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'Predatory publishers': thoughts on the Beall list

Today I came across Jeffrey Beall's website, which lists what he considers to be 'predatory publishers' -- scammers who create low-quality scholarly journals and charge researchers to have their papers published in them.  To be honest, until very recently I had no idea how widespread this problem was.  I recommend visiting the site, if you haven't before, for a look at the diversity of these scams, whose activities range from legitimate-but-incompetent through to criminal fraud.  Beall also produces an annual list of predatory publishers which could be useful if you're wondering whether to delete that email offering to publish your paper -- for a reasonable fee, of course.

Some Open Access (OA) advocates argue that Beall's focus on bad OA journals is unfair, and that he doesn't do enough to acknowledge the good ones or to expose the shady practices of subscription journals.  He does seem to have some disdain for the Open Access movement, and seems fairly complacent about the 'traditional' system which has failed in many regards.  Nonetheless, Beall is performing a genuine service to the research community.  Those who advocate for Open Access should be the most vociferous enemies of parasitic, profit-making scam journals, because they only make life more difficult for those trying to create a genuinely useful Open Access model, and for researchers themselves.

There's humour to be found in the more incompetent attempts at scamming academics, and some sadness when thinking about the circumstances on both sides that have made these scams viable.  I intend to think and post more about this in future.

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Comment by Sam Bradford (Admin) on January 20, 2014 at 11:02

Re the viability of scam journals: their proliferation seems to suggest that they're worth the effort for their creators at least some of the time.  I suppose the setup costs for a website are low if you have no intention of maintaining it over a long period of time.


Re your note concerning new journals: I agree that a more modest web presence ie blog or similar is a good starting point to gauge the level of interest in a field or in a potential journal.  The possibilities for credible web publishing seem limitless; the problem is creating venues that have an adequate level of quality control without being exclusive (or expensive).


It does seem like, as you say, "any author who gives at least a little attention to the matter can avoid casting their pearls into oblivion."  Yet what seem like clear warning signs to us are clearly not so clear to others.  Perhaps in an ideal world, we'd have a dedicated domain for academic journals, .jrn or something, and publishers would have to demonstrate a basic (yet not exclusive, or Western-centric) level of credibility to use it -- basic guidelines re scholarly ethics, sufficient archiving etc.  Then there'd be a basic heuristic both for scientists looking to publish and for administrators deciding whether a publication credit was of any value.  I suppose this is already happening on a smaller scale with the creation of various databases, but in a perfect world it would be less fragmented.

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Comment by Peter J. Matthews on January 18, 2014 at 23:52

Dear Sam,

I think many of the scams may not be 'viable' in the sense that they may not be actually generating much profit for the scammers... online journals are easy to set up, and easy to populate with junk content, but the warning signs are also easy to spot.

Any author who gives at least a little attention to the matter can avoid casting their pearls into oblivion.

Here's a note with some thoughts concerning the process of starting a new journal, for anyone so inclined.


The implication is that a genuine journal should have some kind of visible history that makes the origins, intentions, and potential value of the journal clear. There is no reason or excuse for creating journals with anonymous origins and administration.

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