[visionlist] Beall's List gone dark

Russell Hamer russhamer2 at gmail.com
Mon Jan 30 12:33:34 EST 2017

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

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

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

Russell D. Hamer, PhD.

On Thu, Jan 26, 2017 at 11:55 AM, John Pezaris <jpezaris at gmail.com> 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 <s.mathot at cogsci.nl> 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://www.triple-c.at/index.php/tripleC/article/view/525/514
> >
> >
> > Michael Eisen wrote an interesting blog about this:
> >
> >
> > - http://www.michaeleisen.org/blog/?p=1500
> >
> >
> > 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:
> >>
> >>
> >> https://www.cabells.com/about-us
> >>
> >>
> >> 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.
> >>
> >>
> >> https://www.facebook.com/Dr.Noolah/
> >>
> >>
> >> -JN
> >>
> >> ___________________________
> >> John G. Neuhoff
> >> Department of Psychology
> >> The College of Wooster
> >> http://jneuhoff.com
> >>
> >>
> >> ------------------------------------------------------------
> ------------
> >> *From:* visionlist <visionlist-bounces at visionscience.com> on behalf of
> >> Hans Strasburger <strasburger at uni-muenchen.de>
> >> *Sent:* Thursday, January 26, 2017 5:02 AM
> >> *To:* cvnet; visionlist at visionscience.com
> >> *Subject:* [visionlist] Beall's List gone dark
> >> Dear fellow CVNetters and Visionlisters,
> >>
> >> Some of you may have already noticed but I only just found out: Beall's
> >> List of potential predatory publishers and journals has disappeared.
> >> It's just gone. We can imagine why this has happened but in any case I
> >> find it highly disturbing. Beall's List may not have been perfect but it
> >> has been tremendously helpful to me over the years, to sort out all
> >> those treacherous invitations I got, and still get, on a regular basis.
> >>
> >> http://retractionwatch.com/2017/01/17/bealls-list-potential-predatory-
> publishers-go-dark/
> >>
> >> Note, though, that a snapshot of both the publishers list and journals
> >> list are still mirrored on the web (details in that link), so it is
> >> still time to download them (ASAP).
> >>
> >> All the best,
> >> Hans
> >>
> >> www.hans.strasburger.de <http://www.hans.strasburger.de>
> >> Hans Strasburger <http://www.hans.strasburger.de/>
> >> www.hans.strasburger.de
> >> Prof. Dr. habil., Dr. rer. biol. hum., Dipl. Math., Dipl. Psych. Hans
> >> Strasburger: Universität München Inst. f. Med. Psychologie
> >> strasburger at uni-muenchen.de
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> _______________________________________________
> >> visionlist mailing list
> >> visionlist at visionscience.com
> >> http://visionscience.com/mailman/listinfo/visionlist_visionscience.com
> >>
> >>
> >> _______________________________________________
> >> visionlist mailing list
> >> visionlist at visionscience.com
> >> http://visionscience.com/mailman/listinfo/visionlist_visionscience.com
> >
> > --
> > Department of Experimental Psychology
> > University of Groningen
> > http://www.cogsci.nl/smathot
> >
> >
> --
> John Pezaris, Ph.D.
> jpezaris at gmail.com
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Russell David Hamer

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