Author Topic: Beall's List is gone  (Read 1202 times)

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Offline HanEyeAm

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Beall's List is gone
« on: February 03, 2017, 03:23:32 PM »
The paragraphs below were adapted from info I gave to our Interns today...

One of my favorite resources for appraising the quality of sources of research findings over the past 5 years has been “Beall’s List” (a Wordpress-hosted site called “Scholarly Open Access”), a “blacklist” of open access, predatory publishers. As of January 17th, after seven years of operation, Beall’s List, an associated Facebook page, and the creator’s university faculty webpage vanished without comment (1). The sudden disappearance of Beall’s List is astonishing to those who relied on it for assessing the quality of article sources. The timing of its disappearance could not be worse.

"Predatory” publishers  are defined by little or no peer review, misleading information about fees and other practices, choosing names that are nearly the same as respected journals, aggressive solicitation of manuscripts, and other features (2). To give a sense of the scope of the problem, Retraction Watch noted, “the number of articles published by predatory journals spiked from 53,000 in 2010 to around 420,000 in 2014, appearing in 8,000 active journals. By comparison, some 1.4-2 million papers are indexed in PubMed and similar vetted databases every year” (9).

Beall’s List was, practically speaking, the only blacklist of open access publishers in existence. Although some contended that Beall was overly aggressive in identifying journals as “potential, possible, or probable” predatory publishers, the list was better than Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), a prominent “whitelist,” at predicting what journals would accept manuscript describing a study with serious flaws (3). The difference between DOAJ and Beall’s List on this measure may have been because Beall blended quality of the research into his ratings, whereas DOAJ does not. Another benefit of Beall’s List is that it also hosted a discussion section for public comment on journal practices and quality. To my knowledge, there is no other public space for open and archived discussion of journal quality. For this reason, Beall’s List provided a unique check against predatory online journals. Despite limitations, Beall’s List was unique and useful, and employed widely by clinicians, investigators, journal editors, and journalists when examining the quality of sources of information.

Although Beall hasn’t commented publically on his reasons for purging the internet of Beall’s List, speculation focuses on several possibilities, including libel lawsuits from publishers, SLAPP lawsuits by publishers or other detractors, political pressure, or moving his list to a for-profit company, Cabell International, for whom he is a consultant. Regarding the latter, Cabell denied that they were involved with the closure of the List, stating that Beall was “was forced to shut down blog due to threats and politics” (10). Also, a couple articles Beall published on predatory publishing and naming specific publishers were also purged from their publisher’s websites, which certainly suggests a response to litigation vs. ramping up for a for-profit venture. The University of Colorado, Denver made a public statement that Beall made a personal choice to take down his list, and that he was still on faculty and would be “pursuing new areas of research” (11). Beall’s List lives on, at least for now, in an online archive (4) but will likely become outdated quickly.

Now, here is my opinion piece…

Regardless of the reason for the demise of Beall’s List, it could not come at worse time. The disappearance of Beall’s List coincides with terms like “truthiness” and “alternative facts” entering our consciousness, coined to describe the growing public concern about the veracity of media, organizational, and political propaganda. Today, with rapid growth of the for-profit, online journals with questionable scholarly legitimacy (8), it is easier than ever to have agenda-driven, poor quality research published with limited peer review and have that “scientific evidence” available for public dissemination in a matter of days or a few weeks after the initial submission. By “agenda” I am purposely being non-specific, and could apply to any political or social ideologues, health professions, or private/corporate interests that are willing to push the boundaries of research integrity to promote their position. And of course, once misinformation begins to have an impact, it is very difficult to change (6). Although blacklists and whitelists cannot stop these practices, they can be used as ammunition to dispute the science and the claims.

If that isn’t convincing enough: