25 January 2017

Time for a new list of junk journals

Earlier this month, Jeffrey Beall (rhymes with “wheel”) removed his blog and well-known list of probable “predatory” open access publishers. I was too slow in writing a blog post about it, but this excellent one by Neuroskeptic covers a lot of territory I would have covered.

In my view the demise of Beall’s project is a sad day for science. While his work was sometimes controversial, he was just about the only person who seemed to take predatory publishing seriously and who tried to do something about it. ...

On the other hand, I don’t think he should have been doing this job alone. ... The one-man nature of Beall’s operation left him open to charges of being arbitrary and opaque in how he decided where to draw the line between legitimate and predatory publishing. I think he made the right calls the vast majority of the time, but then again, he has not been transparent about why he shut down the site.

I haven’t forgotten that Beall once argued (badly) open access was motivated by “anti-corporate” sentiment, and that weakened his credibility.

While I have argued before that I don’t think junk journals are that big a problem, it’s not zero harm, either. Like many predators, junk journals prey on the weak: researchers who are disconnected from a professional community and don’t have a clear understanding of why some journals are not legitimate.

In discussions about our new tenure and promotion requirements in our department, the worry about “What if someone just publishes in predatory journals?” was brought up repeatedly. I argued that this was not that big a problem, and that we had criticized colleagues for publishing in dodgy journals. Beall’s list was one of the resources that we could point at to back up criticisms.

People want resources to help them find their way in the wild west of scientific publishing in the early twenty-first century. And while the Directory of Open Access Journals is a valuable, it has a problem: it’s a whitelist. Beall’s list was a blacklist, and somewhere along the way, Beall mentioned something important:

No one lies about being on a blacklist.

We can’t spend all our time sending obviously bad manuscripts to junk journals to punk them. I kind of hate to say it, but we could use a journal blacklist. Maybe even one that would call out legitimate publishers who don’t clean out their stable as they should.

Related posts

How much harm is done by predatory journals?
Dubious journals from major scientific publishers: Homeopathy

External links

Predatory Publishers: Why I’ll Miss Jeffrey Beall
Beall’s litter
This 'predatory' science journal published our ludicrous editorial mocking its practices 

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