Unethical Attacks to Open Access Publishing by Librarians: The Jeffrey Beall’s case.

Mario E. Alonso, Francisco Pedro M. Lopez

Abstract—In this paper we examine the phenomenon of several attempts to destroy the Open Access Publishing from various librarians. The was against Open Access (OA) publishing started with the librarian Jeffrey Beall who is a librarian at Auraria Library at the University of Colorado, Denver, USA. However, after some years the common sense among the scholars is that Jeffrey Beall does not have the necessary qualifications to evaluate the various publishers and journals as well as several voices exist that claim that Jeffrey Beall is permanently bribed. Several librarians consider Open Access publishers to be a threat to their profession because there is less need for a library or librarian if academic journals are available free on the Internet. At one point, this so-called “Beall’s List” blog even stated that publishers would be removed from the list if they agreed to stop publishing “open access”. The common denominator among the thousands of journals represented here is that they are “open access”; there are no subscription-based journal publishers or journals listed. This paper try to  throw plenty of light in the dark role of Jeffrey Beall.


Keywords—Librarian Science, Bribery, Fake Blogs, Jeffrey Beall

I.                    INTRODUCTION

Beall has no real substantial authority to evaluate scholarly Journals: Jeffrey Beall’s blog has no affiliation to any governing body or organization accredited to scholarly publishing. This is an important key element that needs to be considered when analyzing his blog. He is just single individual writing a blog (full of nonsense) same as many others do over the internet. His blog is his personal opinion and has not been tested for its validity and as such has no authority whatsoever.

Jack of all trades: Not Academically Inclined

Beall only has a bachelor Degree in Spanish yet he criticizes a wide range of Journals in the vicinity of Social sciences and medical sciences. He is a jack of all trades and nothing more. He has no PhD in any discipline.

Self Proclaimed Journal Critic: No Governing Body

Jeffrey Beall works in the Auraria Library, University of Colorado, Denver, USA. He is an employee same as everyone else. He began a blog titled “scholarly open access—Critical analysis of scholarly open-access publishing” in the year 2009. His blog is not associated with the university and does not represent the university in any way. Beall, however, utilizes university resources including his university e-mail address for his activities on the blog. His contact information is posted on the blog as follows, e-mail: jeffrey.beall@ucdenver.edu. He does not post his physical location in his blog.

Jeffrey Beall: Potentially, possibly, or probably a predatory blogger

Open access is a new, digital, revolutionized way of communicating research among their readers and authors. Not that this has any significance to Beall however, who maintains a list of publishers and Journals that he considers predatory. His highly questionable, probably, and possibly predatory blog discredits many involved in publishing houses. His main targets have been publishing houses and journals from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

Beall’s Questionable and Predatory Criteria

Beall himself created his own criteria for evaluating Open access Journals. The issue here though, is that validity of his criteria has not been tested with any governing authority associated with scholarly publishing. His blog however, clearly stated many other criteria when discrediting Journals. For example, article processing fees in US dollars is one of the reasons he uses to determine when a Journal is predatory. Please read our articles for more information.

Questionable Beall’s Platinum and Gold Predatory Criteria

Beall created two criteria when evaluating journals. In his platinum category, the author charges article processing fees. On the other hand, in the gold category, authors won’t charge article processing fees and papers are published free of charge.

This categorization has a serious problem since no organization can financially survive as a publisher without receiving funds for their operation. In order to be successful and be able to survive financially, it is necessary to have some sort of funding mechanism in place. The most Open Access publishers charge is article processing fees. There is no justification for publishing free articles or any mode of publication methods free of charge.

University Funds Scammer: Beall is a huge cost to the University of Colorado system?

Beall heavily utilized the University of Colorado’s system; including internet, computers, office space, and maintenance of his office such as electricity, cleaning, furniture, and even photocopy machines.  He works on his blog on the university’s time while he is being paid by the University to work for them not on his leisure blogging hobby. The only positive is that at a minimum, he has posted a disclaimer page on his blog in which he himself declared that the University of Colorado has no affiliation on his blog.

Beall is defrauding the University of Colorado’s system and should be shamed not of anyone else, but only of himself. Despite Beall’s claims of non-affiliation with the University of Colorado, all scamming activities have been conducted utilizing the university’s resources. It appears as though Beall chiefly aims to trade on the University of Colorado’s good name to attract people from abroad to justify his claims on his predatory blog.

Jeffrey Beall’s Bogus profile

From the profile (http://library.auraria.edu/directory/staff/beall/jeffrey) ,it is glaringly evident Jeffrey Beall is not a scholar; he doesn’t even have a doctoral degree and has not published in any leading/reputable journals. In fact, the only publications he has to his credit (as reflected in his profile) happens to have been produced in the last two years (there is nil track record of prior publications). That too ONLY 7 publications (pretty pathetic track record to claim to be scholarly). He has never served in any academic or editorial committee. Hence his commentaries and statements are merely an opinion by a quasi (self anointed) academic and not scholarly. A blatant attempt to mislead in the pretext of a scholar. Jeffrey Beall should be sponsored by someone to earn a doctoral degree first before he can even attempt to make a qualified opinion on scholarly publications. His basic degree is from a state university and a masters from another state university. That is hardly scholarly. A very weak attempt to mislead by someone who claims to be an expert with scholarly qualifications. In fact he is trying to sell his services (please visit http://library.auraria.edu/directory/staff/beall/jeffrey) to consult and train whereas he himself needs further education before he can rightfully claim to be an expert.

Academic Fraudster and Imposter

There are numerous cases against Beall, the allegations of which all follow a similar pattern, as many publishing houses and Open access journals revealed their experience with him. At first, Beall’s associate contacted Journals and threatened to blacklist them. Later, he demanded ransom. If anyone pays this ransom, their journal is removed from the list.  All those who refused to pay ransom are included into Beall’s hit list.

Phony Beall’s Kangaroo court

Once a blacklisted journal is included into the so-called Beall list, he will provide opportunity to appeal against his decision. According to his Blog the appeal will hear before a so-called panel. To make matters worse, the names of the individuals in the panel are not listed. Furthermore, the appeal process and procedure are also not published. Their main target is evidently to scam journals and publishing houses. Once the ransom is received Beall removes the Journal from his hit list.

Beall Conspiracy

Beall’s anti Open Access agenda is driven by major publishing houses. Beall’s list will grow until all popular open access journals have been black listed. This will drive researchers to publish their work in the highly paid open access journals. These groups will control publications from the Human Sciences field to the medical sciences field. They want to take back their control over research publications.

Used personal biases,  useless blogger

Jeffrey Beall’s list is not accurate to believe. There are a lot of personal biases of Jeffrey Beall.  Two OA publishers have been removed in Jeffrey Beall’s list recently. There is no reason given by Jeffrey Beall why they were removed. Jeffrey Beall is naive in his analysis. His blog has become useless.

Academic terrorist

Jeffrey Beall just simply confusing us to promote his academic terrorism. His list is fully questionable. His surveying method is not scientific. If he is a real scientist then he must do everything in standard way without any dispute. He wanted to be famous but he does not have the right to destroy any company name or brand without proper allegation. If we support Jeffrey Beall’s work then we are also a part of his criminal activity. Please avoid Jeffrey Beall’s fraudulent and criminal activity. Beall utilizes his bribery and unethical business model.

Not provide sufficient evince for his claims – Unreliable, unmethodical and personal opinions

We wish to conclude by expressing that Beall’s blacklist in its current form is unnecessary and unreliable. On the one hand, there are professional indexing databases operating as watchdogs of journal quality. Professional databases such as the Web of Science, Scopus or PubMed can be used as whitelists of good journals. Also, professional services and societies, such as the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA), are putting in a great deal of effort to distinguish reputable open access journals and their publishers from scamming activities. On the other hand, Mr. Beall operates as an individual person and does not provide sufficient evidence for his claims, does not attempt to verify his statements for accuracy, nor operate a methodological approach to his appraisals. Beall also denies the right to defense to those that he attacks. Beall’s judgments are therefore to be considered as unreliable, unmethodical and his personal opinions.

Beall’s academic fraud and activities must end and everyone must now be more vigilant about these activities.


II.                  Beall’s extortion attempts exposed

Self proclaimed Journal critic Jeffrey Beall failed in his attempts to extort the Canadian Agency. It was reported that the so called Open Access hero demanded one million U.S. dollars to remove the Agency’s Journal from his target list.  This is not the first time this type of allegation has surfaced. Many Open Access Journals and Publishers are receiving emails from Beall’s bully brigade demanding large sums of cash to remove journals from his list. Beall attempted to establish authority for evaluating Open Access journals. To do this he utilized his association with the University of Denver, Colorado, USA and his position there as Librarian.  Initially Beall will include Journal and Open Access publishers into his list and he then provides his analysis. His analysis has no merit, however, but only serves the purpose of extortion manifested through his tactics.

It was reported that Beall and his well trained extortionists contacted the Open Access publishers in advance and demanded a lump sum payment. Furthermore, they threatened that if Open Access journals and Publishers failed to pay extortion money those Journals and publishers would be listed on his list.

If any journal or publisher did not obey Beall’s extortive demands it would be listed on his so called “Beall’s list”. This common tactic continues and large numbers of Open Access Journals are being scammed.  Many Open Access Journals and Publishers contacted us and launched their complaints against Jeffrey Beall. We are hoping to bring this matter forward into public attention as Beall’s malicious attempts must not be tolerated further. We continually expose the Beall conspiracy against the Open Access journals.


A recent article published on Nature identified serious issues in Jeffrey Beall’s characterization of the Open Access Journals. Nature further explained that Beall’s analysis has no merit and is fuelled by external factors, which are not directly related to, nor do they affect the quality of publication. This only further established a lack of credibility surrounding his blog.

Currently six billion people in the world do business and communicate via the internet. There are trillions of financial transactions, publications and messages passing through every corner of the world every single day. Beall’s attempts to control internet-based publication by Open Access Journals across the world are childish and immature. Beall has never contacted any Journals directly yet he attempts to examine the quality of publications based on websites and e-mails received or forwarded to him by third parties.

This therefore allows Beall’s blog no credibility. This self-proclaimed journal critic is providing a laugh to the rest of the world and has become an embarrassment for the University of Denvor, USA. University authorities already warned him that he will later be recognized as the “Open Access Joker.” Individuals are reading his blog around the world and are recognizing his work as administratively stupid.

Beall and his bully brigade are frequently blogging in support of Beall’s agenda.  Beall’s recent claim against the Open Access publishers were mainly related to the e-mail received from one of the so called researchers. According to the report, Nature was not able to contact the researcher. If it is a genuine complaint, the complainant must step forward. Instead he/she has remained hidden behind Beall’s blog and from this anonymous standpoint has attempted to discredit Open Access publishers. As such these attempts should be denounced as corrupt.

Even still, regardless of Beall’s agenda against the Open Acess Publishers, a large number of researchers still continue to publish their work in research Journals published by the Open Access Publishers. This is a clear indication that Beall’s agenda is being rejected by many researchers around the world.

IV.                Beall’s attempt at being a Godfather of Open Access is ridiculous

Beall started the Open Access blog mainly to discredit Open Access Publishers and Journals. Furthermore Beall never attempted contact those whose work he criticized. Instead of raising his questions and concerns directly with the journals and publishers involved, he jumped right in to his criticism of them openly and publicly.

It is obvious that different individuals have different interests among the issues and some Open Access Journals charge a hefty amount in publication fees.  However most of the researchers do not have the ability to pay high publication fees. Many simply want to publish their work and share the knowledge and findings with fellow researchers. In this case, the obvious and possible solution is to find alternative publishers and Open Access journals. Some publishers and Journals provide many more incentives for researchers to publish their work

For example, they provide the financial incentive to publish more at a reasonable cost. We do not see any issues on this concept especially since both publisher and researcher benefit from this type of program. The important factor is to maintain quality in publication. Similarly some Open Access journals’ fee structure varies based on the length of time taken to publish the articles. In our view it has reasonable merit. This is because some publishers may not have enough resources to publish as quickly as some researchers might need. However, in such a scenario, paying an additional fee can enhance the process. In most cases reviewers are not paid and alternately they receive honorarium. Nonetheless, this mechanism may not be sustainable for the long run if reviewers’ contribution towards the publication process is not recognized. It is therefore necessary to find a suitable mechanism with which to compensate reviewer contributions. Therefore when looking at the fast-track review process, it is important to note that it can be mutually arranged which can thus compensate for the cost involved in the publication process. In spite of that, Beall continually discredits Journals and publishers based on fast-track fees.

Beall’s agenda does not serve the purpose of Open Access. In addition to this, Beall has never suggested how research papers can be published quickly without affecting the cost of the publications. He has no alternative suggestions or solutions to the issue, only empty criticism. Also, he is continually attempting to discredit journals that require a little higher of a payment for fast-track publication.

Finally we would like to reiterate that the quality of publication does not depend on the fee structure, whether it is on fast-track or not. Beall did not provide any credible answers to these questions and instead continually and maliciously engaged in the discrediting of Journals and Open Access Publishers.

Friends of Open Access strongly condemn Beall and his agenda against Open Access Journals.  Rather than criticizing the Journals and publishers he should provide support towards Journals in the aim to enhance Open Access publications.


V.                  A Predatory Librarian Jeffrey Beall: The crook, the felon, the criminal of the Academic Community

In several places on the internet we read this letter. It seems that it has been written by some Professor http://jeffreybeall.blogspot.ca/2014/01/i-recently-made-inquiry-to-jeffrey.html


I recently made an inquiry to Jeffrey Beall (the Denver, USA librarian who runs a webpage where he slanders and insults about 500 publishing houses), whether he, Jeffrey Beall himself, has the ability to solve the simple math equation 5x+3 = 0.

Jeffrey Beall replied to my first email, that he has never studied even the simplest form of Math. Meaning that he doesn’t know what “equation” means (he has never even seen equations like 5x+3 = 0, 3x*x + 7x -4 =0 etc), neither does he know what “Derivative” or “Integral” mean.


Jeffrey Beall told me that he has a Bachelor in Spanish and English language. This of course didn’t stop him blacklisting hundreds of houses that publish Math, Physics, Computer Science, Engineering, Economics, Biology, Chemistry, Earth Sciences, Space Science etc Journals. That from a man who isn’t even able to solve the simple equation 5x+3 = 0, and who doesn’t know what Derivative or Integral mean.


Recently, Jeffrey Beall included in his “black list” an old, big Academic Publishing House, with several, historic Journals in Math, Physics, Computer Science, Engineering, Economics (some of which have been indexed in ISI and SCOPUS), and that because, according to Jeffrey Beal, they had copied the… Maxwell Equations from a 2007 article.


Obviously, since Jeffrey Beall doesn’t know how to solve the equation 5x+3 = 0, and since he doesn’t know what Derivative and Integral mean, he has zero knowledge when it comes to Electricity or Physics and has never seen the Maxwell Equations (not even in their most basic form).


As expected from somebody who is entirely clueless regarding even elementary Math and Physics, he considered the Maxwell Equations found in the Journal to be plagiarized… from a 2007 paper.


With a Bachelor in Spanish and English in his CV, Jeffrey Beall passes judgment even to Medicine, Biology, Chemistry etc Journals and articles, while he is fully aware that he’s never attended a University course on which nucleotides make up the DNA molecule, he’s never heard what enzyme, catalysis, proteins etc are, and if one asks him what pH is, he’ll be completely ignorant.


However, in his bizarre blog, this person has declared himself a critic of everyone and everything. He blacklists publishing houses (many of which having journals and conferences indexed in ISI, SCOPUS, Compendex, ACM etc), he includes stand-alone journals in “black lists”, slanders Editors-in-Chief, Authors etc. Of course he does all that selectively, following a certain logic of his, which will be analyzed below.


In a later email that I sent him, I asked him to comment on why he includes a small publishing house in his black list because “they copied Maxwell’s Equations from a 2007 paper” (poor Jeffrey Beall doesn’t know that Maxwell’s Equations are taught in Universities’ first year elementary physics), while at the same time he excludes IEEE, who have over 85 SCIgen machine-generated fake conference papers published and indexed.


(See: A 2013 scientometrics paper demonstrated that at least 85 SCIgen machine-generated papers have been published by IEEE. The Paper has been published in Springer Verlag: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11192-012-0781-y

Download the full paper from:

http://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/docs/00/71/35/55/PDF/0-FakeDetectionSci-Perso.pdf )


He also didn’t respond to the question why he didn’t include Elsevier in his black list, who were revealed to have been publishing 6 Medical Journals between 2000 and 2005 with fake articles and studies, that were funded by pharmaceutical companies, in order to scientifically prove that their products were superior to their competitors’. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elsevier  or




In a third email I asked him where his moral and academic responsibility stands, since if due to him including some publishing houses in black lists, those houses reduce or cease their activity (due to his immoral slandering), hundreds of jobs will be lost and families will end up in the street. Naturally, despite my repeated emails, Jeffrey Beall never replied.


There are also rumours on the internet that some publishing houses, like Hindawi and Elsevier, pay Jeffrey Beall on a yearly basis in order not to be included in his black list. This looks like heavy taxing that the publisher is asked to pay annually to Jeffrey Beall, and, as we’ll see below, part of this tax ends up in the Denver University funds.


Actually, Hindawi was in Jeffrey Beall’s black list a year ago. Then, after negotiations, Jeffrey Beall placed them in a watching list (i.e. an “under observation” list), and eventually completely removed them.


Just like Jeffrey Beall himself mentioned in his blog, Hindawi’s people visited him in Denver and offered him “explanations”. After that, Jeffrey Beall gradually removed Hindawi from his black list.


Why, Mr. Jeffrey Beall, did you agree to meet with Hindawi’s representatives in your office in Denver, when Hindawi was black listed? What did you talk about, Mr. Jeffrey Beall? Hindawi, as mentioned on their website, has an annual turnover of $6 million.

Couldn’t they use part of that money to pay off Jeffrey Beall?


Furthermore, in his blog, Jeffrey Beall has posted a photo of Hindawi’s headquarters, which he calls “House of Spam”. So, Mr. Jeffrey Beall, why isn’t Hindawi in your black list, when among your fundamental black listing reasons, like you mention in your blog, is spam?

Having read all that, you can draw your own conclusions on who Jeffrey Beall is and what his real motives behind his publishing house and scientific organization black listing blog are. Houses and Organizations that Jeffrey Beall calls “Predatory Publishers”.

Maybe it’s time to talk about Predatory Librarians, Mr. Jeffrey Beall. About librarians who target Open Access Journals, especially because the open, online PDF policy deprives librarians (like Jeffrey Beall) from the possibility of receiving kickbacks from publishing houses.

To those who are not aware, it is known that several publishing houses paid- and pay-off librarians (like Jeffrey Beall), in order to get their libraries to subscribe to those houses.

Meaning that, in order for a certain University, Research Center, Company to buy some books or subscribe to some journals, it is common knowledge that librarians receive money under the table from the respective publishing houses. It is therefore natural and understandable for this kind of librarians (Jeffrey Beall, for instance) to fight Open Access Journals and Open Access Publishing Houses, since they


  1. a) lose their kickbacks,
  2. b) lose their power and influence in the library, as well as the University.


I’ve saved all my email exchange with Jeffrey Beall, along with their headers/source code, and I will soon upload them to various websites. I need everyone’s help though, by sending me emails (to the email address found at the bottom) and exchanging information on Jeffrey Beall’s scandalous behavior.

And one last question to Jeffrey Beall: How can a librarian WITHOUT a Ph.D. be an Assistant Professor at the University of Denver, Mr. Jeffrey Beall?


Could it be that Jeffrey Beall bribed older professors, using the abundance of money that he is said to possess?


Could it be that Jeffrey Beall threatened that if they don’t vote for him, he’ll include all journals where they have papers published in his black list, and slander them on the internet?


Or is it that they were so much impressed by his research? Actually, Mr. Jeffrey Beall, what is your scientific research? Your scientific research as a “real scientist” that is, Mr. Jeffrey Beall. What publications do you have, besides slandering, insulting and discredit hundreds of scientific organizations and publishing houses? What do you teach at the University of Denver Mr. Jeffrey Beall?


Is there really any course (real scientific course) that you can teach, Mr. Jeffrey Beall, besides calling publishing houses and scientific organizations “predatory”?


It doesn’t look like it, Mr. Jeffrey Beall. No matter how hard we looked, we didn’t find any courses taught by you at the University of Denver.


Neither on your personal webpage, Mr. Jeffrey Beall, nor on your money-making blog, nor even on the University of Denver website is there any mention about courses taught by you.


So, since you do absolutely no scientific research, and you don’t even teach pre-graduate or post-graduate students, what is your role at the University of Denver, Mr. Jeffrey Beall?


Does the University of Denver pay you a salary, Mr. Jeffrey Beall, or do you pay the University to let you bear the title of Assistant Professor?


A title that you really do not deserve, as you have no Ph.D., no actual research work and do no teaching whatsoever. It is a shame for the University of Denver to have professors like you, Jeffrey Beall.


Or is running a blog that slanders everyone and everything considered scientific research?


It most certainly is not, Mr. Jeffrey Beall.


Could it be, however, an applied money-making project for you and your university, Mr. Jeffrey Beall?


(By the way, why should a small publishing house from some place in India, which cannot attract papers, nor editorial board members, from western universities, be in your black list Mr. Jeffrey Beall? In this case, you should also black list all non-US and non-European universities. Of course there exist first-rate universities, like Harvard, MIT, Berkeley, Cambridge. Should all other universities be in a black list? Is this your logic “Professor” Beall? Furthermore, you condemn any new publishing house, as it is natural for them to not have papers and not be indexed as soon as they launch, but has to deal with you, who, like a vulture, immediately includes them in your black list for those reasons.)


I would greatly appreciate your response, Mr. Jeffrey Beal. And I would also appreciate feedback from anyone who agrees with me.


My aim is to create a network of true scientists and expose “Professor”, “Academic Teacher” and, above all, “Researcher” Jeffrey Beall (this science jack-of-all-trades, who doesn’t know a first-degree algebraic equation, derivatives, integrals, elementary Physics and Chemistry laws, etc) Article originally published on http://jeffreybeall.blogspot.ca/2014/01/i-recently-made-inquiry-to-jeffrey.html

VI.                Bachelor of Arts in Spanish: Beall’s attempt to monitor peer review process for science and technology journals is ridiculous and laughablE

Jeffrey Beall wrote a post on his Scholarly Open Access blog raising questions about the Swiss open-access (OA) publisher Frontiers. In Beall’s post he wrote, ‘Frontiers does not meet the criteria for inclusion as a predatory publisher, but I regularly receive complaints about its spamming and editorial practices. I realise that there are probably many people that are satisfied with Frontiers, and that it is likely publishing good science. Still, there is value in sharing others’ experiences with this publisher.’


To back this up he shared three emails he has received about the publisher. The emails – and some of the comments below the post – criticise the volume of emails from Frontiers inviting people to review articles. They also note that review invitations are often not relevant to the recipients’ specialities, which leads some commenters to speculate on the quality of the review process.


Beall summed up his blog post with: ‘When a scholarly publisher doesn’t have to worry about losing subscriptions, the entire publishing dynamic changes. There’s less accountability. We hope that Frontiers can take these criticisms into account and make improvements in its operations.’


Kamila Markram, CEO and co-founder of Frontiers, told Research Information that she was disappointed by the post and particularly the concerns raised about the publisher’s peer-review process.

She readily admits that the publisher is contacting many researchers. However she says that this is a normal part of publishing and new journal launches. ‘What we are experiencing are the growing pains of success,’ she said. She explained that the recent significant investment that Frontiers received from Nature Publishing Group has given the company the opportunity to grow. This, of course, has benefits for the publisher but has, she said, had unforeseen impacts on the publishing process.


The company has used some of this investment to launch new journals away from the company’s original focus of life sciences. ‘We are expanding at a quick pace so are contacting thousands of people informing them of new journals,’ she said. ‘I’m a scientist myself and I hear from publishers every day and not just OA publishers. You can buy lists of researchers’ contact details and that’s a normal practice for publishers when they are marketing journals.’


Many of the comments and complaints raised in Beall’s post and the emails that he included were about the company’s approach to peer review, in particular that researchers are asked to review papers that are not in their field. However, Markram denies that the experiences shared in Beall’s post show a lack of quality in the peer-review process.


‘It’s complete nonsense to say that we don’t have a proper review system in place. Peer review from our point of view is really at the heart of science. We have put in place a standardised review template that asks very detailed questions. We also publish the names of reviewers to make it transparent,’ she said.


So what about the experiences people have had of being asked to review papers in subjects that they know little about? These experiences come down to the different approach that the publisher has taken to organising peer review, according to Markram.


‘When we started Frontiers we did it in the conventional way, with associate editors assigning reviewers but we found that it was a very lengthy process. It can easily take two months to invite reviewers because it is an iterative process and then we have to chase up to get the reports,’ she said.


She recounted how her husband and Frontiers co-founder Henry Markram, was an editor on the board of another journal where every time an article was submitted to that journal all of the board was informed and given the opportunity to review the paper. The board found this useful as a way to keep track of current research even if they were not interested in a particular paper, she noted.


Frontiers decided to adapt a similar approach to its review process. Each journal therefore has a significantly larger than usual board – ‘we really want to ensure that all the expertise is covered,’ she said – and everybody on the board is what the publisher calls a ‘review editor’. This means that they are all informed of all papers submitted.


‘Everybody on the board has been invited. They are all signed up and so they should know about our approach and we are doing a lot of educate about the Frontiers process,’ Markram said, adding that this move was initially very popular with authors because, instead of up to two months to assign a reviewer, this process could be done within a few minutes.


And this worked fine, she said, when the publisher was small. What has happened over the past two to three years, according to Markram, is that, as the publisher has grown so have the number of submissions, and therefore the number of emails to review editors.


‘It worked fantastically well for a while and then our journals grew. We became victims of our own success; the people who complained were those on our most successful journals,’ she said. For example, she noted that the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience now receives around a thousand submissions a year, which equates to a large number of emails.


The company therefore developed an algorithm to filter out relevant reviewers. This sends review invitations to 10 people and then to 10 more if none of the first 10 are interested. ‘The algorithm is intended to accelerate the process and was built with authors and publication timing in mind,’ she said, although she admits that it is not perfect.


‘We have put in place a system that matches reviewers with articles. We have a review system software but the algorithm is only as good as the keywords that people put in,’ she explained. ‘When editors and reviewers sign up with us it’s very important that they fill in what they are interested in. This is important for when editors assign reviewers manually to, which they can also do.’


However, she added that the publisher takes criticism seriously and is refining the algorithm regularly in response to feedback. ‘Sometimes we get a bit of negative feedback. Always the burning feedback is from people who are angry. We are listening to what people are saying and modifying our algorithms on a weekly basis.’


Markram also feels that some of the criticisms in the blog post are about OA more widely and believes these criticisms are often unfair. ‘There is so much discussion now about the quality of OA. We recently compared the eight journals of ours that already have impact factors and they are above average in their fields,’ she said. ‘With OA there is a lot of misunderstanding. We need to educate people and do a lot of advocacy work,’ she continued. ‘There is a proper process in big OA publishers and we are members of COASP.’


And on the concern raised in the blog post and elsewhere about gold OA being about publishers making money she noted, ‘subscription publishers are making huge margins. We [at Frontiers] are for profit and have to run a responsible business and pay our staff but making money is not our primary goal. I consider that this is human heritage so we can’t do it in a sloppy way.’ Indeed she noted that Frontiers was founded with the aspiration that at some stage the process of publishing OA could be made free by replacing the current system with a freemium business model. ‘We are not there yet so have APCs,’ she concluded.


This article inititally published on http://www.researchinformation.info/news/news_story.php?news_id=1452


Beall is not a recognized authority in evaluating scholarly Journals. He is a Man with zero credibility.


Jeffrey Beall’s blog has no affiliation to any governing body or organization accredited to scholarly publishing. This is an important key element that needs to be considered when analyzing his blog. He is just a single individual writing a blog (full of nonsense) same as many others do over the internet. His blog is his personal opinion and has not been tested for its validity and as such has no authority whatsoever. Even so, Beall attempted to create a problem that does not exist. When we compare the number of open access journals around the world, Beall’s list is not significant at all. Despite that, Beall has maliciously discredited many Open access journals and demanded ransom in exchange for the removal of them from his hit list. This academic crime must end. We have added Jeffrey Beall to our list as a potential, possible, probable, predatory Blogger.



Mario E. Alonso and Francisco Pedro M. Lopez  are with the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Ronda de Toledo, 1 28005 Madrid, Email: mario.alonso@linuxmail.org



Response by JMIR Publications to Jeffrey Beall’s Blog Post

This blog argues how Jeffery Beall misuse others comments and changes  them in favor of himself. 

Jeffrey Beall has recently published a blog entry with the title “JMIR Publications – a Model for Open Access Publishers” (here). Jeffrey Beall is a librarian who – other than the majority of his colleagues – is highly critical of the open access movement. His claim to fame is the publication of a list of predatory “publishers” – organizations that pretend to be publishers but are really fraudulent individuals or organizations. I actually met JB at the SSP (Society for Scholarly Publishing) meeting in early 2015 in Washington DC, where he assured me that JMIR will never be on that list.

While this hasn’t changed and he doesn’t call JMIR predatory on his blog, he uses strong language such as “fishy” or “amateurish”, which the team at JMIR Publications is shocked and disappointed about.

Beall is not a subject expert in digital health / ehealth (in fact, he has no doctoral degree), and we would like to challenge him to specifically say what exactly the quality concerns he is referring to are (other than that he doesn’t like the cover design of JMIR Public Health & Surveillance, which he labels as “amateurish”) – all our articles are peer-reviewed and carefully copyedited, well cited, and we are not aware of any quality issues or concerns raised previously by others.

He also critisizes “high article processing fees”, but the truth is that JMIR sister journals were created as free or lower cost alternatives to JMIR, have the same APF as for example Plos One ($1500) and are much less expensive than in fact the majority of other OA journals.

He raised a few questions in his blog, to which we respond as follows:

1) “Leading – according to whom?”

The Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) was ranked #1 by Thomson Reuters by impact factor in the Medical Informatics category 5 years in a row until last year (current JCR impact factor 2014: 3.4). The journal has a better impact factor than Plos One, BMJ Open, PeerJ etc.

JMIR is also ranked “leading” on scirev (https://scirev.sc/journal/journal-of-medical-internet-research/) – with a manuscript handling rating of 4.7 (out of 5). JMIR is one of the cofounders of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA), and is committed to top quality and ethical publication practices.

UPDATE Dec 29th, 2015: In a comment, Beall now accuses us of being dishonest. We posted a response documenting some metrics but Beall didn’t publish it. While we don’t like to play the Journal Impact Factor card (we don’t like the JIF especially if it is misused to evaluate individual articles), the Journal Impact Factor is widely accepted to evaluate journal quality.

Here is the SCI/ISI Thomson Reuters ranking by 5-year impact factor within the “Medical Informatics” (aka eHealth) subject category:  

journal citation reports 2015 medical informatics category ranking by impactfactors.


Most publishers, librarians,` universities, tenure & promotion committees and funders would agree that a consistent and long-standing top ranking by impact factor within its’ discipline would justify to be called a “leading journal” in that discipline. We are not fans of the IF and journals that are not even ranked in the SCI can be leading in their own ways, but our standing here (and not our “hyperbolic marketing”) is the only reason why we are inundated with submissions and need to expand and re-organize.

Other metrics beyond the IF and beyond the harder to measure intellectual contributions to the field, we could mention:

  • – our 17 year publication history,
  • – over 70.000 readers on our mailing list,
  • – a network of over 20,000 authors, editors and peer-reviewers,
  • – hundreds of paying individual and institutional members (including CDC, Johns Hopkins, NIH, WHO…),
  • – 7.000 twitter followers,
  • – dissemination partnership with over 75 other publishers etc.
  • – being ranked a top journal also in other indices, for example Scimago (see below)

scimago ranking in health informatics

Author satisfactions and turnaround times are also important metrics for us, and we benchmark ourselves using journal review sites such as scirev against other journals such as PLoS ONE:

scirev rating

In another comment, Beall attacks us that marketing with the phrase “leading journal” or “leading publisher” “has no place in science”, is “hyperbolic marketing”, and “a shameful practice for a medical publisher”.

This of course is absurd. Every professional publisher is marketing their flagship journals with terms like “leading”, and there is nothing wrong with that, as long as they can justify their claim (usually done with IFs, sometimes with paid subscribers).


Examples of other publishers promoting their flagship journals with the phrase “leading journal” – a “shameful practice” according to Beall

Elsevier: “Elsevier’s Current Opinion journals comprise of 17 leading titles in life sciences and adjacent fields.“

Mary-Ann Liebert:

“Human Gene Therapy is the leading peer-reviewed journal focusing on the human aspect of gene therapy”

“Stem Cells and Development is globally recognized as the leading peer-reviewed journal for critical and controversial emerging hypotheses and novel findings in stem cell research.”

“Antioxidants & Redox Signaling (ARS) is the leading journal dedicated to the understanding of redox principles governing health and disease.”

“Journal of Neurotrauma is the leading peer-reviewed journal”

“The leading journal of minimally invasive urology, Journal of Endourologyand the companion videojournal,Videourology™ are the essential publications for practicing surgeons “

Taylor & Francis: “International Journal of Logistics Research and Applications – A leading journal of Supply Chain Management”

Wiley-Backwell: “The Journal of Finance (the ‘Journal’) is the world’s leading journal in financial economics”

University of Chicago Press: “Recognized as the leading international journal in women’s studies, Signs is at the forefront of new directions in feminist scholarship”

McFarland – “a leading independent publisher of academic & non-fiction books”

SAGE: “Journal of Service Research (JSR), peer-reviewed and published quarterly, is widely considered the world’s leading service research journal. “

AAAS: “Science has grown to become the world’s leading outlet for scientific news, commentary, and cutting-edge research, with the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general-science journal.”

Wiley: “Applied Vegetation Science in 2016: the leading journal promoting the application of vegetation science”

and “Strategic Management Journal – The world’s leading mass impact journal for research in strategic management.”


On the upside, Beall does not accuse us of being “predatory”, but only debates if we are “leading” or not.

We can live with the debate on whether our branding is justified and invite our readers, editors and peer-reviewers to weigh in, but – with all due respect – prefer to have this conversation with our peers and subject experts.

As made clear by some commentators on Beall’s post, those working in the field already know where to publish their work, and as (perhaps the only?) STM publisher specializing in the area of eHealth (technology in health), we remain committed to our vision to be “the leading ehealth publisher, advancing progress in the health, engineering and social sciences to ultimately help people to live happier and healthier lives using technology”, as spelled out in our Vision and Mission Statement.

Follow-Up/Changes we have made: We reviewed our branding strategy and Vision and Mission Statements. No changes deemed necessary. We invite readers, authors, reviewers and editors to give us feedback on whether our vision is too bold.


2) Why do “some of the journals don’t have their own editorial boards”.

Beall cites JMIR Cancer (created in April 2015), which is a brand-new journals less than 12 months old. The original issues were published with articles originally submitted to JMIR, where authors consented to a manuscript transfer. Editorial board members are currently being recruited. Other journals such as i-JMR get the majority of their submissions from JMIR (papers that are out of scope for the original JMIR but are of good enough quality to be published are offered a transfer to i-JMR). For other journals, such as JMIR Research Protocols (which publishes mainly already peer-reviewed protocols or proposals), JMIR Publications is also moving away from static editorial boards, and experiments with novel methods to dynamically assign submissions to ad-hoc editors based on merit points (“karma”).

Beall misleadingly talks about “missing editorial boards”, which is factually wrong. We clearly disclose on the website that the current EB of the 4 journals in question consists of EB members of JMIR. There is nothing unethical or wrong about this. Neither OASPA nor COPE specificy that an editor can only be associated with one journal. As an aside, the task of the “editorial board” varies widely across journals and publishers, and it is a somewhat anachronistic model. JMIR has a database of over 10,000 peer reviewers, and several academic editors handling submissions for submissions across different journals. Each academic editor and peer-reviewers are named at the bottom of each published article.

Follow-Up/Changes we have made: EB’s for JMIR Med Educ and JMIR Mental Health have been updated. We will update other Editorial Boards in 2016. We will also reveal details of our innovative “karma” points based dynamic assignment of editor roles to members of our experts / past reviewers database.


3) “The publisher appears to be in a belabored process of re-organizing and expanding, aiming to maximize profits.”

– yes, JMIR Publications is re-organizing and expanding, because our reputation in the field (and frankly, obsession with the Impact Factor) attracts more submissions than what JMIR can handle with the original minimal staff. Sister journals were created to recruit additional editors. “Profits” (or more accurately, revenue from Article Processing Fees) are re-invested into people and infrastructure.

Follow-Up/Changes we have made: No changes deemed necessary. We stand behind our reorganization strategy and innovation in publishing.


4) “JMIR publishes sixteen open-access medical journals, most of them broad in scope, a strategy designed to optimize revenue by making most health sciences articles fall into the coverage of at least one of the journals.”

– it should be noted that all journals have a focus on technology in health, so the focus is not as broad as Beall makes it sound like. JMIR is a niche publisher and it is actually more likely that an article falls into the scope of the 300 journals published by Elsevier.

Follow-Up/Changes we have made: No changes deemed necessary. We stand behind our expansion strategy, which is ultimately intended to distribute the submission load among more academic edtors.


5) “JMIR charges an optional fast-track fee”

Like other leading publishers (eg. Nature Publishing Group), JMIR experiments with an optional fast-track fee, where we guarantee a rapid decision within 3 weeks, by tightly monitoring reviewer responsiveness. JMIR invented this model – we were the first publisher experimenting with it (long before Nature did), developed the code and contributed it to the OJS platform (see more information on fast-track data here). If this is used by what Beall calls “predatory” publishers, then this is unfortunate, but it is nothing we have control over. The fast-track option is much appreciated and heavily used by some of our authors who have a specific deadline for a rapid decision, eg. a grant proposal, deadline for tenure & promotion, or PhD defense date. Pointing out the additional costs is a bit like criticizing that some researchers prefer to take the plane rather than a Greyhound bus to a conference. And, Mr Beall, don’t worry, these costs don’t come out of library budgets (which, as librarian, seems to be his primary concern).

To phrase his critique about the fast-track fee in the way he did (‘like many predatory journals, some (or all) of the JMIR journals offer a fast-track fee”) is misleading and borders on slander, as it is suggestive of JMIR being a predatory journal (without saying it). It is not just “predatory journals” experimenting with fast-track.

It may be worth mentioning that in the Bohannon / Science “sting operation”, where a fake low-quality paper was sent to OA journals to identify “predatory” publishers who bypass peer-review, JMIR – of course – did not accept or even consider the paper.  It didn’t even enter the peer-review stage because it was deemed out of scope. To bring JMIR in connection with “predatory” pubishers who bypass peer-review is absurd. Our peer-reviewers are listed at the end of each article.

Follow-Up/Changes we have made: No changes deemed necessary. Our author survey shows that the majority of authors appreciate the FT option and we will keep it, unless authors tell us otherwise. All authors receive a post-submission and post-publication questionnaire where they can give us feedback. While some authors find it “unfair” that money can buy a faster turnaround, it is also “unfair” that people travelling in business class have more legroom. The alternative would be to sell only economy class seats with higher ticket prices for everybody. Our authors don’t want this.

6) “The website is hard to navigate and poorly organized.”:

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and our users certainly have different opinions – some of the tweets and quotes we have collected include:

  • “Just noticed your new website. Beautiful! Best journal website I’ve seen so far.”
  • “Simple, responsive and friendly!.. @JMedInternetRes new website is above Excellent..i am returning each day to my account!.”
  • “I really love the new look at the Journal for Medical Internet Research! Great work, ”  (http://www.jmir.org/announcement/view/83)

We will continue working on our goal to “make JMIR the most cutting-edge, beautiful, and advanced academic journal site on the web” (Josh Flowers, Lead Designer and Director of User Experience at JMIR Publications). We welcome constructive feedback if there are specific issues you had with the site. 7) Regarding Google map picture of a “dwelling”, JMIR is a virtual organization, with staff and freelancers in different places and often working from home. The editorial office (where the permanent staff is hosted) is actually located in an administrative wing at the Toronto General Hospital, and a picture of that office building can be found at http://jmirpublications.com.


Finally, it is somewhat flattering (but inaccurate) to frame JMIR Publications as a “large” publisher that is morphing into “the type of publisher the open-access movement was organized to take down.”. JMIR Publications is still a far cry away from being a Elsevier or even PLoS. JMIR is a scientist-owned publisher that was created in 1998 out of passion for technology in health, long before the open-access movement became fashionable. While we are proud of having become one of the leading journals in our field with a journal that is on par or better (according to impact factor) than journals published by publishing giants, it was certainly not created to “take down” anything or anybody. We are open access because we think it helps to disseminate knowledge.

To answer Beall’s last question — is JMIR the future of medical publishing? — we certainly think so and we will continue to be innovative and disruptive in many aspects.

We look forward entering a constructive dialogue with Mr Beall, but would appreciate to continue the debate on a scholarly and non-polemic level. Those working in the field of Digital Health, ehealth/mhealth and public health informatics are perhaps in the best position to judge our reputation and the quality of the material we publish, and we invite our authors, readers, peer-reviewers and editors to leave a comment on Mr Beall’s blog.

In a another comment, Beall calls us a “idiosyncratic publisher”, and if this means that we are not like other publishers, then we can agree to and are proud of that. Innovators and successful businesses are often initially accused of being “idiosyncratic”, because if they would simply imitate what everybody else does they would not be successful or innovative. We take it as a compliment.


Prof. Gunther Eysenbach,


Co-Founder, Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association


Addendum: What is behind JB’s mission to discredit gold-OA?

While Beall stopped short of accusing JMIR Publications to be predatory, it may be worth citing Phil Davies from the Scholarly Kitchen regarding Beall:

Beall is falsely accusing nearly one in five as being a “potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open access publisher” on appearances alone.

(…) 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.

Beall has been quoted as saying “The only truly successful model that I have seen is the traditional publishing model.” and “open access publishing is an anti-corporatist movement” whose advocates pursue the goal of “kill[ing] off the for-profit publishers and mak[ing] scholarly publishing a cooperative and socialistic enterprise“. ( Beall, Jeffrey (2013). “The Open-Access Movement is Not Really about Open Access”. tripleC 11 (2): 589–597. )

It is this political view and his general criticism of gold-OA against which readers should and will see JB’s assault against JMIR Publications, which threatens his belief system – we can see how confusing and irritating it must be to come across a non-traditional, yet succesful gold-Open Access publisher, which is not a “socialistic enterprise”, and intelligent readers will be smart enough to draw their own conclusions.

To quote Joseph Esposito on the Scholarly Kitchen in an article aptly entitled “Parting Company with Jeffrey Beall”: “His outrage clouds his judgment and expression and undermines his best arguments.” (http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2013/12/16/parting-company-with-jeffrey-beall/).

Outrage against succesful gold-OA models or not, JMIR Publications is disappointed about the abusive tone and personal attacks against our employees, authors, peer-reviewers, and invite readers to judge Mr Beall based on his own language and actions. We have maintained a civil tone throughout the debate, which cannot be said about Mr Beall.

We are also now learning that Mr Beall systematically suppresses comments on his blog that defend JMIR, which we find unprofessional at best. (if anybody has left a comment that is critical of his analysis, please send a screenshot to us).

Community Reactions

Some of the twitter responses to Beall’s attempt to discredit JMIR:


Email by Brennan

email by Callegaro

(asked if he had posted a response, it becomes clear that Beall has censored it) Beall censors

(Beall also censored some of our comments, which  “awaited moderation” for several days and then mysteriously disappeared) Beall censors commentsBeall censors


Backlash against Beall’s Blog

[Forwarding from Jeffrey Beall, via the ScholComm list.  --Peter Suber.]


** **

I am the author of Scholarly Open Access <http://scholarlyoa.com/>, a blog
that includes lists of questionable scholarly publishers and questionable
independent journals. ****

** **

I'm writing to let people that I've been the victim of an ongoing,
organized attempt to discredit me and my blog. ****

** **

Specifically, I've been a victim of email
in which someone is sending emails that appear to be from me but really are
not. ****

** **

One of the spoofed emails is an offer to "reevaluate" a publisher's
presence on my list for five thousand dollars. These emails try to make it
look like I am extorting money from publishers. ****

** **

Also, someone is going around setting up new blogs that reprint the spoofed
email or that include contrived quotes from scholars. An example is

** **

Additionally, someone is leaving negative comments about me and my work on
various OA-related blogs and websites, writing in the names of people
prominent in the OA movement. One place this occurred was in the comments
section of my October *Nature* piece. The publisher has removed these
spurious statements and closed further comments.****

** **

I'm going to continue my work identifying questionable and predatory
publishers as best I can. Because many of the publishers on my list are
true criminals, it's no surprise that they would respond in a criminal way.

** **

I realize my blog is not perfect; I've made mistakes and have tried to
learn from them. Many of you have given me valuable advice, and I have
tried to implement the good advice as best I could. I have not engaged in
any of the activities that they are trying to frame me with.****

** **

Thanks for your understanding. ****

** **


** **

Jeffrey Beall, MA, MSLS, Associate Professor****

Scholarly Initiatives Librarian
Auraria Library
University of Colorado Denver
1100 Lawrence St.
Denver, Colo.  80204 USA
(303) 556-5936
jeffrey.beall at ucdenver.edu****

Source: http://mailman.ecs.soton.ac.uk/pipermail/goal/2012-December/001407.html

Reputation is money in academic publishing or why Jeffrey Beall is wrong

My answer to the recent article by Jeffrey Beall.

Jeffrey Beall, the librarian at the University of Colorado Denver who maintains the list of “predatory” open access publishers and journals, recently wrote his second (as far as I know) overt attack on the open access movement. Previously, Beall accused the movement of being anti-corporatist (which is obviously partially true, but also false, since the open access movement comprises of people from different backgrounds and of different political beliefs). Now he has changed his reasoning, but what has not changed is his negative attitude towards open access, which has lead him to present a selective and biased argument.

To understand all the problems raised by Beall, first, we have to examine the role of contemporary academic publishing. It serves mostly as a selection mechanism in a crowded field of research. Researchers need publishing output to get funding, promotions, jobs, and to get tenured. This triggers a lot of pathologies, but above all it makes the system incredibly competitive and fragmented.

Every researcher wants to publish in the best available journal, especially favouring the ones that can boost career options and further reputation. Almost every university, funding committee or ministry of science, has some rules in place to make publishing in some journals a better investment than publishing in others. It must be stressed that these rules have been created and are controlled by universities and funding bodies – and not by publishers. These rules are based on journal reputation, which is usually represented by some quantitative measures, with Impact Factor by Thomson Reuters being the most important, but not the only one.

The elite club

These rules make us all play the very same old game, meaning that for a journal editor or a publisher it pays off to publish top authors, to gain or maintain a good reputation, and at the same time, for an author, it pays off to publish in good journals. The main problem with this system are the ultra-selective, astronomically expensive journals, which are considered an ultimate authority, and which keep selectivity on artificially high level, so as not to lose the discrete charm of elitism (have a look here for further reading). And, as in the case of every quasi-monopolist, the biggest problem is that they are not infallible, and as evidence suggests they publish pseudo-science and bogus articles from time to time, which does not change the fact, that people (funders, tenure committees and media) trust them. Every serious journal publisher is trying to get to this elite club, arduously collecting different points in reputation rankings, as authors are obviously less eager to publish elsewhere.

Academia has strong regulatory mechanisms to fall back on. A publication in a “predatory” journal won’t pay off for an author, as the title of the publishing venue is the be-all and end-all for the majority of academic committees and competition among researchers is growing.

Let’s start 100 bogus journals today. What will it change?

Let’s get back to Beall’s article, which starts by describing the different types of open access. The gold path, which Bealls equates with the model based on Article Processing Charges is the main problem for him. However, as far as I am concerned, gold open access means simply that an article is openly available in a journal, on the publisher’s website, as opposed to a repository. This model can be based on different sources of funding, it may require authors to pay for being published or not. You can have a look at the DOAJ databaseto quickly see how many open access, peer-reviewed journals indexed there charge APCs.

Beall’s argument based on the premise that many bogus journals funded by APCs will publish just about anything, irrespective of its scientific value is true. However, there are also plenty of reputable, high-profile, open access journals that also charge APCs. And despite the fact, that there is probably fewer of these than those of extremely poor quality, they are much more important for the academic community.

According to Bo-Christer Björk, one of most prominent open access researchers, there are more than 10 000 very low quality, open access journals, which publish everything or almost everything they receive in submissions. Jeffrey Beall has specialised in flagging these journals, but it appears he missed the fact that many of them publish almost no content. And probably some of the existing content is as fake as the journals themselves, and generated by their “publishers” to make them appear more serious. Authors do not want to publish there and this is the reason why these journals are not a real problem.

Why are there so many journals of this kind? Because you do not need many financial resources to start a bogus academic journal nowadays. It is easy to create an amateurish website, to choose a random title, and generate some editorial text with several misspelled words, etc. I think I could on my own, without any help, start 100 new journals this week which Beall would have to add to his list. But will it be a threat to the academic world? I do not think so. I think that the Integrated Journal of British was made by desperados and for desperados. Since the investment was very low and in fact hosting is the only cost of this “journal”, alongside some extremely unqualified work. If 2 or 3 desperate authors from nowhere will pay several hundred dollars for APCs, the profit margin would be fair and the risk low. But I do not expect that the owners of such journals will become millionaires. Life is not that easy. And it is not a coincidence that almost all journals on Beall’s list are based in low-income countries.

APC is not corruption

Some of my colleagues at De Gruyter Open are editors of relatively new or very new open access journals and they know that getting the first submissions requires a lot of promotional work and renown names in the editorial teams. And if the first articles are not of the highest quality (preferably authored by known authors) the journals will not be able to survive the competitive market.

Running a profitable journal requires getting an Impact Factor or at least getting indexed by distinctive abstracting and indexing services. It is not an easy task and can only be achieved by publishing more and more articles that will consequently get cited in already established venues. Publishing pseudo-science will drive any unexperienced publisher out of business (established, reputable journals can publish bogus papers from time to time). The only feasible way of acquiring submissions from acknowledged researchers is through paying attention to quality control and stringent peer review of each published article. It is also worth mentioning that serious publishers introduce APCs to new journals only after they gain some recognizability, because it is hard to find real researchers who want to pay for publishing in unknown venues.

In the long term, it is also not worth publishing bad papers just to get APCs. It just doesn’t pay off, since reputation is money in this business. And even if we were to consider that APCs corrupt peer review, the traditional venues are not free from corruption either. Peter Suber pointed out some time ago that a lot of prestigious journals charge page fee, colour fee, etc., which all together very often amounts to a low APC in open access serials.

Is green open access about to blow up the system?

About green open access Beall writes:

A third variety of open-access publishing, often labeled as green open access, is based in academic libraries and is built on an oversimplification of scholarly publishing. In the green open-access model, authors upload postprints (the author’s last version of a paper that is submitted to a subscription publisher after peer review) to digital repositories, which make the content freely available. Many academic libraries now have such repositories for their faculty members and students; 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. Despite sometimes onerous mandates, however, many authors are reluctant to submit their postprints to repositories. Moreover, the green open-access model mostly eliminates all the value added that scholarly publishers provide, such as copyediting and long-term digital preservation.

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.

The role of green open access is in fact totally different. Authors who use this means of research communication usually do not want to abolish journal publishing. Their actions are very much a result of the current publishing landscape, since this route is usually chosen by authors who want to publish in well-established journals, which do not offer the gold open access option. Virtually all journals allow authors to submit their works to repositories (usually after an embargo period). This gives an author an additional visibility and is generally accepted by publishers, because they still have the monopoly to sell an article to readers in the first months, when it is the most valuable and most in demand. Thus, a substantial part of green open access articles comes from from good quality, conventional journals, that are peer-reviewed. Repositories do not produce low quality science. They include pre-prints (article version before peer-review), but one can easily distinguish them.

Green open access has been here for a while and it does not seem to harm publishers, nor does it eliminate any services provided by them. It just creates an alternative (and usually delayed) circulation of papers. The main limitation of green open access is that publishers will not accept self-archiving of post-print without an embargo period, because it would make their business unprofitable. And authors who want to fully enjoy the benefits of open access usually do not like embargoes so much. So the main drawback of green open access is that it is not the best solution for any party.

That’s true, there is a “revolutionary” fraction of the open access movement, in favour of totally abolishing conventional publishing using green open access policies that eliminate embargo periods. This would probably make the conventional publishing model unprofitable and would make all publishers to shift toward the alternative options within gold open access publishing. But presently it seems that all open access policies respect the interests of publishers and do not cause any important changes in academic journals’ environment.

And what about the facts?

What is worrying, is that Beall disfigures facts. And I am wondering what the reason is behind his negligent attitude toward open access at large. He goes on to say: “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.” I think that academic publishing at the moment is paid by academic libraries and it is not going to change. The model based on Article Processing Charges (if it succeeds) will not change anything except from the fact that it will revert the current model. And that’s it. In both open access and the traditional model money goes from the university to the publisher, the publisher pays for all services including work that is necessary to make the paper accessible and discoverable.

When Beall writes that “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.”, it seems like an another example of his bad will. Virtually every credible open access publisher has a fee waiving policy, which (very often) automatically abolishes author fees for researchers based in low-income countries. And this is aside from the fact that these authors may also choose open access journals that do not charge authors for publications, or still, use green option. There is nothing in the idea of open access that silences anybody.

The part about Creative Commons licenses might be also misleading. According to Beall:

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. 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.

Well, indeed most journals indexed in DOAJ employ Creative Commons Attribution license which allows others to republish or translate their work. But it still requires attribution of the original author and offers protection against plagiarism, etc. There are also several other Creative Commons types of licenses, which are more restrictive. De Gruyter Open uses Creative Commons Non Commercial, Non Derivatives license, which allows readers to republish work only for non-commercial purposes and does not allow translations or adoptions.

Finally, when Beall suggests that open access publishers may be the main force behind the current debate about the limitations of peer review it sounds to me like a conspiracy theory. Those who complain most about peer review are authors, because they are very often losing time that is important for their careers as a result of rejections they consider unfair. This in turn ties in with the fact, I mentioned above, that a lot of journals are over-selective to maintain their prestige. And authors want to be published quickly, but in a famous journal. This is the main cause of tension around peer review. On the other hand, managing peer review is one of the key services that open access publishers offer to authors, so publishers would be reluctant to do away with it.

Do we need more education?

The only important point made by Beall in his text is about political activists trying to make use of the bogus journals.

Antinuclear activists, for example, are using predatory publishers to spread half-truths and false information about the effects of nuclear radiation. The pseudo-science gets published in journals that, to the general public, appear authentic, and the research is branded as science. Moreover, once political activists publish articles in open-access journals, they often seek coverage in the media, which sometimes publishes or broadcasts stories that promote the pseudo-scientific ideas of the political activists.

It is by the way interesting that Jeffrey Beall can judge what is a half-truth in the effects of nuclear radiation. I cannot, since I do not have degree in neither physics nor medicine and I will not try to write about things I know nothing or little about. Back to the point, this might be a problem, and I am curious how often popular media has repeated false information after a publication in very low quality journal, which has probably not been reviewed. If it occurs frequently, it is is a real challenge to the academic community to educate journalists to be more critical about science and pseudo-science.

Is open access a threat to us?

At the very end I would like to add one more thing about myself. I hold a PhD in sociology, which as I believe, allows me to understand a fair majority of academic papers in this subject area, and some from the general field of humanities and social sciences. It also gives me an understanding of the nuances of statistical analysis. I use these skills daily to read academic papers, both as part of my work at De Gruyter Open and beyond. Despite the fact that I do not live in the so-called Third World, I do not have regular access to subscription journals. I think that about 95% papers I read are open access. When I find an interesting paper on a publisher’s website, it is seldom published in gold open access. Usually it is paywalled, but I can find it’s free version anyway with Google Scholar. I also use Academia.edu and Arxiv.org to search for papers (on Arxiv.org there are plenty of quantitative studies on open access and academic publishing), and I have to say that some of non peer reviewed articles I find there are of poor quality, but they are just small percent. Generally, my work is much easier and I think also more effective, courtesy of open access. So, it is hard for me to understand why someone is paying so much attention to gibberish papers that probably nobody reads, instead of writing about all the important open access articles available on-line.

Source: http://openscience.com/reputation-is-money-in-academic-publishing-or-why-jeffrey-beall-is-wrong/

Beall’s Litter (it is not junk)

Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado Denver, has come to some fame in science publication circles for highlighting the growing number of “predatory” open access publishers and curating a list of them. His work has provided a useful service to people seeking to navigate the sometimes confusing array of new journals – many legitimate, many scammers – that have popped up in the last few years.

Unfortunately, as he has gained some degree of notoriety, it turns out he isn’t just trying to identify bad open access publishers – he is actively trying to discredit open access publishing in general. There were signs of this before, but any lingering doubt that Beall is a credible contributor to the discourse on science publishing was erased with an article he published last week. The piece is so ill-informed and angry that I can’t really describe it. So I’m just going to reproduce his article here (it was, ironically, published in an open access journal with a Creative Commons license allowing me to do so), along with my comments

The Open-Access Movement is Not Really about Open Access

Jeffrey Beall

Auraria Library, University of Colorado Denver, Denver, Colorado, USA, jeffrey.beall@ucdenver.edu, http://scholarlyoa.com


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

It is rather amusing to hear open access described as “anti-corporatist” seeing as the primary push for open access has come from corporations such as PLOS  and BioMed Central, a for profit company recently purchased by one of the world’s largest publishing houses.

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


If you ask most open-access (OA) advocates about scholarly publishing, they will tell you that we are in a crisis situation. Greedy publishers have ruined scholarly communication, they’ll claim, placing work they obtained for free behind expensive paywalls, locking up research that the world needs to progress.

Yes. We will say that. Because it is completely, and unambiguously true.

The OA zealots will explain how publishers exploit scholars, profiting from the research, manuscripts, and peer review that they provide for free to the publishers, who then turn around and sell this research back to academic libraries in the form of journal subscriptions.

Again. Completely true.

They will also tell you that Elsevier, the worst of the worst among publishers, actually created bogus journals to help promote a large pharmaceutical company’s products. Imagine the horror. Because of this, we can never trust a subscription publisher again. Ever.

Elsevier did do this. But this has never been part of the argument for open access.

Moreover, the advent of the Internet means that we really don’t need publishers anymore anyway. We can self-publish our work or do it cooperatively. Libraries can be the new publishers. All we have to do is upload our research to the Internet and our research will be published, and the big publishers will wither up and die freeing up academic library budgets and creating a just and perfect system of scholarly publishing.

Yup. That’s pretty much it. Of course it’s not that simple. Nobody thinks this new system will just happen organically. I and many others have proposed systems to fund publishing and manage peer review without subscription-based journals.

The story those promoting OA tell is simple and convincing. Unfortunately, the story is incomplete, negligent, and full of bunk. I’m an academic crime fighter (Bohannon 2013b). I am here to set the record straight.

Phew. I’m glad someone’s on the case.

The logic behind the open-access movement is so obvious, simple, and convincing that no one could disagree with it, except that OA advocates don’t tell the whole story. Open access will grant free access to research to everyone, including research-starved people in the Global South who have never read a scholarly article before. How could anyone oppose that? It will also allow everyone who has ever had the frustration of hitting a paywall when seeking a research article to access virtually everything for free, or so they claim.

What the Open-Access Movement is Really About

The open-access movement is really about anti-corporatism. OA advocates want to make collective everything and eliminate private business, except for small businesses owned by the disadvantaged.

I don’t even know what to say about this. Forget about the self-delusion that leads Beall to think he can intuit what my and other OA advocates intentions have been. It’s just a factually ludicrous statement. The OA movement was born, and continues to be driven, by corporations – most of them for profit corporations – who are seeking to build businesses that better serve their customers. Does Beall think Google is anti-corporatist and anti-profit because they are trying to drive small newspapers out of business?

They don’t like the idea of profit, even though many have a large portfolio of mutual funds in their retirement accounts that invest in for-profit companies.

So not only are we anti-corporatist, we’re bad investors too?

Salaries of academics in the United States have increased dramatically in the past two decades, especially among top professors and university administrators. OA advocates don’t have a problem with this, and from their high-salaried comfortable positions they demand that for-profit, scholarly journal publishers not be involved in scholarly publishing and devise ways (such as green open-access) to defeat and eliminate them.

No. I and other open access proponents see a publishing system that is expensive, slow and ineffective and that needlessly denies access to countless people in the US and elsewhere who would benefit directly and indirectly from access to the scholarly literature. Yes, we oppose publishers who employ the outdated subscription model. But not because they are corporations. It’s because what they are doing is bad for science and bad for the public. Disagree with that assessment if you will, but please spare me the anti-corporatist garbage.

The open-access movement is a negative movement rather than a positive one. It is more a movement against something than it is a movement for something. Some will respond that the movement is not against anything; it is just for open access. But a close analysis of the discourse of the OA advocates reveals that 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. It’s a negative movement.

From day 1, open access has been about a very specific alternative to the existing subscription model. Yes, by definition every effort to replace one business model with another will always have a negative aspect to it. But to deny that there is a positive aspect to OA is silly. What is PLOS? What is BMC?

This kind of movement, a movement to replace a free market with an artificial and highly regulated one, rarely succeeds.

The current publishing system a free market? How can Beall, a librarian for 23 years, say this with a straight face? There is no free market. Today scientists are all buy compelled – by both real and imagined expectations of hiring, funding and promotion committees – to publish their work in a small number of elite journals. These journals then effectively have a monopoly on proving access to content which scientists need to do their work. And they use their monopoly power to sell back this content to universities and other research institutions and massively inflated prices. There is little choice on the part of researchers to not participate in the system. And little choice on the part of institutions to opt out of subscriptions. This is not a free market that anyone who actually understands or cares about free markets would recognize.

In fact, the gold open-access model actually incentivizes corruption, which speed the path to failure. The traditional publishing model, where publishers lived or died on subscriptions, encouraged quality and innovation. Publishers always had to keep their subscribers happy or they would cancel.

Really? Quality and innovation? Twenty years since the birth of the modern internet scholarly journals basically publish electronic versions of their old print journals that are nearly identical in format, layout and content to their pre-internet editions. And this stasis actually represents progress compared to what has happened with article submission. It used to be easy to submit a paper to a journal. You printed it out and put it in the mail. Now it takes hours to go through web portals that are more complicated – and less efficient – than healtcare.gov.

Indeed, scholarly publishing is one of the least innovative industries on the planet. And why? Precisely because they have absolutely no incentive to innovate because there is not a free market in subscriptions. Indeed, the structure of the industry actively discourages innovation because the people who make the important decisions about where to publish their articles – researchers – are not the people who pay the bills for journals. I have watched over a decade of efforts on the part of the University of California libraries to cut costs by canceling subscriptions, and not once has published innovation every come up in discussions. Why? Because authors don’t give a hoot about innovation – they care about getting their work in the most high-profile journal, and that’s it.

Similarly, a movement that tries to force out an existing technology and replace it with a purportedly better one also never succeeds. Take the Semantic Web for example. It has many zealous advocates, and they have been promoting it for many years. Some refer to the Semantic Web as Web 3.0. However, despite intense promotion, it has never taken off. In fact, it is moribund. The advocates who promoted it spent a lot of time and blog space cheerleading for it, and they spent a lot of time trashing technologies and standards it was supposed to replace. In fact, that was what they did the most, badmouthing existing technologies and those who supported and used them. One example was a library standard called the MARC format. This standard was ridiculed so much it’s a wonder it still even exists, yet is still being used successfully by libraries world- wide, and the semantic web is dying a slow death. Open access publishing is the “Semantic Web” of scholarly communication.

What a load of nonsense. Yes. The semantic web failed. But if movements to replace existing technology with better ones never succeeded I would be chiseling this blog post out on cave walls.

The open access movement and scholarly open-access publishing itself are about increasing managerialism (Grayson 2013). Wherever there is managerialism, there is an increased use of onerous management tactics, including mandatory record keeping, rationing of resources, difficult approval processes for things that ought to be freely allowed, and endless committee meetings, practices that generally lead to cronyism.

Had to look managerialism up, and I still don’t understand what he’s talking about. It seems like, again, Beall is operating under the patently false notion that scholarly research and scholarly publishing are some kind of idea free market. In reality we already operate under very strict controls tied to our funding (he should see the paperwork tied to NIH grants), strict rationing of resources and difficult approval processes for things that out to be freely allowed (e.g. reading papers) as well as endless committee meetings. But I fail to see what this has to do with publishing. And does Beall really think the current journal system is free of cronyism??? Wake up man. Scholarly journals are amongst the clubbiest institutions on the planet.

The traditional publishing model had the advantage of there being no monetary transactions between scholarly authors and their publishers. Money, a source of corruption, was absent from the author-publisher relationship (except in the rare case of reasonable page charges levied on authors publishing with non-profit learned societies) in the traditional publishing model.

If you think that systems in which one group of people make the key decisions about what to buy and another group pays the bills are the perfect way to structure an economic system, I suggest you study military purchasing systems where generals decide what they want to buy and Congress just writes a check. That works out really well. Or maybe I should let my kids decide what kind of things we should by at the grocery or toy stores without a budget. THIS is what the economics of scholarly publishing are like today. The system is utterly and completely corrupt in that authors make a transaction with a journal in which they get something valuable – a citation – knowing that someone else if going to pay the bills. What on Earth do you call a system in which a small group of people receive something of great value that they make taxpayers pay for besides corrupt?

And, the “rare case of reasonable page charges levied on authors publishing with non-profit learned societies” is just ignorant. Page charges for publishing in subscription based journals are neither rare nor reasonable. Indeed the page charges levied by many journals – especially top tier and society journals – exceed the costs of publishing in open access journals.

Managerialism is the friend of those who want to restrict freedom and advancement. It is a tool for creating malevolent bureaucracies and academic cronyism. Managerialism is the logical and malevolent extension of office politics, and it will hurt scholarly communication. Many universities subsidize or pay completely for their faculty members’ article processing charges when they submit to gold (author pays) open-access journals. The management of the funds used to pay these charges will further corrupt higher education. The powerful will have first priority for the money; the weak may remain unfunded. Popular ideas will receive funding; new and unpopular ideas, regardless of their merit, will remain unfunded. By adding a financial component to the front end of the scholarly publishing process, the open-access movement will ultimately corrupt scholarly publishing and hurt the communication and sharing of novel knowledge.

Again, what world is Beall living in where unpopular ideas are littered with funding and have journals lining up to publish them? The system we have today in which journals compete based on their “impact factor” all but ensures that unpopular ideas are relegated to the most obscure corners of the publishing world. One of the long-term advantages of reforming scholarly publishing is that it will – by removing the monopolistic control publishers have today –  make publishing less expensive and accessible. Do we need to be careful that we don’t create a new system where only the powerful can publish their work? Yes. But to argue that the current system isn’t already plagued by this problem is ludicrous.

The open-access movement was born of political correctness, the dogma that unites and drives higher education.

I have been called many things in my life. But “politically correct” is not one of them.

The open-access advocates have cleverly used and exploited political correctness in the academy to work towards achieving their goals and towards manipulating their colleagues into becoming open-access advocates. One of the ways they’ve achieved this is through the enactment of open-access mandates. The strategy involves making very simple arguments to faculty senates at various universities in favour of open- access and then asking the faculties to establish the mandates. These mandates usually require that faculty use either the gold or green models of open-access publishing. OA advocates use specious arguments to lobby for mandates, focusing only on the supposed economic benefits of open access and ignoring the value additions provided by professional publishers. The arguments imply that publishers are not really needed; all researchers need to do is upload their work, an action that constitutes publishing, and that this act results in a product that is somehow similar to the products that professional publishers produce.

This is just a complete mischaracterization of open access mandates and the discussions around them. Indeed virtually all open access mandates enacted to date have been explicitly structured – much to my chagrin – so as not to threaten subscription based publishers. Virtually all of them contain embargo periods, typically of a year, before works are made freely available. Most contain opt out provisions for scholars who want to publish in journals that are incompatible with the policy. And none contain any kind of enforcement mechanism or penalties.

Nothing could be further from the truth, and the existence of the predatory publishers, the focus of my research, is evidence of this. It’s likely that hundreds or even thousands of honest researchers have fallen prey to the predatory publishers, those open-access publishers that 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. Institutional mandates feed into and help sustain predatory publishers.

These journals are terrible and need to be eliminated. And Beall’s efforts to catalog them are an important part of this. But, while there are many such journals, they constitute a small fraction of published papers. And by focusing exclusively on scammy OA publishers, Beall ignores the far bigger problem of the many subscription journals (usually run by big for-profit publishers) that also publish more or less anything submitted to them in the name of driving up their volumes and justifying increased subscription fees. If you are going to blame unscrupulous OA publishers on institutional mandates, then you have to also blame the broader “publish or perish” culture for bottom-feeding subscription journals.

Thus there are conscientious scholars, trying to follow the freedom-denying mandates imposed on them by their faculty representatives, who get tricked into submitting their good work to bogus journals.

OR, you have conscientious scholars who believe that publishing in open access journals is the right thing and have been tricked into submitting to bogus journals.

Again, I think these journals suck. I agree with Beall that we need to expose and eliminate them. But this can very easily be done without discarding open access publishing.

There are numerous open-access advocates who promote scholarly open-access publishing without warning of the numerous scam publishers that operate all around the world. I find this promotion negligent. Anyone touting the benefits of open-access and encouraging its adoption ought also to warn of the numerous and increasing scams that exist in the scholarly publishing industry.

I agree with this. This is why PLOS and many other legitimate OA publishers formed the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association to establish a code of conduct for OA publishers, and to create effective procedures to certify that publishers adhere to these standards.

I believe many OA advocates ignore the known problems with scholarly open-access publishing because they don’t want to frighten people away from it. This is the moral equivalent of selling someone a used car with the knowledge the engine block is cracked, without informing the buyer.

That’s a ridiculous metaphor. It’s not like selling a used car with a hidden defect. It’s more like encouraging people to invest their money without warning them about Nigerian banking scams. But I agree that we should all make people aware that there are problematic publishers and how people can recognize them.

Most descriptions and explanations of open-access publishing are idealistic and unrealistic. They tout the benefits but ignore the weaknesses. Many honest scholars have been seriously victimized by predatory publishers, and as a community we must help others, especially emerging researchers, avoid becoming victims. Pushing open access without warning of the possible scams is not helpful. In fact, it can be downright damaging to a scholar’s career. For example, once a researcher unwittingly submits a paper to a predatory publisher, it is usually quickly published. Sometimes this fast publishing is the researcher’s first clue that something is amiss. But by then it’s too late, as once a paper is published in a predatory journal, no legitimate journal will be interested in publishing it. When this happens to early career researchers, it can have long-term negative effects on their careers.

Again, this is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Yes, this is a problem, but it’s a small, and easily fixable one. Saying we should discard OA publishing because of these bad actors is like saying we should abandon Obamacare because some insurers have tried to exploit it in dishonest ways.

I have observed that the advocates promoting open access do not want to hear any criticisms of the movement of the open-access publishing models, and they quickly attack anyone who questions the open-access or highlights its weaknesses. Open-access advocates are polemics; they have an “us versus them” mentality and see traditional publishers as the bad guys.

I have always answered questions about PLOS and OA publishing honestly, and have spoken out repeatedly about what I see are its weaknesses and where it has not achieved its potential. However, I am also quick to point out the far greater weaknesses in the current system, and the often erroneous statements made against OA publishing.

In April 2008 [sic – it was 2013], an article about predatory publishers appeared in the New York Times (Kolata 2013). The article described predatory publishers and predatory conferences. Immediately upon publication of the article, OA advocates sprang into action, questioning the article and its reporting. Numerous blog posts appeared, many attempting to cast doubt on the arti- cle. One perhaps slightly paranoid blog post was entitled “Did Commercial Journals Use the NYT to Smear Open Access?” (Bollier 2013). The fact is the predatory publishers do cast a negative light on all of scholarly open-access publishing.

I do not agree with this at all. These publishers cast a negative light on those publishers. Most researchers know who the legitimate OA publishers are, and I have seen no evidence that the existence of these scam publishers has hurt PLOS’s reputation at all. In fact, it seems like it has had the opposite effect, with researchers gaining an appreciation for the degree of rigor PLOS puts into its review system.

I notice that Beall isn’t arguing that the existence of scam conferences casts a negative light on all scholarly conferences. Why is this? They use the same business model. It’s sometimes hard to tell which ones are good and which are bad? Is it perhaps because the logical connection he’s trying to draw between bad OA journals and all OA journals is bad.

The gold open-access model in particular is flawed; there are only a few publishers that employ the model ethically, and many of these are cutting corners and lowering their standards because they don’t have to fear losing subscribers.

It would be helpful if he were specific about who he thinks is being unethical and who is cutting corners.

On October 4, 2013, Science magazine published an article by John Bohannon (2013b) that related what the author learned from a sting operation he conducted on open-access publishers. The sting operation, which used my list of predatory publishers and the Directory of Open Access Journals as sources of journals, found that many journals accepted papers without even doing a peer review, and many did a peer review and accepted the unscientific article Bohannon baited them with anyway.

Here again, the open-access advocates came out swinging, breaking into their “us versus them” stance, and attacking Bohannon, some- times personally, for not including subscription journals in his study. Subscription journals were not part of his research question, however, but that didn’t stop the many strident critics of Bohannon’s work, who acted almost instinctively according to their Manichaean view of traditional and open-access publishing. He didn’t need to gather data about traditional publishers; that wasn’t what he was studying. If you are counting cars, you don’t need to count airplanes as a control. Also, OA advocates often brag about the continually-increasing number of open-access outlets, predicting that traditional publishers will soon be eclipsed. So if the traditional publishers are nearly extinct, why bother to study them?

The attack on Bohannon was carried out with a near religious fervour. OA advocates will do anything to protect the image of open-access. They don’t care that the number of predatory publishers is grow- ing at a near-relativistic speed; all they care about is that public perception of scholarly open access be kept positive. Bohannon was interviewed by The Scholarly Kitchen contributor Phil Davis on November 12, 2013. Summarizing the reaction of the open-access advocate community to his sting, Bohannon said, “I learned that I have been too naive and idealistic about scientists. I as- sumed that the results [of my study] would speak for themselves. There would be disagree- ments about how best to interpret them, and what to do about them, but it would be a civil discussion and then a concerted, rational, community effort to address the problems that the results reveal. But that is far from what happened. Instead, it was 100% political and many scientists that I respected turned out to be the most cynical political operators of all” (Bohannon 2013a).

Interpreting the reaction to Bohannon’s sting article publisher Kent Anderson, the president of the Society for Scholarly Publishing and former chief editor of the blog The Scholarly Kitchen commented, “… don’t expect rational, calm, reasoned assessments from the likes of Eisen, Solomon, or others [open access advocates]. They’ve demonstrated they are ideologues that are quite willing to attack anyone who they view as falling outside their particular view of OA orthodoxy. How they are able to continue to deny what is actually happening is beyond me” (Anderson 2013).

I won’t speak for others, but since Beall calls me out by name, I would like to point out that on my blog and in a forum sponsored by Science, I accepted the results of Bohannon’s story and said repeatedly that these journals are a problem. However, Beall and Bohannon’s efforts to paint his article as an innocent exploration of a problem in publishing are absurd. I won’t rehash the whole debate here. But go back and look at the press release and the things Bohannon and others wrote after the article appeared – they were clearly spinning the article in order to get in wider attention. And, of course, OA advocates responded in kind.

When he served as the chief editor of The Scholarly Kitchen blog, Anderson was a frequent target of criticism from open-access zealots. I think this analysis from him sums up the attitude and actions of open access advocates quite well: “The attacks we’ve received when we’ve talked about OA have been surprisingly vitriolic and immature, even when we’ve said some things that were intended to point out issues the OA community might want to think about, in a helpful way. Some people really have a hair-trigger about anything short of complete OA cheerleading” (Anderson 2012).

Anyone who follows Anderson and The Scholarly Kitchen know that he is on a years-long crusade to discredit open access publishing. I don’t know anyone who takes him seriously anymore. Yes, his posts inspire heated responses. That’s because he is a classic internet troll whose posts – with a selective use of facts that would make Fox News proud, and consistent questioning of the wisdom and intentions of open access proponents – are crafted to piss people off. And like more trolls, he succeeds in eliciting the kind of antagonistic comments on which he seems to get off. It’s too bad, because amidst the anti open-access rhetoric, Anderson can be coherent, sometimes makes good points, and has an interesting perspective on publishing.

One of the arguments that OA advocates use is that a lot of research is publically funded; therefore, the public deserves access to the research for free. This argument is true more in Europe more so than in the United States because collectivism is more institutionalized there. However, there are a lot of things that are publically funded that are not free, both in Europe and North America. Public transportation is one example. If OA advocates stuck to their principles, they would also be demanding that all publically owned buses and trains are free to all users. Their argument also completely ignores all the ways that publishers add value to information. This is done by selecting the best research for publication, managing the peer review process, managing ethics, maintaining servers, digital preservation, and the like. There are plenty of government-funded things that are not free, especially things to which the private sector adds value.

Beall is being willfully disingenuous here. His main critique about open access publishing is that the direct exchange of money between scientists and publishers corrupts the process. But then he accuses open access advocates of wanting publishing to be free. What does he think that OA publishing fees are for?

From the very beginning I and most other OA advocates have explicitly pointed out that publishing has costs, and that those costs need to be covered by the research community. The goal of OA publishing is not to deny the costs, but rather to pay for them in a different way. Science funders can pay a fee for access (as is currently done) , they can pay a fee to publish (as PLOS and other OA publishers do), or they could just subsidize the whole thing with no transaction cost (as eLife does – this the model I ultimately favor).

For what it’s worth, I do think buses and trains should be free for all users. This would clearly accomplish an important public good – reducing the use of cars – whose economic and non-economic benefits would far far outweigh the costs (see [1][2][3][4]).

It is particularly ironic that Beall – a Librarian – rails so much against government subsidies, since his entire profession is based on the idea that governments should completely subsidize the costs of access to information. Does he think you should pay a fee every time you check out a book? Or ask a librarian a question? Maybe he does – but it’s awfully convenient that he ignores this example, since Beall would almost certainly be out of a job if the state of Colorado applied his logic to their library system.

Building on this idea, I do find that 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. Early funding for the open-access movement, specifically the Budapest Open Access Initiative, came from George Soros, known for his extreme left-wing views and the financing of their enactment as laws (Poynder 2002).

Is there some corollary of Godwin’s Law in which anyone with a progressive agenda is labeled a Communist in order to discredit them?

It may be convenient for Beall to discredit the OA movement by labeling it’s advocates as European pinkos. But it’s an ahistorical argument. While pushes for OA came from Europe, in the sciences at least the roots are clearly in the US – starting with arXiv, then eBiomed, PubMed Central, PLOS, the NIH mandate, etc…. I in no way want to diminish the important contributions to OA from the rest of the world, but to label this a European movement is ridiculous. And, having been present at the beginning, I can assure you that collectivist arguments were never the basis for the push for OA – it was always first and foremost about making research work better.

And while George Soros did provide some early funding for BOAI. The biggest financial boost to OA in its early years came from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. You will all know Gordon Moore as the noted socialist and anti-corporatist who founded Intel.

Another inconsistency in the open-access movement is that the zealots have been attacking scholarly journal publishers but generally ignoring scholarly monograph publishers, even though they operate using basically the same model, selling proprietary content to libraries. This is evidence that the open-access movement isn’t really about making content open- access; it’s really about shutting down journal publishers. Were it a truly principled movement, it would apply its principals consistently.

The reason that journals have been the main target of OA, is that OA has – until very recently – been almost entirely about the sciences, and there is essentially no history of publishing monographs in the sciences. And, once again, if Beall – who lives off the teat of public subsidy – applied his principles consistently, he would resign his position and set up an entirely fee-for-service library.

Some tenured open-access advocates are pressuring young scholars away from submitting their work to traditional journals, sacrificing them to the open-access movement. They are pressured to publish in OA journals despite their being able to publish in more esteemed traditional journals, which would better support their tenure cases. This pressuring helps the OA movement because it gets an increased amount of good research published in open- access journals, but it hurts the individuals because it weakens their tenure dossiers. In the open-access movement, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

OA advocates are also pressuring scientists in developing countries to publish in OA journals, and this could hurt their careers. According to Contreras (2012, 60), “scientists in the developing world wish to publish in prestigious venues, with the greatest likely readership. Artificially forcing them to publish in oa journals of lesser impact could be resented and resisted, as it would be in the industrialized world”. So, OA advocates also want to sacrifice the careers of developing-world scholars so that they can achieve their collectivist goals.

Beall seems to assume that scholars are incapable of making their own decisions. There is a huge difference between trying to convince people to do something and pressuring them to do so. Only someone completely disconnected from the academic community would think that OA advocates are some kind of dominant power able to force people to do our bidding. In fact it is exactly the opposite. The dominant pressure in the system is for people to publish in the highest impact – usually subscription – journals they can. There is almost no effective pressure pushing people to OA journals.

The gold OA model is merely shifting profits from one set of publishers to another, shifting the source of money from library subscriptions to those funding article processing charges, such as the provost’s office, a researcher’s grant itself, or even the library. That is to say, the open-access movement is dealing with the serials crisis by lowering or eliminating the subscription charges that libraries have to pay. But the money to support scholarly publishing has to come from somewhere. For those researchers lucky enough to have grants, they can pay the article processing charges out of grant money, but this means less money that they can spend on actual research. New funding sources are needed for university researchers who don’t have grants. Thus, universities will have to initiate new funds to pay for the article processing charges their faculty incur when they publish in gold open-access journals. The proper distribution of these funds will require new committees and more university bureaucracy. Of course, journals charging APCs will charge more depending on the journal’s status. That is to say, journals with higher impact factors will impose higher prices. The act of instituting financial transactions between scholarly authors and scholarly publishers is corrupting scholarly communication. This was one of the great benefits of the traditional scholarly publishing system – it had no monetary component in the relationship between publishers and their authors. Adding the monetary component has created the problem of predatory publishers and the problem of financing author fees.

I actually mostly agree with Beall here. The APC model has serious problems for researchers without grant funding or from poor institutions, and it’s unreasonable to, in the long run, subsidize the publishing costs for these authors by essentially taxing the fees paid by other authors. It would indeed be a nightmare to have committees set up to decide who will get institutional fees, if that’s the model we ultimately use. I also think the APC model keeps prices artificially high (although far lower than the per article costs paid today).

There is, of course, tons of money available to support publishing, as the research community spends $10b dollars per year on publishing. If we could magically redirect these costs to support OA publishing we’d be set. But we can’t. There has to be a mechanism by which research funders (most granting agencies and universities) pay into the system in rough proportion to their usage of it. APCs accomplish this, but I think direct subsidy of publishers by funding agencies makes more sense (although this too has its problems).

But let’s remember that the current system has massive incentive problems as well – there is no incentive for the people who actually make the important decisions – authors deciding where to sent their papers – to factor in the economic value provided by the publisher, since the costs are born by libraries who are usually completely disconnected from the publishing decision. And because of this publishers have driven up their costs to the maximum level they can squeeze out of institutions, who are often in the untenable decision of having to choose between paying escalating costs and providing needed access to the literature to their researchers.

Financing article processing charges will be most problematic in middle-income countries. Most non-predatory OA publishers grant fee waivers to scholars from lower-income countries (as long as they don’t submit too many articles), but these waivers are generally not applied to many middle-income countries. Researchers in these countries are caught in a dilemma – they aren’t eligible for publisher-granted APC waivers, but their funding agencies lack the funds to subsidize the publication of their works, so they are left to fend for themselves when it comes to paying article processing charges.

This is also true. But again, remember that these countries are also horribly screwed by the current system – as they neither qualify for free access to journals, nor can they afford to subscribe to them.

In the end, the best way to address this is to lower the costs of publishing as much as possible. It is remarkable how little technology has driven down the costs of scholarly publishing – most of which involve tasks that could easily be handled with good software (formatting manuscripts, organizing peer review, etc…) but which are now done manually. You are already seeing journals whose costs are much, much lower (e.g. PeerJ) and I think you will see more of a trend in this direction as publishers actually start to respond to price pressure – something that has been completely absent from the subscription publishing world.

And now we are seeing the emergence of mega gold-open-access publishers. I’ve documented that Hindawi’s profit margin is higher than Elsevier’s and achieves this by lowering standards (Beall 2013a). Hindawi has eliminated the position of editor-in-chief from most of the firm’s over 550 journals. The company exploits Egypt’s high unemployment rate by paying minimal salaries, employing college-educated staff desperate for jobs. It’s an example of the scholarly publishing industry moving offshore. Moreover, because the journals lack editors, they have become desultory collections of loosely-related articles on a broad topic. The editorless journals lack coherence and vitality and function more like sterile repositories than scholarly publications. Open-access is killing the community function of scholarly journals, in which they served as fora for the exchange of both formal and informal communication among colleagues in a particular field or sub-field. Open access journals lack soul and are disconnected.

This is bunk. There are maybe a handful of subscription journals that have any kind of real identity. They are mostly a collection of papers who have found an appropriate level in the jockeying for impact. The society journals that Beall speaks of so nostalgically are under threat – but their enemy is not open access, it’s the impact factor. They have also been undermined by the transformation of many societies from actual collections of peers into organizations that are primarily journal publishers.

I also find it curious that Beall is so concerned about the plight of researchers in the developing world in some areas, but seems to want to deny them the right to start their own publishers. Hindawi is still trying to find it’s feet as a publishers, but I have come across several extremely good articles in Hindawi journals and I think, rather than denying them the right to exist, we should work to encourage their development into a respected members of the publishing community.

Open access advocates think they know better than everyone else and want to impose their policies on others. Thus, the open access movement has the serious side-effect of taking away other’s freedom from them. We observe this tendency in institutional mandates. Harnad (2013) goes so far as to propose a table of mandate strength, with the most restrictive pegged at level 12, with the designation “immediate deposit + performance evaluation (no waiver option)”.

A social movement that needs mandates to work is doomed to fail. A social movement that uses mandates is abusive and tantamount to academic slavery. Researchers need more freedom in their decisions not less. How can we expect and demand academic freedom from our universities when we impose oppressive mandates upon ourselves?

Once again, Beall manifests a poor understanding of how academia works. The current system is completely oppressive. While there is the illusion of choice, in reality researchers are under intense pressure to publish in a very narrow number of journals that effectively represent the choice between Coke and Pepsi. Also, researchers at major universities who receive funding from governments or foundations already operate under all sorts of mandates – most notably the requirement that they publish their work in the first place. Why is it okay to demand that people publish, but not okay to demand that people have access to the published work?

Gold Open Access is Failing

In 2006, James S. E. Opolot, Ph.D., a professor at Texas Southern University in Houston, published an article entitled “The Challenges of Environmental Crimes and Terrorism in Africa: Evidence from Eastern, Southern, and West African Countries” (Opolot 2006). The article was published in The International Journal of African Studies, one of the journals in the portfolio of the open-access (and predatory) publisher called Euro-Journals. One might assume that Euro-Journals would be based in Europe, but predatory publishers often disguise their true locations and use the names of Western countries to make themselves appear legitimate. Euro-Journals is based in Mauritius.

The open-access version of Professor Opolot’s paper has disappeared from the Internet. Plagued by takedown requests due the high incidence of plagiarism among its articles, Euro- Journals decided to switch the distribution model for some of its journals to the subscription model, and it removed all of their content from the open Internet. The publisher simply stopped publishing the balance of its journals, and it removed all of their content from the Internet as well. A blog post I wrote in March 2013 (Beall 2013b) showed that the publisher had 29 journals in its portfolio. Among these, 10 became toll-access journals, and nineteen disappeared from the Internet. Dr. Opolot’s paper was published in one of the journals whose content was removed, apparently permanently, from the Internet. I expect this process to repeat itself many times over in the coming years with other open-access publishers.

This is the worst form of cherry-picking. Open access publishing is “failing” because one open access publisher that published an insignificant number of papers went out of business? There are huge numbers of papers being published in open access journals (PLOS, BMC, and many others) that take archiving seriously. Indeed legitimate open access journals have the advantage of having all of their contents permanently archived by the National Library of Medicine – far more stable than any journal publisher.

The open-access movement has been a blessing to anyone who has unscientific ideas and wants to get these ideas into print. Because the predatory publishers care very little about peer review and see it merely as a charade that must be performed, they don’t really care when pseudo-science gets published in their journals, as long as they get paid for it. In my blog, I’ve given examples of pseudo-science being published as if it were true science. Here are three examples:

    • The Theory of Metarelativity: Beyond Albert Einstein’s Relativity (Jaoude 2013)
    • Prevalence of Autism is Positively Associated with the Incidence of Type 1 Diabetes, but Negatively Associated with the Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes, Implication for the Etiology of the Autism Epidemic (Classen 2013)
    • Combating Climate Change with Neutrinos (Wet 2013).

Beall missed perhaps the most egregious example of drivel being published in open access journals:

The Open-Access Movement is Not Really about Open Access (Beall 2013)

But seriously. Yes, there is crap published in open access journals. But like Bohannon before him, Beall has no perspective. There is a long history of bunk science being published in subscription based journals – including the highly prestigious ones. There are, and always have been, journals at the margins of respectability that will publish anything. To blame this on open access by picking a few examples is ridiculous.

The last of these, “Combating Climate Change with Neutrinos”, was summarily retracted (without any notice) by the publisher after I drew attention to it in a blog post (Beall 2013c). I saved a copy of the article’s PDF and have made that document available on the blog post. There are many unscientific ideas that people can get published in scholarly journals thanks to predatory open-access publishing. Authors of these works find that their ideas fail peer review in legitimate journals, so they seek out predatory publishers that are more than happy to accommodate their publishing needs. Some of these ideas include issues relating to sea-level rise (or the lack of it), Sasquatch, anthropogenic global warming (or the lack of it), the aetiology of autism, and the nature of dark matter and dark energy.

Often promoted as one of the benefits of open-access is the fact that everyone, even the lay public, will have access to all the scientific literature. But in the context of pseudo-science being published bearing the imprimatur of science, this becomes a serious problem. People who are not experts in a given field generally lack both the ability to understand the most complex research in the field and the ability to distinguish between authentic and bogus research in the discipline. As more bogus research continues to be published open-access, it will be accessed more by the public, and many will accept it as valid research. This bogus research will poison discourse in many scientific fields and will create a public that is misinformed on many scientific issues.

The public accepting peer reviewed research as fact without skepticism is indeed a problem. But let’s ask ourselves what was the most egregious example of this in the last decade? Has to be Andrew Wakefield’s papers on the link between vaccines and autism. Where were they published? The Lancet, Gastroenteroloy and the American Journal of Gastroenterology. All subscription journals. Is this bad? Yes. Is this a problem with open access? Of course not.

Megajournals are becoming like digital repositories. These journals, many of them now editorless, are losing the cohesion, soul, and community-binding roles that scholarly journals once had. My website has its main list of publishers, but in early 2012 I was compelled to create a second list, a list of what I refer to as predatory standalone journals. These are predatory journals that cover the entire breadth of human knowledge, much broader than just science. Predatory publishers discovered the megajournal model by copying “successes” like PLOS ONE. As of late November 2013, I have 285 megajournals in my standalone journal list. They have titles like Journal of International Academic Research for Multidisciplinary [sic], International Journal of Sciences, and Current Discovery. The broad titles reflect the marketing strategy of accepting as many papers as possible, in order to maximize income. How many megajournals does the world need? Most of these journals exist only for the authors, those who need academic credit. Many of their articles will never be read, and many are plagiarized from earlier articles. The articles then become the source of future plagiarism. Collectively, they lower the quality of science and science communication. They clutter Google and Bing search results with academic rubbish.

We don’t need 285 megajournals. I agree. But we also don’t need 10,000 subscription journals. I’d argue we don’t need journals at all. But Beall’s math is misleading. There may be 285 megajournals (I’ll take him at his word), but the vast majority of papers published in these journals are in a very small number (with PLOS ONE at the front). Saying that megajournals are bad because there are a lot of (largely failed) efforts to copy the success of one is like saying that search engines are bad because there are hundreds of useless and poorly used ones trying to copy the success of Google.

The future of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) may be in doubt. Numerous companies are emerging that aggregate content from CC BY-licensed works, publish them in new formats, and sell them at a profit. Frequently, when scholars find out that their work has been published for profit without their knowledge, their first reaction is often anger, even though they freely assigned the free license to their work. They feel betrayed. The CC- BY license has been promoted by European open-access advocates; the North Americans’ view of open-access is more restrictive. Many here prefer to promote the CC BY NC (non- commercial) license. For many in North America, the concept of open-access itself means “ocular” open-access – that is, OA means that you can access content but can’t do much else with it, other than read it. The Europeans are more collectivist and appropriative; for them scholarly publishing is another opportunity for taking. They do not respect the freedom of the press when the free press doesn’t adopt their collectivist values.

This is a complete red herring. I’ve heard people raise this as a potential problem, but very very few complaints about it actually happening. And even when I have, it’s always been possible to explain why PLOS and other OA publishers prefer the CC-BY license. In contrast, I hear all the time from publishers that they want to use CC-BY-NC, not to protect against misuse, but to protect their revenues. Thus it is absurd to attribute any reluctance to use CC-BY to authors.

We mustn’t forget the strengths of the traditional or subscription model of scholarly journal publishing. When space was an issue, journals could only publish the very best of the articles they received, and any lapse in quality over time led to subscription cancellations. The result was that the traditional journals presented the cream of the crop of current research. With open-access journals, the opposite is often true.

Indeed, when many libraries began to engage in journal cancellations in response to higher subscription prices (subscription prices increased mainly due to a great increase in the amount of scholarship being published), the subscription publishers came up with a solution that has greatly benefitted libraries: bundling and differential pricing. This innovation has greatly benefitted scholars by making a great amount of research affordable to academic libraries. On top of this, many publishers grant additional discounts to library consortia licensing journal subscriptions in bulk. According to Odlyzko (2013, 3) “the median of the number of serials received by ARL [Association of Research Libraries] members almost quadrupled during the period under investigation, going from 21,187 in the 1989-1990 academic year to 80,292 in the 2009-2010 one. Practically the entire increase took place during the last half a dozen years, without any big changes in funding patterns, and appears to be due primarily to ‘Big Deals’”. This finding shows the power of the market; when subscribers cut subscriptions, publishers take beneficial action for consumers.

Beall has to be the only person on the planet – outside of the Elsevier board room – who thinks “Big Deals” are a good idea. Virtually everyone I know in the library world – including many who are not fans of open access – think that “Big Deals” are a very bad idea, and university systems across the world have been abandoning them.

OA journals don’t have any space restrictions. They can publish as many articles per issue as they want, so the incentive for them is to publish more. We hear less about acceptance rates than we did in the past because of this.

Why does Beall think subscription journals have any limit on the amount of articles they can publish? Since almost nobody accesses these journal in print (aside from Science, Nature, Cell and a few others), they don’t. The only reason they limit what they publish is to create an artificial scarcity. And precisely because of the “Big Deal”s Beall seems to love, subscription publishers have exactly the same incentive. Big Deals have created an economy in which subscription publishers are directly rewarded with higher subscription revenues when they publish more papers.

There is one, and only one, reason for the massive increase in the number of subscription journals over the past few decades. It’s not because the community has been clamoring. It’s because publishers know that the easiest way for them to increase their revenues is to launch new titles and publish as many papers in them as possible. That is why Big Deal publishers like Elsevier specialize in launching new journals that provide no knew value to the community (most overlap existing journals in scope and selectivity), but provide huge benefit to Elsevier.

Traditional journals didn’t have the built-in conflict of interest that gold open-access journals have. For gold OA, the more papers a journal accepts, the more money it makes.

As I pointed out above, there is a direct correlation between the number of articles subscription based publishers accept and their revenues. Thus subscription based publishers have as much of a conflict of interest as OA publishers – it’s just hidden from view because the money is laundered through libraries.

Money is corrupting scholarly publishing. Scholars never should have allowed a system that requires monetary transactions between authors and publishers. Libraries took responsibility for this financial role in the past, and they performed it well. Now the realm of scholarly communication is being removed from libraries, and a crisis has settled in. Money flows from authors to publishers rather than from libraries to publishers. We’ve disintermediated libraries and now find that scholarly system isn’t working very well.

Most libraries have done great work providing scholars with access to the literature they need to perform their jobs. But it’s a bit ridiculous to say that the system has thrived on their watch. For decades the cost of scholarly publishing has increased at a rate that far exceeds the rate of inflation, and it has done so precisely because scholars have not been involved in the financial transaction. A system in which scholars decide where to publish but have zero incentive to make choices based on cost leads to out of control spending increases. Of course libraries aren’t responsible for this – they have been left in charge of paying the bills without any effective way to keep costs down. Indeed, librarians were the first to begin writing about this problem – as long ago as the 1980s – warning that increases in costs were unsustainable. But if we’re actually going to tackle the ever escalating costs of publishing it will be by giving authors an incentive to make publishing choices based on cost – something that open access does, but subscription based publishing does not.


The open-access movement isn’t really about open access. Instead, it is about collectivizing production and denying the freedom of the press from those who prefer the subscription model of scholarly publishing. It is an anti-corporatist, oppressive and negative movement, one that uses young researchers and researchers from developing countries as pawns to artificially force the make-believe gold and green open-access models to work. The movement relies on unnatural mandates that take free choice away from individual researchers, mandates set and enforced by an onerous cadre of Soros-funded European autocrats.

Ooh. That’s scary. Soros-funded Europan autocrats.

The open-access movement is a failed social movement and a false messiah, but its promoters refuse to admit this. The emergence of numerous predatory publishers – a product of the open-access movement – has poisoned scholarly communication, fostering research misconduct and the publishing of pseudo-science, but OA advocates refuse to recognize the growing problem. By instituting a policy of exchanging funds between researchers and publishers, the movement has fostered corruption on a grand scale. Instead of arguing for open-access, we must determine and settle on the best model for the distribution of scholarly re- search, and it’s clear that neither green nor gold open-access is that model.

Open access IS a social movement. Not only will I not deny that. I am proud of it. It’s a social movement based on the principle that scholarly research is a social good and those of us lucky enough to be involved in it should do everything we can to make sure that we do not let our vanity and narrow self-interest prevent us from making sure that our fields operate in the most efficient way, and that we give back to society in every way possible.

But open access is also a business model. And it’s a very successful one that is growing in popularity. Predatory open access publishers are a problem – but they’re a minor one that can easily be dealt with by establishing and enforcing standards for good journal practices.

It’s too bad Beall turns out to be so stridently anti open-access. He deserves credit for almost single-handedly raising awareness about predatory publishers trying to take advantage of the rise of open access – a problem nobody else was noticing let alone trying to do something about. He could have been a constructive force in helping to develop ways to counter this trend – as it is we’ll have to work it out on our own.

– See more at: http://www.michaeleisen.org/blog/?p=1500#sthash.6L8WSSs2.dpuf


Source: http://www.michaeleisen.org/blog/?p=1500

Response to “Beyond Beall’s List”

J. Beall reply by Monica Berger and Jill Cirasella

Ed. note: The following is Jeffrey Beall’s letter to the editor regarding “Beyond Beall’s List: Better Understanding Predatory Publishers,” by Monica Berger and Jill Cirasella, from the March 2015 issue of C&RL News. Berger and Cirasella follow with a reply to Beall.

Because predatory publishers are damaging research cultures and hurting individual researchers, I was happy to see coverage of them in C&RL News. However, I was disappointed that the article was unbalanced and aimed to discredit me personally.

For example, I found Berger and Cirasella’s use of selective citation unsound, especially given ACRL’s recent work on information literacy. They extensively cited an author who writes and self-publishes his own non-peer-reviewed journal, a publication that includes several articles that attack me and leave me feeling bullied.

They skipped over the many positive descriptions of my work in peer-reviewed journals, including a recent editorial in the British Medical Journal that says, “Beall’s list is helpful.…”1 Also, a nursing editors group issued a joint statement entitled “Predatory Publishers: What the Nursing Community Needs to Know” that says, “We encourage nursing authors to use Beall’s list of predatory publishers at Scholarly Open Access … as a reliable resource.”2

Attacking or criticizing me will not make the problem of predatory publishers go away, nor will pretending that predatory journals don’t exist, a common strategy among academic librarians. Medical ethicist Arthur L. Caplan warns, “If the medical and scientific communities continue to remain in publication pollution denial, the trustworthiness, utility, and value of science and medicine will be irreparably damaged.”3

When predatory publishers and other critics of my work want to discredit me, they generally collect and repeat some of the criticisms they find online, criticisms sometimes penned by publishers seeking to discredit me for listing their journals. Here, Berger and Cirasella did the same, merely collecting and parroting hearsay from those who seek to silence me.

Further, I was happy that the authors mentioned the serials crisis and my assertion that big deals have largely resolved it, as confirmed by one prominent economist, who stated last year that “Publishers, through the oft-reviled Big Deal packages, are providing much greater and more egalitarian access to the journal literature, an approximation to true Open Access.”4

Academic librarians unfairly place exclusive blame for increased library expenditures on scholarly publishers, ignoring the true etiology, namely the expansion of science into many new fields (spawning new journals) and the increase in the number of researchers needing to certify themselves through publication, greatly increasing the number of articles published. Why do academic librarian open access advocates give a pass to OCLC? It profits in a way similar to subscription publishers, aggregating taxpayer-funded metadata and then selling it back to libraries.

Gold open access journals threaten to silence researchers in low- and middle-income countries, where grants, funding, and fee waivers are rare. Payments from authors are now the norm, but not all authors can afford them. This open access-inspired cultural change will have far-reaching implications and will favor authors with funds.

I am not perfect and have made mistakes. I welcome criticism but ask that it be balanced and better referenced. Selective citation does not serve C&RL Newsreaders well.


  1. 1.
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Monica Berger and Jill Cirasella reply

As we acknowledged in our column, Beall’s list is a useful resource. However, it is not the final word on predatory publishers. Our article informed readers of the debate surrounding Beall’s list and presented them with additional tools for identifying and avoiding predators. We also encouraged readers to look beyond blacklists and whitelists and perform their own critical evaluations of journals.

We now encourage readers to critically evaluate one of the articles we cited, Jeffrey Beall’s “The Open-Access Movement Is Not Really about Open Access.”1 In this article, he expresses scorn for the open access (OA) movement, calling it “an anti-corporatist movement that wants to deny the freedom of the press to companies it disagrees with.” With such statements, he reveals his lack of objectivity on the topic of OA and demonstrates exactly why it’s important to look beyond Beall’s list when evaluating OA journals.

Source: http://crln.acrl.org/content/76/6/340.full

Jeffrey Beall and Blacklists

Jeffrey Beall is probably best known for his list of predatory scholarly open access publishers. The list appears to provide a useful service to the academic community in alerting scholars to questionable publications. However, there are two main problems with this list.

  1. The list is based on the opinions and judgements of a single person and, therefore, subject to the errors of judgement, prejudices and conflicts of interest inherent in such an approach;
  2. The list only includes open access journals, giving the impression that only this model of publication is subject to predatory and questionable practices.

The reasons for the increase in questionable publication practices are complex and outside the scope of this blog, but include the current hyper-competition in science, the dramatic increase in the number of research workers many often poorly trained in research and publication ethics and the use of journal articles as a “currency” in deciding promotion, tenure, hiring or the awarding of grants. These factors together with human attributes of ingenuity, vanity and greed provide themillieu in which predatory journals flourish.

It is certainly true that the problem of questionable publications occurs more often with open access journals, but this is not inherently due to the publishing model. Most publishers, including the major commercial publishers, have discovered that open access provides a superior economic model for publishing new journals. The result is that nearly all new journals use the open access model and predatory publishing practices often (but not solely) occur in new journals.

Even if the open access model was abolished the phenomenon of predatory journals would not go away. Those behind these enterprises would find new ways of serving this market. Subscription publishers have also produced questionable journals, including some of the main commercial publishers. There also exists a network of non-open access vanity publishers willing to publish any dissertation or thesis as a scholarly monograph.

But let us return to Mr Beall’s list, an article he recently published makes it clear that his targeting of open access journals is, in fact, based on his keen dislike of the open access movement in general, which he believes is a conspiracy led by European socialists aimed at destroying for- profit publishing. Mr Beall is particularly scathing of gold open access stating that “Scholars should have never allowed a system that requires monetary transactions between authors and publishers”, but appears to have no problem with subscription journals levying page charges, a clear case of double standards.

Mr Beall also appears to have a deep mistrust of academic publishing in the developing world. He regularly puts new publishers from these countries on his list until they can “prove” their credentials creating added difficulties for publishers in these countries. A case in point is MedKnow, a publisher of reputable journals in the Middle East and Asia, including the journal of a regional office of the World Health Organization. This publisher was added to his watch list, presumably because it was based in India. The publisher was then acquired by Walters-Kluwer and the journals suddenly becoming safe in Beall’s worldview as the publisher disappeared from the watch list.

This combination of dislike of open access publishing and distrust of scholarly publishing in the developing world has now resulted in his recent blog comparing the SciELO platform to a favela. Readers of this blog do not need me to describe the outstanding services provided by SciELO to academic publishing nor the absurdity of his arguments, however you can find further details in my comments and replies posted on his original blog1 which provides further evidence of his prejudices and motives.

Blacklists, particularly those created without due process, are morally perilous and it is time that Beall’s list is replaced with a list of reputable journals. Predatory journals are only one problem in an increasingly ethically challenging publishing environment particularly for inexperienced researchers. The new list should be impersonal, widely available for consultation, backed by academic organizations and with transparent exclusion and inclusion criteria but this is the subject for another post…


1. BEALL, J. Is SciELO a Publication Favela? Scholarly Open Access. 2015. Available from:http://scholarlyoa.com/2015/07/30/is-scielo-a-publication-favela/


BEALL, J. Is SciELO a Publication Favela? Scholarly Open Access. 2015. Available from:http://scholarlyoa.com/2015/07/30/is-scielo-a-publication-favela/

BEALL, J. List of publishers. Scholarly Open Access. 2015. Available from:http://scholarlyoa.com/publishers/

BEALL, J. The Open-Access Movement is Not Really about Open Access. tripleC. 2013, vol. 11, nº 2, pp. 589–597. Available from: http://triplec.at/index.php/tripleC/article/view/525/514


Source: http://blog.scielo.org/en/2015/08/04/jeffrey-beall-and-blacklists/

Backlash after Frontiers journals added to list of questionable publishers Open-access publisher is the latest addition to controversial ‘Beall’s List’.

Researchers on social media have been split by the decision of academic librarian Jeffrey Beall to add the Frontiers journals to his ‘blacklist’ of “questionable publishers”.

Beall, at the University of Colorado Denver, announced the move in a tweet:

His website Scholarly Open Access maintains a list of journals that may be “predatory publishers” — a term Beall coined to cover publications that charge scientists fees to publish research papers, but that do not offer standard publishing services such as peer review or that make misleading claims about their journals on issues such as impact factors or indexing.

Critics spoke out against Beall’s blacklisting of Frontiers, maintaining that the open-access publisher is legitimate and reputable and does offer proper peer review.

Daniël Lakens, an experimental psychologist at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands and an associate editor at Frontiers in Cognition, tweeted:

Beall told Nature that he stands by his decision and that he has received dozens of e-mails from the scientific community outlining bad practices at Frontiers.

Beall names some controversies that he says helped raise concerns about the Frontiers journals. These include a Frontiers in Psychology paper suggesting that conspiracy theorists do not believe in climate change and a Frontiers in Public Health paper raising questions about the link between HIV and AIDS. Both ignited Internet firestorms on publication.

In a statement, Frontiers said that it was committed to serving the academic community, was a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics and was also on the ‘whitelist’ of legitimate publishers kept by the Directory of Open Access Journals. “Dubious actions as such by an individual with a long history of opposing Open Access publishing serve only to create confusion that slows down the development of Open Access publishing,” says the statement.

Adding Frontiers to the blacklist may cause problems for researchers who have previously published in the journals, says Lakens. “It could be, the articles people have published in Frontiers are no longer judged based on their own quality, but are now seen as less valuable because Frontiers is on Beall’s list,” he says. “Having a single influential individual cast doubt on such a huge journal feels very unfair.”

Love it or hate it, Beall’s blacklist is the only one out there, and it’s providing an important service, says Neuroskeptic, a pseudonymous neuroscience blogger and researcher in the United Kingdom. Although he doesn’t agree with Beall’s decision, Neuroskeptic says that he sees the value and merit of the Scholarly Open Access website.

“The grand majority of these publishers really are seriously dodgy, and someone needs to be calling them out,” Neuroskeptic says. “The list has helped me — I think it’s important.”

The Holtzbrinck Group, based in Stuttgart, Germany, is a part owner of Frontiers and also owns a share of Nature’s parent company, Springer Nature. Frontiers says that “While generally operating as an independent business and publisher, Frontiers now collaborates with Holtzbrinck businesses including NPG on key initiatives to advance the cause of Open Science for the benefit of both the research community and the broader public.” Nature’s news team is editorially independent.

Source: http://www.nature.com/news/backlash-after-frontiers-journals-added-to-list-of-questionable-publishers-1.18639

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 Academia.edu.

…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!

Source: https://blogs.lt.vt.edu/openvt/2015/05/19/a-response-to-jeffrey-bealls-critique-of-open-access/

DOAJ attitudes toward Beall’s list

The central player in the whitelisting movement is the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).” The managing director of DOAJ, Lars Bjørnshauge, estimates that questionable publishing probably accounts for fewer than 1% of all author-pays, open-access papers, a proportion far lower than Beall’s estimate of 5-10%. Instead of relying on blacklists, Bjørnshauge argues that open-access associations such as the DOAJ and the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association should adopt more responsibility for policing publishers: they should lay out a set of criteria that publishers and journals must comply with to win a place on a ‘white list’ indicating that they are trustworthy.