Retraction of a previous post about pseudojournals


On 09 April 2013, I published a post entitled, “Keeping tabs on pseudojournals.”

I just modified that post to indicate a retraction, with the following text:

Since I published this post, I’ve been made aware of an alternative agenda in Jeffrey Beall’s crusade against predatory publishers. His real crusade is, apparently, against Open Access publishing. This agenda is clearly indicated in his own words in an open access publication entitled, “The Open-Access Movement is Not Really about Open Access.” More information about Beall’s agenda can be found here. I am not removing this post from the site, but I am disavowing its contents as positive coverage of the work of Beall may undermine the long-term goal of allowing all scientists, and the public, to access peer-reviewed publications as easily and inexpensively as possible.

Months ago, I saw the Beall’s paper, that tried to equate open-access publishing with poor quality scholarship. This makes no sense whatsoever, because many open access journals have rigorous peer review. (For example, I posted the reviews from my a recent-ish PLOS ONE paper of mine. No doubts about that rigor.) The suggestion that an open access publishing model is tantamount to predatory publication is not only absurd, but also is intellectually dishonest. I could only image that this position is either a result of incredibly feeble reasoning, or is politically motivated to help publishers maintain their oligarchy of the academic publishing industry.

Regardless of the reasons, Beall’s crusade against the open access to academic research is folly and I don’t want to be associated with support for his work. Now, academia needs a strong, rational and transparent voice to combat genuine predatory publishers that lack rigorous peer review and are guilty of academic payola. It seems Jeffrey Beall doesn’t fit that bill.

7 thoughts on “Retraction of a previous post about pseudojournals

  1. Thanks for the links. I hadn’t seen them.

    Upon reading them, I agree with some of Beall’s agenda and disagreewith some. There is no denying that OA has opened the door to many for-profit, predatory publishers who will print just about anything (these journals are probably a numerical majority of OA journals even if they are definitely not the flagship OA journals that come to mind first). And when most OA (including the mainstream ones) charge $1500 and up its hard to think this doesn’t bias the game against junior scientists without big grants (fee waivers, etc, not withstanding). But yeah some of the polemic about OA being anti-corporatist (yes it is, but so what, it is on target in this case when profit margins are 40%) and about denying freedom of the press (an Orwellian inversion of reality) are out of left field.

    But it doesn’t invalidate what he has documented about those journals. I actually find his list pretty accurate, whatever his motive. Publicizing journals that charge $3,000-$5,000 for putting a PDF on a website and that will publish anything (often without any real peer review – effectively making it possible to buy your way into publishing) is a public service in my book.

    • I agree with all of this.

      Clearly, Beall’s list is a valuable public service. And his approach seems to be legit, and based on my familiarity with journals (and spam), I have no specific beef with what is on the list and what isn’t on the list.

      But this is a gift horse that I’m choosing to look in the mouth. Beall’s list based on a site called “Scholarly Open Access.” I first thought that this choice of words was a misfortunate conflation of predatory publication and various open access distribution models. Now I see that this was by design, because Beall has actual disdain for the practice of Open Access publishing.

      Just as Dawkins’ disdain for religion taints his efforts at evolution education for all, Beall’s disdain for open access publishing taints his efforts at delegitimizing predatory publishers. Of course, at the moment Beall’s list is fine, and The Blind Watchmaker is an excellent book to teach people how complexity can arise through natural selection. But The Blind Watchmaker is in print and isn’t going to change, and when people buy this book they don’t have to visit a Dawkins’ anti-relgion website. Beall’s list is subject to revision based on Beall’s judgment, which has been solid so far with respect to the list but I don’t know what the future holds. I would be uncomfortable pointing others to his site for information about the publishing industry because his position on open access publication is so diametrically opposed to my own that I don’t want anybody to think that I support it. Based on what I know now, I never would have written that earlier post, which is why I’ve retracted it.

      If the list of predatory publishers was not wholly Beall’s creation — and wasn’t branded with his own name — then I think I’d be fine standing by it. But Beall’s list is on his site, and is connected to his broader agenda, with which I disagree. Frankly, I am anti-corporatist when it comes to scientific publication. The faster we can get this out of the hands of for-profit publishers, the better off we’ll be.

      So, in short, Beall’s list is good. Beall’s agenda (in part) is specious. So when educating others about predatory publication, I think I’m more comfortable taking another avenue than “Scholarly Open Access.”

      • Yep – for better and worse, the messenger is part of the message. Too bad there is not another list that lets somebody find out whether its just a new, obscure OA journal or a predatory journal (although I imagine looking at the price to publish is a pretty good clue as is an unwillingness to fully disclose the price to publish up front).

        I know the research center I am part of approved a rule to pay OA charges up to $1,500 and anything over only by special exception. Experienced faculty across many disciplines (I’m talking including the humanities here) agreed that was a pretty good a priori rule to distinguish “good” OA from predatory OA.

  2. It bothers me that federally funded research is not accessible post-publication. I have no problem with for-profit publications. I don’t really have a problem with open access publishing models, either.

    But when it comes to academic research, there should be a fairly short drop dead date beyond which the work enters the commons, optimally through the library of congress.

    Journal article, conference proceeding, whatever… gets published. 18 months later, publisher submits to the LoC (a) the original paper (b) the peer review criticisms (c) the final paper.

    Then the public gets access to the research, and the scientific community gets access to the research, and the scientific community gets access to the actual peer review that was performed on the paper in the first place.

    • Agreed on all counts, too.

      I’m fine with the for-profit publishers as long as the information is broadly available to the public within a reasonable timeframe. It seems that their business models are hinged on retaining control for as long as possible, and as that control is slipping away in the same way that the music industry lost control, they are tightening the reins just as the music industry attempted to. I hope we don’t end up with DRM on scientific papers!

      Now, both NSF- and NIH-funded papers can be publicly deposited one year after publication. I think some authors don’t bother to do this, though. (That NSF rule change came through last year and there wasn’t much discussion or praise for it, which surprised me.)

        • Here is more on that. After following up, it seems that the policy for NSF to follow the NIH rule is a White House recommendation and they’re working on implementing it. Technically not implemented, it seems.

          However, if I ‘jailbreak’ a paper on my website a year after publication and I get a takedown notice from the publisher, I’d take this and tell them to ask NSF to ask me to take it down. (I’ve only gotten one takedown notice, a few years ago, which I ignored, and I’m not in prison yet nor having my wages garnished.)

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