Jeffrey Beall is an academic librarian at the Auraria Library at University of Colorado Denver located in Denver, Colorado. He got tenure in 2012 and became an associate professor. For a number of years, he has maintained and curated a blacklist of allegedly (he calls it “potential, possible, or probable”) predatory open access publishers.
Predatory journals can engage in a large number of suspicious activities, such as deceptive journal name, sending massive spam requests to authors and reviewers, falsely claiming to have a higher credibility than they have based on common journal metrics, publish a lot of fake content, do not engage in peer review despite claiming to etc.
The list has received both praise for highlighting these problems and criticism for being unfair. Yet, something strange has now happened with both the list and his website. The list is gone and all content on his website appears to have been purged. Here are the details that are currently available. Because this is a breaking news event, some of the details might change as more information becomes known, but it was accurate when it was posted.
What happened to his website?
On January 15 (Sunday), it was discovered on Twitter that the list of allegedly predatory publishers had been taken down and replaced with a short message saying “This service is no longer available.”.
It turns out that this list is not the only thing that is gone. His other three lists (allegedly predatory stand-alone journals, allegedly misleading metric companies and allegedly hijacked journals), about me section and all posts are also gone. His website is basically purged.
Thankfully, there are cached copies of his key lists available:
What happened to his Facebook page?
There is also a Facebook page associated with the Beall’s list of allegedly predatory publishers. This has the name “Beall’s List of Predatory Open-Access Publishers” (@ POA.Publishers). If one visits this Facebook page right now, one is greeted by the following:
This indicates that the Facebook page in question is either temporarily unpublished or deleted. A cache of the Facebook page can be found here. The latest material available from this cache (that is in turn taken from a Google cache from January 14) is from January 10.
What makes this strange situation even more peculiar is that one of the first coverage of this issue came from a known anti-Beall activist. It is a short post that contains nothing of intellectual substance. It notes that the list and website has been taken down and speculates on the reason. It then proceeds to criticize Beall and recommend other approaches.
The post does not allow comments at the time of this writing, but some people submitted comments before that were never published, yet inspired the author to correct spelling. It also seems that the blog also has taken a lot of content from both Beall and Nature News, much more than what can reasonable by considered to be fair use.
How did this website come to know of the event so rapidly? Right now, there are more questions than answers.
What happens next?
Right now, there is virtually no information available on what happened. We do not know the reason for why the list has been taken down. On social media, speculations involve either a lawsuit threat by Frontiers or unauthorized and illegal access by a third party, but there is really no hard evidence as to why the list was taken down, why the website was purged or why the Facebook page was unpublished or removed.
Many people are highly interested in knowing what happened regardless of their position on the Beall list on allegedly predatory publishers. Some are willing to consider to repost or mirror the list as an act of solidarity should the reason for why the list was taken down be a result of a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP). This does not necessarily imply that such individuals agree with all decisions or opinions held by Beall, but value an open and honest discussion about a vocal minority of open access publishers that may or may not be predatory.
At the time this post was published, Beall has not responded to an email asking about details.
Let us cautiously monitor this breaking news event as it develops.
Information that became available after this article was posted.
Note: another potential explanation has surfaced on social media. Might be related to WordPress problems if his staff page and the blog both runs it. Still strange that it would give a different message for the list, but database problems can be very tricky. This suggestion, however, does not explain what happened to the Facebook page (note added 20170116 21:01 UTC+1).
Note: yet another speculative explanation has appeared on Twitter. Perhaps the list is being moved to Cabell’s? Hard to explain why the staff page is down on this hypothesis, though (note added 20170116 22:17 UTC+1).
BREAKING: Lacey E. Earle, VP Business Development at Cabell’s, writes on Twitter that “@CabellsPublish stands behind close personal friend @Jeffrey_Beall who was forced to shut down blog due to threats & politics #academicmafia” (note added 20170117 18:48 UTC+1).
BREAKING: Retraction Watch has published a post on this issue and they report that the University of Colorado Denver stated that the decision to take down the website and the staff page was taken by Beall himself. Beall has not replied to Retraction Watch queries (note added 20170117 22:39 UTC+1).
BREAKING: Retraction Watch has received a statement by the university indicating that Beall “has decided to no longer maintain or publish his research or blog on open access journals and ‘predatory publishers’.” The statement notes that “Professor Beall remains on the faculty at the university and will be pursuing new areas of research”. Now the only information that we need is additional details about why Beall decided to call it quits. Did he reach his breaking point or where lawsuit threats (or similar) involved? (note added 20170118 01:14 UTC+1).
BREAKING: ScienceInsider reports that the university has stated that the disappearance of the list is not related to legal threats. Now we know the “how” and the “what”, but not the “why” (note added 20170118 01:47 UTC+1).
Note: The Nature News item states:
“My blog is now unpublished,” said Beall, an academic librarian at the University of Colorado, Denver (UCD). He added that he couldn’t give reasons and declined to comment further.
It looks like Beall is refusing to answer why he removed the list. If he continues to stay quiet, we might never know the reason behind it. If so, how many readers dare to non-anonymously repost the list(s)? Would Beall file DMCA claims against any such attempts? Or would he consider releasing the list in public domain (note added 20170119 22:46 UTC+1)?