Archive for the 'open access' Category

Natureally, I’m delighted

Posted in Cites & Insights, open access on August 6th, 2014

My name appeared in a Nature news article today (August 6, 2014). Specifically:

The DOAJ, which receives around 600,000 page views a month, according to Bjørnshauge, is already supposed to be filtered for quality. But a study by Walt Crawford, a retired library systems analyst in Livermore, California, last month (see go.nature.com/z524co) found that the DOAJ currently includes some 900 titles that are mentioned in a blacklist of 9,200 potential predatory journals compiled by librarian Jeffrey Beall at the University of Colorado Denver (see Nature 495, 433–435; 2013).

and, later in the piece:

Bjørnshauge says that a small cohort of some 30 voluntary associate editors — mainly librarians and PhD students — will check the information submitted in reapplications with the publishers, and there will be a second layer of checks from managing editors. He also finds it “extremely questionable to run blacklists of open-access publishers”, as Beall has done. (Crawford’s study found that Beall’s apparently voluminous list includes many journals that are empty, dormant or publish fewer than 20 articles each year, suggesting that the problem is not as bad as Beall says.)

Naturally (or Natureally), I’m delighted to have my name show up, and a C&I issue linked to, in Nature. (It didn’t come as a complete surprise: the journalist sent me email asking about my affiliation–none–and, later, where I live.)

I’m not quite as delighted with the slant of that first paragraph (quite apart from the fact that Beall’s lists do not list some 9,200 “potential predatory journals,” they include publishers that publish or “publish” that number of journal names). Namely, I think the story is not that 900 “potentially predatory” journals appear in DOAJ with the loose listing criteria that site formerly used. I think the story is that more than 90% of the journals in DOAJ are not reflected in Beall’s list, given his seeming zeal to target OA journals.

But, of course, it’s the journalist’s story, not mine, and I do not feel I was quoted incorrectly or unfairly. (Incidentally, I don’t  have nits to pick with the second paragraph.)

I agree with Bjørnshauge that a blacklist is itself questionable.

Do I believe the much improved DOAJ will constitute a real whitelist? I’m not sure; I think it will be a great starting point. If a journal’s in the new DOAJ, and especially has the DOAJplus listing, it’s fair to assume that it’s probably a reasonably good place to be. (But then, I’m no more an expert in what journals are Good or Bad than Beall is.)

Anyway: thanks, Richard Van Noorden, for mentioning me. I hope the mention leads more people to read more about questionable journals than just Beall’s list. I strongly believe that the vast majority of Gold OA journals are as reputable as the vast majority of subscription journals, and I believe I’ve demonstrated that there aren’t any 9,200 “predatory” journals out there that are actual journals researchers with actual brains and a modicum of common sense would ever submit articles to.

A few readers may know that I’ve embarked on a related but even more ambitious (or idiotic) project, having to do with volume of articles and adding a new and very different control group. Dunno when (if?) I’ll finish the huge amount of desk work involved and produce some results. I do believe that, among other things, the results may shed some light on the apparent controversy over how prevalent APCs are among Gold OA journals… (And, incidentally, more financial support for C&I wouldn’t hurt this process.)

 

Thinking About Effectiveness

Posted in Cites & Insights, open access on June 29th, 2014

It’s been roughly three weeks since “Journals, ‘Journals’ and Wannabes: Investigating the List” (Cites & Insights 14:7, July 2014) appeared.

Thanks largely to those who tweeted and retweeted items about it or even blogged about it (you know who you are, and thanks), it’s had reasonably good readership so far: just under 1,400 copies downloaded as of the last time I looked.

That’s not great–less than half the first-month downloads for “Ethics and Access 1: The Sad Case of Jeffrey Beall” (April 2014), although I suppose people could have been hot to read “Forecasts and Futurism” in that issue, but more than the first-month downloads for “Ethics and Access 2: The So-Called Sting” (May 2014, accompanied by “Future Libraries: A Roundup”).

In case it’s not obvious, the July issue was a lot of work, so much so that it can only be justified by whim. Still, I believe the results made it at least partly worthwhile–specifically, the finding (as I interpret it) that most of the vast number of “journals” on Beall’s lists aren’t really predatory because either they don’t actually exist or because authors who are paying attention wouldn’t submit papers to them anyway. Oh, and the perhaps-more-important finding that the casual assumption, which I’ve seen stated by people who should know better, that most OA journals are sketchy isn’t supported by any facts in evidence, and certainly not by Beall’s list.

So what?

There’s the question. The issue’s been downloaded. I’ll assume it’s been read (never quite a safe assumption, but…)

Will it have any medium-term or long-term impact?

Will people view Gold OA journals a little less cynically?

Will people regard Beall’s efforts as the hobby (or hobbyhorse) they are rather than as indictments of OA in general?

I don’t have answers. It is, of course, awfully early to say. I’m not sure how I would find answers.

But it feels like an important question.

Thoughts?

Which new would-be journals are worth helping out?

Posted in open access on June 17th, 2014

This question was raised–not at all in those words–by a thoughtful reader of Journals, “Journals” and Wannabes: Investigating The List. Noting that six out of ten journals from The Lists were totally empty (but possibly brand new), essentially empty or had few articles, this person wondered when it would make sense to submit an article (or join an editorial board), given my conclusion that–for most authors–ignoring these “journals” and wannabes was most reasonable.

I thought about that, and I’ve prepared a tentative draft commentary, one that appears at the end of “Ethics and Access 3,” scheduled to appear in the August or September 2014 Cites & Insights.

But of course I’m no expert: I’m not a traditional scholar, tenure has never been an issue, etc., etc.

So I’m asking:

What are your suggestions?

Given a new or not-yet-established journal, what would you look for as positive or negative indicators for possible submission or participation (beyond the usual red flags)?

I think this may devolve into three subcategories:

  • Subscription and hybrid journals (I’m not ready to distinguish between those)
  • APC-charging Gold OA journals
  • No-fee Gold OA journals

I believe the bar is significantly lower for the third category than for the first two. Given the sheer number of journals out there already, I believe the bar for the first two should be fairly high–a big part of that bar being “Why do we need another journal on X?”

Comments? Either below or via email to waltcrawford at gmail.com

By July 7 to be most useful as I revise that essay (or scrap it). Unless you feel the need to offer suggestions as background, comments or email will be treated as quotable with attribution.

Thanks!

Cites & Insights July 2014 (14:7) available

Posted in Cites & Insights, open access on June 9th, 2014

Cites & Insights 14:7 (July 2014) is now available for downloading at http://citesandinsights.info/civ14i7.pdf

That URL is for the traditional two-column print-oriented ejournal. If you plan to read the journal on a computer, a tablet or other e-device (and if you plan to follow links), you’re much better off–especially in this case–downloading the single-column online-oriented version at http://citesandinsights.info/civ14i7on.pdf

[Links may not work from the two-column version. Conversely, some boldface may not show up in the one-column version. This issue has two dozen tables, some of which have smaller type in the two-column version, making the one-column version easier to read.]

The two-column version is 24 pages long. The single-column 6×9 version is 45 pages long.

The issue consists of a single essay, all original material (except for a few excerpts from publisher pages):

Intersections
Journals, “Journals” and Wannabes: Investigating the List (pp. 1-24)

Jeffrey Beall’s 4P (potential, probable, possible predatory) publisher and journal lists total 9,219 journals in early April 2014.

The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) totals 9.822 journals as of early June 2014.

9,219 is 93.9% of 9,822.

But: 90.8% of the journals in DOAJ are not represented in Beall’s lists.

A paradox? Not really.

This special issue does something I don’t believe has ever been done before (and is unlikely ever to be done again): looks at every journal from every publisher on Beall’s lists to see whether they’re plausible predators–whether they could reasonably attract any sensible author.

Yes, I even used a control group: members of the OASPA. And two subject groups from DOAJ as secondary control groups.

What’s here? A discussion of my methodology (of course); the results; the control-group results; the subject-group results; some notes on “the name game” (anyone want to help start up International Journal of International Journals?); a few notes from some “publisher” sites; some comments on fee vs. free; discussing real and possible predators–and a list of potentially predatory characteristics of subscription journal publishers; a couple of other issues; and some conclusions, including a new and faster “Is this a reasonable journal?” methodology.

If you read C&I 14.4 or 14.5 (and thousands of you did), I believe you must read this issue, the product of months of research and analysis.


Update, later on June 9, 2014: Someone reading the essay carefully might ask why I didn’t just do a mechanical comparison of all journal names I derived from the Beall lists against the DOAJ list, instead of looking up publishers and journals.

I tried that. Differences in the way names are offered by publisher sites and DOAJ mean that an Excel VLOOKUP function only yielded 272 matches, mostly MDPI journals (which typically have short, distinctive names). The method I used, if less automated, was more productive.

The steakhouse blog

Posted in Cites & Insights, open access on March 13th, 2014

When I finished editing “Ethics and Access 1: The Sad Case of Jeffrey Beall,” the lead essay in the April 2014 Cites & Insights*, I didn’t worry about the fact that I failed to reach clear conclusions about Beall or his list or blog. As with most essays of this sort, I was trying to paint a picture, not come up with a Declaration of Belief.

But I did think about why I found the situation so troubling–especially since it was and is clear that many librarians continue to assume that Beall is a reliable and worthy source. Last night, it came to me.

The steakhouse blog

Let’s say someone with some credentials as a judge of good meat starts a blog called Steakhouses. (If there is such a blog, this has nothing to do with it: I didn’t check.**) It gets a fair amount of readership and acclaim, even though every post on it is about bad steakhouses. After a while, there’s even a Bad Steakhouse List as a page from the blog.

Some people raise questions about the criteria used for judging a steakhouse to be bad, but lots of people say “Hey, here’s a great list so we can avoid bad steakhouses.”

The big reveal

After a couple of years, the author of the blog–who continues to be judge and jury for bad steakhouses–writes an article in which he denounces all meat-eaters as people with dire motives who, I dunno, wish to force other people to eat steak.

I will assert that, to the extent that this article became well known and the blog author didn’t deny writing it, the Steakhouse blog would be shunned as pointless–after all, if the author’s against all meat-eaters, why would he be a reliable guide to bad steakhouses?

Bad analogy?

So how exactly are the Scholarly Open Access blog and Beall’s List different from the Steakhouse blog and Bad Steakhouse List? And if they’re not, why would anybody take Beall seriously at this point?

Note that dismissing the Steakhouse blog and the Bad Steakhouse List as pointless does not mean saying “there are no bad steakhouses.” It doesn’t even mean abandoning the search for ways to identify and publicize bad steakhouses. It just means recognizing that, to the Steakhouse blog author, all steakhouses are automatically bad, which makes that author useless as a judge.


Full disclosure: I haven’t been to a steakhouse in years, and I rarely–almost never, actually–order steak at restaurants. I am an omnivore; different issue.

*Just under 2,900 downloads as of right now. Amazing.

**I’ve now done some crude checking. There are a number of blogs that include “Steakhouse” in their titles, I don’t find a Steakhouse blog as such, I don’t find a “Bad Steakhouse List,” and the blogs about steakhouses that I did find don’t appear to be uniformly anti-steakhouse.

Getting it wrong

Posted in open access on January 2nd, 2014

An open letter to a whole bunch of people talking about OA as though they know something about it:

If you use the phrase

The gold (author pays) open-access model

you should just stop right there and maybe actually learn something about OA.

A higher percentage of subscription-based journals have article processing charges than do gold OA journals, at least the last time anybody who cared about facts checked.

But if your intention is to scare people away from gold OA and OA in general, I guess facts don’t much matter.

 

Open access, advocacy, extremism and attention: A casual note

Posted in open access on December 9th, 2013

For a long time I viewed myself as an open access (henceforth OA, because that’s what I’m talking about) independent/observer: Not really involved in the “movement” but noting developments, commenting from time to time and–once in a while–indulging in a little “curse on both your houses” when it seemed necessary.

More recently, I found that I was gradually moving from independent to advocate–but I’m beginning to think that’s wrong, for a couple of reasons:

  • While I did write what’s still a key book on OA (Open Access: What You Need to Know Now), and while that book could be considered OA advocacy–it’s certainly not entirely neutral–I’m not in the trenches day-in and day-out responding to critics and espousing all forms of OA. I’m no Peter Suber or Michael Eisen. I’m also no (insert list of effective OA advocates here).
  • For whatever reasons–possibly lack of institutional affiliation, possibly lack of single-minded 100% support of any and all OA models and approaches, possibly not being either a scientist or an academic, possibly, I dunno, being a crappy writer–I find that I’m not really a significant part of the conversation. With relatively few exceptions (Peter Suber being a primary one), my contributions to the discussion are largely ignored, especially outside the library field. And even within the library field, I’d bet that J. Beall gets 10 times the attention and credibility that I do–and 10 times may be too conservative.

Maybe I’m overstating the second one. Maybe it doesn’t matter.

For various reasons, I don’t have readership numbers for Cites & Insights for most of 2013. My sense is that the three OA issues that year were not widely read, and they certainly haven’t been widely-referenced, at least from what I can see using Google searches.

It probably doesn’t help that one of the Great Men of OA labeled me an enemy of OA years ago, and as far as I know has never retracted that absurd charge. Yes, I’ve criticized that particular Great Man for what I consider an extremist view of OA and his frequent attempts to undermine forms of OA that differ from his own. I don’t apologize for that. (I’ve also criticized one of the would-be Great Women of OA for a form of extremism, for that matter, mostly having to do with appropriate CC licenses. I don’t apologize for that either.)

I had another jotted note toward a future post about escalating definitions of openness, another form of OA extremism that I find troubling (in that it makes it easier to oppose OA or ignore it entirely). I might yet write that…or maybe not.

So maybe I’m not really becoming an OA advocate. Of course I believe it’s important (and it’s fair to note that I was writing about it–and engaged in it–long before the term existed). Of course I’ll note it where it matters (e.g., in talking about possible solutions for the damage done by the big deal). And no, I’m not saying “screw it: I’m walking away from OA” again. That’s silly; while I may not have much of an audience or much credibility, I still have a little–and there continue to be some interesting aspects of OA to write about.

Still… My Soros funding still hasn’t come through (nor have I ever requested it); I don’t have a “cushy job” or any job at all to fall back on; I’m not sure I’m willing to plow through all the BS from extremists both opposed to OA and those favoring The One True Way; and, well, this is one area where:

  • There are some eloquent voices who do have some credibility
  • I sometimes feel as though writing in this area is mostly a waste of time.
  • It’s clear that I have no basis for direct OA advocacy.

So, back to being an observer–not really an independent, but not really an advocate. To attempt otherwise appears to be beating my head against a wall of gelatin: Not bloody-making but basically pointless.

 

 

 

 

Maybe I should write something about OA

Posted in Cites & Insights, open access on November 4th, 2013

Purely an incidental comment…

I used to write a fair amount about open access–in particular about how it related to libraries.

Enough so that in 2010 I self-published Open Access and Libraries: Essays from Cites & Insights 2001-2009. (That link is to the $17.50 paperback; the PDF ebook is absolutely free.)

The paperback is 513 pages long and includes 33 essays and an introduction. (It’s incomplete: it only includes whole essays on OA, not discussions of OA within other essays.)

I put it together partly because I’d sort of given up writing about OA at that point, partly because I didn’t think I was being heard at all, partly because more knowledgeable people and those with much larger voices were covering it so extensively.

Indeed, there were no essays specifically about OA in Cites & Insights during 2010, 2011 or 2012–although one could certainly argue that one or both of the essays in the December 2012 issue were pretty closely related to OA.

On the other hand, I did produce a compact book for ALA Editions in 2011, Open Access: What You Need to Know Now. It’s still available; I believe it’s still useful.

Then came 2013

In January 2013, I devoted most of the issue (90%) to “Catching Up with Open Access.”

In February 2013, I devoted most of the issue (>90%) to the second half of that essay.

And stuff kept happening that I thought was worth tagging for discussion…enough stuff so that I devoted nearly all (98+%) of the June 2013 issue to “Hot Times for Open Access.”

Adding it up

Just for fun (and because I could do it in three or four minutes), I thought I’d see what those essays–the ones in December 2012, January 2013, February 2013 and June 2013–would amount to if I was doing a second volume of Open Access and Libraries.

Three hundred and forty pages. Well, that’s without copyfitting. With copyfitting, it would probably come out to as little as 330-334 pages. Plus an introduction, table of contents and (maybe?) an index (but an index would be at least 10-12 pages).

In other words, by at least one measure, I’ve devoted almost precisely two-thirds as much space to open access since December 2012 as I did from 2001 through 2009. It comes out to about 126,000 words.

I don’t (currently) plan on doing such a second volume, partly because I don’t (currently) plan on abandoning OA coverage as a small voice grumbling in the wilderness, but even now it would be a fairly thick paperback.

211

That’s the number of items currently tagged “OA” in Diigo. Which means it’s all items that I have not yet written about. Dunno when I will. One significant chunk of that gets me a pleasant enough earworm of a particular Scott Joplin rag…

No deeper significance.

 

 

 

Go read this.

Posted in open access, Stuff, Writing and blogging on August 15th, 2013

Dorothea Salo has a new article out in the Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication.

You should read it, especially if:

  • You care about open access
  • You care about scholarly communication in academic institutions
  • You would like to see a healthy future for scholarly communication and for scholars, including independent scholars
  • [This bullet removed as, well, a spoiler for those who don't read thoughtfully.]

The title: “How to Scuttle a Scholarly Communication Initiative.”

The remarkable thing about this article is that it appears to have been used as a blueprint by any number of institutions before it was published.

One consequence of Salo’s article: My planned article-in-installments, “How not to be the expert,” a series of autobiographical musings, may be postponed indefinitely. Once you’ve seen a master at work, it’s easy to recognize one’s own limitations. But that’s me. For you: Go read it. Now.

 

 

Ad hominem or learning from experience?

Posted in Language, open access on June 8th, 2013

One of many, many so-called logical fallacies is ad hominem–”to the person,” short for argumentum ad hominem.

That link is to a Wikipedia article, and in this case (as in many others, although not always), it’s a pretty good discussion. If you read it, read the whole thing–including the Talk page (which I always recommend reading if you’re using Wikipedia for anything more than quick lookup).

I find it interesting that some academics and philosophers argue that ad hominem isn’t a fallacy at all.

I won’t go quite that far. I will say that some things that can be faulted as ad hominem are really something else: Learning from experience.

Viewed through the prism of long experience and various arw–sorry, awkward–attempts, it’s not unreasonable to be deeply suspicious of new initiatives from old antagonists emerging to a chorus of selective praise from the usual suspects.

That’s not ad hominem; it’s learning from experience. It’s learning that, based on oodles of previous cases, you should view proposals from certain parties with extreme skepticism, even reasonably beginning with a stance of “demonstrate that this isn’t another trick” rather than “sure, sounds like a good idea, let’s investigate further.”

Technically, it’s true that just because an agency or group or person has been wrong 100 times doesn’t mean that they couldn’t be right the 101st time. But saying “well, you can’t judge the future by the past, so you have to give them the benefit of the doubt” is just silly–and calling an inclination to judge the future by the past argumentum ad hominem is equally silly.

I won’t claim that I won’t get fooled again–that would be as absurd as hoping that I would die before I get old. (A bit late for that by now!) I will claim that I’ll apply substantially more critical analysis, looking for loopholes, questioning underlying motives, assuming the worst…all those nasty things…to proposals coming from parties and groups with long histories of suspicious proposals.

If doing so is a logical fallacy, so be it.


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