Where’s the Scholarly OA blog and the Predatory Journal List? (Third Update, 6.15.17)

Newest Update, June 15, 2017: The plot thickens, and yet we have clearer answers as to the disappearance of Beall’s List. Read the latest by Prasad Ravindranath at Science Chronicle: https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/44933113/posts/1493322021

original post January 18, 2017, updated February 13, 2017 and June 15, 2017

February 13 update: So, this story just keeps getting weirder. It seems that in a recent interview with science blogger Prasad Ravindranath, Jeffrey Beall significantly downplayed his plans to collaborate with Cabell’s on (re-)producing an ongoing list of flagged or potentially predatory journals and conference proceedings. Cabell’s responded in a shocked manner. And Beall, for his part, is feeling very much like he needs to move on to less controversial work at UC Denver. And that’s where we are with all that, folks.

Reminder – the Wayback Machine at the Internet Archive has Beall’s List up through the end of 2016 there.

Jeffrey Beall’s running list of potentially scammy journals, publishers, and conferences has been taken down. What now?

Recently, in the process of putting together a paper on rumor research, I came across a handful of interesting articles in journals and conference proceedings that had been flagged on ScholarlyOA.com as potentially predatory and phony. I was disappointed, since they seemed like they were based on some solid work. I haven’t decided yet whether I plan to leave them out of further revisions of the paper or simply refer to them as unpublished manuscripts. Some of them involve mathematical sophistication that I am in no position to evaluate, and I therefore have to know for sure whether other mathematical modelling people have reviewed it.

For those of you unfamiliar with the world of peer-reviewed scholarly and scientific publishing, the word “predatory” here tends to mean charging submitters a large fee and then engaging in little to no peer review, resulting in the publication of journal issues or conference proceedings that have no recognition from, or participation in, organizations in their respective fields. Their editorial boards are also phony – scholars have been sometimes shocked to learn that they were on the masthead, and had never been sent manuscripts to review. They often have innocuous names that sound perfectly respectable, or are similar to, legitimate journals in a field. So let’s say there’s a legitimate journal called Journal of Crypto-Invertebrates. The predatory one might be called International Journal of Crypto-Invertebrate Research. Unless you noticed that the publisher wasn’t one of the major journal publishers, or called up the people on the editorial board, you might not catch it at all; the visible mimicry of real journals is fairly impressive. You might easily mistake one of these places for real if: you had not been aware of this growing problem, or if you were looking for research that is outside your discipline or specialization.

One note: the up-front-payment criteria doesn’t by itself doesn’t mean a publication is bogus; legitimate Open Access publishers seek payment from sponsoring institutions like universities and institutes, and then make the content free to readers. That’s just a newer and alternative payment model; the peer-review process is supposed to be the same, and they’re sponsored by the same scholarly and scientific publishers as other journals.

But the bogus publications are essentially pay-to-play mills. Although Beall’s List, as it has come to be known, has served as a handy double-check for the past few years, the problem was identified in science magazines about ten years ago.

Jeffrey Beall, who is a research librarian at the University of Colorado at Denver, hasn’t commented, as far as I know. But Cabell’s, a company that he has been working with, has only said to press inquiries that Beall removed the lists from his blog “due to threats and politics.” Cabell’s plans to put out its own list later this spring, 2017, according to Inside Higher Ed.

In the meantime, as of January 18, the archived ScholarlyOA.com lists have been reposted at Internet Archive-Wayback Machine.

More as I find out about it.

Updates (1/20/17):

  1. The Times Higher Education site published an article on the Beall’s List disappearance, pointing out two aspects of this situation that I hadn’t thought about: 1) a vetted list that results from actual investigation and engagement is important to librarians, too,  who need a way to differentiate journals that are shady or predatory versus ones that are legitimate but small, new, or independent journals. Also, the THE article points out that some scholars knowingly publish with these predatory places to boost their citation counts. Seems risky to me, but I guess it’s possible if you know your institution well enough that you feel like you can slip a publication by them.
  2. About the Internet Archive/Wayback Machine: yes, it does have mirrored sites abroad, including a distributed hosting project. [Translation: efforts to “back up” large portions of publically available web pages can continue even if IA/WM has a problem or two.]
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