Jeffery Beall was a university librarian who fed up with garbage OA journals decided to create a list of such journals on a blog. This in and of it self was not a problem. Many people have problems with the way some OA journals are run in particular Biswapriya Misra in "Ten ‘Personal’ Reasons why I am skeptical about Open Access (OA): Thoughts of an Individual Researcher". I agree with all of those.
OA journals have to have some version of a "reject" button for reviewers. The Winnower for example allows reviewers to rate papers on multiple axes and then averages all these to come up with a star rating. This is good becuase it allows how a paper is reviwed to change over time. Papers that appear in say Nature or a society journal are highly regarded just because even though sometimes papers even while not retracted are falsified there is no way for anyone to, after the fact, say hey that paper may not have been great. Not unless the editors bother with a retraction. OA with open peer review and open post publication review after revisions like there is at the Winnower and Science Open meets this standard. So of course does OA with traditional peer review especially if it allows comments. Nature Scientific reports allows this. See this paper for example.
The real probelms with Beall's list. It seemed a bit arbitrary.
You know who else allows this...Scientific Research Publishing a journal which was put on Beall's list as being predatory and not having real peer reivew which I knew was unfair. I published there as a broke graduate student. They gave me a steep discount in exchange for reviewing a few papers. The papers I said to reject were rejected the papers I said to accept were accepted. My own publication was underreview for about nine months and "in press" for a few while I came up with the money to pay them. (That publication has since been cited in research in a "real" journal and according to NASA ADS read hundreds of times. Where something is published matters for a year. How it is used afterwards matters for eternity.) If they were predatory it would have been all about getting the full ammount of their money. Why was SCRIP predatory while Nature Sci Rep isn't for doing the same thing and charging more money? Science Open and The Winnower were not on his list ... Beall even has an account on The Winnower. That was an example of all the problems with Beall's list. It was open to question and could seem personal.
There is the alleged racism I won't get into that. It may be in the final analysis that journals in non -English speaking countries including on his list society journals of those countries was 100% legit.
In my opinion, Beall was guilty of a common and accepted academic classism. This classism says only those who have grant funded or endowed research or who are employed where they can get their job to pay a $25,000 fee should bother with publishing OA. That same line of thought says, everyone else should publish in paywalled journals and maybe not even use scholarly archives like the physics arXiv. Those who think that way say this when it comes to access.. "such does not cause a problem since all real scholars will have access to a university library by just taking a course of no consequence at their local college". ( I have seen such words from those who run scholarly journals though the name escapes me).
Here are some facts.
- The majority of faculty at colleges and workers in R and D in industry are not paid well enough to come out of pocket with $25,000 to publish open access articles.
- The majority of such jobs do not pay for publicaion or travel to conferences unless they relate directly to whatever the mission of the job is. In fact some employers may, on some level, see helping an employee publish as being helping a good employee find a better paying job. For HR reasons they won't do it.
- Those who are retired and emeritus will not have access to funding to pay for OA and may not have access to a library to look up print only pay walled papers.
- Those in the developing world may not be able to pay the discounted rate offered for hybrid OA by some otherwise paywalled publishers.
- Libraries and individuals in low income brackets in the west and from low income countries may not ever be able to afford to even read papers published ina paywalled venue.
What should be done to replace Beall's list?
How best to replace the idea of a list of predatory publishers? An organization like the NSF or a group of such organizations from more than one country should complie a white list of publishers based on peer reviw and published criteria. This group should be diverse, multi lingual and multi cultural. This group should represent those from top research institutes to community colleges and those who are retired. The criteria should include at least the following.
- Does the journal uphold its own published standards of peer review and governance? How often is it fooled by computer generated garbage papers? How does the journal respond to bad papers and is it in accordance with their stated standards and general publishing standards?
- Does the journal provide a clear review process before publication and at least a commentary function after publication? Does the journal allow for publication of comments as papers in their own right? Does the journal allow authors to revise and withdraw their own papers?
- Does the journal charge a reasonable fee for providing a web only and PDF based service? Any journal of any level that charges more than $2500 for this service should be held suspect. Does the journal allow for waiver of all or part of the fee for hardship cases (and not just in certain countries either)?
- Does the journal misrepresent itself in any way and when informed of an inaccuracy does it act to correct this?
Biswapriya Misra, Ten ‘Personal’ Reasons why I am skeptical about Open Access (OA): Thoughts of an Individual Researcher, The Winnower4:e145789.92186 (2016). DOI:10.15200/winn.145789.92186
Who will keep predatory science journals at bay now that Jeffrey Beall's blog is gone?
January 20, 2017 by Michael J. I. Brown, The Conversation