The creator of a blacklist of predatory journals has claimed that “intense pressure” from his university and fear of losing his job forced him to shut his website down.
Jeffrey Beall, an associate professor and librarian at the University of Colorado Denver, deleted his website listing “potential, possible or probably” predatory publishers without explanation in January 2017. At the time, his institution said Professor Beall would be pursuing new areas of research.
Now, in an article in the Biochemia Medica journal, Professor Beall writes that he had taken the decision to close the website “facing intense pressure from my employer, the University of Colorado Denver, and fearing for my job”.
A UC Denver spokeswoman said the university "disagrees with Jeffrey Beall’s assertion that he was pressured by the university to take down his website".
In his article, Professor Beall says that “neither publishers nor universities like the idea of blacklists”.
“Universities…don’t like the negativity associated with journal blacklists,” he writes. “Universities in the United States are far along in the process of corporatising themselves, and, in doing so, their public relations departments prefer that all university output be positive and aimed at attracting new customers, tuition-paying students.
“So if you are a faculty member at a university and you publish a blacklist, you will likely face much opposition and even harassment from the university, despite assurances of academic freedom.”
Some researchers decried the closure of the blacklist, Scholarly Open Access, warning that it would now be harder to spot predatory journals – which take payment from academics and publish their work without carrying out rigorous peer review – hiding behind professional-looking websites.
However, the list was controversial, with some publishers threatening legal action.
Professor Beall writes that publishers were driven by “money, competition and greed”, fearing that inclusion of their titles on the blacklist would lead to lost revenue. He describes how publishers would bombard senior university staff with emails “making false accusations about my work, my ethics and my ability to make judgements about journals and publishers”, or “informing the university how I was harming its reputation”.
"They tried to be as annoying as possible to the university so that the officials would get so tired of the emails that they would silence me just to make them stop," Professor Beall writes.
He adds that researchers whose work was published by a predatory journal after being rejected by more legitimate titles “became the publisher’s biggest defender”.
"Upon finally finding a publisher willing to accept and publish their work, they [became] elated and did everything possible to protect and defend their publisher – especially defend the publisher against its inclusion on my list," Professor Beall says.
The UC Denver spokeswoman said: "We are not aware of anyone at or affiliated with the university who asked Professor Beall to take down his website and blog. Additionally, UC Denver has defended and supported Professor Beall’s academic freedom to pursue predatory publishing as part of his scholarship, but also respects the personal decision he made in January to take down the site.
"His tenured faculty position here at UC Denver was never in jeopardy because of his work researching open access journals or predatory publishers."