The illicit and illegitimate continued use of Jeffrey Beall’s “predatory” open access black lists
For several years, a US librarian, Jefrey Beall, blogged about problems he perceived in open access (OA) journals and publishers. During that time, many academics also felt that there were serious and legitimate issues with the scholarly nature of several OA journals and publishers. Beall rapidly gained popularity by recording his impressions on a personal blog, and created two controversial black lists of OA journals and publishers that he felt were unscholarly. Beall’s black lists were well received by some, but also angered many who felt that they had been listed unfairly, or who were not entitled to a fair challenge to become delisted. Beall seemed determined to show that the numbers of “predatory” OA journals and publishers were increasing annually, and even began to advocate for the formal use of his black lists as policy, encouraging academics not to publish in those journals or publishers. Institutes were also encouraged to use Beall’s black lists to prevent their academics from engaging in a free choice of publishing venue. That posture, antithetic to freedom of choice, may have harmed many academics and budding publishers. In mid-January of 2017, Beall shut down his blog, without warning. This was followed by considerable commotion among publishers, academics and their institutes that had relied on Beall’s black lists for guidance. A post-publication peer review of Beall’s black lists, Beall’s advocacy, and the potential damage that they have caused, has only now begun. Reasons why these black lists are academically illegitimate, and arguments why their continued use is illicit, are provided.
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