Re: [visionlist] Beall’s List gone dark

Update
to my Blog Post from 27 Feb 2014, originally prompted by a battle with a Sham
Open-Access ‘Journal’ in 2013:

 

30
January, 2017

Dear
Scientific colleagues,

 

There
is an uncanny irony (perhaps eerie
familiarity would be appropriate in this instance) in the disappearance of
Jeffrey Beall’s Scholarly Open Access blog site. We have all begun to descend
rapidly down a shear slope that has been recently revealed in stark relief by
the official arrival of legitimization of “fake news” in our society. Somehow,
seemingly overnight, a massive wedge has been successfully driven between the intellectual domains governed by
empirical-based epistemology and her Evil twin 
– “alternative ‘facts’ “.  Our
experience within the naïve and relatively civil society of Science perhaps
served as a kind of palliative, a numbing fog leaving us ‘Science-Lambs’ particularly
vulnerable to the ‘Alt-Fact (Sham-Journal) Wolves’.

 

The
irony in the timing of the evaporation of Jeffrey Beall’s website is especially
poignant when faced with a new, frightening cultural force – i.e., the brazen
and cynical assault on knowledge, on the very mechanisms we have come to rely
on that generate and define knowledge.  We are witnessing an insidious ascent of viral
malignant memes into popular culture, indeed into the political and
news-producing machinery, that seeks to pull an Orwellian card-trick right
under our dumb-struck noses, and prove to us that all claims are created equal,
that beliefs, regardless of basis, and empirical-based facts have the same
genotype. The driving forces behind the proliferation of Sham ‘Open-Access’ Journals
and the proliferation of the various forms of “Fake News” in society are
admittedly not identical.  But their inevitable
corrosive effects on Science and the culture at large are decidedly comparable.
When the leader of the ‘free world’ can state, with impunity, that legitimate,
well-studied concerns about the pace and causes of climate change (global warming
in particular) are a hoax propagated by China, we all need to be alarmed. And
we need to be alarmed at the disappearance of Jeffrey Beall’s clarion (and
apparently lone) voice against the assault within our particular intellectual
borders, the world of scientific publication. 
Here is what I wrote 4 years ago on this topic, before our parochial
concern was joined by analogous concerns in the wider society of public
discourse:

 

 

 

27 Feb
2014

Dear
Colleagues and Friends,

 

There
is a growing trend in our field (and probably others) that threatens to become
epidemic, a development that poses a serious threat to the spirit and practice
of scholarly, scientific research.  That
is, the proliferation of sham/predatory “open-access” journals.  Some of you may have already fallen prey to
the tactics of one of these many new “journals”.

To
obtain a glimpse of  the potential scope
to this problem, it is worth one’s while to take a close look at a  website is called “Scholarly Open Access (http://scholarlyoa.com/)”.

The manager
of this site has taken it upon himself to compile a ton of information about known
or suspected sham journals. The site offers sensible recommendations as to what
“red flags” to look out for, and documents some “case studies” and provides a
long list of so-called open-access journals that are either predatory/sham
businesses, or are suspected of being so based on criteria that are spelled out
explicitly on the website. Any journal listed a suspect has right of appeal and
if a mistake is confirmed, the name of that journal will be deleted from the
site’s “no-fly” list.

 

It is
clearly in any scientists best interest to avoid publishing (or trying to publish)
in one of these journals, but it may be especially important for young
scientists to avoid these journals since their career (and reputation) is just
beginning to be established.

 

Here
is my take on the big picture:

 

Science is vulnerable
to any nefarious tinkering that pollutes the essential fertilizer of real
progress – its adherence to what Jacob Bronowski called the “Habit of
Truth”.  Misuse of our lightning-fast media for dissemination of
scientific ideas and findings has the potential to do great harm to us all. The
moment we doubt the honesty of a scientist, we doubt the veracity and value of his/her
work. What about when we come to doubt the honesty of a journal?  Then all
publications in that journal come to be doubted, deserved or not.  And so
on.  It is a cancer that can metastasize as rapidly as the click of a
mouse button nowadays.

 

What to do?
 Blogs like http://scholarlyoa.com/ are one defense, and we ought to applaud and support it. Awakening
the vast majority of an honest scientific community (the “Lambs”) to
the existence of, and tactics of the Sham-Journal-“Wolves” is
certainly a key ingredient in an effective response to this kind of thing.
 Maybe we also need to organize a conference(s) of some sort to seek to
establish a journal peer-review
process, or at least discuss the merits and feasibility of some sort of minimal
accreditation procedure that an “open-access” journal must receive to be
included in the sphere of serious, trustworthy science. Some of the criteria
Scholarly Open Access uses to identify potentially illegitimate journals
represent a useful, intelligent outline for development of more formal
accreditation or evaluative/rating scheme.

 

My gut response is not
comfortable with this prospect, even though this may be where we are being
pushed.  For centuries, scientific progress has done astoundingly well
using the honor system, and self-evaluative mechanisms.  There is no
“law” or official rule that forces a scientist to be honest in his/her
observations or reporting of them, or to do a thorough literature search about
the topics relevant to his/her work. Yet breach of these principles can bring
serious censure to scientists who fail to adhere to our mutually-agreed-upon
Ethical standards. Yet, even when there is no law, we do these things, we try
to adhere to and maintain the “Habit of Truth” – some are more assiduous and
rigorous in this than others. And, to be sure, all of us are increasingly challenged
by the sheer volume and expansion of scientific literature that needs to be
absorbed and cited.  But we do this without a “law” to make us; it
is simply what we know is required to maintain the credibility of our work and
to generate true knowledge that is evidence-based and that will stand the test
of time. 

 

Jacob Bronowski said
in his 1956 book, Science & Human Values ():

“We OUGHT to act
in such a way that what IS true can be verified to be so.”

 

He goes on to say:

“The dizzy
progress of science, theoretical and practical, has depended on the existence
of a fellowship of science which is free, uninhibited [he meant free and
uninhibited to speak truth to anyone, authority included!], and communicative.
It is not an upstart society, for it derives its traditions, both of
scholarship and of service, from roots which reach through the Renaissance into
the monastic communities and the first universities. The men and woman who
practise the sciences make a company of scholars which has been more lasting
than any modern state, yet which has changed and evolved as no Church has….In
an obvious sense, theirs is the power of virtue. By the worldly standards of
public life, all scholars in their work are of course oddly virtuous.
 They do not make wild claims, they do not cheat, they do
not try to persuade at any cost, they appeal neither to prejudice nor to
authority, they are often frank about their ignorance, their disputes are
fairly decorous, they do not confuse what is being argued with race, politics,
sex or age, they listen patiently to the young and to the old who both know
everything…These are the general virtues of scholarship, and they are
peculiarly the virtues of science.”

 

This
image of our profession is one we all carry, silently, as a guiding philosophy
that needs no explanation. Now in our internet age, I fear that we scientists
(and likely members of many other professions!) may need to start circling the
wagons. When it so easy to cheat on a huge scale, we may all need to begin to
adopt an unfortunate vigilance and to seek reliable methods to protect and
preserve the integrity of science. Progress will cease if integrity is
sacrificed.

 

To be clear, I am not a
fan of “policing” our activities.  But what can we do about this
kind of misuse of an increasingly open-access information world that will not
poison the very pearl that we nurture, a pearl that is now growing faster than
ever – i.e., the true democratization of access to, and generation of
knowledge/information?  This is a real conundrum:  How do we protect
our science and the mechanisms of its dissemination without infecting them with
another unintended virus.

 

At the very least, we
need to start a broader discussion about this issue and try to formulate,
democratically, a sensible policy response to this threat.

 

Russell D. Hamer, PhD.

 

On Thu, Jan 26, 2017 at 11:55 AM, John Pezaris wrote:
I’d prefer to avoid personal attacks on a scientific mailing list.
Beall’s list was an important resource.  I’m wondering if some
professional society might take up the mantle and continue it,
somehow.  The problem is that it would seem any society sufficiently
large enough to devote the necessary resources (and fight any
potential legal consequences) would have its own publication and
therefore an inherent conflict of interest.  Does anyone have ideas on
how to avoid that scenario?
– J.
On 1/26/17, Sebastiaan Mathot wrote:
> Hi,
>
>
> Let’s not glorify Jeffrey Beall too much (or at all). His list was
> useful, but it was never healthy that such an important resource was
> curated by a single nutcase. To illustrate, let me quote from one his
> papers:
>
>
> /”The open-access movement is really about anti-corporatism. OA
> advocates want to make collective everything and eliminate private
> business, except for small businesses owned by the disadvantaged. They
> don’t like the idea of profit, even though many have a large portfolio
> of mutual funds in their retirement accounts that invest in for-profit
> companies.”/
>
>
> And so on, and so on. Is that the kind of guy we want to depend on? No
> thanks.
>
>
> And yes, he actually wrote this! In an obscure open-access journal,
> ironically.
>
>
> – http://ift.tt/2kkwneO.
>
>
> Michael Eisen wrote an interesting blog about this:
>
>
> – http://ift.tt/GIotRp
>
>
> Cheers,
>
> Sebastiaan
>
>
> On 26/01/2017 14:30, John Neuhoff wrote:
>>
>> Losing Beall’s list is really unfortunate, particularly for new
>> scholars. There is some talks that Cabell’s International is
>> developing a similar list based, in part, on Beall’s list. See:
>>
>>
>> http://ift.tt/2jVZgeW
>>
>>
>> There is some speculation that these two events are related (though
>> this has been denied by Cabell’s). See also the efforts of Dr. Eugene
>> Noolah, a fictional character that has gotten himself appointed to the
>> editorial boards of several predatory journals.
>>
>>
>> http://ift.tt/2hQsDy5.
>>
>>
>> -JN
>>
>> ___________________________
>> John G. Neuhoff
>> Department of Psychology
>> The College of Wooster
>> http://jneuhoff.com
>>
>>
>>

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