I’ve been fairly outspoken about my support for open access publishing (On paywalls, F paywalls), so you might think that I would naturally be at odds with probably the most prominent critic of (paid) open access publishing, Jeffrey Beall. I’m not, though. I despise scammers of all stripes (This should be interesting, What good is a washing machine on Arrakis?, I think Tina/Nora has given up on me), and I think predatory open access publishers are loathsome parasites.
Did Beall miss the mark with his criticism of Frontiers publishing? I think he did. I THINK he did. I hope he did, because I recently agreed to serve as a ‘review editor’ for Frontiers in Plant Science [that’s my full disclosure, folks]. From everything I can tell, they are completely above-board. If someone can convince me otherwise (and I AM listening), I will turn on them like Trump on Cohen. That said, Beall only ever claimed to have identified “potential, possible, or probable” predatory publishers. I think his website was a valuable resource, and I miss it (Say it ain’t so! Beall’s list shuts down).
Beall’s list is archived at https://beallslist.weebly.com/, but of course it’s not maintained, which is crucial given the rate at which predatory publishers spawn. I was looking for that the other day in response to a colleague’s question, and I thought, I’ll just check to make sure the original site is still down. I’m glad I did, because I came across one of the most egregious (and hilarious) examples of cybersquatting I’ve ever seen.
Beall’s list was hosted at scholarlyoa.com, so it wouldn’t be terribly surprising if someone accidentally navigated to scholarlyoa.net, as I did. And ho-ly shit, did I strike gold.
There’s a lot here; I’m only going to hit the highlights:
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.
No evidence that Beall demanded ransom, or that he “will be prosecuted…for fraud, extortion, bribery, and money laundering,” is provided, of course.
Beall claims to be a professor at the University of Colorado, but he is not. He is only a library student worker. His school gives academic ranks to library employees. Theoretically, a student worker at the University of Colorado could be a professor and actually this is what happened with Beall. He is a graduate student with a bachelor degree in Spanish.
Documentation that Beall ever claimed to be a professor is not provided. It is true that Beall has a bachelor’s degree in Spanish, but the website fails to mention that he also has two master’s degrees, in English and Library Science. It’s not just a lie of omission, either; they claim (falsely) that
Beall only has a bachelor Degree in Spanish…
There’s even a conspiracy theory:
Since Open Access scholarly journals became popular, larger publishing companies were significantly affected as their financial benefits were consequently reduced. Their income and profit margins are heavily shrinking day-by-day and as such it has emerged that many mechanisms aimed at discrediting Open Access journals have been actively put in place to combat the threat.
One such mechanism has been that larger publishing companies seem to have hired various individuals to discredit Open Access journals. Their idea and attempt is to drive researchers away from submitting research papers to Open Access journals. All of this has been done in order to regain their loss in revenue. This plot has been carried out in ways such as the larger publishing companies’ support of the ideology of Jeffrey Beall. Beall is a so-called self-proclaimed journal critic who openly criticised and has attempted to discredit many Open Access Journals. This campaign is part of a larger campaign to destroy Scholarly Open Access journals.
One of the “two main problems” identified with Beall’s list is that
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.
Being based on opinion is not a problem for them, though:
These views represent the personal opinions of various authors and may not necessarily reflect the position of the Friends of Open Access.
Beall expressing his opinion makes him a “predatory blogger” and an “academic terrorist,” while the Friends of Open Access expressing their opinion “constitutes free speech“.
Not to worry, though; there’s an appeals process:
If Beall or his bloggers believe that Beall should not be included on the list, as a “predatory blogger” please send an email to the, Friends of Open Access, at firstname.lastname@example.org
In the email, please state the reasons why Beall or you believe, Beall should not be included. The email will be forwarded to a four-member advisory board.
I doubt it. Everything about this website, from its lousy design and inconsistent formatting to its Trump-tweet-esque grammar, suggests a single author. I would love to know who Friends of Open Access are (or is). I’d give better than even odds that they are associated with an open access publisher that was listed on Beall’s list. There’s my conspiracy theory.