Contrary to what Cabell’s International, a publishing services company, had said in a tweet on January 17 that Jeffrey Beall has been working with them as a consultant since 2015 to develop a B-list of predatory journals and publishers, Prof. Beall denies any connection with Cabell’s in a Facebook chat with me today at around 6.30 pm local time in India.
“I don’t have any connection with Cabell’s. I understand they will be launching a blacklist this spring, but I know very little about it,” Prof. Beall says. He apparently was not aware of the tweet by Cabell’s. When pressed further for details based on Cabell’s tweet he says: “All I can say is that I have not consulted formally with Cabell’s. I have not earned one penny from them. Yes, I have met them at conferences, but there is no formal consulting going on, no money exchanging hands. No! I am not helping them in any way.”
He politely refused to divulge the reasons for shutting down his blog saying: “I am sorry; I cannot comment on that.” But he did mention that his lists are available on the “Wayback machine”.
Responding to my observation that all his expertise on predatory journal publishing would go waste if he stays away, his anger or frustration with the Open Access advocates became amply evident. “Well, the Open-Access advocates always criticised my expertise, so perhaps they can work on solving the problem of predatory publishing,” Beall says.
“Yes, I still work at the University [of Colorado Denver]. I am still trying to figure out what my new research agenda will be. I have no plans to return to this work [preparing and updating a list of predatory journals and publishers]. I have no plans to create or publish any lists of publishers. I want it to be something much more quiet than predatory publishers. By “quiet” I mean non-controversial,” he says of his future plans.
Filling the void
To my query on who can fit into his big shoes and match his expertise he says: “It’s clear that my abandoning this work has left a void. How will the void be filled? The publishing industry already has an initiative, called “Think, Check, Submit” that was a response to my work, but I am not sure it is having any effect or really addressing the problem.”
Unlike his list, does he think that “Think, Check, Submit” has any effect at all in exposing and warning people of the dark side of predatory journal publishing and is he aware of any other initiative that matches his? “Think, Check, Submit is having no effect. I know of no other blacklists. Many of my critics argued that anyone could easily identify predatory journals without the need of any list. They said that predatory journals were obviously predatory, and that my work was unneeded,” Beall comments.
To my comment that his lists helped the scientific community, especially people who did not genuinely know which is a predatory journal, his answer is terse: “Yes, agree.”
The time at Denver was 6.21 am and I had chatted with him for 15-20 minutes. Though I wanted to ask him many more questions and feared that I might not be able to connect with him again he had to go. “Prasad, sorry, I need to get ready for work. It is 6:21 am here! Thanks,” he says. But before going signing off he did permit me to share the content of the chat in my blog.
Beall, wherever you are and whatever you do, let me wish you the very best. I saw a good friend in you and professionally you were a huge help to me whenever I wrote about predatory journals. Wonder who would take that place now. I don’t see anyone in the horizon. Many in the scientific community might have disagreed with you on many issues, but many have thoroughly appreciated your selfless, single-minded initiative. Good bye, I’ll miss you, the scientific community too will miss your valiant efforts to call a spade a spade. Take care.
UPDATE – Cabell’s responds
February 4: Cabell’s International responded to the story saying: “We regret to learn in this manner that Mr. Beall viewed our relationship in a different light than we had. The fact remains that Cabell’s has been developing a blacklist for almost two years and on many occasions, our team has sought advice and received resources and guidance from Mr. Beall. Since the inception of our blacklist project, Mr. Beall has regularly provided us with notes, evaluations, evidence, methodology and his personal insights regarding developing and maintaining a blacklist. Our team has exchanged research with Mr. Beall via emails, text messages, phone calls and in-person meetings. Mr. Beall co-presented on a Cabell’s hosted panel about predatory publishing, which is currently on our website (www.cabells.com). It is unfortunate that we have misjudged, until now, the character of these interactions. We look forward to continuing our blacklist in a manner consistent with the actual needs of the scholarly community.”