The Swiss publishing business Frontiers was placed by the US librarian Jeffrey Beall on his well-known and hotly disputed list as “potential, possible or probable predatory publisher”. Frontiers however was not prepared to take this lying down. The publisher’s Executive Editor Frederick Fenter first tried it nicely. Shortly before Christmas 2015, he flew to visit Beall at his University of Colorado in Denver, with the senior manager Mirjam Curno in tow. Curno is incidentally also board member and trustee of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). Afterwards, Fenter stopped being nice. In August 2016, he bombarded around ten senior officials at the University Colorado in Denver with letters and a dossier (see below) demanding that they make sure Frontiers is removed from their employee’s private list.

Thing is: University of Colorado has nothing to do with the so-called Beall’s List. The list is part of the librarians private blog on WordPress (same platform I use). In fact, this is the disclaimer which Beall placed on his site clear for all to see:

“These views represent the personal opinions of the author (Jeffrey Beall)  and may not reflect the position of the University of Colorado Denver or the University of Colorado System”.

Beall’s listings of certain open access publishers and journals are his private opinions, and are to be respected as such under the freedom of speech. He didn’t impose his black list of open access publishers as a reference for all those other libraries and funding institutions which chose to orient their decisions on the Beall’s List. In fact, the reason why they do so is the conspicuous absence of any “certified” or “official” black lists elsewhere. Instead, we have white lists, such as DOAJ, OASPA and COPE, and Frontiers is on all of them: as a paying COPE and OASPA member and as a sponsor of DOAJ. One could interpret this whitelisting connected to exchange of money as a kind of conflict of interest, which makes white lists less reliable indicators than black ones. Also, some small or non-profit open access publishers simply can’t afford these costs of whitelisting. Does it make them evil predators? Not necessarily. Others, like the medical journal white list of ICMJE, are joined by self-enlisting, there is no oversight (see my report here). All Fenter had to do to get his Frontiers medical division certified as “following ICMJE guidelines”, was to type in the journal names correctly. Finally, the “executive editor” Fenter also announced in 2015 that Frontiers will be joining WAME, though this “world association of medical editors” does not accept publishers as members, for the simple reason of editorial independence.

On the other hand, there are really no personal incentives to run a black list. It is rather nerve-wrecking, one makes hardly any friends, but plenty of enemies, in fact Beall-bashing is a rather popular sports among academics on social media.  Next, how to finance the blacklist? Certainly not by charging the blacklisted journals or those who don’t want to be listed. Even if any independent funding subsidies should came along, such official blacklisting body would spend all this money on legal costs after the first unhappy publisher decides to deploy the lawyers. In short, blacklisting journals “officially” is likely to be simply not doable in practice. Which leaves us for the foreseeable future with the lone blogger Jeffrey Beall and his private hobby of evaluating open access publishers.

Another interesting point is: Beall is accused of unjustly naming Frontiers as predatory publisher. Yet the whole category of “predatory” publishers was invented by Beall himself, it is not an official term and is in fact much disputed. There are enough academics who claim there is no such thing as predatory publishing. Thus, Beall is being criticised for unjustly placing a publisher into a category which he invented himself.

Neither are Beall’s professional duties at his university library affected by his views on these open access publishers. Beall is in no way involved into University of Colorado decisions to subsidise article processing charges (APC) of their authors. If any Denver-based researcher should claim APC support for his or her publication in Frontiers, it is completely outside Beall’s influence.

Now, that Frontiers disagrees with this librarian’s privately held views, the publisher demands of his academic employer to impose disciplinary measures or coercion against Beall. Extending Fenter’s logic, every single academic employee who publicly criticises Frontiers is to be made to retract such criticisms under threat of sacking. Will Fenter next write a letter to Giulia Liberati’s employer, University of Louvain, regarding her revealing report  on reviewer experience at Frontiers? Or to University of Glasgow, the employer of Guillaume Rousselet, for venting his frustrations about his editor experience? A bizarre supposition indeed, but: this is in fact exactly what Fenter already did previously.

In early 2015, a conflict between Frontiers medical chief editors and the Swiss publisher escalated. Back then, Frontiers had just been expelled from the Nature Publishing Group (NPG) family. While NPG merged with the German publisher Springer to SpringerNature, Markram-run outlet was left behind with the mother company Holtzbrinck, also based in Germany. In these turbulent times, the Frontiers medical editors demanded in a Manifesto the enforcement of medical publishing standards and editorial independence in line with the ICMJE guidelines, which the publisher in turn rejected as going against their own rules and principles. As the result, Fenter dismissed all of the 31 critical editors in a single executive decision (see my report here). But he didn’t stop there, the Executive Editor wrote a complaint letter to the academic employer of one of these editors, as reported by ScienceInsider. Fenter claimed that one former Frontiers chief editor “coerced others to give up their voice and band behind him, and made false and unfounded allegations“. In fact, the emails made available to me suggest quite the opposite of coercion: all editors joined the protest enthusiastically and out of their own accord. Just as in the letter to Beall’s university below, Fenter offered the university officials his help steering their decision process with this letter from May 11th 2015:

“In my capacity as Executive Editor of Frontiers, a Swiss-based open-access scholarly publisher, I would like to bring to your attention our recent interaction with a member of your institution, ____ in cc to this email. In his position as Chief Editor of Frontiers in ____, we have disagreed with ____ on the definition of editorial independence and authority over medical publications, which has unfortunately led to the dismissal of a number of Chief Editors in several Frontiers medical journals.

In the spirit of full transparency, Frontiers has reported this incident to the boards of the three organs that publish ethical guidelines for medical publishing: ICMJE (which lists Frontiers in ____ as a complying title), WAME and COPE (to which Frontiers will join as a member in 2015).

You can find the full details of this disagreement in this blog post: http://blog.frontiersin.org/2015/05/07/frontiers-acts-to-defend-distributed-editorial-independence/

Should this be of interest to your institution’s ethics committee, I am at your disposal to address your questions or concerns”.

Now, Fenter used his established strategy again. This time, he was even assisted by at least 3 Frontiers Editors-in-Chief (EiCs; it is not clear if or how coordinated these efforts were).  Below I quote and offer links to full versions to letters by Idan Segev, (Frontiers in  Neuroscience), Axel Cleeremans (Frontiers in Psychology) and Martin Klotz (Frontiers in Microbiology). As EiCs, these editors are entitled to a Frontiers honorarium of €15,000 per year which depends on their publishing a certain number of papers per year (not just receiving as submissions, see my earlier report and editorial contracts).

ransom-note-colour

The following is Fenter’s letter to University of Colorado officials, with a link to a large dossier he assembled to prove his point about greatness of Frontiers and wrongness of Beall.


“Dear XXXX

Please allow me to present myself as the Executive Editor of Frontiers, the open-access publisher based at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne,  Switzerland. I would like to bring to your attention the irresponsible and unprofessional actions of one of your colleagues, Mr. Jeffrey Beall – actions that have no place in a university community that values intellectual reputation and that claims to defend the highest standards of intellectual honesty.

As you know, Mr. Beall maintains a blacklist of “predatory publishers.” In October 2015, he added Frontiers to this list, an action that is both unjust and unfounded. Recently, it has come             to our attention that he is circulating a document (included in        the report sent with this letter) in which he “justifies” his blacklisting, which is based on the comments of a very few angry or even discredited bloggers. In the attached letter, Mr. Beall himself states this: “The evidence has accumulated. I think the scientific community has made this decision for me.” His slanderous position is entirely based on hearsay and weak proxy arguments, on which he refuses to take a stance dignified of a research librarian. His presumptive use of the word “community” is particularly baffling—Frontiers is a community-driven publisher, with an international editorial board of 60’000 researchers and over 140’000 distinct authors. Just in the University of Colorado system we have 137 editors and 257 authors.  I provide some additional information      on this in the attached report.

Despite our attempts to talk to Mr. Beall—whom I met with personally on 14 December 2015 for a two-hour presentation of our program—he refuses to articulate any justification for his action, preferring rather to hide behind the biased and subjective comments of others.

Frontiers’ Open Access publishing model is founded on rigorous, collaborative and transparent peer review, driven by the broad research community and enabled by innovative, cutting-edge digital technology. Our goal is to deliver a trusted, scalable scientific publishing service to the whole research community, through respected journals whose quality is reflected in outstanding impact metrics. In the attached report you will seethat:

  • Frontiers publishes several of the most-cited journals in the world;
  • Frontiers is internationally recognized and has a strong track record of bringing innovative IT solutions to scientific communication and is winner of the 2014 ALPSP Gold Award for innovation in publishing;
  • Frontiers returns millions to the scientific communities each year (for example in 2015, the total for waivers, honoraria and awards exceeded 3 million dollars);
  • Frontiers articles are picked up by the press thousands of times each month.
  • Mr. Beall himself is not considered an objective voice in the debate and has expressed strong bias against open-access publishing. This is of course his right, but there is ample evidence that his use of the blacklist is not characterized by sufficient intellectual integrity.

Mr. Beall has published a set of established criteria by which he claims to make his assessment (many of which themselves display his inherent bias). We provide a point-by-point analysis of our operations according these very same criteria—it is ludicrous that we have to undertake this exercise, but since he refuses to deliver         an explanation, we took the time and effort to demonstrate that Frontiers operates professionally and ethically according to the criteria he invokes. The statement on his blog that he has carefully analyses each program (where there is no evidence of such) is a sign of malicious intent to damage our reputation.

I am sure you understand the seriousness of the situation. A member of your academic community is making unsubstantiated public accusations of unethical              practice against Frontiers. He will not engage with us to explain or justify himself. This attack against the integrity of our international editorial boards and against the 240 employees of Frontiers will not be allowed to stand.

Please let me finish with an anecdote that illustrates the confusion and loss of credibility that Mr. Beall’s actions bring upon your institution, as well as on ours. We were contacted by the CLOCKSS archive about our participation; this organization has the mission to guarantee the permanent archiving of scientific literature.  Shortly after starting the process, we were informed by their publisher relations manager that they “do not work with Publishers on Beall’s list.” I called the director and requested they make an informed decision based on facts (which you now also have at your disposition). We were subsequently welcomed into the program, and CLOCKSS promptly announced the partnership on their website (https://clockss.org/clockss/News#CA8). The fact we are mentioned on “Beall’s list” is time consuming and damaging to our reputation, but I hope you see that it also tarnishes your institution by association.

Specifically, the document that Mr. Beall has circulated reveals the scandalously sloppy nature of his work (especially for a research librarian), and we will be filing an ethics complaint with your University on this point.

I am writing to you personally because your university is directly implicated in this absurd and slanderous action, and I believe you have the authority to correct the situation rapidly and effectively. I have put Professor XXXXX, in copy.

Please let me know if you would like to discuss the matter further. I would be pleased to take the requisite time to provide you with any additional information you need to make an informed decision concerning the actions of your colleague, Mr. Beall. In fact, I would be pleased to fly back to Colorado to discuss this in person with you, if you so desire.

Frontiers is working to improve the way research is validated and disseminated             through the development of open-science tools; this is a bold experiment that frightens some traditional-minded thinkers. In fact, I would much rather be spending my time exploring how Frontiers might expand its collaboration with the University of Colorado, which, as a large and prestigious institution, is particularly well positioned to become a leading voice as these developments unfold – as it has been with your institution’s involvement with MOOCs, for example. Mr. Beall’s biased and ill-informed blacklisting of Frontiers and its innovative approach is certainly not the most effective way for the University of Colorado to participate in the open-science revolution.

Very much hoping to have the opportunity to discuss these matters with you,

Very best regards,

Frederick Fenter, Ph.D.

Executive Editor,Frontiers

ENCL:          Report  “Jeffrey               Beall’s   Blog: Frontiers’ Position

CC:   XXXXX;  Kamila Markram, CEO of Frontiers”


Idan Segev, from Hebrew University, Israel,  EiC of Frontiers  in  Neuroscience and closest collaborator of Frontier’s founder and supreme Editor-in-Chief Henry Markram, spoke in his letter to University of Colorado officials about “Frontiers beauty”. This beauty seems to be even measurable, by the lovely impact factors of Frontiers journals:

“Note  that Frontiers is very heavily indexed by Thomson Reuters, who have awarded impact factors for 19 of our journals so far – several of the Frontiers journals with impact factors over 5. Such IFs cannot be  obtained  if  our  processes  are  as  sloppy  as  Mr  Beall  alleges”.

Segev also insists Frontiers rejection rate is around 30% (and not 20% as they used to write to potential authors or 10% as they admitted internally). He also explains how ethical publishing is maintained at Frontiers: by placing their own senior manager as COPE trustee:

“Frontiers is very aware of ethical issues concerning scientific publications; so much so that our Editorial Director, Dr Curno, is a council member of the Committee on Publication Ethics: COPE”.

Segev then comes to talking hard business and accuses Beall of slander, while making the University of Colorado responsible:

“I view the attack of your employee – Mr. Jeffrey Beall – as an attack on my credentials as a scientist as well as on my own University (and the Hebrew University is one of the leading universities in the world). […] As he works in your University, I expect you to take action and make sure that Frontiers is taken out now from his “black list”.”

Axel Cleeremans, from Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium, is Editor-in-Chief of Frontiers in Psychology. To make clear who the University of Colorado is dealing with, he also signed his letter at the bottom as “Member of the Royal Academy of Belgium”. Cleeremans made clear that Beall is not qualified to interpret the predatory publisher concept which the offending librarian himself invented:

“There simply are no grounds in fact to include Frontiers on this list, as it is not even a “potential” predatory publisher. None of the criteria developed by M. Beall apply, and one is thus left wondering about the extent to which this is some sort of personal vendetta that M. Beall is now engaged in. This, needless to say, impinges on the reputation of the University of Colorado”.

Cleeremans then demands that the Denver University forces Beall to amend his private blog, so the Belgian professor’s own Frontiers journal doesn’t suffer:

“I am therefore asking you to take action in this respect. While Frontiers in Psychology has now grown to the point that M. Beall’s antics can do little to damage its reputation, it is simply unprofessional and detrimental to library science for the University of Colorado to let this continue”.

Martin Klotz, from City University of New York and EiC of Frontiers in Microbiology, addressed his letter directly to Beall. He first of all corrected his interlocutor that Frontiers is not at all owned by the Nature Publishing Group. However, Klotz previosuly insisted on something else in his own CV, when proudly proclaiming himself as “Editor-in-Chief: Frontiers in Microbiology (Nature Publishing Group, IF 3.941)”.  In his letter to Beall, Klotz now makes clear what he thinks of his blog activities regarding Frontiers:

“I am losing context between your status and role as an academic librarian with tenure at a premier academic institution (https://scholarlyoa.com/about/) and your black-listing of Frontiers as a “predatory publisher” in the public domain (your site), which is based on blogger comments and hearsay instead of accessible results of academic research”.

Just like Cleeremans, Klotz keeps defending his own Frontiers journal as impeccable. Based on this argument, they demand the whitelisting of an entire large publishing family. Regardless of what other Frontiers journals are up to: Frontiers in Human Neuroscience happily keeps on publishing papers about afterlife and clairvoyance and autism-causing bread, Frontiers in Public Health waved through a paper promoting chemtrail conspiracies. Even Segev’s own beautiful Frontiers in Neuroscience showed worrisome peer review deficiencies by publishing an utter nonsense paper or silencing critical reviewers in order to accept a bad study. Frontiers in Pharmacology fell for a most blatantly manipulated paper from Malaysian cheaters (the peer review took less than a month), and retracted a peer reviewed plant pharmacology paper for “insufficient scientific quality”. These and other cases of questionable scholarly publishing went unmentioned, as if they don’t exist. Or maybe these impactful Frontiers publications are simply “hearsay” and deluded ravings of “discredited bloggers”.

52 thoughts on “Beall-listed Frontiers empire strikes back

  1. If Frontiers are so big, why do they mind so much a minor librarian with little impact?! Flying twice to CU only to convince university officials to shut him up?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Muca muca, you are correct, with a rough average of about 250K visits a month, this is not a site with little impact. It has tremendous sway and influence, thus any journal or publisher that appears on the Beall lists will automatically suffer a negative consequence and image.

        Like

  2. Frontiers is definitely a spammer. Several IP addresses and domain names associated with Frontiers have been listed by Scientific Spam DNSBL at various times since March 2015, but we have seen their spam many times, long before the Scientific Spam DNSBL project was even started. The spam has been seen in many types of spamtraps, all of which have been harvested from public archives of scientific writing.

    Like

  3. Originally when Frontiers started, I volunteered as a “review editor”. I never actually did anything for them and long before Beall included them on his list, I concluded that there was something fishy about this publisher and requested them to remove my name and to delete my “Loop” profile (which they did without any problem). The immediate impetus for this was their alignment with NPG. Not that I have anything against NPG. However, I found it rather hypocritical that Frontiers, which when it started heavily criticized the existing commercial publishing system, sold out to one of those maligned publishers no sooner than they got some measure of success (driven by the labor of many -unpaid- reviewers and the APCs of many authors).

    Like

  4. So fascinating. For anyone (like me) who ever wondered why dictatorial regimes are so obsessed with repressing free speech, observe the oligopolists. The pen is mightier then the sword…The internet democratized speech to a radically new degree; the reaction to a single blog, whose influence is solely due to its author’s individual ability to MAKE HIS CASE, is an attempt to shut a critic up effectively by force. And this by a supposedly scientific journal…Their argument that the evaluations are not credible because based on hearsay is ridiculous; of course they’re based on hearsay; this is how we get most of our information, by listening to what other people have to say. Dr. Fenter’s claims are also “hearsay.” The idea individuals can’t arrive at and share evaluations of anything without running some kind of academic study (and we all know how reliable those are nowadays) is absurd.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Just to add, attempts to quash free speech by force are the antithesis of the scientific attitude. If you have an argument, then make it. If Frontiers believes that its audience is incapable of distinguishing between good and bad arguments, and thus needs to be protected from the latter, then we might as well abolish scientific journals, because science requires critical thinkers, not spoon-feeding of institutionally-approved views. Of course, if all Frontiers wants are naive customers for its bright shiny “products”, then that’s another story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Unfortunately your post demonstrates incredible naivety. A one man band doing a hack job onjournals is not freedom of speech but disingenuous mouthpiece for mainstream publishers who have controlled the scientific ideas landcape for a long time, without the revolutionary progress that would seem to entail. Indeed Beall is attempting to crush freedom of speech by unfairly demonizing journals that dont fit a mainstream agenda. there are few quality outlets beyond frontiers where papers arent arbitrarily vetted by narrow interests. My experience at least is that beyond frontiers there is almost no freedom of speech within the scientific literature. Journals like frontiers or plos and the like allow comtributions by a broader scientific community both in style and content.

      Like

  6. Reblogged this on Blog do Pedlowski and commented:

    Uma interessante análise sobre os esforços de uma editora listada como “predatória” de desacreditar o trabalho do Prof. Jeffrey Beall em prol da qualidade das publicações científicas. Em minha opinião, quanto mais se tenta desacreditar o trabalho de Jeffrey Beall, mais ele ganha força. Afinal, ninguém joga pedras numa árvore que não dá frutos, não é?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Three comments.

    (1) One of the numerous problems with Beall’s list is that is binary: a publisher/journal is included in the list, or it’s not. But what you find there is a whole spectrum ranging from outright frauds to low quality (or tier-3) journals, the latter also found among subscription journals, that can’t be qualified as predatory, by definition.

    (2) Another problem with Beall’s list is that it’s a one-person initiative (or crusade). But there is another person pursuing the same objectives, in a much more rigorous and transparent fashion, in my opinion: Walt Crawford. This independent scholar discusses extensively issues related to open-access publishing, and do genuine studies, including a manual checking of ALL journals (using English on their websites) on DOAJ and/or Beall’s list. Crawford’s findings have not been published in peer-reviewed journals, so you may think it’s not worth looking into them, but if you dare, I recommend the best and most thoughtful writing on the subject I’ve seen. Crawford holds a kind of blog (that looks like a journal, but he doesn’t pretend it is one), Cites & Insights (http://citesandinsights.info). His report “Open-Access Journals: Idealism and Opportunism” has been published in the American Library Association’s journal Library Technology Reports (http://journals.ala.org/ltr/issue/view/519 ); this lends some credibility to his work, if you wish.

    (3) At the end of the ongoing reapplication process, DOAJ inclusion (which isn’t the same than sponsorship, and is free) will be a valid criterion of scientific or scholarly legitimacy (if not of top scientific quality). I went through the reapplication process on behalf of a journal, and it’s clear to me that DOAJ will effectively provide a valuable white list. Unfortunately, there is no indication on DOAJ’s website as to when the reapplication process will be completed. But it’s worth noting that 1,000 journals have already been removed, and 3,000 more didn’t reapply (part of them probably because they knew they didn’t meet the new criteria).

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It is obvious that the relationships between science publishers, authors and the audience needs to be rethought so that credible data is published, promoting critical thinking, avoiding ‘spoon-feeding of institutionally-approved views’ or the promotion of bright shiny “products”, as referred by Lydia Maniatis.

    Like

  9. Can those who are critical of Frontiers please explain why you think Elsevier, Taylor & Francis / Informa, Wiley, Springer Nature, PLOS and others are not predatory? At minimum, their APCs of 2500-300 US$ for a single PDF file to be open access are exploratory and “predatory” on scientists and scientific institutes.

    In fact, Beall alludes to this “corruption” of the scholarly field, highlighting questionable practices in Elsevier and Springer Nature, in his latest blog post:
    https://scholarlyoa.com/2016/09/13/two-more-scholarly-super-achievers/
    “Is the whole scholarly publishing system falling apart?”

    So, why has Beall not listed the big name publishers on his lists? All of the publisher listed above, who are scalping scientists of their money, have an open access fleet.

    Is there a hidden agenda that is perhaps protective of these publishers? Are there undeclared conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise? Why does Beall not list COIs on his disclaimer page? It would simply take one or two lines to make such a declaration.
    https://scholarlyoa.com/disclaimer/

    Why was Frontiers’ appeal denied? Frontiers seems to have made a strong case for being removed (for example why was Hindawi delisted from Beall’s lists, and what arguments did they present that Frontiers did not)? There is zero transparency by Beall on this.
    https://scholarlyoa.com/other-pages/appeals/
    (that page was last updated in 2013)

    Beall lists a general list for all publishers/journals, but where are the precise criteria for each publisher / journal?
    https://scholarlyoa.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/criteria-2015.pdf
    But surely there should be a list for each journal or publisher for the public to assess if the criteria are valid or not?

    As alluded to by Marc Couture above, it doesn’t seem correct, or fair, to list Frontiers, whose representatives have been extremely transparent in their point-by-point responses, as something like these journals / publishers ( a quick random choice):
    http://www.wjjmc.com/
    http://academicsworld.org/
    http://www.svpublishers.co.uk/
    http://1088.email/

    Therefore, to cluster all these hundreds of publishers and journals, of such wide ranging quality, disqualifies the Beall lists and criteria, and makes them useless and redundant (IMHO).

    Thus, as I see it, things need to be seen in a relative sense rather than in an absolute sense. So what if there were some paper that got published and that shouldn’t have because peer review or editors cut corners? What was important was what Frontiers did to correct the scholarly record. They retracted according to COPE guidelines, so this already says something much more than maybe 99% of the other publishers on Beall’s list. Elsevier, Taylor & Francis / Informa, Wiley, Springer Nature, PLOS are retracting papers regularly for failed peer review, corrupted editors and finance-over-academic principles, so why are they not on Beall’s lists?

    Are there problems with Frontiers management and peer review system? Surely because nothing is perfect. But adding the publisher to a list that is flawed, biased and inaccurate is not the right way of fixing the black vs white lists of academic or scholarly publishers. Marc alludes to DOAJ as “a valuable white list”. I would tread with caution in that interpretation: just look at who the sponsors of DOAJ are:

    This issue is important because Beall has started to call for a ban on journals and publishers on his lists:
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v534/n7607/full/534326a.html

    Finally, there appears to be a dangerous (because it is inconsistent) transition by Beall in his last few publisher papers in referring to the “predatory” publishers as “predatory OA publishers” to simply “predatory publishers”. Dangerous, because his views in recent papers are incompatible with his terminology used formally on his blog and peddled in the Nature paper. My criticisms here:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27550476/#comments

    This means that he has moved from a personal blog to seeking to be a policy maker. However, policy based on his flawed lists must be outright rejected.

    Disclaimers: I have published with Frontiers, maintain a Loop profile, and have been satisfied with the rigor of peer review thus far. I have been openly and publicly critical of Beall and his lists, but always praised his personal efforts to raise awareness because unscholarly behavior by publishers / journals affects us all. I have also been critical of Frontiers, but my complaints have always been professionally resolved in most instances by email. I have witnessed, however, my open criticisms on at least two comments sections of Frontiers pages, including of one retracted paper alluded to above by Schneider, completely wiped clean, suggesting, as Lydia indicates above, an intrusion on freedom of expression to avoid criticism.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This is an interesting turn! Leonid, do you have any idea why Beall does not communicate with Frontiers about what changes would be needed to remove them from the list?

    Also, the scientific community at large would be very interested in reading Beall’s motivations for his listing of Frontiers. Could you please post the document where he gives his motivations, that is referred to in the letter from Fenter?

    Like

    1. Hi Sten, Fenter’s dossier where he and Frontiers address Beall’s arguments is linked above, here it is again.
      Debating with Frontiers is difficult, possibly even futile. Their general answers to all criticisms seem to be: we are the most-cited and most-beloved world leading publisher, our impact factors are beautiful, we have tens of thousands of esteemed “editorial board” members, we once won some prize, and we are listed with COPE (and other organisations). Unfortunately, this argumentation can spread repetitively and recursively over many pages.
      If you have time to spare and nothing better to do (like, staring at a white wall), you can follow a debate Frontiers led with the former medical editors
      There is also a lengthy interview Richard Poynder had with Kamila Markram, which goes in same vein. She also mentions receiving CHF 400,000 from unnamed benefactors in 2007 to kick-start Frontiers, but never says who they were or what happened to this money once Frontiers converted from non-profit to a business.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, Sten, according to Frontiers what I publish is hearsay by a discredited blogger. Maybe. But then the original editorial contracts I made public are hearsay. The Frontiers papers on life after death, clairvoyance, mind-reading etc do not actually exist and are hearsay.
        it is up to individual reader to believe into actual existence of any of this, and much more. Beall apparently did, and made his private decision to put Frontiers onto his private list on his private site. He is now expected to change this, apologise or be sacked as librarian. I am not sure how much sense it all makes, do you?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I believe this is no where unique to frontiers lack of perspicacity is a problm with mainstream publishers as well

        Like

    1. Wim, I think this is the first documented indicating that Frontiers is borderline (presumably borderline “predatory”), basing his conclusions on unwanted emails or spam. The post is dated November 5, 2011, but I stand corrected if this is the first red flag):
      https://scholarlyoa.com/2013/11/05/i-get-complaints-about-frontiers/

      Apart from this and specific case studies like the chem-trails paper, etc., what other aspects led him to definitively list Frontiers on his list remains an enigma to the entire scholarly and academic communities, reinforcing what I stated above, i.e., that Beall should list a detailed and point-by-point list of the precise aspects of Frontiers that makes Frontiers “predatory”. Otherwise his list is as ridiculous and laughable as his accusations. listing of Frontiers and lists.

      Perhaps you could personally convince Beall to release the criteria that make Frontiers “predatory”?

      Like

      1. I definitely recall a specific blog post where Beall announced his decision (and the reasons for it) to add Frontiers to his list, although I am a bit short on time right now to search for it. In any case, both Jeffrey and Leonid have amply documented problems with Frontiers’ peer-review system, editorial decisions to publish fringe science, heavy-handed tactics against editors, etc. In my eyes, they’re not fly-in-your-face predatory and abusive like, say, OMICS, but they definitely are very low on my personal list of reputable publishers and not an outfit I’d want to be associated with or would ever send any of my own work to… At the positive side, I have to say they don’t spam: since I had my name removed from Loop I haven’t received any email from them any more.

        Like

      2. Jaime, once again, and then I stop. Beall listed his arguments, see above. If you disagree with them, well, you both are entitled to an opinion. There is always someone who is wrong on the internet, but we can’t make everyone see the light and there is certainly no need to help them see it by complaining to their day job employer. Here is an idea: make your own blacklist. Beall’s list is not an “official” thing like PubMed listing, noone is forced to use Beall’s list as reference, just as noone is forced to use my site when making decisions. And just like Beall, I will not take down posts just because someone doesn’t like them.

        Like

  11. Cool! Have to say I’ve enjoyed reading this rebuttal letter by frontiers…
    Think that the discussion should revolve around this document and points addressed in it, and treat all this rigorously. I guess many readers may have missed the link… Leonid, would you mind giving it more visibility?
    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0By2HqPi4t2RbejVvRzk4UHNqakhuaVNsdnpGM1pyZl8xU1NZ/view

    to conclude… there’s questionable stuff everywhere. look at this “original research article” 🙂 http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11097-013-9298-y I guess we should ban Springer too 🙂

    Like

  12. [The comment below was posted from an IP address located to Lausanne. It is registered to a business account provided by Swisscom, which services EPFL and their Innovation Campus in Lausanne, where Frontiers is seated. – LS]

    Dear Leonid Schneider, seriously, what Frontiers did to you? One of your articles was rejected? You weren’t accepted as Editor? It seems to me you are just attacking Frontiers for personal reasons and with unmotivated hate. You are repeating all time same things (how many times do you want to speak about the “medicine” Editors resign?), reporting the experience of one angry ex-reviewer and a couple of unsatisfied authors (against thousands of Editors and Authors).

    On the other hand, you never mention all the innovation Frontiers have bring to our scientific community, all the agreement with Universities, all their side projects (Young minds is also crap for you?). Their full open-access model is really disturbing you?

    Then, I can suppose you are paid by traditional publishers, right?

    Your blog should be renamed as “foragossipscience”, since you are mostly speaking about it.

    Best,

    Like

    1. In reply to (Fred Fenter?) above: I never submitted any papers to Frontiers. When I used to work in neural stem cell field, I even stopped subscribing to your neuroscience ToC alerts after I saw papers on this Popescu travesty of “telocytes”: miracle pluripotent stem cells living inside all our tissues and (sic!) undetectable by any method. I didn’t make it up, Popescu and his confused or dishonest followers did, and you published it, several times. Here an example:
      http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fncel.2014.00032/full
      I also never applied to be your editor. And since we are at it, please stop calling your reviewers “editors”, they have no say in Frontiers editorial policies. No even your associate editors do.
      And no, I am not paid by traditional publishers. In fact, noone pays me, but please do not think that this offers you a window for a bribe.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Dear Satyricon,

      I feel confident that Frontiers will make sure we are all aware about their innovations etc. I doubt they’ll be forthcoming about their flaws. So thanks to Leonid for keeping us informed.

      What about those medicine editors? Should we just forget about that episode? Don’t look back, look forward to…more of the same?

      Why is such a fabulously successful publisher so rattled by individuals (who they seem to want to discredit or muzzle) questioning their practices? Are their critics hitting at a vulnerability? Open, unfettered (unFentered?) debate…that’s what science is all about, folks. It’s better than the alternative. Get used to it.

      Like

      1. Beall’s list is not just about probable but possible and even potential predators. I am surprised this is not receiving criticism as regards to its lack of rigour, most would consider such hedging as outrageous.

        Like

  13. There are several (recent) publications of Jeffrey Beall in peer-reviewed journals with his views about predatory publishers. Some examples of these publications are:
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v534/n7607/full/534326a.html (June 2016).
    http://www.nature.com/news/predatory-publishers-are-corrupting-open-access-1.11385 (September 2012).
    http://jkms.org/DOIx.php?id=10.3346/jkms.2016.31.10.1511 (July 2016).
    http://www.bioone.org/doi/10.2983/035.035.0101 (spring 2016).
    http://publishing.rcseng.ac.uk/doi/10.1308/rcsann.2016.0056 (February 2016).

    I would like to propose to publisher Frontiers / Frederick Fenter to prepare a manuscript with their views of the listing of publisher Frontiers at the ‘Beall’s list [of] potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers’ at https://scholarlyoa.com/publishers/ and submit this manuscript to a peer-reviewed journal.

    Frederick Fenter states in the document “Jeffrey Beall’s Blog: Frontiers’ Position” (dated 31 July 2016): “Frontiers has the most transparent publishing operation among all scientific publishers.” I therefore propose that this manuscript will be submitted to an open access peer-reviewed journal which publishes alongside the paper both the names of all reviewers, the full contents of their reviews and the rebuttals of the authors on these reviews. Examples of journals which fall within the scope of such a manuscript include Peerj ( https://peerj.com/ ) and Research Integrity and Peer Review ( http://researchintegrityjournal.biomedcentral.com/ ).

    Like

    1. Klaas, an excellent proposal. Let Frontiers submit their arguments to a non-Frontiers indexed journal with open peer review. Maybe Fenter, Markram and Curno can be three co-corresponding authors. And the journal’s editor can also agree to publishing Beall’s rebuttal, as a response to Fenter. In such a case, perhaps Fenter could ask Beall, in his rebuttal, to explain in detail the precise points that make Frontiers “predatory” (seeing that Fenter has already explained how several aspects being criticized have been corrected). Leaked Frontiers-to-Beall documents isn’t the best way to solve the academic issues, so let those be solved in an academic setting, like an open journal debate. Such a paper should then allow for open commentary by the public.

      If Frontiers challenges Beall’s decision publicly, then would Beall not be expected to respond publicly? Similarly, if Frontiers does not address the issues now publicly (other than the Schneider blog), will its readership, authors and editors not lose faith in it?

      Regarding your list of Beall’s publications, I would caution readers to the following, a point I have already noted at PubMed Commons (in response tot he JKMS paper): why did Beall refer to these so-called “predatory” publishers as “predatory open access publishers”, but now simply refers to them as “predatory publishers”? Either Beall has changed his parameters and definitions and is now open to considering non-OA (open access) journals, or his latest papers contain grave mistakes in definition, something which the “peer reviewers” of the journals that accepted and published his papers, did not see. So Beall needs to clarify his change in definition, and/or the journal editors need to explain how they failed to pick up this flawed definition, or erroneous definition.

      Like

    2. True, the Beall’s papers you mention were published in peer-reviewed journals. However, to set the record straight, one has to remember that these journals also publish various categories of non-peer-reviewed articles, which go by the names of editorial, letter, correspondence, column, comments, etc. The two Nature papers are respectively of the “correspondence” and “comments” categories; the article in the Journal of The Korean Academy of Medical Sciences was “Received July 14, 2016; Accepted July 14, 2016”; the one in the Journal of Shellfish Research is an editorial coauthored by the editor-in-chief. I couldn’t examine the fifth one, which is paywalled. I think a serious peer review would have helped improve the clarity and soundness of the definitions and arguments put forth in these papers.

      Like

  14. Dear Leonid,

    Frederick Fenter states in the first sentence of his letter of 5 August 2016 to the University of Colorado officials: “(….) Frontiers, the open-access publisher based at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland.”

    I am not aware that publisher Frontiers is part of this Institute (EPFL, see (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89cole_Polytechnique_F%C3%A9d%C3%A9rale_de_Lausanne ).

    Both EPFL and the University of Lausanne ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Lausanne ) are based on a campus ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lausanne_campus ). Part of this campus is the EPFL Innovation Park http://epfl-innovationpark.ch/about which ‘hosts technology driven companies’. Towards the best of my knowledge, publisher Frontiers is just one of these 172 commercial companies ( http://www.epfl-innovationpark.ch/community/companies/ ). This information can also be found at the lower end of the letter of Frederick Fenter (‘Frontiers – EPFL Innovation Park – Building 1 – 1015 Lausanne’).

    So the commercial company Frontiers is based on a campus with the name ‘EPFL Innovation Park’ and I fail to understand why Frederick Fenter seems to suggest in his letter of 5 August 2016 that Frontiers is at the moment (anno August 2016) connected to one of the universities which is also based on this campus.

    Like

  15. COPE states in http://publicationethics.org/files/RespondingToWhistleblowers_ConcernsRaisedDirectly.pdf and in http://publicationethics.org/files/RespondingToWhistleblowers_ConcernsRaisedViaSocialMedia.pdf :

    “The tone of the allegations may be aggressive or personal. Respond politely; don’t get drawn into personal
    exchanges.”

    Frederik Fenter states on page 4 of the report of 23 pages of Frontiers with the title “Jeffrey Beall’s Blog: Frontiers’ Position”: “Frontiers is a member in good standing of (…) COPE”. Idan Segev states in his letter: “Frontiers is very aware of ethical issues concerning scientific publications; so much so that our Editorial Director, Dr Curno, is a council member of the Committee on Publication Ethics: COPE”.

    It seems to me that the report of 23 pages falls within the scope of both flowcards of COPE (“how to respond when concerns are raised”). I therefore fail to understand why Frederik Fenter has listed personal views about Leonid Schneider on page 20 of this report of publisher Frontiers.

    I am hereby inviting Mirjam Curno to post a comment over here with the motives of Frontiers to publish personal views about Leonid Schneider in the report “Jeffrey Beall’s Blog: Frontiers’ Position”.

    See https://drive.google.com/file/d/0By2HqPi4t2RbejVvRzk4UHNqakhuaVNsdnpGM1pyZl8xU1NZ/view for the report of Frontiers.

    Like

  16. Defenders of the Beall’s list like to point out this list is just a private opinion of some librarian of the University of Colorado, making it seem that it is ridiculous that publisher want their name from their list to be removed. And that is strange, as everyone knows that many institutions use the Beall list as quality control. Therefore, pretending that the Beall’s list is completely harmless, just someone’s opinion, is complete hypocritical. On top of that, Beall consistently deletes comments on his blog, including mine, because they question the decisions he makes. There is a complete lack of transparency, indicators, the editor in chief just needs to habe a Chinese or Indian name, and that would sometimes be enough for Beall to put a journal on his list. With great power comes great responsibility. Beall chose to have this responsibility, so he needs to act in a fair and transparant way. If not, it would suit him to let those (dumb) institutions know, that his blog is just based on his personal preference, with no solid scientific basis. Just to give an example how Beall operates, see how he has treated MDPI (who has been removed from his black list), but initially he put them their after he a) manipulated the google maps image of the MDPI office (check it, it is all verifiable); b) used very questionable sources (from another blog, without ANY concrete evidence, just accusations and supposedly sent emails); c) because MDPI is owned by a Chinese (despite being it a Swiss publisher, he consistently labels MDPI as them a Chinese one, just because of the owner’s ethnicity) and d) because MDPI published some controversial papers (of course regular journals don’t do that – ever). How I see it, is that Beall has some vested interest in the “traditional” publishing industry, and therefore he misuses his influence to put legitimate publishers, such as Frontiers or MDPI, on the list, to harm and destabilize them.Traditional publishers don’t like open access, even though the general public has to spend so much money to read research which they indirectly paid through taxes. The Beall’s list, is not a harmless list of some librarian in Colorado, so please dont make it seem like one. You are better than that.

    Like

    1. This reply of yours does not seem to have been deleted…? 🙂

      Beall’s List has all the power of any other opinion that a person or an organisation states in public. You, the reader, grant it whatever power it may have. The same applies to spam blocklists; if you don’t want to use one, you don’t, and that spam blocklist does not have any power over mail you receive. In fact, you explicitly have to grant such power in order for any third party to have some, rather than explicitly having to deny it over “default settings”.

      Like

      1. Thank you for not deleting my reply.

        Try writing a critical comment, deconstructing Beall’s judgement, for one of Beall’s articles (especially if it is about MDPI or Frontiers) under a different name. Big chance he will delete your comment, without any reason.

        I, as just a reader, don’t use Beall’s list as absolute quality control (but I do occasionally check out his blog). The problem is that most institutions do. That could be because Beall has been on the forefront of exposing predatory publisher, and his exposure in Nature and other authoritative outlets. Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva show how many unique visitors Beall has a month. So, yes, I would love to see that Beall’s list is just a private blog, and nothing more than that, just wished that other institutions did see it as well. Now, a publisher has no access to knowing why it is included in Beall’s list or how it can be removed. There are no grievance mechanisms, no second opinion, no clear indicators, no transparency. All the important ethical aspects, we as researchers so passionately promote and defend, are lacking in Beall’s blog.

        Beall’s list is outdated and more and more people are seeing .

        Like

      1. Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva, you make very legitimate points and arguments, and if given a platform, I would love to further elaborate on my arguments. Just to give you some source material why Beall’s list is sometimes racially motivated (not saying that he is a racist, or whatsoever, because I see no evidence that he is):

        1] ” The internet domain name registration data includes the Virginia address and lists the registrant as “suresh babu changalasetty” (all lower case).”
        https://scholarlyoa.com/2016/11/01/strange-new-oa-publisher-biohouse/

        2} Consistently mislabeling MDPI as a Chinese publisher, because, and only because, its owner has a Chinese ethnicity (but a Swiss nationality) – the article starts out with a photo of this untrustworthy Chinese publisher. [I wrote a comment here, which has been deleted by Beall]
        https://scholarlyoa.com/2014/02/18/chinese-publishner-mdpi-added-to-list-of-questionable-publishers/

        3] Commenting on the reasons why a certain journal can’t be named an American Journal, despite its publisher being located in the US:
        “It’s based in Connecticut, and it’s owned by a bunch of Bangladeshis or Bangladeshi-Americans that live in the New York City Area. ”
        https://scholarlyoa.com/2016/08/25/augusts-harvest-three-wretched-open-access-publishers/

        +

        4] “Bangladeshis Publishing Even More Journals from Connecticut” – the article starts with a photo of the editor-in-chief, a man with a Bangladeshi background (just as he started his MDPI article). What the relevance of this all is, I have no idea, but one cannot deny its racial undertone:
        https://scholarlyoa.com/2013/02/19/bangladeshis-publishing-even-more-journals-from-connecticut/

        5] Does Everyone in India Want to be a Scholarly Publisher?
        https://scholarlyoa.com/2016/08/09/does-everyone-in-india-want-to-be-a-scholarly-publisher/

        6] A guest column about why MDPI is a predatory journal:
        “As I was expecting, only a few authors submitted (poor quality) manuscripts…all completely unknown in the field… all Chinese or from weird universities. ” – what’s wrong with Chinese universities? What are weird universities? [I wrote a comment here, which has been deleted by Beall]
        https://scholarlyoa.com/2015/06/11/guest-editing-a-special-issue-with-mdpi-evidences-of-questionable-actions-by-the-publisher/

        7] “On the other hand, the telephone numbers the Institute gives use the 647 area code, which is from Toronto, Ontario. Furthermore, I found that the domain name, http://miredu.org/, is registered to a Mohammed Shamimul Islam in Dhaka, Bangladesh.”
        https://scholarlyoa.com/2012/09/11/the-maryland-institute-of-research-from-bangladesh-2/

        And this is just a very quick search I did this morning. And don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that these journals are legitimate, or whatsoever, I just find many of his blog-posts to have a racial undertone. I also understand that many publisher falsely claim to be an American or European Journal, forcing Beall to look at geography and background, but he is going too far, as I hopefully successfully pointed out. Especially, how he consistently labels MDPI as Chinese, or how a group of “non-natives” can never be running a journal from the US.

        Like

  17. Beall has certainly gone beyond his mandate when your list includes possible and potential essentially anything goes by whim or fancy

    Like

  18. The committee should be drawn from both oa and prescription publishing industries, scientists to be included in addition to librarians, to safeguard against bias. An option for rebuttal on the public record should be granted to any potential inclusion on the list. Yearly open assessments of each publisher on the list should be published with reasons for continuing inclusion or removal. Blogs or communications should refrain from mentioning the nationality of any chief editor as this might engender the impression of prejudice even if the intention was absent. I think the best way to deal with the list for the sake of fairness and transparency is to take a legitimate stake in the enterprise.

    Like

      1. Jaime, I note that you yourself issued a complaint to Beall’s employer University of Colorado for his listing of certain journals.
        https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2016/02/08/an-interview-with-jeffrey-beall/#comment-157893

        “I in fact contacted the University of Colorado and spoke to the legal counsel there and his superiors, indicating that I felt that several of his entries were libelous and seriously damaging to the images and reputations of many scientist and possibly even valid journals and publishers. They literally brushed me off. That was about 2-3 years ago”.

        I personally do not condone such behaviour, also from personal earlier experiences as scientist. But of course you seem to have a different view. Good thing I don’t have a boss, right?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Why would a University chastise its very own authentic predator buster. Expect an upcoming film starring Mr Beall.

        Like

  19. Read http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ddr.21369/full for an interesting article that states that of the 10 billion dollars in academic publishing profits only 5 percent pertain to the open access industry, which means 95% of profits remain with traditional publishing portels. Indeed, 50% of published articles in the “natural and medical sciences and social and humanities fields” are by only five large publishing houses. This pervasive “oligopoly” makes a mockery of Beall’s histrionic claims in a nature commentary http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v534/n7607/full/534326a.html that science as whole is in danger of unscrupulous predation.
    In fact if he was really committed to saving science from itself he would be encouraging elite and mainstream journals generally to publish an increase in the proportion of papers received or look at pre print archives that level the playing field and do away with contrived status symbols that are just not serving large sections of the scientific community adequately by dissuading originality of thought. At least in their current guises. He seems more interested in protecting their prestige with a kind of McCarthyist politics than serving an increasingly demanding and complex scientific landscape.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s