Beall’s list – what happened?

Since I wrote about Predatory Publishers and Fake Academia back in January, there has been some updates on Beall’s list, which had been taken down around the time of the post.

The author of the list, Jeffrey Beall, has come out with an article titled What I learned from predatory publishers, which provides “a first-hand account of the author’s work identifying and listing predatory publishers from 2012 to 2017.” This article provides some interesting insights into predatory publishing, and also suggests why Beall felt it necessary to remove the list – he was under “intense pressure” from his employer and feared losing his job.

Times Higher Education has nicely outlined Beall’s experiences with universities and publishers while maintaining the ‘blacklist’, and also provides the university’s rebuttal (whether you believe it or not).

In a conclusion that I, as an academic librarian, found very depressing, Beall also summarises the “attacks” he endured by other academic librarians:

Over the five years I tracked and listed predatory publishers and journals, those who attacked me the most were other academic librarians. The attacks were often personal and unrelated to the ideas I was sharing or to the discoveries I was making about predatory publishers.

Academic librarians constantly attacked me because I dared to point out the weaknesses of the open-access publishing model. Librarianship slavishly follows political correctness and trendiness, so it’s no surprise that the profession fell in line with the open-access social movement and attacked those seeking to tell the truth about it. Many of these librarians were untrue to the faculty at their universities, praising open-access but failing to warn of the traps the predatory publishers were setting. 

So, it’s not only the scholarly publishing industry that needs reform and self-regulation. Academic librarianship needs to wake up to the problem of predatory publishers and be true to library patrons seeking help and advice on scholarly communication.

A very poignant statement.

So what now? Well, surprise surprise, a new ‘pay to view’ blacklist is now available through Cabell’s International. Capitalising much off someone else hard work? Hmmm.. this feels a bit ethically dubious to me, though they do claim they will eventually provide free access.

In any case, as Andrew Silver from Nature reports, it is questionable how much value blacklists provide, and whether ‘white lists’ of reputable journals (such as the Directory of Open Access Journals) are not better. I am inclined to agree. Rather than simply checking a name on a list, ensuring researchers understand how to evaluate journals, and rewarding best practice in the DOAJ, seems a better strategy.

You can learn more about the new blacklist and its criteria in the Nature article.

*UPDATE: Yesterday (July 25) a great review post on Cabell’s Blacklist was published. Definitely worth a read, but in summary: the author’s “overall assessment of the Cabell’s Blacklist is that it is a welcome development, and that it still needs quite a bit of work. “

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