True Lies – A Critique of Jeffrey Beall

A few observations regarding Dr. Jeffrey Beall and his website scholarlyoa.com. At first sight scholarlyoa.com appears to perform a commendable public service – exposing corrupt practices of self-declared “publishing groups” which try to capitalize on the open-access model for their own narrow selfish interests. The fact that Dr. Beall does not have anything positive to say about open access in general is not something apparent right away as you peruse his blog. Then you stumble upon the following blog entry where he makes the following grand declaration:

I declare that the serials crisis, the event that gave birth to the open-access movement, is over. I base my declaration on my observations as an academic librarian and on the scholarly literature … [emph mine]

While I’m not fully briefed on what the “serials crisis” is (or “was” according to Beall), I can still determine two extraordinary claims made in this paragraph. The first is the explicit claim that this so-called “serials crisis” can be identified as “the event that gave birth to the open-access movement“. The second extraordinary claim, which is implied by this statement is that, since its progenitor event is now over, the open-access movement as such is no longer necessary or relevant. In the past I have made no bones about my stand on the world’s dominant academic publishers and on the issue of the corrupt practices encouraged by the present status quo of copyright as enshrined in Western law and practice. Continuing in that spirit allow me to address these two claims in turn.

  1. the serial crisis [was] the event that gave birth to the open-access movement: This statement varnishes over the grave and illegal conduct of publishing conglomerates which has been a continuous and accelerating process for well over three decades now. It exonerates large academic publishers from all culpability in illegally stifling competition and monopolizing the fruits of publicly funded scientific research for the benefit of the wealthy few, by identifying a single cause – the “serials crisis” – as the catalyst for the open-access movement. Furthermore, it attempts to brush under the carpet the many-fold social, economic and political forces behind the growing global push for open access in academic publishing.
  2. I declare that … the event that gave birth to the open-access movement, is over: Here Dr. Beall is making the implicit claim that we now have no need for the open-access movement since the alleged “disease” for which open-access was the “cure”, has now been eliminated. That’s a bit like claiming, in the aftermath of a large conflagration, that fire extinguishers are no longer necessary since the fire has been put out. Or like saying that the smallpox vaccine is no longer necessary since smallpox has been eradicated from the global population.

Taken together, these two claims cast Dr. Beall’s professed mission of shining light upon corrupt practices in open-access academic publishing in an unsavory light. They are indicative of either his lack of understanding of the motivations for and benefits of open-access or else his lack of integrity in claiming to be an opponent of corrupt practices in academic publishing. The icing on the cake is the remainder of Beall’s statement:

… I base my declaration on my observations as an academic librarian and on the scholarly literature, selections from which I include here: …

The comments on this blog post do a great job of taking apart Beall’s “scholarly selections” in support of his grand claim. Let me quote a few of the more memorable lines:

  • Comment by Michael Hughes (@anachronautics): Citing five articles, one of which is an interview and another a self-citation, doesn’t give you the wherewithal to ‘declare’ anything …
  • Comment by Steve Lawson (@bevedog): … your list of sources and the quotations you chose to cherry-pick from them are revealing. Is anyone surprised that the STM publishing association thinks that STM publishers are providing excellent value? Or that the CEO of Springer shares that opinion? … The second study says little about the serials crisis, except to note that established academics seem to be happy with established systems. And the last item in your list would be you agreeing with yourself.

And finally, the cherry-on-the-icing-on-top-of-the cake-award goes too:

  • Comment by openvt says: I might have read your self-citation, but I hit a paywall (“$23.68 plus tax)- do you plan to archive it? …

All in all, Beall’s post sounds almost as if it was written by the public relations department of a publishing house which wants to capitalize on the recent increasing visibility of Dr. Beall’s blog and the seeming reputation his views appear to have gained him as a crusader against publishing malpractice.

So the next time you visit scholarlyoa.com and find a name on Dr. Beall’s list of a company or organization which you thought of sending an article to publish, think twice (or maybe three times) before heeding Beall’s admonishment to not publish with or serve on the editorial board of that organization. At the very least, Beall’s word on so-called “predatory open-access publishers” is NOT to be taken as gospel.

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The China Question, Part 2.1, Murky Maldivean Waters

Are the external affairs Gods listening to what I have to say? In a recent blog post, I had argued that the present turbulent state of affairs in the Maldives was a manifestation of the India-China “big-power” rivalry currently underway in the Indian Ocean. I had suggested that in order for India to maintain strategic and operational security, it was necessary to ensure that Chinese moves in India’s oceanic neighborhood must be contained and that Maldives was one piece of the puzzle. It would seem that India’s hand has been forced by the continuing drama in Male.

I find this line in “The Hindu” article of great interest:

Ironically, the Nasheed drama unfolded at a time when an Indian warship arrived in Maldives to conduct a five-day anti-piracy and maritime domain awareness exercises with the Maldivian Nation Defence Force (MNDF).

Whether or not this warship is in Maldivean waters on the invitation of the present government of President Mohd. Waheed is not of great relevance, for the simple fact that if India wishes to send warship(s) to the Maldives, there is little that the island nation can do but complain vocally.

In the coming days, as Indian tacticians finally get their act together and begin to cement Maldives’ return to the Indian fold, the following point should be kept in mind.

While there is a strong and reasonable argument to be made that the anti-Nasheed developments in the Maldives were engineered by external forces (read “China”), as outsiders we cannot determine that this was the end all and be all of the situation. In the name of restoring democracy to Maldives, India should be extremely wary of ending up in a situation where it is forced to prop up an unpopular dictatorial leader against a recalcitrant population. While the islands and ports of the Maldives might provide much needed shelter and resources for Indian warships, the overall strategic benefit of a pro-Indian tilt by the Maldives would be greatly lessened if the general population was to end up seeing India as the big bad wolf.

India is not the big bad wolf. India is the good woodsman come to rescue Red Riding Hood from the real big bad wolf. But if the woodsman is clumsy, the wolf might just end up convincing Ms. Hood that her savior is actually her enemy. In other words, all care must be taken so that the true feelings and democratic aspirations of the Maldivean people themselves are not betrayed in the process, even as India sets out to apply force – diplomatic or otherwise – in order to ensure the integrity of its own strategic perimeter in the Indian Ocean.

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Rahul’s Big Entrance – Hit or Flop?

I waited longer than usual before seeing what Rahul Gandhi had to say in his much talked about speech and how he said it. With all the hysteria and hyperbole naturally associated with this event, I wanted to wait a bit before the noise died down so I could see his speech without distracting comments from either side. I wanted to see for my own eyes as to what degree he was “emotional” and “genuine” (as Congress might have it) as opposed to “staid” and “manufactured” (the BJP talking point). It is obvious that the BJP would have nothing positive to say about him and that, likewise, we would hear nothing negative from Congress. We can’t find the truth if we rely on their versions. We have to see it for ourselves. You have to see if for yourself.

Rahul Gandhi’s speech in Chintan Shivir, Jaipur – YouTube.

I just did.

I also have a clear opinion as to how his speech went and to what I can gather about him personally and about his political and rhetorical talents. But I won’t share those thoughts with you, at the moment. Some readers might have some idea of my leanings from reading my earlier posts. Try much as I can to keep a neutral point of view, it is inevitable that any commentator, me included, must at the end of the day, come down on behalf of one side or the other. Though, that is not my point! My point is …

See it for yourself, then decide

And in my next post or the one after, when I feel that I have given you ample time to do so (!), I will subject you to hearing what I have to say. Till then, adios!

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A good country for rapists

That, at the very least, is what the world appears to think of India at present. I can hardly blame them. It is a feeling that many Indians are themselves gripped with. The statements coming from the very highest levels of leadership in India only provide reassurance to criminals and perpetrators of rape. When even one of India’s most powerful woman politicians in India – West Bengal’s Chief Minister Ms. Mamata Banerjee – says that the “media is glorifying rape“, what hope is there for the victims of this heinous crime.

Here is a small sampling of what India’s best and brightest have to say on the matter:

neeraj-kumar-delhi-cp

Neeraj Kumar, Commissioner of Police, New Delhi (in-charge at time of gangrape)

it is not necessary that she would be sensitive to women because both men and women in our society today have the same mentality that men should dominate women” – on the question of deploying female constables at women’s help lines

Kishan Vision

Mamata Banerjee, leader of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) party and chief minister of West Bengal

“Earlier if men and women would hold hands, they would get caught by parents and reprimanded but now everything is so open. It’s like an open market with open options” – justifying the rise in rape cases.

mohan-bhagwat-rss

Mohan Bhagwat, President of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the paramilitary wing of the so-called “Sangh Parivar”, whose political wing is the BJP, India’s main opposition party at present)

“Such crimes hardly take place in ‘Bharat’, but they occur frequently in ‘India’”  suggesting that rapes happen in urban India which is influenced by “western cultures” as opposed to rural India where “ancient Indian values” prevail.

Kailash-Vijayvargiya-BJP-MadhyaPradesh

Kailash Vijayvargiya, cabinet minister in the Government of Madhya Pradesh

Maryada ka ulanghan hota hai, toh Sita-haran ho jata hai. Laxmanrekha har vyakti ki khichi gayi hai. Us Laxmanrekha ko koi bhi par karega, toh Ravan samne baitha hai… woh Sita-haran karke le jayega” – espousing his views on the reasons for rape.

Abhijit_Mukherjees-Presidents-Son-Congress

Abhijit Mukherjee, son of the President of India (Pranab Mukherjee) and Member of Parliament

Those who are coming in the name of students in the rallies, sundori, sundori mahila (beautiful women), highly dented and painted … Giving interviews in TV and showing off their children. I wonder whether they are students at all … what’s basically happening in Delhi is something like pink revolution, which has very little connection with ground realities.” – commenting on the character and antecedents of female anti-rape protestors.

Asaram Bapu, self-proclaimed "godman", one of many such in India

Asaram Bapu, self-proclaimed “godman”, one of many such in India

she should have taken God’s name and could have held the hand of one of the men and said I consider you as my brother and should have said to the other two ‘Brother I am helpless, you are my brother, my religious brother.’” – commenting on what the victim should have done when confronted with six drunk men on the bus

Raj Thackeray, nephew of recently deceased Bal Thackeray, president of Maharashtra Navanirman Sena, known for hate-speech against all "outsiders" to his state.

Raj Thackeray, nephew of recently deceased Bal Thackeray, president of Maharashtra Navanirman Sena, known for hate-speech against all “outsiders” to his state – especially those from Bihar.

All are talking about the Delhi gang-rape, but nobody is asking where these men came from. No one is asking who did this. No one is talking about the fact that all these rapists are from Bihar” – on the (supposed) state of origin of the gangrape perpetrators

T. Thiagarajan, Education Minister for the Union Territory of Puducherry (previously known as Pondicherry)

T. Thiagarajan, Education Minister for the Union Territory of Puducherry (previously known as Pondicherry)

Banning use of mobile phones by students, requiring female students to wear overcoats, and separate buses for girls and boysmeasures enacted in order to reduce “temptation” and curb sexual assault cases.

With friends like these, India’s women don’t need enemies.

If there was any “marayada” (“honor”) left in India’s leaders, they have squandered it. If there was any “laxman rekha” (a limiting boundary) to their decency and sense of compassion, they have crossed it.

The Hindustan Times has a similar list of disgusting comments by luminaries cutting across lines of party, region or religion.

Jyoti Singh Pandey, sacrificed her life to sate the brutal instincts of India’s perverted patriarchal culture. It is not just the six perpetrators who are responsible for this horrendous crime, but 1.2 billion Indians and especially their political and religious leaders, who refuse, even in this moment of unbearable sorrow, to bury forever their prejudiced and hateful mindsets against women. This mentality is founded upon a perspective that women were created to be man’s servants, a perspective which is considered to be a cornerstone of India’s “ancient culture” by many amongst us. If this is “culture”, then what is barbarism?

UPDATE: Given the bonanza of inappropriate comments in recent weeks, it is safe to turn this post into an archive where I will continue to collect more oral vignettes, in the “table of shame”, above. Readers are encouraged and invited to submit more such examples of shameful comments by public figures. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, as they say.

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Seeing through Tarantino

Another blockbuster article in the New Yorker. I always felt Tarantino and his work are severely overrated. I’m mean, sure, his creativity is boundless. But the question I have always had has been about his intellectual integrity, or lack thereof.

“Inglourious Basterds” was an imagining of WW2, painful to sit through, because it took one of humanity’s worst and greatest moments and filtered it down to a superhero tale hinging entirely on Brad Pitt’s character. Jelani Cobb hits the nail squarely on the head when she notes that: The movie’s [Inglourious Basterds"] lines between fantasy and the actual myopic perspectives on history were so hazy that the audience wasn’t asked to suspend disbelief, they were asked to suspend conscience. Now I don’t remember a great deal about that movie, but I do remember it made my stomach churn.

There is some controversy over Tarantino’s latest film: “Django Unchained”. I’m not sure what kept him from calling it “Nigger Unchained”, since as Cobb notes: “the term appears with such numb frequency that “Django” manages to raise the epithet to the level of a pronoun.” What Tarantino is trying to pull off here is quite audacious. He imagines that his use of a black character as a vengeful assassin in the era of slavery, should inoculate the film from critics of his method. After all, in a culture afraid to use the “n-word” (as even Cobb is), how is one to criticize it’s obscene usage in a film about slavery? As Cobb puts it: “Had the word appeared any more often it would have required billing as a co-star”! She highlights Tarantino’s racial sleight-of-hand by pointing out his propensity to employ the “n-word” in his other movies (“Jackie Brown” and “Pulp Fiction” to name two) which do not even remotely connect with slavery.

The question is, will the audience also see through Tarantino the way Jelani Cobb does, as he searches desperately in his cinematic bag of tricks for more ways to fool them?

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Delhi Police 101

The Delhi Police Department is probably one of the most corrupt, venal and ineffective police departments anywhere in India, or for that matter in the world. The inconsiderate behavior, thug tactics and plain out criminal collusion of members of Delhi police is old news to every person – young and old – capable of reading a newspaper or holding a conversation in the street. The only people who view Delhi police as a benevolent, dutiful protector of law and order belong to that very small minority who live in gated houses and communities, surrounded by wealth and the trappings of power. Such individuals have never had the misfortune of being on the receiving end of Delhi police justice. For the other 99% of the populace, those not lucky enough to have a senior (or even junior) government officer as a family relation or who’s family is not endowed with great wealth and power, Delhi police is a byword for injustice, oppression and lawlessness.

These might sound like strong words if you haven’t experienced this city’s police first-hand, but if you have had that misfortune then you’ll know that my description is tame compared to the reality. In broad daylight plainclothes policemen in official vehicles drive down our street to collect protection money from various businesses. If you happen to be making a building there are set rates depending on the number of floors in your construction and the total area. It is no surprise then calls to the 100 police emergency number in order to report construction occurring in an illegal manner and at prohibited times of the day (or rather “night”) are told that “PCR aa rahi hai” (“the Police Control Vehicle is on its way”). Of course, no PCR ever shows up.

Continue reading

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Much ado about exit polls

As a casual observer of the news media, in the past few days I have been surprised to see the eruption of accolade for Modi’s (supposed) win in Gujarat. The electronic and print media alike have arrived at the shared conclusion that the BJP is certain to – in fact, it already has – won Gujarat with a 120-140 seats. What is the basis of all this jubilation? Exit polls. This is India’s “exit poll” moment – the moment when the media, in its eternal folly, initially goes overboard over some new way of forecasting the future and later backtracks when its predictions turn out to be very different from the reality.

The US media has experienced such gaffes several times before in various Presidential elections (trust me, or Google it!) and having learned the bitter truth about the inaccuracy of exit polls, is now much more cautious in using exit poll data to make electoral determinations. Continue reading

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