September 27, 2021

Beall’s Bile

Jeffrey Beall has been on my radar for quite some time. Partly due to comments he has posted on blog posts of mine, but more importantly this piece that he wrote as a contribution to Radical Cataloging: Essays at the Front. I’m into criticism as much as the next person, but character assassination? Really? K. R. Roberto claimed to edit the volume, but one wonders if that even included reading the contributions, let alone exercising some professional judgment. Read the chapter and decide for yourself whether he exhibited professional behavior.

But that was then. This is now, and in the present day he seems to have dug a much bigger hole and with an entirely new community. His list of “predatory publishers” brought him to the attention of the Open Access community, which includes many people who only knew him through this work. Work that was widely recognized as helpful except by the publishers so named.

So you can perhaps imagine the consternation of those working to make the scholarly literature openly available that their supposed friend has turned on them. In an article just published, Beall has taken on the entire Open Access movement by claiming some sort of bizarre conspiracy theory. Here is but one example lifted from his diatribe: “I do find that the open-access movement is a Euro-dominant one, a neo-colonial attempt to cast scholarly communication policy according to the aspirations of a cliquish minority of European collectivists.” What?

Meanwhile, here is how Michael Eisen, a biologist at UC Berkeley and a co-founder of the Public Library of Science, puts it, in part, in his blog post:

Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado Denver, has come to some fame in science publication circles for highlighting the growing number of “predatory” open access publishers and curating a list of them. His work has provided a useful service to people seeking to navigate the sometimes confusing array of new journals – many legitimate, many scammers – that have popped up in the last few years.

Unfortunately, as he has gained some degree of notoriety, it turns out he isn’t just trying to identify bad open access publishers – he is actively trying to discredit open access publishing in general. There were signs of this before, but any lingering doubt that Beall is a credible contributor to the discourse on science publishing was erased with an article he published last week. The piece is so ill-informed and angry that I can’t really describe it.

He then republishes the (yes, open access) article in full, responding to almost every paragraph. If you have the fortitude for it, it’s really quite entertaining.

This time Beall’s bile may have finally caught up to him. It’s one thing to say outrageous things about a library vendor, and more unfortunately, individuals associated with said vendor. But it’s quite another to take on the entire Open Access movement as if it were some kind of insidious plot to undermine the very foundations of capitalism.

Roy Tennant About Roy Tennant

Roy Tennant is a Senior Program Officer for OCLC Research. He is the owner of the Web4Lib and XML4Lib electronic discussions, and the creator and editor of Current Cites, a current awareness newsletter published every month since 1990. His books include "Technology in Libraries: Essays in Honor of Anne Grodzins Lipow" (2008), "Managing the Digital Library" (2004), "XML in Libraries" (2002), "Practical HTML: A Self-Paced Tutorial" (1996), and "Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook" (1993). Roy wrote a monthly column on digital libraries for Library Journal for a decade and has written numerous articles in other professional journals. In 2003, he received the American Library Association's LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Excellence in Communication for Continuing Education. Follow him on Twitter @rtennant.


  1. Thank you for pointing out this ‘article,’ Roy. It’s really impossible to know where to start with a response or a critique; there are simply too many things that require correction, rebuttal, or outright rejection. Kudos to Eisen for taking the time to publish his reading, although I do disagree at various points with his comments, but that’s normal and unsurprising.

    To pick up one small point, Eisen is correct to note that Beall’s handling of Soros is Godwin-esque. What he didn’t point out was that Beall underscores his assertion that Soros harbours “extreme left-wing views” and finances “their enactment as laws” with a citation to a 2002 new piece by Richard Poynder. That piece does in fact include the news of Soros’s $3 million gift, but makes no further commentary on Soros’s politics or agenda with the gift, as Beall does. The placement of the citation and the wording of the sentence preceding it imply that Beall is merely citing Poynder’s analysis, when in fact the only bit that comes from Poynder is the fact that Soros funded the Budapest Open Access Initiative. I use the word fact deliberately here. As a widely reported fact, there’s no need for the citation, so pulling Poynder in as a source is disingenuous. As I said, it’s a small point, but polemical tactics such as this undermine any text, let alone one as crassly off-base as this one.

  2. Having been at the receiving end of Beall’s bile for the crime of supporting open source initiatives, I’m grateful you wrote this, Roy. In the end, he ain’t our friend.

  3. Cameo Replies to Beall’s List of Howlers