journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals. Some of these journals were also on Beall’s list, managed by Jeffrey Beall, a library scientist at the University of Colorado, Denver, to weed out the bad ones.

More than half of those journals accepted the bogus manuscript, which was riddled with ethical approval problems and scientific anomalies. Many of these publishers misrepresented their locations. They all claimed to be peer-reviewed journals, but many of them didn’t bother to do any sort of review. A few provided reviewer comments, but agreed to publish the article even when the reviewers raised serious questions.

Bohannon claims these journals would publish anything, because in the “author pays gold model” the publisher makes money only when the article is published.

It would seem that Bohannon has neatly demonstrated a fatal flaw in open access publishing. Bohannon never explicitly compares open access model to the subscription model (in which the researcher submitting the article doesn’t pay but those reading it do), but his hypothesis seems to be that open access journals driven by publication charges will be inherently biased towards acceptance.

On the surface this looks like a potentially deadly blow to open access journals that levy Article Processing Charges (APCs). But I found some glaring problems with the article and its premises.

In short, Bohannon’s article isn’t really about open access. It’s about a flawed system of trusting journals and the inherent problems in peer review, but he targets only open access here.

Problems of this nature have been explored before. For instance, in a 1982 paper, researchers submitted articles that a journal had already published under different author names. Nearly all the submissions were rejected. Many reviewers described the manuscript as having “serious methodological flaw”.

Does Science do science?

Bohannon’s methodology in the sting operation is questionable. He goes to great lengths to concoct a bogus methodology for submission and to ensure the scientific flaws in his paper were credible. The key problem, however, lies in two sentences, tucked away in Bohannon’s coda. He writes:

Some say that the open-access model itself is not to blame for the poor quality control revealed by Science’s investigation. “If I had targeted traditional, subscription-based journals,” [David] Roos told me, “I strongly suspect you would get the same result.”

Sadly, these two sentences appear at the very end of the article. All along it seems to be an attack on open access journals. While it is not directly mentioned, the implication is “it would never happen in the subscription model”. But, given this wasn’t tested, how do we know?

Value addition in the publication process happens at the peer review stage, as most journals claim. The journals exposed were clearly not adding that value. But this value addition is the same whether the journal is open access or not.

So, why did Science publish such a clearly incomplete study? The harsh truth is that Bohannon’s article is hostile. He submitted articles only to open access journals. This omission then wrongly links the failure of deeper problems in academia to a single business model.

While he acknowledges that the top players (including the journal PLOS ONE) provided rigorous review, Bohannon submitted his bogus paper mostly to poor journals. They do not represent open access as a whole. Although Bohannon argues that “open access has multiplied that underclass of journals”, I would like to counter that it is only through a history of masking editorial processes amid claims of “value added” that we have arrived at this mess.

Peer review is a function of academic labour. Editorial decisions should be made by qualified and respected academics who run journals. If we used this model, not even the most gullible of authors would attempt submission to this underclass of journals and their predatory behaviour wouldn’t exist.


OASPA’s response to the recent article in Science entitled “Who’s Afraid of Peer Review?”

Below is a statement from the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) in response to the recent “sting” that was reported in Science in an article entitled “Who’s Afraid of Peer Review?”

OASPA was established in 2008 to bring together a growing community of high-quality publishers, who were showing how research could be published according to the highest standards and made freely and openly available at the point of publication.  Our goal was, and continues to be, promoting best practices in open access publishing and providing a forum for constructive discussion and development of this field.  Open access publishing has continued to grow since the establishment of OASPA, and is now a well-established part of the scholarly publishing landscape.

A second reason for the establishment of OASPA was the emergence of a group of publishers that were engaging in open access publishing without having the appropriate quality control mechanisms in place.  OASPA’s approach to addressing this issue was to establish strict criteria for entry into the Association, such that applicants are screened for policies relating to publication fees, peer review, licensing, etc. For publishers that do not initially meet our criteria, we provide a detailed list of our concerns to the publisher and encourage them to adjust their policies accordingly.

The “sting” exercise conducted by John Bohannon that was recently reported in Science provides some useful data about the scale of, and the problems associated with, this group of low-quality publishers, which is an issue that OASPA has worked to address since the Association was first created. While we appreciate the contribution that has been made to this discussion by the recent article in Science, OASPA is concerned that the data that is presented in this article may be misinterpreted.  We will issue a fuller response to this article once we have had a chance to review the data in more detail (and we applaud the decision to make the data fully available), but for now we wish to highlight what can and cannot be concluded from the information contained within this article.

The greatest limitation of the “sting” that was described in the Science article is that “fake” articles were only sent to a group of open access journals, and these journals were not selected in an appropriately randomized way.  There was no comparative control group of subscription based journals, despite the exhortation from Dr. Marcia McNutt (the Editor-in-Chief of Science) in the accompanying Editorial that publishing models be subject to rigorous tests. In contrast, more rigorously designed studies that have been peer-reviewed prior to publication provide evidence of the rigor and benefits of open access journals relative to their subscription counterparts( and

Another limitation of the study described in Science concerns the sampling of the journals that were chosen as targets for the “sting,” which were drawn from two lists – Beall’s list of ‘predatory’ open-access journals, and theDirectory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).  Publishers were selected from these lists after eliminating some on various grounds, including a journal’s language of publication, subject coverage, and publication fee policy.  Ultimately the “fake” articles were sent to 304 journals, out of which 157 journals appear to have accepted these articles for publication.  Given the selection criteria that were used in determining where to submit these “fake” articles, it is not possible to draw any meaningful conclusions about the pervasiveness of low-quality open access journals in the wider publishing ecosystem.

Overall, although the data undoubtedly support the view that a substantial number of poor-quality journals exist, and some certainly lack sufficient rigor in their peer review processes, no conclusions can be drawn about how open access journals compare with similar subscription journals, or about the overall prevalence of this phenomenon.

Based on the information that OASPA has been able to collect so far, it seems that several OASPA members received and rejected the “fake” article, but a small number of members have accepted the article. As soon as we have more detailed information we will be contacting these members to ask for their views about how this happened, and the steps that they will be taking in order to resolve any potential weaknesses that may exist in their peer review procedures.  OASPA has a complaints procedure that is used to investigate any complaints about our members that we receive, and in the event that a publisher is not upholding the OASPA code of conduct, their membership in the Association may be terminated.

In our view the most important lesson from this recent article in Science is that the publishing community needs stronger mechanisms to help identify reliable and rigorous journals and publishers, regardless of access or business model.  OASPA will continue to scrutinize membership applications according to our membership criteria, and listen to feedback from the community, so that membership within OASPA can continue to be an important signal of quality within the open access ecosystem.