7.6.2Data sources

Generally speaking, there are two main types of data sources – lists of quality journals (‘whitelists’) and lists of questionable journals (‘blacklists’). While there are many indexes of respectful journals, we especially want to mention the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) as an important resource of peer-reviewed OA journals that adhere to a set of well-defined quality criteria.

The most well-known data source on questionable journals is Beall’s list of “potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers” (and an associated list of standalone journals). The list was maintained by scholarly librarian Jeffrey Beall from 2008 until early 2017, when Beall took his entire website, including the lists, offline. During this period, Beall’s list and blog were highly influential in raising awareness about questionable journals, but also quite controversial, in part because it was often unclear exactly why a certain journal or publisher appeared on the list. The investigation of Flemish researchers was based on Beall’s list, specifically focusing on two major questionable publishers.

After the sudden disappearance of Beall’s list, several potential successors emerged. These include:

  • Cabells Journal Blacklist: an extensive list, including detailed reports per journal, maintained by analytics company Cabells and only accessible after purchasing a subscription;
  • Beall’s list of journals and publishers: an archived copy of Beall’s original lists, to which the anonymous maintainer has added newer journals and publishers;
  • Journal Black List: a list maintained by the Iranian Ministry of Health and Medical Education;
  • List of journals removed from the DOAJ: while not directly intended to be used as such, this list can function as a blacklist, especially when focusing on those journals that are removed for “[s]uspected editorial misconduct by publisher”.

It needs to be mentioned that, with the possible exception of Cabells Journal Blacklist, these resources are largely unstudied and not much is known about their characteristics and use.

The Antwerp group of ECOOM has been conducting yearly screenings of publications submitted to the VABB-SHW since 2014. Data sources have included Beall’s list, DOAJ, Web of Science, and Cabells Journal Blacklist. The combination of several data sources avoids the situation where idiosyncrasies in one data source affect the treatment of some publications or journals. A recent analysis (Eykens, Guns, Rahman, & Engels, 2019) shows that the number of questionable journals in VABB-SHW (and publications therein) has increased until 2012 and decreased afterwards. This stands in contrast to the number of peer-reviewed journals and DOAJ-indexed journals in VABB-SHW, which are increasing without an inflection point in 2012. This finding also illustrates that questionable journals are not representative of open access journals in general.