A website that tracks scientific journals with questionable publishing practices has been taken offline, a move that is worrying the academic community.
Scholarlyoa.com, a blog operated by U.S. scientist Jeffrey Beall, is no longer available online. The website had been tracking so-called “predatory publishers” by compiling a list of potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers. But now the website has been taken down.
In recent years. there has been an explosion in the field of scholarly publishing by companies intent on making money by publishing whatever scientific papers that are submitted -- with no oversight. The work can be shoddy, improperly vetted or simply junk science.
Beall, a U.S. librarian and associate professor at University of Colorado Denver, is considered an expert in predatory publishing. Beall had documented more than 1,100 suspicious publishers in lists that he updated online -- a website that became the go-to resource for academics worldwide trying to assess the quality of the journal they were being asked to submit to.
“It’s a big mess and the victims are researchers themselves and science itself is also becoming a victim,” Beall said in an interview with CTV News last year.
That's when CTV first reported on how a well-known predatory publisher, India-based OMICS, had purchased several Canadian medical journals. The purchase raised questions about whether they would be used to lure scientists to publish shoddy research with Beall one of the loudest voices expressing concern
OMICS is being sued by the U.S. government for predatory practices.
The University of Colorado Denver confirmed in a statement to CTV News Friday that Beall has “decided to no longer maintain or publish his research or blog on open access journals and ‘predatory publishers.’”
The university said it “understands and respects” Beall’s decision to take down his website.
Beall remains on the faculty at the university, the statement said, and he “will be pursuing new areas of research.”
No reasons were given for the website’s removal.
But a source close to Beall on Saturday pointed to the reason being pressure from the university itself.
No further details were given.
Beall's website appears to have been copied at an address very similar to his old one. The new site is run by a group called Friends of Open Access and includes accusations against Beall, sometimes written in poor English.
CTV News has reached out to Friends of Open Access. The group won't name any of its backers.
Meanwhile, a tweet from a U.S. publisher suggested he was forced to shut down the website due to threats and politics. Beall’s lists have been very controversial, with some publishers threatening to sue him.
Madhukar Pai, director of McGill University’s Global Health Programs, says he’s lost a valuable tool.
“I still need help, when I get spammed virtually dozens of times every day, to figure out the good from the bad,” Pai told CTV News.
There are now hopes that someone else will step up and start creating lists of both unethical and legitimate publishers in order to safeguard against what many call an ongoing threat.
Pai said Beall had been doing a “pretty thankless job for many, many years, for the academic community and I’m sure he has made a lot of enemies because of that.”
With a report by CTV medical correspondent Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip