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Blacklisting Criteria Discussed and Challenged

The present criteria on which the discussion about blacklisting is based are the Criteria for Determining Predatory Open-Access Publishers by Jeffrey Beall. 3rd edition / January 1, 2015. Initially I discuss here the very similar criteria from the 2nd edition. In a second steop I update to Beall's 3rd edition. Please see below.

Beall’s criteria (2nd edition) are negative criteria. They list the "bad things" publishers could possibly do. Criteria fall into 2 major groups Primary Criteria ("predatory" criteria) with 4 sub groups and Secondary Criteria which are not further grouped. The number of criteria are given below in brackets. There are 25 Primary Criteria and 23 Secondary Criteria. Beall does not specify how his criteria are applied. We can only assume the toughest measure is applied: To be found "guilty" of already one of the Primary Criteria will get a publisher on Beall's list. As this is most probably the case, it becomes necessary to fight fiercely against each criterion that does not make sense. A black list only knows "in or out". Reality has shades of gray. A blacklist oversimplifies. To be found guilty of Secondary Criteria has no effect with respect to getting on the list because Secondary Criteria are introduced with "The following practices are considered to be reflective of poor journal standards and, while they do not equal predatory criteria, potential authors should give due consideration to these items". In an e-mail Beall was asked how his criteria are applied. Beall answered the e-mail with respect to other questions, but did not respond to the question about the application of his criteria.

Beall's Criteria

1. Primary Criteria (25)

  1. Editor and Staff (7)
  2. Business Management (5)
  3. Integrity (7)
  4. Other Criteria (6)
2. Secondary Criteria(23)

They are reflecting ,,poor journal standards ..., while they do not equal predatory criteria“. „potential authors should give due consideration to these items prior to manuscript submissions.“

Some of the criteria are questionable.

Questionable Primary Criteria

("predatory" criteria)

1.2.3) “Depends on author fees as the sole and only means of operation with no alternative, long-term business plan for sustaining the journal through augmented income sources.” Open questions: Is it necessary to publish the “long-term business plan” online? How many years of successful existence of a publisher will imply the business plan can sustain the journal? Why is it not allowed if a journal is successful on author fees as the only means?

1.3.3) „The journal falsely ... uses some made up measure (e.g. view factor), feigning international standing.“ Debate: It is custom to show number of views and downloads with online journal articles. If showing these numbers helps „feigning international standing“ remains highly subjective.

1.4.3) „Operate in a Western country chiefly for the purpose of functioning as a vanity press for scholars in a developing country.“ Open questions: Corporations work globally. When does a company „operate in a Western country“? When is it chiefly for what purpose? How is vanity press defined? What is the distinction between “developing country” and “Western country” about in the first place? Remark: Criterion seems a little arrogant and written from a Western perspective.

1.4.5) „Publish papers that are ... obvious pseudo-science.“ Remark: This seems to be the criterion Beall chiefly works with when no other criteria are at hand. It is always possible to label a paper „pseudo-science“. When is it „obvious“? For whom is it „obvious“? Beall (2013) indicates what this could mean for him: „Some of these ideas include issues relating to sea-level rise..., anthropogenic global warming.“ These are issues others would call mainstream science. We can also take Beall's own extensive publications in the LIBRARY JOURNAL about topics ranging from astronomy, geography, medicine, meteorology to space science. Maybe everything below that level of scientific novelty and rigor is defined as pseudo-science.

Questionable Secondary Criteria

2.3) "The publisher publishes journals that are excessively broad“. Remark: Beall (2013): „Predatory publishers discovered the megajournal model by copying ‚successes’ like PLOS ONE." All megajournals are automatically dubious for Beall.

2.5) "The publisher requires transfer of copyright and retains copyright on journal content. Or the publisher requires the copyright transfer upon submission of manuscript." Remark: This means that nearly all subscription-based journal publishers engage in questionable practices.

2.8) "The publisher engages in excessive use of spam email to solicit manuscripts or editorial board memberships". Open questions: When is it “excessive”? When is it “spam”? E.g. in the USA, Unsolicited Commercial E-mails (UCE) are legal as long as they adheres to 3 basic types of compliance defined in the CAN-SPAM Act.

2.9) “The publishers’ officers use email addresses that end in, some other free email supplier“ Remark: The connection with journal quality is unclear.

2.20) „The publisher or its journals are not listed in standard periodical directories or are not widely cataloged in library databases.“ Remark: „not widely“ needs to be specified more. It takes some time to get cataloged. This has to be kept in mind when assessing startup journals

2.22) “The publisher uses text on the publisher’s main page that describes the open access movement and then foists the publisher as if the publisher is active in fulfilling the movement’s values and goals.” Remark: Everyone who is publishing quality OA can be seen as part of the "movement". The criterion is hence unclear. Its evaluation is subjective.

Beall's criteria got changed little from the first edition to the second edition. The criteria were discussed on his blog primarily when they were initially published as first edition.

Update to the 3rd Edition

Beall’s criteria (3rd edition) got published on 2015-01-01 including small changes and additions.

With respect to the questionable criteria from above: 1.2.3 got deleted.

2.5 only applies now when APC have to be paid.

A new questionable criterion (next to last): "There is little or no geographic diversity among the authors of articles in one or more of the publisher's journals" Remark: A national journal can well be scientific. Question: Does this also apply to purely US journals? Remark: In this criterion we see a general problematic logic used by Beall. His verdict from one journal is transferred to the publisher and back to all journals of the publisher. Why punish other journals at the publisher for what happens with one journal?

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LAST UPDATE:  19 May 2015
AUTHOR:  Prof. Dr. Scholz

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