Publish and be damned

The online world is awash with trolling, gaslighting and hate speech, and the academic portion is sadly not immune, despite its background in evidence, logical argument and rigorous analysis. For the avoidance of doubt, Simon Linacre establishes fact from fiction for Cabells in terms of Open Access, predatory publishing and product names.


When I went to university as a very naive 18-year-old Brit, for the first time I met an American. He was called Rick who lived down the corridor in my hall of residence. He was older than me, and a tad dull if I’m honest, but one evening we were chatting in our room about someone else in the hall, and he warned me about setting too much store by perceptions: “To assume is to make an ass out of u and me,” he told me sagely.

Twenty years later, while I have come to realize this phrase is a little corny, it still sticks in my mind every time I see or hear about people being angry about a situation where the full facts are not known. Increasingly, this is played out on social media, where sadly there are thousands of people making asses out of u, me and pretty much everyone else without any evidence whatsoever for their inflammatory statements.

To provide a useful point of reference for the future, we at Cabells thought we should define positions we hold on some key issues in scholarly publishing. So, without further ado, here is your cut-out-and-keep guide to our ACTUAL thinking in response to the following statements:

  • ‘Cabells is anti-OA’ or ‘Cabells likes paywalls’: Not true, in any way shape or form. Cabells is pro-research, pro-quality and pro-authors; we are OA-neutral in the sense that we do not judge journals or publishers in these terms. Over 13% of the Whitelist are pure OA journals and two-thirds are hybrid OA.
  • ‘Cabells is anti-OA like Beall’ or ‘You’re carrying on Beall’s work’: Cabells had several discussions with Jeffrey Beall around the time he stopped work on his list and Cabells published the Blacklist for the first time in the same year (2017). However, the list did NOT start with Beall’s list, does NOT judge publishers (only journals) for predatory behavior, and the Blacklist shows considerable divergence from Beall’s List – only 234 journals are listed on both (according to Strinzel et al (2019)).
  • ‘Predatory publishing is insignificant’ or ‘Don’t use the term predatory publishing’: The recent FTC judgement fining the Omics Group over $50m shows that these practices are hardly insignificant, and that sum in no way quantifies the actual or potential hurt done by publishing fake science or bad science without the safety net of peer review. Other terms for such practices may in time gain traction – fake journals, junk science, deceptive practices – but until then the most commonly used term seems the most appropriate.
  • ‘The Whitelist and Blacklist are racist’: The origins of the word ‘blacklist’ come from 17th century England, and was used to describe a number of people who had opposed Charles II during the Interregnum. It is a common feature of language that some things are described negatively as dark or black and vice versa. Cabells is 100% pro-equality and pro-diversity in academic research and publishing.
  • ‘Cabells unfairly targets new or small journals with the Blacklist’: Some of the criteria used for the Blacklist include benchmarks that a very few legitimate journals may not pass. For example, there is a criterion regarding the speed of growth of a journal. This is a minor violation and identifies typical predatory behavior. It is not a severe violation which Cabells uses to identify journals for the Blacklist, and nor is it used in isolation – good journals will not be stigmatized by inclusion on the Blacklist simply because they won’t be included. In the two years the Blacklist has been in operation, just three journals out of 11,500+ listed have requested a review.

The power of four

After hearing so many different ways that its Journal Whitelist and Journal Blacklist have been used by customers, Cabells has started to map out how any researcher can use journal data to optimize their decision-making. Fresh from its debut at the World Congress on Research Integrity in Hong Kong last month, Simon Linacre shares the thinking behind the new ‘Four Factor Framework’ and how it could be used in the future.


The 6th World Congress on Research Integrity (WCRI) was held in Hong Kong last month, bringing together the great and the good of those seeking to improve the research process globally. Topics were surprisingly wide, taking a look at such diverse areas as human rights, predatory publishing, data sharing, and policy. It was significant that while much of the focus of the conference was on the need to improve education and learning on how to conduct research ethically, many of the cases presented showed that there is still much to do in this respect.

Cabells was also there and used its presence to share some ideas on how to overcome some of these challenges, particularly with regard to engagement with improved research and publishing practices. Taking the established issues within predatory publishing encountered the world over as a starting point (i.e. choosing the wrong journal), as well as the need to look at as much data as possible (i.e. choosing the right journal), Cabells has very much put the author at the center of its thinking to develop what it has called the ‘Four Factor Framework’:

 

The framework, or FFF, firstly puts the onus on the researcher to rule out any poor, deceptive or predatory journals, using resources such as the Blacklist. This ‘negative’ first step then opens up the next stage, which is to take the four following factors into account before submitting to a research paper to a journal:

  • Strategic: understanding how a journal will impact career ambitions or community perspectives
  • Environmental: bringing in wider factors such as research impact or ethical issues
  • Political: understanding key considerations such as publishing in titles on journal lists, avoiding such lists or journals based in certain areas
  • Cultural: taking into account types of research, peer review or article form

Having talked to many customers over a period of time, these factors all become relevant to authors at some point during that crucial period when they are choosing which journal to publish in. Customers have fed back to Cabells that use of Cabells’ Whitelist and Blacklist – as well as other sources of data and guidance – can be related to as benchmarking, performance-focused or risk management. While it is good to see that the databases can help so many authors in so many different ways, judging by the evidence at WCRI there is still a huge amount to do in educating researchers to take advantage of these optimized approaches. And this will be the main aim of Cabells’ emerging strategy – to enable real impact by researchers and universities through the provision of validated information and support services around scholarly publishing.

Look to the North

Say what you like about Canada – and plenty do – but they are taking the threat of predatory publishing more seriously than just about any other country. Simon Linacre reflects on recent activities North of the 49th parallel.


It’s all about Canada at the moment. They have the new NBA champions in the shape of the Toronto Raptors, overcoming huge odds to beat defending champions Golden State Warriors in a thrilling finals series, and in the process becoming the first Canadian winner of a major US sports championship in over 25 years. Add to that one of the more likable (if under pressure) world leaders, and continued dominance of lists of best places to live, and those living North of the border seem to have it sewn up, eh?

They also seem to be leading the way when it comes to research integrity and publishing ethics, as a number of high-profile studies and articles have shown. A piece in Canadian news magazine The Walrus has highlighted the problems of predatory publishing in Canada, but also the fight to overcome these concerns. The article is entitled ‘The Rise of Junk Science’ and highlights the ways predatory publishing has infected scholarly activities in Canada, including:

  • Seeing predatory publishers buy out legitimate publishers and use their name to support predatory conferences
  • Wasting resources from funding organizations and universities on APCs for predatory journals
  • Forcing reputable universities to check every individual CV of every academic to ensure they haven’t published in predatory journals
  • Running the risk that ‘junk science’ published in seemingly authentic journals will be read and used, causing unknown harm
  • Allowing unscrupulous academics to take advantage of university policy to publish in journals with no peer review or quality control in order to be rewarded.

This last point was also highlighted by Derek Pyne in 2017, who pointed out that some of his colleagues at Thompson Rivers University had published in predatory journals and received rewards as a result. Pyne was suspended for a brief spell following publication of the article, but it acted as a wake-up call to many institutions to review their policies when it came to publications.

Canada also hosted a conference on predatory journals this year – as opposed to the numerous predatory conferences that have also sprung out of predatory publishing practices. These are also highlighted by the article in The Walrus which gives a great overview of the predatory publishing problem in Canada. Cabells’ own evidence shows that there seems to be a specific issue there as there are 119 confirmed and over 500 suspected predatory journals originating from there in the Blacklist, which is nearly 5% of the total. However, by shining a light on the problem and tackling it head-on, the country can at least lead the way for many others to follow.

Faking the truth

Predatory publishing can cause harm in all sorts of ways, but so can fighting it with the wrong ammunition. In this blog post, Simon Linacre looks at examples of how organizations have gone the wrong way about doing the right thing.


One of the perks – and also the pains – of working in marketing is that you have to spend time trawling through social media posts. It is painful because no matter how good your filters are, there is a huge amount of unnecessary, unearthly and unhealthy content being shared in absolute torrents. On the flip side, however, there are a few gems worth investigating further. Many of them prove to be rabbit holes, but nevertheless, the chase can be worthwhile.

Searching through some posts earlier this month I happened upon mention of an updated list of recommended and predatory journals. Obviously, this is our gig at Cabells so I was genuinely intrigued to find out more. It turns out that the Directorate General of Scientific Research and Technological Development (RSDT) in Algeria has produced three lists on its website – two of recommended journals for Algerian researchers in two subject categories, and one of predatory journals and publishers.

Judgment

A cursory look at the predatory list shows that the first 100 or so journals match Beall’s archived list almost exactly. Futhermore, there is nowhere on the website that suggests how and why such a list exists, other than an open warning to authors who publish in one of the journals listed:

“To this effect, any publication in a journal in category A or B which is predatory or published by a predatory publisher, or that exclusively publishes conference proceedings, is not accepted for defense of a doctoral thesis or university tenure.” (own translation)

In other words, your academic career could be in trouble if you publish in a journal in the RSDT list.

Consequences

The rights and wrongs, accuracies and inaccuracies of Beall’s list have been debated elsewhere, but it is fair to say that as Beall was trying to eradicate predatory publishing practices by highlighting them, some journals were missed while some publishers and their titles were perhaps unfairly identified as predatory. Now the list is over two years out of date, with one version being updated by no-one-knows-who. However, what are the consequences for Algerian academics – and authors from anywhere else who are judged by the same policy – of publishing in a journal?

  1. Publish in RSDT-listed journal that is not predatory but on the list: Career trouble
  2. Publish in RSDT-listed journal that is predatory and on the list: Career trouble
  3. Publish in journal not listed by RSDT but is predatory: Career trouble
  4. Publish in journal not listed by RSDT and is not predatory: Career OK

Option 4 is obviously the best option, and Option 2 is a sad result for authors not doing their homework and de-risking their publishing strategy. But it seems there will be a large number of academics who make a valid choice (1) based on independent criteria who will fall foul of an erroneous list, or who think they are safe because a journal is not on the RSDT list but is predatory (3).

Comparison

One of my colleagues at Cabells cross-referenced the RSDT list and the Cabells Blacklist, which now has over 11,595 journals reviewed and validated as predatory. The results show that due to a lack of crossover between the lists, many academics in Algeria, and potentially elsewhere, could be wrongly condemned or unwittingly publish in predatory journals:

  • In terms of publishers, the RSDT list contains 1601 unique publishers, while the Blacklist contains 443
  • There are exactly 200 publishers on both lists, meaning that around 12% of the publishers on the RSDT list are also included in the Blacklist, while 43% of the Blacklist publishers are also on the RSDT list
  • The RSDT list contains 2488 unique journals, of which only 81 are the same as the 11,500+ Blacklist journals
  • Less than 1% (0.7%) of the Blacklist is also on the RSDT list; conversely, about 3% of the RSDT list is also included on the Blacklist.

As always, the moral of the story for authors is ‘research your research’ – fully utilize the skills you have gained as an academic by applying them to researching your submission decision and checking multiple sources of information. Failure to do so could mean serious problems, wherever you are.

Feedback loop

Last week the Scholarly Kitchen blog reviewed the Cabells Blacklist for its readers and inspired the second highest number of comments for any post so far in 2019. As a follow-up, Simon Linacre answers some of the questions the post and comments have raised while providing an update on the product itself.    



The publication of Rick Anderson’s review of the Blacklist last week gives Cabells some great feedback for us to improve the product, both from an industry expert and the blog’s readers from the scholarly publishing community. We have answered some of the specific queries already in the Comments section, but thought it would be helpful to address some wider points for the benefit of those who have been so engaged with the post.

Firstly, Rick pointed out that for those journals under review, there was no indication as to why that was the case. Journals are recommended for review through the Cabells website, from members of the academic community, through word of mouth and from our own research, so often the reason they are being reviewed is not recorded. Some journals check out just fine, so we have to be careful not to stigmatize a journal unfairly by repeating claims that may be unfounded, which could also have legal implications.

Secondly, Rick felt that some of the criteria for inclusion were a little ambiguous and unclear, and this is something we have very much taken on board. We have recently revamped the criteria and added some new items, but due to the nature of predatory publishing this review process is ongoing and we will look to clarify any ambiguities we can. In addition, there was clear concern that the appeals process for the Blacklist was not visible enough, and this is something that will be changed to make the appeals policy more visible. A page for the Blacklist appeals process has been added to our blog, The Source. In addition, we will add a link to the Cabells Blacklist product page under the Blacklist criteria link. 

Rick’s final point was with regard to the functionality of Advanced Search on the Blacklist, with recommendations it should be expanded to offer searches by violation type, for example. This development is currently on our roadmap, as we constantly seek to improve the product’s utility for users. Other product development ideas mentioned in the Comments section – such as integrating the Blacklist as a tool for customers to run checks on journals and checking citation activity – are also in on our to-do list, and we hope to be able to share some product development news shortly.

Moving on to the Comments, it is clear some in the community feel the Blacklist should be free or at least available at a lower subscription price. As has been noted by our colleague in the Comments, the price one contributor quoted for a subscription was far more than a typical subscription, which tends to equate to a handful of APCs. One of the Scholarly Kitchen chefs commented that many institutions and funders unfortunately waste many thousands of dollars for academics to publish their papers in predatory journals, which use of the Blacklist would help mitigate.

Finally, there were two very interesting comment threads around author services and offering a ‘gray list’ to customers in the future. Cabells has a strategic partnership with Editage, and in collaboration with them offers users an opportunity to improve their articles before the vital submission stage. As for offering a Gray List, while there is a de facto list of such journals – i.e. a list of journals NOT on the Whitelist or Blacklist – this list could easily include 50,000 journals or more, and as noted above could unfairly taint essentially decent journals. Cabells is very much a global operation and understands new, regional, niche, innovative or low-cited journals can be legitimate and offer a vital publication outlet for many researchers. If we were to think of another list, it would be to champion these titles rather those that offer little or no value for their contributors.
 
PS – If you would like a quote for your institution to subscribe to the Blacklist or any other Cabells products, please email us at sales@cabells.com and we will get straight back to you.

Not all black and white

Two recently published articles by Cabells highlight the problems facing scholarly publishing. Their author, Simon Linacre, summarizes the articles and explains why publishing services are likely to see an increase in demand


Why do people go to a coffee shop? These institutions seem to have been doing a roaring trade in recent years, fueling the growth of multinationals such as Starbucks as well as local stores specializing in artisan coffee. But people going to these places are not there to drink coffee – they are there to meet friends, do some work, read a book or 101 other different things in addition to having a coffee. The success or otherwise of coffee shops is not necessarily down to the quality of the drinks available, but how well they facilitate the needs of their customers.

And in the digital world, those needs are changing fast, as they are for academic libraries the world over. People no longer visit the library to find information, but to do almost everything coffee shop customers also do. Which is why you will often find the best coffee places inside libraries, where 30 years ago you would run the risk of being thrown out for daring to drink the brown stuff.

Changing places

If libraries must adapt quickly, then so do publishers, and simply putting books and journals online doesn’t quite cut it in the brave new digital world. In 2019, the scholarly publishing press has been awash with stories of cancellations and so-called ‘read & publish’ deals that mark the transition from predominantly subscription deals to open access agreements between libraries (and the consortia/governments that represent them) and academic journal publishers. However, this is not the beginning of the end of academic publishing, more likely it is the end of the beginning of the second phase of scholarly communication development.

The first phase was subscriptions themselves and their dominance and growth during the 20th century; the second phase began with the Big Deal which almost inevitably has ended with the move to free access and open access to research. The next phase is likely to focus on a shift towards the taxonomizing and facilitation of research, so that the huge boom in available content will in some way be more manageable for researchers. This is why they will likely want to use the library as a resource – as well as for getting a decent coffee while they do so.

User case

In two articles recently published in EON, the journal of the International Society of Managing and Technical Editors (ISMTE), I have set out how the Cabells Whitelist and Blacklist are geared up for this third age of publishing in supporting academic libraries to meet the challenges currently facing them. In the case of the Whitelist, it helps academics understand the myriad of options they have where once they had a relatively simple choice of which journal they should choose to submit their research articles. Now they have a much more complex picture before them. Depending on where they are based as a scholar, there may be Open Access mandates in place directing you to choose Open Access-only journals, or lists of designated journals from your Dean in given subject areas, or repositories or platform-based outlets that do not operate like traditional journals at all.

So, for the user of journals or any kind of research platform, the picture is a complex one. However, in addition, there are risks inherent in this complexity as predatory publishers prey on uncertainty and lack of knowledge of this new, changing publishing environment. In this respect, the Blacklist also supports the work of librarians, research managers and authors themselves by providing a reliable, curated list of 11,000+ predatory publishers that researchers should steer well clear of.

Combined, use of the Whitelist and Blacklist can act as a safety net for those involved in the decision-making process for article publishing. This process will never be a black and white process, but it hopefully adds at least some clarity to the blurred lines that have rapidly emerged in recent years.


References

Linacre, Simon (2019) ‘Life Without Journals? Platforms, Preprints, and Peer Review in Scholarly Communications’, Eon (March 2019) https://doi.org/10.18243/eon/2019.12.2.2

Linacre, Simon (2019) ‘Hiding in Plain Sight: The Sinister Threat of Predatory Publishing Practices’, Eon (April 2019) https://doi.org/10.18243/eon/2019.12.3.1

Two worlds collide

Two events this week in the UK have little in common at first glance, aside from the fact that the Cabells team are attending both of them. In his latest post, Simon Linacre compares and contrasts #UKSG2019 and #ICAM2019 in order to tease out how such events can remain relevant in today’s changing scholarly environment.


The life of an academic, and those who make a living supporting their work, can be a nomadic one at times, thrusting you in and out of both familiar and unfamiliar scenarios at breathless speed. This week, I joined one of my colleagues at Cabells at the UK Serials Group (UKSG) conference in Telford, and while the location lacked a certain glamour, it made up for it in interesting debates and the feeling that at least some progress was being made to improve the lot of librarians and the work they do.

Cabells was very pleased to sponsor the pre-conference seminar, which was organized by the Society of Scholarly Publishers (SSP) with the theme of “’We’re Not Who We Used to Be’: Shifting Relationship Dynamics and Imbalances in an Open Access World”.

Image by SSP

There were a number of great talks on the development of open access (OA) and what the next steps were likely to be for industry initiatives such as Plan S, as well as more macro happenings such as Brexit.

No limits

A discussion afterward on how people saw their roles changing in the light of the anticipated OA developments – be you a publisher, librarian, academic or industry professional. Of particular note was reference to the notion of a ‘facilitated collection’ – discussed in Lorcan Dempsey’s recent blog post which relates to how libraries main focus has shifted from acquiring research for their academics to use to facilitating the use and access to a much wider variety of resources, some of which are acquired but some of which is increasingly available through the myriad of open access resources now available. However, the reality of almost limitless resources is that increasingly limited librarian resources struggle to support academics find their way.

Helping hand

This scenario is familiar to us at Cabells and is one of the reasons we developed the Journal Blacklist to help both librarians and researchers understand not all open access journals and articles are of good quality, and indeed can contain bad science or lack any form of peer review. Thanks to a shout out from Ebsco’s Sam Brooks in his plenary at UKSG, where he recognized Cabells’ contribution to identifying predatory journals that even the most skilled researchers had trouble doing so.

And so, after returning home from Telford we have a quick turnaround before heading North to the beautiful city of Edinburgh and the AACSB’s International Conference and Annual Meeting. Attended by the great and the good of business schools globally, its theme is ‘Challenging Core Foundations’, which similarly addresses the changing landscape of the modern digital age, and what it means for its delegates and institutions. For business schools, these changes mean that they are being pushed to explore new perspectives on how business education could and should develop to meet new demands, and one hopes the ideas exchanged in the old city of Edinburgh next week can match the new thinking put forward by librarians this week.

Do we need the Journal Blacklist?

As any scholar will attest, one of the most annoying aspects of becoming an academic author is the incessant emails popping into your inbox on a daily basis offering to publish your next article for a knockdown price – in just a few weeks’ time, in a subject area you know nothing about, for a journal you have never heard of. Simon Linacre asks if the Blacklist of journals is actually worth the time and expense just to help eradicate this nuisance, or if there is more to it than that.


In the world of academic research, there is an equivalent to the emails everyone receives supposedly from a Nigerian prince who needs to deposit $30m in your account for a few days, for which you will be paid handsomely. These are the emails that promise rapid open access publication for just a few hundred dollars, most likely in a very generic-sounding journal that purports to have an Impact Factor, even though you have never heard of it. As with the emails promising a generous slice of $30m, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. And anyway, just how many gullible idiots pay these people?

Well, if you are sat in a lab or department meeting, you could be looking at one. While it is difficult to establish exactly how many authors fall for predatory publishing, some recent investigations can put the problem in context. Firstly, a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) judgment in the US in 2018 against OMICS Group Inc and related entities found damages totaling over $50m were owing due to the predatory practices of the organizations over a four-year period, based on the operation of predatory journals and predatory conferences. This figure was arrived at following an estimation of the total revenues accruing from predatory practices – revenues from individuals paying for publishing and conference services that were below the expectations they were entitled to have from such services. In other words, that’s a lot of disappointed people.

Human face

The FTC investigation brings the actual cost of predatory practices into relief, as that money will not just have come from the back pockets of some gullible academics, but from university grants and research funders, happy to support research in belief some of the money will enable it to published in reputable journals, cementing its place in the body of knowledge for others to use. Another investigation in 2018 put forward the human side to this problem, namely a joint enterprise by three German news organizations – Süddeutschen Zeitung, the NDR and the WDR. In the article Das Scheingeschäft – Angriff auf die Wissenschaft” (“The Bogus Business – Assault on Science), the various aspects, dangers and consequences of predatory publishing are considered using a sting operation as a vehicle. What is striking about the reports – supported by Cabells which gave gratis access to the Blacklist – is that the problem is not just one of annoyance, but large-scale fraud and misinterpretation of science. Amongst other things:

  • After analyzing over 175,000 of publications in predatory journals, authors included Nobel-prize winners and those from top German institutions
  • Individual employees from large firms figured significantly among the authors of papers, including BMW, Siemens and Airbus. Indeed, of the thirty top companies on the German stock exchange (DAX), employees of 12 of these companies had published in predatory journals
  • One top pharma company has published a study on Aspirin in a predatory journal, which purports to provide evidence that a new version of its product is more effective at treating flu symptoms than the original drug
  • Finally, one story emerged about a German celebrity who died of cancer after trying a drug where the only evidence for its efficacy was published in predatory journals.

The German team of journalists concluded that this final example was a warning for the dangers abusing predatory publishing to spread “false science”, citing examples where climate-change deniers had also published research in predatory journals. This highlights an often overlooked point – recently covered by Danish academic Tove Faber Frandsen in the article ‘Why do researchers decide to publish in questionable journals? A review of the literature’ – that far from being duped, many authors knowingly publish in predatory journals simply to tick the necessary box. This trend has also been noted by reports in The New York Times and other research journals like CMAJ and Journal of Scholarly Publishing.

Black and White

Cabells’ Journal Blacklist was several years in development and was specifically designed to provide researchers and their institutions a resource to help them avoid publishing in predatory journals and avoid the serious issues outlined above. The Blacklist uses over 60 different, weighted criteria to determine whether a journal exhibits predatory behaviors or not. It utilizes a team of academic and publishing experts to constantly monitor publishing practices and assess if an individual journal – not a publisher – is legitimate or not. Many journals are left off the Blacklist where they are legitimate, but of low quality, and as such are not listed in the Journal Whitelist either. The process is transparent and often time-consuming, with all the criteria published by Cabells as well as the violations if a journal is listed.

It has been almost two years since the Blacklist was first published, in which time it has grown from 4,000 journals to 11,000.

In all that time, there have only been three requests from journals for a review.

Cabells places a very high value indeed on the legitimacy and veracity of scholarly publishing, a value it believes it shares with academics the world over. It believes that the provision of the Blacklist is a valuable service to those institutions who believe they need to support their academics in a world of fake news, fake science and fake journals. Like any other commercial service, in order to recoup the costs of its investment it charges a fee for a subscription to the Blacklist which can be less than a single APC for many predatory journals, so universities can avert the problems caused by a faculty member submitting to a predatory journal just once to pay for the service.

As we have seen, faculty can be unaware of the problems, or in some cases, they can be aware but make unethical decisions. Either way, librarians or research managers are often tasked with policing publications, and Cabells continues to develop the Blacklist to support them in their work. Hopefully, a subscription is a small price to pay to ensure public or institutional funding isn’t wasted and quality research is published in the right journals.

Cabells signs transparency declaration

Ever since Cabells started in the 1970s, it has sought to shine a light on journals and highlight information needed by academic scholars. Simon Linacre shares today’s news that Cabells has signed a transparency declaration aimed at opening-up peer review and editorial policies.


Cabells is delighted to announce that today it has become just the second institution to sign the Declaration on Transparent Editorial Policies for Academic Journals. As well as becoming a signatory, Cabells will be working with other supporters to work on improving the transparency for all aspects of editorial policy.

The Declaration was formed last year by the participants of the meeting “IT Tools in Academic Publishing: between Expectations and Challenges”, held at Leiden University in The Netherlands on 5-6 July. The aim was to promote greater openness in peer review and editorial procedures, and those individuals signing up were from publishers such as Elsevier, IOP and Brill, institutions such as Tilburg and Paris Descartes Universities, and industry operators PubPeer and Origin Editorial.

Key aims

At the heart of the Declaration there are four clear publication phases where Cabells believes greater transparency will benefit authors and editors, as well as the scholarly publishing environment as a whole. These are:

  1. Submission: Journals and publishers explain editorial governance, including the precise composition of the editorial board, the scope of the journal, the applicable ethics policies, and the use of journal metrics, including rejection rates
  2. Review: Journals and publishers should explain the criteria for article selection (e.g. the relevance of novelty and/or anticipated impact and methodological rigor) and the timing of review in the publication process (e.g. whether registered reports and/or post-publication review are used). They should be clear about the extent to which authors’ and reviewers’ identities will be known (blinding), and to whom review reports will be communicated. They should also specify how reviewers will be selected, instructed, or possibly trained, and explain how digital tools such as similarity scanners and scanners for digital image manipulation will be used and whether any reporting guidelines are applied
  3. Publication: Journals and publishers should make information about the review process of published articles available on the article-level, by detailing the roles in the review process (e.g. specify how many reviewers were involved and what other people contributed to the final decision), what criteria for acceptance and what digital tools were used
  4. Post-publication: Journals and publishers should explain the criteria and procedures for corrections, expressions of concern, retractions, or other rectifications or changes to published material.

(Source: www.ru.nl/transparencydeclaration)

Going forward, Cabells will be using these tenets as guidance on the decisions it makes for journals it assesses for both its Whitelist and Blacklist products. The Declaration states that making editorial policies more transparent will require a concerted effort by publishers and editors, but this effort will be rewarded by trust in the research community. Cabells believes this is the sincere aim of every responsible publisher and editor, and as such is proud to sign the Declaration as part of its ongoing support for scholarly communications.

Blacklist Journals Overtake Whitelist

What’s in a number? Well, when the number of bad journals overtakes the number of good journals, we may have something to worry about. Simon Linacre takes a brief look behind the figures and shares some insight into the current dynamics of scholarly publishing.


Right up there with ‘How many grains of sand are there in the world?’, ‘Is Santa Claus real?’ and ‘Where do babies come from?’, one of the questions you do not want to be asked as a member of the scholarly communications industry is ‘How many journals are there?’. This is because, like grains of sand there is no finite answer as the numbers will change from one day to the next, but also there is no way to even approximate an educated guess. You could, perhaps, as a fall back look at the numbers of journals where someone has actually counted and updated the number. For example:

  • Cabells Journal Whitelist: 11,048
  • Clarivate Analytics Master Journal List: 11,727
  • Directory of Open Access Journals: 12,728
  • Scopus: 36,377
  • Ullrichs Periodicals Directory: 300,000+ (periodicals)

However, all of the above have criteria that either limit the number of journals they count or include most journals plus other forms of publication. And another journal list that adds further complexity is this one:

Now, the more eagle-eyed among you will have seen that the Cabells Blacklist now lists more journals than are indexed in the Whitelist. How can this be? Are we saying there are more predatory journals than legitimate titles out there? Well, not quite. While Cabells has a growing Blacklist thanks to the ever-expanding activities of predatory publishers, the Whitelist is limited to journals of evident quality according to specific criteria and is yet to include medical and engineering journals. When both databases were launched in 2017, the Whitelist was based on Cabells Directories that went back decades, while the Blacklist was newly developed with 4,000 journals. That has now grown to over 11,000 in nearly two years, with many journals coming through the pipeline for assessment.

Due to the rigorous process Cabells administers for the Whitelist, it was inevitable that such a list where many titles are rejected would be superseded by the Blacklist where sadly ever more titles are acceptable for inclusion, due to the proliferation of predatory publishing practices.

So, if you do get asked the dreaded question, the answer is that there are a LOT of journals out there. Some are good, some are bad, and some are in-between. But arm yourself with a trusted index and some relevant criteria, and you won’t need to play the numbers game.