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We recently experienced many problems during comment posting in the ‘comment section’ of the scholarlyoa blog (http://scholarlyoa.com). Many persons complained that their comments are not published if it is not going in favour of the that blog owner’s view. I have also faced similar problem. We feel that it is against the concept of blog and ‘free flow of thoughts and discussion’. We should only moderate a comment, if it is having offensive language, offensive and provocative thoughts, etc. In this blog we welcome all the related discussions of OA. We promise ‘free flow of discussion’.

About the blog owner: I am Akbar Khan, a retired school teacher from India. I am interested in Open Access movement. I can be reached here: a301khan@gmail.com

My views: I think the present hate campaign adopted by J. Beall against the so called questionable publishers ( or so called predatory open access publishers) is not going to solve the problem. I have shared my most of views in the blog of Richard Poynder (Link: http://poynder.blogspot.in/2013/01/the-oa-interviews-ashry-aly-of-ashdin.html).

I am again re-posting it here from here (http://poynder.blogspot.in/2013/01/the-oa-interviews-ashry-aly-of-ashdin.html):

I find Beall immature as he is ready to label any small (mainly third world) publisher as ‘predatory’ whenever he found a single case against it. I think he is in hurry to populate his list. If still he repeats the same mistakes he has done for last 2 years during his ‘bad OA publicity program’, he will slowly loose the credibility. Numerous mistakes are very easy to find out in his list and he is very slow in learning (Reference: Karen Coyle’s comments in https://plus.google.com/109377556796183035206/posts/LQVaue6XYev, David Solomon’ comments in http://scholarlyoa.com/2012/08/04/criteria-for-determining-predatory-open-access-publishers/ etc.) .

Beall himself reported a case of self-plagiarism in a journal of Springer. But it seems we are ready to show more patience for the big names!

See some of previous cases:
Reason 1. Publication of plagiarized paper (http://scholarlyoa.com/2012/12/19/publisher-charges-authors-for-retractions/)
(References:
1. http://scholarlyoa.com/2012/08/22/plagiarism-in-the-journal-of-sports-medicine-doping-studies/#more-614
2. http://scholarlyoa.com/2012/08/31/international-prank-involving-predatory-publishers-makes-headlines-in-indonesia/#more-642)

Reason 2. Duplication of Journal title
(References:
1. http://scholarlyoa.com/2012/09/18/two-publishers-each-have-a-journal-with-the-same-title/#more-720)
2. http://scholarlyoa.com/2012/07/10/new-open-access-publisher-copies-anothers-name/#more-458)

Even the publisher of Elsevier or Springer or Nature can not claim this. In spite of all efforts (manual/software), plagiarism existed in past as well as present. Unethical authors are always available. Therefore, if Elsevier / Springer /T&F can not stop plagiarism with the assumption that they have most trained manpower or costly software or access to all subscription based databases, then it is obvious that small publishers with limited resources (as mentioned above), can not fight this plagiarism disease. Therefore, unethical authors can fool these small publishers more easily. (My assumption is: The small publisher is really honest and not a predatory publisher who wants to accept all papers for a fee). And also I want to clear that I am not in support (or against) of Ashdin. I am describing the problem of small publishers.

If a new and small publisher becomes victim of an unethical scientist, very fast we conclude that it is a predatory one. If journal of a giant publisher becomes victim, we are ready to give this journal more and more chances to prove itself. This tendency is not healthy. We (including me) should show more patience for the new before labelling it as bad. We should guide them what they should do or not. If the new publisher fails to prove its good wishes and repeatedly do the same mistakes, we must punish it with some label. But who are experienced and big journals, they should get less chance to prove. Yes, I do agree that there are some true criminals in Beall’s list, who are born to cheat people. They are shameless. Even they get 100 number of chances they will not correct themselves. They should be really punished by public defamation. But I strongly believe that there are also some new players in Beall’s list who did some mistakes due to lack of experience and honestly try to correct those. But they are not getting sufficient chances to get out of Beall’s list. I think Beall’s work is really doing lots of good thing for the Open Access publishing, but it is slowly creating another big problem.
It is creating a real new predatory class of open access publishers. Even the new publishers, who wants to follow good industry practices, has no way out from this list. So, even they want to be good and rectify the errors, they can not. So now these ‘transition level publishers’ will slowly become helpless. But real criminals will grow as (you believe it or not) there are some unethical authors who want to easily publish their papers and they want these criminals help to publish their papers without peer review. But as the frustration will grow these ‘transition level publishers’ will slowly enlist their names with these criminals and one fine day they will also become real predator. So there will be one class i.e. born predator and there will be another class i.e forced predator (created by social isolation and punishment). We should be very careful in this case.

Beall really wanted to do some good service for open access publishing. But as an indirect result of that work, we are creating a bigger problem. I strongly believe that every offender should get chances to become good. It is the base of our social system to allow every offender to rectify. We must punish the criminals. But at the same time we should be careful that our actions/rules/regulations should not create more criminals. I want to request Mr. Beall and other Open Access advocates in this particular aspect. Once you took the seat of the judge to decide who is predator or not, and slowly people accepts your judgement and view (as evident from Beall’s recent publications in Nature, Scientists, Higher Education Chronicle, etc), you enter in the more critical area, where much greater responsibility, care, patience are required. You must punish criminals and must allow initial offenders to become good and responsible. Otherwise you may unintentionally create lots of ‘forced predators’. History teaches us that ‘more power demands more patience and more responsibilities’. No doubt that Beall is now one of the most powerful voices related to open access publication.

It is more important to create an environment / appeal procedure / curing procedure to heal this disease from academic publishing. It is not Beall or me or someone else to judge the good wishes of the new players. It is the ‘new players’ who has to prove themselves that they honestly want to shed the predatory label and appeal for the same and abide by the stringent standard industry rules of scholarly publishing. If anybody does not improve, Darwin’s theory will kill them slowly. History teaches us that ‘hating and isolation’ do not permanently solve a problem. I know that everybody is aware of the great lessons taught by Lord Budhha, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr, etc. Now it is time to apply these lessons to cure this disease. Political history also teaches us that ‘suppression and isolation’ can not cure terrorism’. Only real social and economic development can solve the problem of terrorist prone area. Similarly by isolation and defamation of new inexperienced publishers (leave some real criminals) will not solve this so called ‘predatory’ problem (it may only aggravate it and an endless counter-hate campaign will start). We have to develop a system to correct (or at least to minimize) the errors of these new players. So that one day these new publishers will become responsible publishers.

 

As I have previously mentioned, that competition is healthy and only this competition can eventually bring down the cost of Open Access Publishing to 200-450 US$ from presently estimated 1500-2000 £ (Reference Finch report and Danielle Moran http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2012/12/19/taylor-cost-publish-gold-open-access/). And I see that most of this competition is bound to come from developing countries, where chances to lower the processing cost are more. (Recollect how the great revolution came in software, hardware and IT industry in China, India, Taiwan, etc. I think that 20 years back nobody could have imagined it or believed it). Nobody can stop this industry trend and the rules of economics will propel these developments in the scholarly publishing industry. Now it will be more wise decision not to try to stop this development but to guide this development in proper direction.

So that this future development (in scholarly publishing in the developing countries) take a proper shape. Basically, I believe that always competition is healthy. At least some of the new publishers (Hindawai, Co-action, Frontiers, etc) started to break the monopoly of the giants. It is a good sign for all of us. Personally I have great respect for the works of Beall. Kudos to Beall for the laborious work he has done for last 3 years (Reference: http://scholarlyoa.com/about/). But sometimes I suspect Beall that whether he is really a supporter of OA or he wants to destroy OA secretly (for his personal fame or may be for a hidden competing interest due to his role of Librarian. Normally Librarians have very influential role is purchasing of subscription of traditional journals, which costs thousands of dollars. If subscription based journal losses its present position and all journals become OA then what….). Once Beall confessed that he believes that “The only truly successful model that I have seen is the traditional publishing model.” (Reference: http://chronicle.com/blogs/brainstorm/on-predatory-publishers-a-qa-with-jeffrey-beall/47667). I sincerely want to believe that Beall is not having any hidden agenda behind his hard work to find only the ugliest areas of OA not the strength of OA. I will be very happy that if my all apprehensions about Beall is wrong.

But presently I believe that Beall’s list is not now only ‘Beall’s personal list’. Knowingly or unknowingly Beall has discovered the gold mine of faults of new gold open access publishers. He has intelligently coined the term predatory, which is essentially rediscovery of vanity press, existed long back in subscription as well as new author pays model (Reference: http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2012/03/06/predatory-open-access-publishers-the-natural-extreme-of-an-author-pays-model/#comment-44652). Beall has got enough media coverage (Reference: http://www.nature.com/news/predatory-publishers-are-corrupting-open-access-1.11385) in last one year by discussing bad OA than the fame of his total remaining career.

Enough BAD OA publicity happened! Now it is time to understand that it is not going to help OA in long run. It is now time to organize this unorganized sector. I know that it is almost impossible to do this tough job alone. I have some proposals. (OASPA may have competing interest issue here, as the board of that organization is from the related industry only (Reference: http://oaspa.org/about/board/))

Step 1: Develop an evaluation board of appeals of these predatory publishers.
Proposed members of the Expert committee:
1. Peter Suber (Director of the Harvard Open Access Project (HOAP))
2. Stevan Harnad (Canada Research Chair in cognitive science at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) and professor of cognitive science at the University of Southampton)
3. David Solomon, College of Human Medicine, Michigan State University, E. Lansing, MI USA and Author of The Online Guide to Open Access Journals Publishing
4. Bo‐Christer Björk (Management and Organization, Hanken School of Economics, Helsinki, Finland)
5. Lars Bjørnshauge (Ex. Director of Lund Libraries)
6. Mike Taylor, open access advocate from University of Bristol
7. Jeffrey Beall (Team leader) (Due to his vast experience in this predatory open access publishing issue) (Auraria Library, University of Colorado Denver)
8. Richard Poynder, Journalist widely respected for his independence, even-handedness, analysis, careful interviews, and detailed research
Step 2: Develop systematic procedure to evaluate appeals of so called predatory publishers (You can take some help from these references: http://openbiomed.info/2012/04/shed-predatory-open-peer-review/ and comments section of the link: http://scholarlyoa.com/2012/08/04/criteria-for-determining-predatory-open-access-publishers/ )
Step 3: There should be some application process to get removed from your list. Publishers should apply officially
Step 4: An expert committee should evaluate the applications and announce the result on quarterly basis. Some application charges may be formulated to cover the cost of this total operation and related website.

It is more practical to agree and accept the truth that NO system is perfect. Our academic peer review or social peer review concepts are meant to minimize the errors and apply “Reward, Punishment and Correction theory” to develop a better system. In this regard I want recall Beall’s definition of predatory publishers “Predatory, open access publishers are those that unprofessionally exploit the author pays model of open access publishing (Gold OA) for their own profit”. My simple understanding tells me that “Legitimate GOLD open access publishers are those that PROFESSIONALLY exploit the author pays model of open access publishing (Gold OA) for their own profit”. No car can run without fuel. It means taking money or earning money by doing some business (here OA publishing) is not bad/unethical if you are providing your basic service honestly. For me a publisher’s basic service is ‘to work as a gatekeeper for academic scholarly publishing by providing peer review service’. If they are not working as a gatekeeper and accepting all the papers for their own profit then they are cheating. It may happen that any new OA publisher is unorganized initially and has no big office, operating from a small apartment from a developing country, use gmail/yahoo etc but if they are maintaining the main service (peer review) properly, then they are definitely contributing. Here I want recall the comments of Maria Hrynkiewicz: “…but as long as they safeguard the quality of the content and follow the best practices in terms of peer review, copyrights and funding mandates – they contribute to the better dissemination of science.” (Reference: http://www.nature.com/news/report?article=1.11385&comment=50956).

Therefore, I propose more scientific way to develop criteria for evaluating new (probable suspicious) publishers. I fully agree with Poynder that a Binary system of evaluation has lots of limitation, as he correctly pointed that, “Either way, assuming a simple binary opposition of “good guy” or “bad guy” — as Beall’s list effectively does — is doubtless likely to encourage prejudice and discrimination.” I also oppose a subjective way of evaluation. An objective evaluation scale, say 0-100 score will be more scientific way of labelling different classes of publishers. I also dislike too many points of evaluation. I strongly dislike Beall’s numerous points of evaluation. Beall has populated his list without much thought or research. It is too much surprising to me that his list came first (Version 1 in 2011 Dec: http://carbon.ucdenver.edu/~jbeall/Beall%27s%20List%20of%20Predatory,%20Open-…
Version 2 in 2012 first quarter: http://scholarlyoa.com/publishers/
Version 3 Dec, 2012: http://scholarlyoa.com/2012/12/06/bealls-list-of-predatory-publishers-2013/ , then came his criteria for inclusion (Version 1 came August, 2012 and version 2 came in November 2012). (version 1 criteria (http://scholarlyoa.com/2012/08/04/criteria-for-determining-predatory-open-access-publishers/) and version 2 (http://scholarlyoa.com/2012/11/30/criteria-for-determining-predatory-open-access-publishers-2nd-edition/)). In order to justify all his entries in his list he created many silly or laughable points. He was severely criticized for those points and he reduced some points in his version 2. But he can not reduce much. Otherwise he can not justify his all entries (I remember he included one publisher which has not published any single paper at the time of inclusion but just launched its website, where they have used some uncommon childish fonts, which qualified them for Beall’s list). This is his big problem. I suggest that we should not create such funny situation. Therefore, I propose the new criteria should be very precise and should concentrate on the main service of a publisher (i.e. to work as a gatekeeper for academic scholarly publishing by providing peer review service). There should be weighting of different points as every point can not have equal importance during evaluation and so on.

Finally, I must tell that competition is healthy and we must promote it. It is good for OA, it is good for science. We must remember that the number of entries in Beall’s list is inversely proportional to the acceptance of OA concept among scholarly communities world wide. I feel that bad OA is getting more media interest than good OA. It is not ‘naming and shaming policy’ which is going to solve this disease by keeping faith on Darwin. It will be again the same mistake we made by suppressing terrorists. It is development and correction which can cure 70-90% of this disease. For remaining 10-30% we should keep faith on Darwin. Something is missing in the present flood of discussions. Our academic peer review or social peer review concepts are meant to minimize the errors and apply “Reward, Punishment and Correction theory” to develop a better system. I am more worried to see that in most of our discussion the last component (i.e. Correction) is missing. It will only aggravate the disease. It is a normal phenomenon that anything BAD gets more interest than anything GOOD. In this way Beall is doing more harm than helping the OA in long run. His list is increasing day by day and proportionately increasing media interest and suspicion of scholarly community towards general OA. I support the view of Jan Erik Frantsvåg which tells that “…. The problem is that all our writings on bogus OA makes that what hits the headlines, not the good OA initiatives. Scientists hear about the bogus, and become sceptical to OA. We must spend more time praising the good OA, so that also gets into headlines and attract scientists’ attention.” (Reference: https://plus.google.com/109377556796183035206/posts). I request Beall as well as all other OA advocates to implement ‘correction’ policy, which is till date missing, to complete the OA movement.

 

Disclaimer: Responsibility of the comments goes to the respective commenter. Responsibility of articles goes to the respective author.

One Comment
  1. Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva permalink

    I have detailed serious problems with Beall and his blog here:
    http://retractionwatch.com/2014/01/20/jeffrey-beall-scores-a-retraction/
    My suggestion: if your comments get cut an dunpublished, then take a screen shot, as evidence that you posted your comment, use polite language always to express your views, and then post the unpublished comment at Retraction Watch, on the page link I provide. his is the only way to enforce justice by an unqualified librarian.

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