Thursday, January 17, 2013

The OA Interviews: Ashry Aly of Ashdin Publishing


When in 2008 Jeffrey Beall — a metadata librarian at the University of Colorado Denver — began to receive spam email solicitations from unknown Open Access (OA) publishers he became concerned.
Ashry Aly

Issues of spam aside, Beall suspected that some of the companies that were bombarding him with invitations to pay them to publish a scholarly paper were little more than vanity publishers, intent not on publishing high-quality peer-reviewed journals, but on ensnaring unwary researchers into paying for a shoddy service.

The suspicion was that in some cases these publishers were effectively doing little more than dumping papers on the web with little or no peer review. Yet they were charging authors hundreds of dollars to do this. (And in some cases $1,000+).

Conscious that the number of these publishers was growing, and convinced that researchers needed some guidance to help them distinguish between good and bad OA journals, Beall began to compile a list of what he termed “predatory publishers”.

“Predatory publishers,” he explained to me last year, “are those that unprofessionally exploit the gold open-access model for their own profit.”

Beall’s list was controversial from the start, not least because it was often not clear on what basis he had concluded that a publisher was predatory. Moreover, when last year he finally published the selection criteria he uses to make his decisions he met with some angry criticism, with researchers questioning both their validity and usefulness.

It also became apparent that Beall’s list included publishers who appeared to be entirely ethical, and to all intents and purposes keen to publish high-quality OA journals. To add to critics’ distrust, publishers’ names would sometimes disappear from Beall’s list without explanation.

Nevertheless, as it became increasingly evident that researchers were indeed being targeted by unscrupulous OA publishers, Beall and his list began to attract the attention of the scholarly press.

Last year, for instance, his activities were featured twice in The Chronicle of Higher Education (here and here), as well as in The Times Higher, The Scientist, and most recently in Nature.

 

Disinformation


This publicity clearly annoyed the publishers on Beall’s list, not least those who believe that they have been unfairly characterised as predatory.

At the same time, however, the publicity has confirmed Beall’s claim that there are some extremely doubtful OA publishers operating. The Nature article, for instance, sparked a campaign of disinformation against Beall. The first signs of this became evident in November, when comments were posted at the bottom of the Nature article that were falsely attributed to two of the OA movement’s most prominent advocates — Stevan Harnad and Peter Suber.

The comments alleged that Beall was withholding or removing the names of publishers from his list when paid to do so.

Responding to the false attribution on December 4th, Harnad posted a comment on the Nature site. “If the inarticulate English didn't give it away, then the incoherent content falsely attributed to me (and to Peter Suber) should be apparent to everyone with any familiarity with open access and with our views,” he wrote. “But the Fool's-Gold scam journals are going beyond just spamming to solicit authors, editors and referees: They are now doing fraudulent postings to counter criticism. This is the dark side of openness and begins to sound like the Nigerian fee scams.”

Suber likewise confirmed that the comments posted under his name had not been written by him. In an entry on Google+ he said, “On November 28 someone posted a comment on the [Nature] article, allegedly from me, accusing Beall of blackmailing publishers by charging a fee to keep them off his list of predatory publishers.”

He added, “The comment was a fraud. I didn't write it, and I don't buy its accusation for a second. On the contrary, I deplore it.”

As a result, the falsely attributed comments were taken down from the Nature site. Explaining the reason, Nature’s Richard Van Noorden posted the following note: “Nature has closed this World View to further comments. Some comments were being posted under false names, violating our Community Guidelines by impersonating others. We removed comments that we could verify as impersonations.”

Did not end there

 

But the campaign of disinformation did not end there. A few weeks later, messages began to circulate on the Web alleging that Beall was emailing publishers on his list and offering to reassess them for a fee. As “proof” of this claim an email said to have been written by Beall was attached to the messages. “I can consider re-evaluating your journals for 2013 edition of my list,” the email read. “It takes a lot my time and resources. The fee for re-evaluation of your publisher is USD 5000.”

Evidently the email was intended to suggest that Beall was trying to extort money from publishers on his list.

I became aware of this campaign on 17th December, when a number of attempts were made to post the allegation as a comment on the interview I had conducted last year with OMICS’ Srinubabu Gedela. A copy was also posted under Beall’s Nature article (oddly, given that the comment feature had been closed on 4th December), as well as on other blogs, mailing lists, and the sites of OA publishers (here is an example).

Many of these messages were subsequently taken down by site owners. Even so, the accusation against Beall continues to circulate widely on the web. At the time of writing this, a search for “Jeffery Beall is blackmailing small Open Access publishers” produced nearly 4,000 hits.

Responding to the new campaign of disinformation, Suber posted a further note on Google+. “Jeffrey Beall is the target of a dishonest smear campaign,” he wrote. “This is his reward for investigating scam OA journals that give OA a bad name.”

Added Suber, “His work has generated some good-faith disagreement about which journals deserve his criticism. Fair enough. But his work has also triggered some nasty guerrilla counter-attacks. For example, some of his enemies have forged emails in his name pretending to demand money in order to remove publishers from his list of predatory publishers.”

Suber concluded, “These attacks are contemptible. We should identify scam OA journals, shame them, and advise authors and readers against them. Beall is one of the leaders doing this work and I applaud him for it.”

Ashry Aly


On reviewing the messages that were circulating I noted that many were prefaced with a note from one of the publishers on Beall’s list — the founder and owner of Ashdin Publishing, Ashry Aly.

Aly’s preface read, “Now a days anyone can open a blog and start doing things like Jeffrey Beall which is harmful for science and open access journals. Nature should also be very alert from Jeffrey Beall who is now using Nature's reputation to broadcast his bribery and unethical business model.”

On the 18th December Beall responded to the allegations against him, posting a denial to a number of mailing lists (e.g. here) “I'm writing to let people [know] that I've been the victim of an ongoing, organized attempt to discredit me and my blog,” he wrote. “Specifically, I've been a victim of email spoofing, in which someone is sending emails that appear to be from me but really are not.”

That same day I received a personal email from Aly, again alleging that Beall was trying to blackmail small OA publishers. Below his message Aly had cut and pasted the email alleged to have been sent by Beall asking for $5,000 for a reassessment.

Curious as to the origins of this email, I asked Aly to forward the original to me. On receiving it I looked at the header, where I noted that all the identifying references bar one cited the address, jeffrey.beall@jangomail.com. Only the “FROM” line included Beall’s real University of Colorado Denver address.

I emailed the header to Beall and asked him if he thought it constituted proof that someone had spoofed his email address. He replied, “I lack the credentials to perform a forensic analysis of email messages involving spoofing. However, I do not need to do any analysis, for I know that I never sent the email in question to Aly or to anyone. I would never send such an email. I cannot prove a negative, so all I can do is to state to you that I never sent those messages.”

JangoMail


When I did a search on the name JangoMail I discovered that it was a company that advertises itself as a “web-based email broadcast and email marketing system” designed to allow companies to “create, send, and track email campaigns.”

I contacted the company and asked if it could confirm that the message alleged to have been sent by Beall had been distributed by one of its customers. If it had, I added, could JangoMail share with me details of the message’s origins.

I received the reply: “It appears that these messages were sent via a free trial account that has already been terminated for spamming based on our internal controls. For privacy reasons, we cannot disclose any additional information without a formal subpoena.”

I asked JangoMail if it could at least tell me in which country the account had been registered, when it was opened and closed, and whether it was possible to confirm or deny that the account had been operated by Beall. Again I was told that for privacy reasons, “We cannot disclose any additional information without a formal subpoena.”

I persisted, asking if JangoMail could answer a question that (so far as I could see) raised no issues of privacy. That is, is it possible to use JangoMail to spoof an email address? More specifically, is it technically possible to send an email via JangoMail but make it appear to have come from a completely different email address?

I received no reply to this question, and so can only report that JangoMail declined to confirm or deny that its service can be used to spoof email addresses.

Where does this leave us? It appears that we simply do not know who sent the controversial email, and presumably we never will unless someone goes to the expensive of obtaining a subpoena in order to extract the information from JangoMail. It has to be asked however: Why would Beall go the effort of opening a JangoMail account in order to send an email demanding money from publishers if he planned to identify himself in the process?

So I suggested to Aly that someone had tried to confuse him by posing as Beall. Aly, however, continues to insist that the message came from Beall — for reasons he outlines in the Q&A interview below.

Who is Ashry Aly? He is, he told me, a former employee of Hindawi Publishing, having left the company to found Ashdin Publishing in 2007. This was confirmed by Ahmed Hindawi, who emailed me that Ashry had worked for him from January 2000 until he resigned on August 2007. “The last two jobs he had with us were titled PreTeX team leader — between sometime in 2003 or so until 2006 — and then Journal Coordinator for a year or so before his resignation.”

Hindawi added, “I don't remember much about Ashry personally other than he was a hard working individual.”

Significant challenge


Perhaps we should not end the discussion here. After all, everyone appears to agree that the prevalence of unscrupulous OA publishers poses a significant challenge to the OA community, and indeed for scholarly communication at large.

When Beall published his 2013 list of predatory publishers he reported that the number had grown from 18 in 2010, to 23 in 2012 and 225 in 2013. “The increase in predatory publishers from 18 to 225 in two years demonstrates the increasing scale of the problem,” he suggested. “The entire scholarly publishing system is in danger of eroding due to the increasing influence of predatory publishing.”

Some deny that the problem is as serious as Beall maintains. Others suggest that the wholesale categorisation of hundreds of publishers as “predatory” is not only inherently unfair, but was always bound to attract retaliation of some sort from those placed on the list. As former Springer Publisher Jan Velterop put it to me by email, “using such a term as ‘predatory’ is asking for trouble if malicious intent can’t be proven. To question the journals’ prestige is one thing, but an almost criminal accusation quite another.”

Of course, with Suber, we should deplore disinformation campaigns like the one that Beall appears to have been a victim of. On the other hand, if any honest publisher has been falsely accused of being predatory they will doubtless feel as victimised as Beall presumably feels.

All in all, it is hard not to conclude that there are genuine reasons for concern with the current situation. Obviously, any publisher still on Beall’s list who believes that it has been unfairly branded as predatory will be concerned. But researchers should also be concerned, since they are undoubtedly vulnerable to becoming victims of an unscrupulous OA publisher.

I regularly receive emails from researchers complaining that they have been persuaded to submit a paper to an OA publisher only to discover that the service provided falls far short of what they were promised for their money. Moreover, in some cases, they report, any attempt to complain about the way in which a paper has been reviewed, or published, or to complain that an author was unaware at the time of submitting their paper that doing so would incur a fee, is met not with a sympathetic investigation into the matter, but increasingly aggressive demands for payment.

Concern about the problem of unscrupulous OA publishers intensified on January 9th, when Beall reported on the launch of a new organisation called the Open Access Journal Publishers Association (OAJPA) — which appears to be based in India.

If, as Beall argues, OAJPA is a “dishonest attempt to add a mark of legitimacy to a bunch of predatory journals” it will surely intensify concerns. Amongst other things, the OAJPA site includes a list of member journals. Researchers will doubtless assume this to be some form of endorsement. But with no published details of who is behind OAJPA, and no contact information behind an inscrutable contact form, it is not clear who might have endorsed them.

It also seems likely that OAJPA will be confused with the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) — a well-regarded OA organisation whose members include some of the world’s leading scholarly publishers, including the BMJ Group, the American Physical Society (APS), Oxford University Press (OUP), the Royal Society and Wiley

Prejudice?


But this raises another point too: the emergence of the OAJPA, and its presumed location in India, reminds us that the vast majority of publishers on Beall’s list seem to be based in the developing world. Membership of OASPA, by contrast, appears to be top-heavy with Western-based publishers — many of whom today are traditional subscription publishers who have seen the way the wind is blowing, and embraced OA as a result.

We are therefore bound to ask: is there a danger that some in the West are susceptible (if only unconsciously) to prejudice when considering the merits of publishers based in the developing-world?

There is no doubt that some of the OA publishers that have emerged in the developing world in recent years can accurately be described as “predatory, and many of these publishers are on Beall’s list. It also seems highly likely that the majority of the unscrupulous OA publishers operating today are based in the developing world.

But we need also to remind ourselves that some of the OA publishers based in the developing world seem to be driven by entirely honourable motives, and appear to be as ethical as any in the West. They also seem keen to develop world-class OA journals. A good example is Hindawi, which at one time featured on Beall’s list (as did its ISRN), before disappearing from it without explanation.

Might we be arriving at a point where any publisher based in the developing world is automatically assumed to be unscrupulous, if not downright predatory?

This point was made by Velterop in a comment he posted on a Google+ entry about OAJPA that Suber published. Responding to the proposition that the new organisation was obviously predatory, Velterop said, “Toe-cringingly amateuristic, absolutely. But ‘predatory’? They don’t charge anyone. Their English is very poor, but we must be careful with culturalism. OAJPA may be an attempt, amateuristic, but nonetheless well-meant, to get OA journal publishing attempts from non-western countries together in some way. Instead of dismissing them out of hand, we might suggest to OASPA to consider stretching out more of a visible helping hand to OA publishers in developing countries.”

Velterop may have a point. 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.

Indeed, the preponderance of developing-world publishers on Beall’s list has led to just such accusations. As Beall put it to me last August, “I recently published a list of my criteria for determining predatory publishers on my blog, and there has been mostly negative reaction, with some even implying that I am racist for including third-world firms on the list.”

We could also note that, from one perspective, OASPA could be viewed as little more than a cosy club of predominantly Western-based publishers more focused on maintaining their dominance of the scholarly publishing industry than embracing the new publishers that are emerging from the developing world, or of helping them to learn about and conform to world-class scholarly publishing standards. Certainly, OASPA has demonstrated little interest in addressing the problems posed by predatory publishers.

This last point is important. Beall’s list is the product of a lone individual. As such, he is more susceptible to the kind of attacks he has experienced than would be an organisation like OASPA. And while we have no good cause to question Beall’s motives, or his honesty, it is clear that some believe his methodology to be flawed, his selection process haphazard, and his system essentially unaccountable.

Nub of the matter


The nub of the matter is that the author-pays OA publishing model has encouraged unscrupulous publishers to enter the scholarly publishing market. Yet no one has come up with an adequate way of delineating the good from the bad. We have Beall’s unsatisfactory binary approach — where OA publishers are essentially assumed to be ok, or predatory — and we have the inherent assumption behind OASPA that probity is coterminous with memberdhip of its exclusive club.

Some argue that a solution to this impasse will soon be offered by the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), which on 17th December announced that the management of its database was being transferred to a UK-based company called IS4OA.

One stated goal of the new organisation is to improve the selection process used by DOAJ when deciding whether to add a journal to its database. “In communication with the community we will develop improved criteria for inclusion in the DOAJ,” the press release announced, “for instance by aligning criteria with OASPA’s code of conduct and the Open Access Spectrum.”

This development, however, is likely to prove somewhat controversial. DOAJ currently includes a good many journals published by companies categorised by Beall as predatory. People will understandably wonder whether this signifies that Beall’s criteria for categorising publishers as predatory are flawed. Alternatively, they might wonder if DOAJ has been adding journals to its database without giving sufficient thought to their quality, or the business practices of the respective publisher.

Consider, for instance, that the DOAJ lists seven Ashdin journals. Yet according to Beall, Ashdin is a predatory organisation.

If it turns out that the DOAJ has been operating a lax assessment process when reviewing journals submitted to it, its new management will presumably need to remove some of the journals in its database. This would likely spark further guerrilla warfare, or at least angry exchanges and bad feeling.

Moreover, it would still appear to leave OA publishers in an undesirable binary world of good and bad. Either they are in the DOAJ, or they are out of it. And since the DOAJ is a Western-based initiative, suspicions will surely remain that the process is discriminatory.

Whatever one’s views about these matters, the situation looks set to remain unsatisfactory for the foreseeable future. 

The interview begins …

 

RP:  You describe yourself as the director of Ashdin Publishing. Who owns the company?

AA: I am the owner.

RP: As I understand it, Ashdin Publishing is currently based in Belgium, but was founded in Egypt. Is that correct?

AA: Yes, that is right.

RP:  In what way is Ashdin Publishing connected with Dinah Group?

AA: Dinah Group is the parent company, which consists of (1) Dinah Publishing Services and (2) Ashdin Publishing.

RP: I assume you own both companies then. Can you say in which country they are registered and what their current revenues are?

AA: They are registered in Egypt. I'd prefer not to mention the revenues.

Background


RP: Can you say something about yourself and your background?

AA: Before I founded Ashdin Publishing I had over 11 years’ experience in scholarly publishing. During that time I worked in many publishing departments, including in production, coordination, and quality control.

RP: Can you cite some of the publishers in whose departments you worked?

AA: I worked for Hindawi from 2000 to 2007.

RP: When and why was Ashdin Publishing founded?

AA: Ashdin Publishing was founded in 2009. I set it up because although interest in Open Access is growing rapidly the model generally assumes that authors pay a fee to publish their papers. This is problematic because large publishers expect authors to pay from $500 to $1,500 per article and most authors based in developing countries are unable to pay these fees.

Essentially, I felt there was a need for an OA publisher willing to charge authors only a nominal fee to publish their papers. That was my primary aim in setting up Ashdin Publishing.

RP: How much does Ashdin Publishing charge to publish a paper?

AA: Currently our article-processing charge (APC) is 100 to 300 Euros. But we plan to reduce that even further to allow authors from developing countries, and those who do not have grants, to publish their articles in our journals.

RP:  How can Ashdin charge so little to publish a paper when other OA publishers say that they need to charge a lot more in order to make a profit? You mentioned a figure of $500 to $1,500. In fact, Public Library of Science (PLOS) charges between $1,350 and $2,900 a paper, and the hybrid journals offered by traditional publishers generally charge $3,000 per paper. How is it possible for Ashdin Publishing to charge so much less than this and yet survive as a business?

AA: The way we operate is that the APC is intended to cover the publication costs plus only a small marginal profit. We can do this because where publishers like PLOS will employ hundreds of people we operate with only a handful of staff.

We use a lot of freelance copy-editors based in Egypt, for instance, which lowers our overheads. We also use print-on-demand suppliers to fulfil our print subscriptions.

These factors allow us to lower the cost per article to a more manageable figure for authors.

RP:  You said you plan to reduce prices still further. How low do you expect Ashdin’s APC to fall?

AA: Starting from 2013, we plan to charge authors only 100-200 Euros per article.

RP:  I believe Dinah Publishing Services offers copyediting, proofreading and technical editing services. I am wondering if you are able to charge so little because authors are expected to pay for editorial services prior to submitting their papers, using Dinah Publishing Services perhaps. 

AA: Dinah Publishing Services does not offer these services to authors, but to other publishers wanting to outsource the work.

Moreover, once a manuscript has been accepted for publication by Ashdin, it undergoes language copyediting, typesetting, and reference validation in order to provide the highest publication quality possible. We do not charge authors for these services.

RP: You mentioned print subscriptions. I assume this means that while all the papers published by Ashdin are made freely available, readers are also able to subscribe to print versions of the journals?

AA: Correct. We offer print subscriptions to libraries.

RP: How much do you charge for this?

AA: The subscription price is 199 Euros per year. This covers the print and delivery costs while also providing us with a minimal profit margin. In fact, we are reducing our prices here too. So where last year the cost was 300 Euros, now it is just 199 Euros for a print subscription to an Ashdin journal.

RP: What does a subscription buy?

AA: A subscription consists of just one volume per year. That contains all the articles published during the year bundled together in print format. 

Process


RP: How many journals does Ashdin currently publish?

AA: Ashdin currently publishes 29 journals, but we plan to expand our portfolio by launching new journals in new fields of science.

RP: How many individual papers has Ashdin published to date?

AA: We have published 401 articles. Remember that most of our journals are new and were only launched in 2012.

RP: Talk me through the peer review process employed by Ashdin journals.

AA: The entire editorial workflow is undertaken by means of our online Manuscript Tracking System.

Once a manuscript is submitted, the Editor-in-Chief of the journal inspects the submitted manuscript. If he or she determines that the manuscript is not of sufficient quality to go through the normal review process, or if the subject of the manuscript is not appropriate to the scope of the journal, the manuscript is rejected with no further processing.

If the Editor-in-Chief determines that the submitted manuscript is of sufficient quality, and falls within the scope of the journal, he or she sends the manuscript to one of the journal's Associate Editors, who manages the peer-review process for the manuscript.

After inspecting the submitted manuscript the Associate Editor can reject it without further processing. Otherwise, he or she will assign the manuscript to a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 5 external reviewers for peer-review.

The reviewers then submit their reports on the manuscript along with their recommendation to the Associate Editor. If these are acceptable the paper is published.

RP: As noted, Ashdin is an OA publisher. Can you clarify the copyright situation? When I looked at the web site I noticed that all the pages on the site had a note stating that copyright was vested in Ashdin Publishing and on an “all-rights-reserved” basis.

AA: As you say, all the articles we publish are Open Access. This means that the authors retain the copyright in their work. The copyright statement you saw at the bottom of ashdin.com pages is an old one, dating from 2011. I asked the webmaster to remove it today, and it will be gone by the time this interview is published.

RP: Nevertheless, so far as I can see the articles themselves have no copyright notice attached to them indicating that they are OA, or under what licence they have been made available.

AA: Correct, our articles do not currently contain any copyright statement. However from 2013 onwards we plan to add the following statement to all our articles: “This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited”.

Predatory?


RP: Ashdin Publishing is currently included on Jeffrey Beall’s list of predatory publishers. Why do you think that is so?

AA: I do not know, but Ashdin and other publishers do not deserve to be on that list. Every author who has published his or her work in an Ashdin journal will be aware of the effort (reviewing and editing) that goes into enhancing a paper before it is published by Ashdin.

RP: When I asked Beall why he had added Ashdin to his list he said that he had found a “significant presence of plagiarism and self-plagiarism” in a paper published by Ashdin. He also said that you were using the pseudonym “John Costa” when communicating with researchers, and that you recently emailed his colleagues accusing him of trying to blackmail you. Is this true?

AA: There is no plagiarism or self-plagiarism in any of our journals. All Ashdin articles are original, and it is easy for our editors and reviewers to detect plagiarism and reject any article containing it. Each accepted article will have been passed by 2 reviewers and 2 editors before it is accepted.

RP: Have you been using the name John Costa, as Beall claims?

AA: Yes, I use John Costa as I feel it is an easy name in all languages. But I will use only Ashry in future.

It is also true that I forwarded an email to Beall’s colleagues that I had received from him asking me to pay him to have my name removed from his list.

RP: This will be the email that began to appear on the Web at the beginning of December (e.g. here, here and here). This was circulated with a message from you alleging that Beall has been writing to publishers on his list and offering to re-evaluate them for $5,000, an offer your message described as blackmail. Did you write this message and is it you that has been posting it in multiple places online?

AA: It is true that I received an email from Mr. Beall asking me to pay $5,000 to re-evaluate Ashdin and remove it from his list. I sent the message to some publishers and some people who work in the publishing industry to let them know what is going on, but I did not post it online.

RP: There seem to have been a number of different messages circulating signed by you. One you sent to me, for instance, one that someone tried to post to my blog, and the one I highlighted above. Did you write all these messages?

AA: I wrote the e-mail here and I sent it to some publishers, but I did not post it online.

RP: Beall tells me that your response to the email you received was to offer to pay him $500 (rather than $5,000) to have your name removed from his list. Is that correct?

AA: No, we will not pay any money to him. In the meantime, we plan to continue developing our journals, and launching new ones.

RP: Are you sure that the email offering to re-evaluate publishers on Beall’s list for a fee actually originates from Beall, or could it be the work of someone posing as him? Is it in your view genuine?

AA: I am sure that the email was from him. If you have a look at his “Criteria for Determining Predatory Open-Access Publishers”, you will find that some of these criteria can be applied to a great many publishers (even large publishers). But Beall does not include any of these publishers on his list, only small publishers. He wants to blackmail us.

RP: This is a serious allegation you are making. I am wondering whether you have any proof. When you forwarded to me the email demanding money that you say Beall sent I took a look at the message header. This suggested to me that it may not in fact have come from him at all. Where is your proof that it was Beall who sent it?

AA: The proof is that I received the email from his account: jeffrey.beall@ucdenver.edu. Also, I contacted all the publishers on Beall's list. Only one other publisher (beside Ashdin) told me that they had received the e-mail I received. This is proof that Mr. Beall sent the e-mail.

Moreover, if someone else wanted to blackmail the publishers on the list, and take money from them, why did they not send the e-mail to all of the publishers on the list? That way they could make a lot of money.

RP: Do you believe that there are some OA publishers who deserve to be on Beall’s list? If so, is it possible that one of these less ethical publishers may have been the source of the message rather than Beall, and that it was sent not in order to blackmail anyone, but to discredit Beall?

AA: Yes, I believe that some of the publishers on Beall’s list deserve to be there. Some of them are using Elsevier's logo, for instance, while others have fake impact factors.

But if one of them sent me the letter, why did they send it only to me and one other publisher? I mean, why did this person not send the letter to all of the publishers on Beall’s list?

RP: Ok, let’s move on. You are not the only person to criticise Beall for the criteria he uses to decide whether to put a publisher on his list. Do you think it might make sense for those publishers who believe they have been unjustifiably placed on his list to get together and form an interest group? Such a group could, for instance, a) point out why they feel that Beall’s criteria are inadequate, or not being evenly applied, b) explain how the criteria could be improved and, c) establish its own criteria and rules with a view to self-regulation?

AA: Yes, it would be a good idea for serious publishers to do this. In fact, I am talking to some of them right now, and we will see what we can do.

RP:  Do you think that the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) could help in this?

AA: I am not sure about that. Ashdin is not member of OASPA at the moment, and so far as I am aware Beall's list does not currently include any member of OASPA. Nevertheless, I would imagine that OASPA might be interested in this issue.

RP: Are you aware of, or involved with, the recently-launched Open Access Journal Publishers Association (OAJPA)?

AA: I can find no information about who created OAJPA, and I am not convinced that it would be beneficial for Ashdin to join, so I do not plan to do so.

RP: Thank you for agreeing to do an interview with me.

23 comments:

Ross Mounce said...

"everyone appears to agree that the prevalence of unscrupulous OA publishers poses a significant challenge to the OA community"

I disagree.

Academics get spammed with all sorts of low-quality, immediately obvious scams all the time. "Predatory Open Access publishers" are just one of such scams.

Our email addresses are put on our published papers, these email addresses are systematically harvested, and scammers send out out emails with a variety of lures to millions of these email addresses in the hope that one or two might fall for the scam.

I fail to see how these predatory OA publisher schemes are any different from the regular emails I get about Nigerian bank transfers, low cost antibodies, cybernetics conferences in China... There's nothing different or special about these scams. You have to be incredibly foolish to fall for them.

Perhaps instead you might want to ask why certain parties (and I'm not talking about Beall here) are making such a mountain out of this molehill?

Villavelius said...

Ross says "You have to be incredibly foolish to fall for them."

and

"...you might want to ask why certain parties [...] are making such a mountain out of this molehill."

I agree with Ross.

On the issue of being named on what is in effect a blacklist, in a recent post Jeffrey Beall even uses the word "corrupt" in relation to publishers on his list, in addition to calling them just "predatory" (http://scholarlyoa.com/2013/01/17/scholarly-indexes-are-unwittingly-legitimizing-corrupt-publishers/). That is unwise, but I have to say that if the publishers on his list feel that they are being unfairly damaged, they can initiate a libel suit. The fact that they haven't done so (at least I'm not aware of any, not even a threat of one) gives Beall the benefit of the doubt.

Jan Velterop

Sylvain said...

Anyway, the main issue regarding OA publishers is the growing rate of available journals, which makes very little sense. Science really needs so many dispersed media specialized in sub-sub-sub-fields, like "Patagonia Journal of biodegradable epi-brassinosteroids with bioactivity against female nematode"? This is ridiculous, and the model will collapse very soon.

Richard Poynder said...

Jeffrey Beall has responded to the interview with Ashry Aly on his blog here.

Charlie said...

Now that Beall has exposed plagiarism in Ashdin articles by just scratching the surface, is it time to stop blaming the victim? Beall was spoofed with malice and has the integrity to use evidence to make his point.

Claire Redhead said...

Richard, I respond to your article on behalf of OASPA. You quote Jan Velterop’s comment of “Instead of dismissing them out of hand, we might suggest to OASPA to consider stretching out more of a visible helping hand to OA publishers in developing countries.”. It should be noted that membership applications are all treated equally and reviewed thoroughly to ascertain whether each applicant meets the critical OASPA membership criteria. We have many applications from journals/publishers in the developing world under review and recommendations have been made, as with all applicants, to help them towards necessary improvements. Often our applicants are not large professional western publishers, but rather they are smaller organisations or individuals to whom we are happy to provide guidance to in order to help them achieve a more professional operation. Location of the publisher is noted, and we expect applicants to be transparent about their business location on their websites, but it is not used as any basis for judgment of the quality of the publication. More details on the way that applications are handled by OASPA can be found in a recent blog post: http://oaspa.org/oaspa-membership-how-new-applicants-are-assessed/

Handling an individual application can be a very lengthy process and there are many geographically diverse participants under consideration right now. It is not a case of a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but in the majority of cases, if an organisation that applies to join is willing to make any enhancements to meet the membership criteria, OASPA will invest time guiding the applicant towards meeting this goal rather than rejecting the application. Our ultimate aim is to maintain consistency and high standards of open access publishers and organisations with an interest in this field. We are very much concerned about the issue of quality for new open access publishers, however we have decided to approach the issue by working with all new applicants to ensure that they are upholding a strict set of best practices, rather than trying to label organisations that we haven't had a chance to work with as predatory.

The OASPA membership is already geographically diverse and will likely be more so as the membership grows in the future (http://oaspa.org/membership/members/). In addition, two of the current board members of OASPA represent organisations based in Africa, which is testament to the international nature of OASPA as an association.

Claire Redhead
Membership & Communications Manager
OASPA

Villavelius said...

I'm very pleased with Claire's response on behalf of OASPA. May I suggest that OASPA consider making public, if the publisher in question agrees, who are the membership candidates with whom OASPA is working to help them improve? That might encourage more outfits to apply, and also help separating the wheat from the chaff, without resorting to the sort of negative approaches of Jeffrey Beall's 'predatory' list, which amounts to a blacklist, tarnishing the goodwilling but not quite professional with the same brush as the truly predatory.

Jan Velterop

A Khan said...

I find both Ashry Aly and Beall is behaving immaturely.
When I saw the claim of Ashry Aly that his journals' have no plagiarism, I simply laughed. 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.

I also 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)

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.

PART 1

A Khan said...

PART 2

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.

A Khan said...

PART 3
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.

A Khan said...

PART 4
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).

A Khan said...

PART 5
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.

A Khan said...

PART 6
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.

I strongly oppose the present email spoofing case against Beall. It really proves that some of the entries of Beall’s list are really criminal.

Richard Poynder said...

@A Khan. Thank you for posting your very thoughtful and constructive series of comments. You provide a great deal of food for thought.

What has become clear is that the topic of “predatory publishing” not only generates a lot of heat and passion but is bound up with some hugely complex issues, not least that of “the internationalisation of science”

What is also clear is that there is currently no consensus on what constitutes predation in OA publishing, or indeed scholarly publishing more generally.

Consider, for instance, that a recent paper published in The Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies includes the poster child of the OA movement — the Public Library of Science — in a list of publishers that its describes as being “probably ‘predatory’”.

Richard Poynder said...

I was asked by Dr. Paulino Martínez to post this comment below. (He also asked me to edit the text a little first in order to make it clearer):

@Ross Mounce says, “I fail to see how these predatory OA publisher schemes are any different from the regular emails I get about Nigerian bank transfers, low cost antibodies, cybernetics conferences in China... There's nothing different or special about these scams. You have to be incredibly foolish to fall for them.”

It may be that Dr. Mounce is correct in what he says if one views it from the perspective of a researcher who lives and works in Europe or North America and whose native language is English, or one who is familiar with the current changes going on in scholarly communication. But it is not the same for the rest of us.

I am a doctor in a hospital in the province of Mexico. After receiving several email invitations from a publisher on Jeffrey Beall’s list I submitted to one of its journals. When I did so I did not know that there was a charge, and I was not told that there was one until after the paper was accepted.

All my life I have published in journals where there is no cost to the author. I knew nothing about journals where authors have to pay.

As soon as I was told that there would be a charge I withdrew the paper, telling the publisher that he should not proceed. In fact, I sent several emails, but all my requests were ignored and last April the paper was published. Since then I have been sent many emails demanding payment, and I am still receiving these emails.

I simply do not have the money to pay what the publisher is demanding, but I am afraid that they will find a way of enforcing payment, or that I will have difficulties when travelling to another country as a result of this claimed “debt”. The publisher is asking me to pay a lot of money, and I will receive no benefit from publishing in the journal since it is not a world-class journal.

Please Dr. Mounce, do not say that people who are taken advantage of by these publishers are “incredibly foolish”. And please do not say that invitations from these publishers are no different to invitations to engage in Nigerian bank transfers or attend conferences in China. I publish papers in order to communicate what I have learned, to share my experiences, and to educate others, not in the hope of enriching myself through the illegal transfer of money, or because I want to take a trip to China.

Dr. Paulino Martínez

Lars Bjørnshauge said...

The Nub of the matter!

As newly appointed managing director of the DOAJ I have a few comments to this discussion.
First of all I think it is appropriate to put the recent phenomenon of publishers with questionable business ethics in proportion. Everyone who has been monitoring the developments in scholarly communication the latest decade will know that there are significant problems with the existing, still dominant model – subscription based journals, I won´t dig into that, but this is one of the main reasons for the progress of open access. At the other end of the spectrum with Green OA we have lots of problems and challenges as well: OA mandates that are too soft, tracking of compliance is with two notable exceptions (Wellcome & NIH) non-existent, we have serious sustainability issues, issues of long time preservation of content, empty repositories, interoperability issues. A lot of good forces are trying to solve these issues. No wonder we have problems and challenges when it comes to open access publishing as well: quality issues, unclear copyright and reuse rights and lately companies who are trying to exploit this new business area. We will handle this problem! And I think I agree with Ross that there is an exaggeration here. In general OA journals are gaining importance and are improving in terms on quality, but there is a lot of work to do, but let us not be too distracted by the so-called predatory publishers ( I do not like the term).
Roichard: “If it turns out that the DOAJ has been operating a lax assessment process…”. Well, having been involved in the DOAJ from the start (2003) till 2010 and again from now on I can tell that the librarians involved on a daily basis has done a great job in assuring compliance with the selection criteria applied by the DOAJ in the evaluating process, and even checking for compliance for journal listed after inclusion – approx. 100 journals/year have been removed because of changed business model, introduction of embargos etc. Issues of business ethics were not included in the criteria when the DOAJ was launched 10 years ago. But as announced earlier this will be addressed shortly, we have been busy with the transition to the new organizational environment.
We will in cooperation with the community agree on and implement new criteria, which will - I am quite sure - raise the bar, and I would guess that we as an outcome of this process will be able to agree on criteria that will enable us to flag publishers/journals that do not live up to reasonable standards, be it in terms of quality, openness and/or business ethics.
The challenge here is to make such criteria sufficiently operational in order for the librarians to apply these on a daily basis. I am sure that we will be able to implement such criteria and thus see too that DOAJ even in the future will be a reliable source for seeking advice on OA journals.
An additional challenge will be to agree on and make operational criteria that will not discriminate publishers who doesn´t by default belong to the dominant North/Western publishing tradition. I guess that the DOAJ in the past and still in the future will have the biggest impact for publishers from other parts of the world. Science is global, unfortunately we tend to forget that when we discuss scholarly publishing issues. Open access aggregators in Latin America (SciELO and Redalyc) are doing an outstanding job in promoting research not only out of Latin America.
We will come back shortly with more, thank you for your patience. Lars Bjørnshauge, Managing Director, DOAJ – lars.arl.org

Richard Poynder said...

Thanks for responding Lars.

You say that approximately 100 journals a year are removed from DOAJ.

Can I ask:

1) Does DOAJ make a formal announcement when it removes a journal from its database, and give a reason for that removal?

2) Is there a published list of all the journals that have been removed from DOAJ?

If this information is not currently available, do you think it ought to be made available?

Richard Poynder said...

There is more on DOAJ here

Richard Poynder said...

More commentary on this interview, on OASPA, and on DOAJ can be read here

Mike Taylor said...

I'm sympathetic to Dr. Martinez's plight, but I'm afraid Ross's original comment still stands. However wise he is in his own field of study, Martinez did do a foolish thing in sending his work to a journal he wasn't already familiar with. Don't do that, folks. Would you marry someone you'd just met? Would you buy a house without having a survey done?

A Khan said...

PART 1:
I saw a recent relevant update is going to happen. Poynder has many times rightly pointed that Beal’s list is lacking ‘appeal process’. Now Beall has proposed Appeal process to be implemented for his list (http://scholarlyoa.com/2013/02/27/appeal-process-to-be-implemented-for-this-blogs-lists/). In my some recent posts, I have also suggested to apply ‘correction’ policy. Successful implementation of the ‘Appeal process’ is more important. Though sometimes I was doubtful that whether Beall want to help OA or destroy OA, but most of the times I had faith on Beall, on his flexibility to accept other’s suggestion, on his guts to confess errors in public and also on his hard work. I am so happy to see that academic and social peer review of questionable publishers are about to start. I am also happy to see that third component (correction/appeal) of our social peer review system (i.e. Reward, punishment and correction) is taking shape. Many times I was too harsh on Beall, but most of the time I am very much pleased with Beall’s efforts to establish the Gold OA system in right track.

Now I have some suggestions and also some warning notes for this process to be implemented successfully.

Many times Beall’s list is termed as some sort of ‘negative approach’ (Reference: comments of Jan Velterop, Ex. Director of Nature, Ex. Director of Springer Open, Reference: http://poynder.blogspot.in/2013/01/the-oa-interviews-ashry-aly-of-ashdin.html).
Karen Coyle (a librarian like Beall) had severely criticized Beall for enlisting some publishers without much proof and described some of Beall’s evaluation language “to be bordering on racism”. (Reference: https://plus.google.com/109377556796183035206/posts/LQVaue6XYev?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A%20GPeterSuber%20%28G%2BFeed%20of%20Peter%20Suber%29). Therefore, I suggest Beall to take more care to prove his case and arguments this time.

Suggestion 1: If an appeal process really starts, I suggest that Beall should not be involved in the board (I agree that previously I proposed Beall in the board, which I withdraw now Ref: http://poynder.blogspot.in/2013/01/the-oa-interviews-ashry-aly-of-ashdin.html). It will be more than a case of ‘Competing Interest’ if Beall himself is in the board. In fact here Beall is one party (who is having allegations against the publishers) and publishers are other party (who will be defending their position). Therefore, being a party of this case, Beall cannot take the both post of judge as well as one party.

A Khan said...

PART 2
Suggestion 2: Make this total appeal process and discussion completely OPEN for highest level of transparency and also to defend complains against any biased evaluation. (Beall can take idea from Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics OR BMC Medicine Open peer review system (http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/10/101/prepub).
Anyway adoption of OPEN evaluation requires lots of guts and patience but the result will be the most transparent one. Nobody can challenge this transparent system. (I am not claiming that it is the perfect system. In fact no system on earth is perfect. But we should make the system transparent to increase the credibility). Anyway I assume, that Blog concept is by nature OPEN and Beall invited ‘Appeal process” in a blog, he should publish all appeal related discussion/documents open to respect the very nature of BLOG.

Suggestion 3: First Beall should publish specific complain against each entry in his list based on RECENT evaluation (as Beall also agreed that questionable publishers can adopt standard practices and can improve themselves and also Beall had dropped one name when that publisher improved its business practice). Beall must publish it as OPEN pdf document. Your allegations should not be too old to evaluate (say not more than 6-8 months old). I think this should be the valid starting point for this appeal process. Unless all allegations are in one place then how on earth the publishers start to defend themselves. Otherwise it will be a mockery.
(You got complain from many persons that your inclusions are without any proof or properly justified (Example:
1. Karen Coyle: https://plus.google.com/109377556796183035206/posts/LQVaue6XYev?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A%20GPeterSuber%20%28G%2BFeed%20of%20Peter%20Suber%29)
2. David Solomon (http://scholarlyoa.com/2012/08/04/criteria-for-determining-predatory-open-access-publishers/#comment-1391)

Suggestion 4: I propose more scientific way to categorize new (probable suspicious) publishers. I fully agree with R 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." (Reference: http://poynder.blogspot.in/2013/01/the-oa-interviews-ashry-aly-of-ashdin.html). I also oppose a subjective way of evaluation. An objective evaluation scale, say 0-100 score will be more scientific way of labeling different classes of publishers.

A Khan said...

PART 3
Suggestion 5: I propose this time Beall should develop some precise, solid and useful criteria before evaluation. His evaluation criteria are so broad that if properly applied no publisher in the world can escape his list (Reference: Lars Juhl Jensen’s comment: http://scholarlyoa.com/2012/08/04/criteria-for-determining-predatory-open-access-publishers/#comment-1373). He is ready to term a publisher predatory, if it publishes a journal with very broad scope. Somebody can apply same analogy and can term him a ‘predatory evaluator’ as his evaluation criteria are too broad.
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. 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 claiming that they are gatekeeper but accepting all the papers for their own profit then they are cheating.
Initial weakness of infrastructure (good office, commercial email service, etc) of a new start-up is bound to come for a new startup. Very few publisher can be lucky enough like PlOS to start with millions of donation. If initial poor office is in question then we would not have seen Microsoft, Facebook, Dell, etc. In fact origination of OPEN access lies in the power of internet and information technology. A small start-up OA publisher without a office and operating from an apartment can run efficiently if it establishes a proper E-management system of peer review and publication. That is the beauty of E-age and internet as it opens up immense opportunity. 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).

Suggestion 6: Beall should clearly define what is “Predatory open access publisher” and what is “Legitimate GOLD open access publishers”. At the end of this appeal it will help to make final decision.
Allow me to recollect, Beall’s definition of predatory publishers as “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.