Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Beall's list of predatory, open access publishers

Beall's list of Predatory, Open Access Publishers
Beall's definition: Predatory, open-access publishers are those that unprofessionally exploit the author-pays model of open-access publishing (Gold OA) for their own profit. Typically, these publishers spam professional email lists, broadly soliciting article submissions for the clear purpose of gaining additional income. Operating essentially as vanity presses, these publishers typically have a low article acceptance threshold, with a false-front or non-existent peer review process. Unlike professional publishing operations, whether subscription-based or ethically-sound open access, these predatory publishers add little value to scholarship, pay little attention to digital preservation, and operate using fly-by-night, unsustainable business models. 

Comments: kudos to Jeffrey Beall for taking on this important task, and for making a great start! In general, I am inclined to agree with most of Beall's assessments. Following are some minor suggestions for improvement:

  • suggest changing first sentence to: Predatory, open-access publishers are those that unethically exploit the author-pays model of open-access publishing (Gold OA) purely for their own profit, with false-front or non-existent peer review process. Rationale: a key point is that scholarly publishers are scholarly, rather than professional (although most are both). An independent scholar-publisher may be an amateur at publishing but top-notch at ensuring publication of quality scholarship.
  •  Hindawi is on the watch list. In my opinion, Hindawi has a well-earned reputation for quality publishing, and should be removed from the list. A reason given for including Hindawi is that This publisher has way too many journals than can be properly handled by one publisher. If size were incompatible with quality publishing, what about Elsevier, Wiley, Springer, and Taylor & Francis, among others? If their size prevents them from performing quality publishing, I am certainly ready to hear this argument, but otherwise I don't know why this would be a problem for Hindawi but not other larger publishers. Another possibility is that what is meant is that extremely rapid growth is a reason for initial scepticism about quality. A brand new publisher coming out with dozens of titles should probably be scrutinized carefully before being accepted as a quality publisher. If this is the case, though, why not add Springer Open and Wiley Open to the watch list?
  • Medknow Publishing is also on the watch list. According to Beall, It is the publisher for many well-respected Indian professional societies and is disseminating abundant, high-quality research. However, its business model is vague and unproven. I would highly recommend that Medknow be taken off the watch list. If a publisher is disseminating abundant, high-quality research, it is inappropriate to label them as predatory or suspect. In my opinion, librarians should be working hard to figure out how to help such publishers survive and thrive. Give the high-profit STM commercials a profit cut and redirect some of the funding to the likes of Medknow, and we'd all be better off. (Note: Wolters Kluwer recently announced that they have acquired Medknow).