Beall’s list closure a ‘boon for predatory publishers’

List creator to now pursue ‘new areas of research’

January 20, 2017
Jeffrey Beall, associate professor and librarian at the University of Colorado Denver

The removal of a website flagging up journals with questionable publishing practices will help these publications operate thanks to a reduced scrutiny of their behaviour, researchers have told Times Higher Education.  

The closure is a “substantial loss” to the scholarly community, said one academic, while another added that it will now be harder to spot some predatory journals with professional-looking websites.

Jeffrey Beall is an associate professor and librarian at the University of Colorado Denver. Since 2008 he has listed “potential, possible or probably” predatory publishers on his website scholarlyoa.com.

The list was controversial, with some publishers threatening legal action and others complaining of a lack of transparency on his decisions. But it had become the go-to resource for researchers to check on the status of unfamiliar journals they were considering for publication of their work.

It is not yet clear why the content has been removed. Professor Beall declined to comment when approached by THE, but a spokeswoman for the university said he will now be pursuing new areas of research.

The spokeswoman added that the institution “supports and recognises” the importance of his work in the area of scholarly publishing and “understands and respects” his personal decision to take down the website.

Sarah Ward, associate professor of plant genetics at the Colorado State University and director of publications at the Weed Science Society of America, said the removal of the list was “a substantial loss”.

“The lists themselves were invaluable as a reference when checking out an unfamiliar journal or publisher, and Jeffrey's blog posts were often very informative for those of us who are not professional academic librarians,” she added.

The removal of the list will “make it easier” for predatory publishers to operate, she said.

“The most worrying aspects of losing Beall's list and blog is not so much the exposure of the really low-grade operators, but that the claims to scholarly legitimacy of larger and better funded unscrupulous publishers are less likely to be scrutinised,” she added.

Timothy Rich, assistant professor in the political science department at Western Kentucky University, agreed that shady operators would benefit from reduced scrutiny. “It is incumbent on academics to point out these publishers, to name and shame these publishers, and to discourage non-academics from using these sources as legitimate research,” he said.

But he pointed out that there are some academics willing to pay to publish in predatory journals to boost their publication count. “The list served to identify such behaviour,” he said.

He added that the website had provided a “great service” and that he hoped someone else will pick up where Beall left off. But in the meantime “it will be harder for academics to identify predatory publishers that maintain professional websites with titles that pass cursory inspection”.

holly.else@tesglobal.com

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