Dear legitimate open-access publishers: stop spamming!

June 4, 2013

I just got this message from Rana Ashour of Paleontology Journal, an open-access journal published by Hindawi, who are generally felt to be a perfectly legitimate publisher:

Dear Dr. Taylor,

I am writing to invite you to submit an article to Paleontology Journal which is a peer-reviewed open access journal for original research articles as well as review articles in all areas of paleontology.

Paleontology Journal is published using an open access publication model, meaning that all interested readers are able to freely access the journal online  without the need for a subscription, and authors retain the copyright of their work. All manuscripts that are submitted to the journal during June 2013 will not be subject to any page charges, color charges, or article processing charges.


(Apart from anything else, the waiving of APCs pretty clearly indicates that this is not a scam journal.)

I replied:

Hi, Rana. Thanks for this invitation. I am supportive of Hindawi as a good-quality, low-cost open-access publisher. In particular I want Paleontology Journal to do well: it has at least one colleague of mine among its editors. I am particularly pleased to see that no APCs are payable on submissions made during June 2013.

But as a matter of principle I never respond to “academic spam”. Messages sent as bulk mailings to a broad group of potential authors are at best impolite, and at worst actively damage the reputation of the journal and its publisher — see point M on Jefffey Beall’s Criteria for Determining Predatory Open-Access Publishers.

I urge you to use what influence you have to discontinue the use of spam to advertise Paleontology Journal. If the journal is good, it can be advertised by publicising the papers that appear in it.


Dr. Michael P. Taylor
Department of Earth Sciences
University of Bristol

Let’s hope they go with it. I’d love them to build another low-cost, high-quality, journal in the palaeontology OA space, to compete with Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, Palaeontologia Electronica, PalArch and of course PLOS ONE and PeerJ. But they won’t do it by spamming.

23 Responses to “Dear legitimate open-access publishers: stop spamming!”

  1. protohedgehog Says:

    Good call Mike! Odd though that on their site they only seem to have published 2 papers this year – desperate times call for desperate measures?

  2. Mike Taylor Says:

    Yes, two papers this year (or perhaps ever) is not impressive. But that’s OK, new journals take some time to get up and running. The way to grow this crop would be to encourage members of the editorial board to contribute to their own journal, and to make sure the world knows about the papers that have been published.

  3. There was quite an interesting discussion on whether or not what these open access journal do qualifies as spamming in the interview Richard Poynder did to Ahmed Hindawi last September, By checking the growth rates for the company’s journal portfolio, it would seem a rather successful marketing tool – despite all the nuisance.

  4. Hindawi also publishes the “Journal of Earthquakes”, which does not really seem to be needed currently, and they send invitations again and again and again. They have published not a single paper and there is no article in press. However, they present an editorial board with 20+ scientists. To me, this appears strange.

  5. ech Says:

    “There was quite an interesting discussion on whether or not what these open access journal do qualifies as spamming” — no, there isn’t really anything to discuss. Its spam.

  6. openvt Says:

    Mike, do you feel the same if the message were sent to a listserv, or was inviting submissions for a special issue on a particular topic? I’ve found these useful in the past as I wouldn’t have known about them otherwise.

  7. TomR Says:

    If an editor becomes aware of one of your projects through a conference presentation or other venue, and invites you to submit an article on a specific aspect of that work, is that acceptable? Or still considered “academic spam”? I would think this type of invitation is not a problem.

  8. Mike Taylor Says:

    openvt, I suppose on a listserv is a bit different, as the member have at least signed up for something. It would be a grey area. But for Hindawi to stop the unequivocal spams would be the first thing.

    TomR: no, of course that is different. When a real human being is taking an interest in your actual work, it’s not spam.

  9. Says:

    [Editor’s note: I allowed this comment to be posted only because of our everything-except-spam-is-OK commenting policy. WE DO NOT ENDORSE THIS COMMENT. See below for further commentary — Mike.]

    I recently made an inquiry to Jeffrey Beall (the Denver, USA librarian who runs a webpage where he slanders and insults about 500 publishing houses), whether he, Jeffrey Beall himself, has the ability to solve the simple math equation 5x+3 = 0.

    Jeffrey Beall replied to my first email, that he has never studied even the simplest form of Math. Meaning that he doesn’t know what “equation” means (he has never even seen equations like 5x+3 = 0, 3x*x + 7x -4 =0 etc), neither does he know what “Derivative” or “Integral” mean.

    Jeffrey Beall told me that he has a Bachelor in Spanish and English language. This of course didn’t stop him blacklisting hundreds of houses that publish Math, Physics, Computer Science, Engineering, Economics, Biology, Chemistry, Earth Sciences, Space Science etc Journals. That from a man who isn’t even able to solve the simple equation 5x+3 = 0, and who doesn’t know what Derivative or Integral mean.

    Recently, Jeffrey Beall included in his “black list” an old, big Academic Publishing House, with several, historic Journals in Math, Physics, Computer Science, Engineering, Economics (some of which have been indexed in ISI and SCOPUS), and that because, according to Jeffrey Beal, they had copied the… Maxwell Equations from a 2007 article.

    Obviously, since Jeffrey Beall doesn’t know how to solve the equation 5x+3 = 0, and since he doesn’t know what Derivative and Integral mean, he has zero knowledge when it comes to Electricity or Physics and has never seen the Maxwell Equations (not even in their most basic form).

    As expected from somebody who is entirely clueless regarding even elementary Math and Physics, he considered the Maxwell Equations found in the Journal to be plagiarized… from a 2007 paper.

    With a Bachelor in Spanish and English in his CV, Jeffrey Beall passes judgment even to Medicine, Biology, Chemistry etc Journals and articles, while he is fully aware that he’s never attended a University course on which nucleotides make up the DNA molecule, he’s never heard what enzyme, catalysis, proteins etc are, and if one asks him what pH is, he’ll be completely ignorant.

    However, in his bizarre blog, this person has declared himself a critic of everyone and everything. He blacklists publishing houses (many of which having journals and conferences indexed in ISI, SCOPUS, Compendex, ACM etc), he includes stand-alone journals in “black lists”, slanders Editors-in-Chief, Authors etc. Of course he does all that selectively, following a certain logic of his, which will be analyzed below.
    In a later email that I sent him, I asked him to comment on why he includes a small publishing house in his black list because “they copied Maxwell’s Equations from a 2007 paper” (poor Jeffrey Beall doesn’t know that Maxwell’s Equations are taught in Universities’ first year elementary physics), while at the same time he excludes IEEE, who have over 85 SCIgen machine-generated fake conference papers published and indexed.

    (See: A 2013 scientometrics paper demonstrated that at least 85 SCIgen machine-generated papers have been published by IEEE. The Paper has been published in Springer Verlag:
    Download the full paper from:
    He also didn’t respond to the question why he didn’t include Elsevier in his black list, who were revealed to have been publishing 6 Medical Journals between 2000 and 2005 with fake articles and studies, that were funded by pharmaceutical companies, in order to scientifically prove that their products were superior to their competitors’. See

    In a third email I asked him where his moral and academic responsibility stands, since if due to him including some publishing houses in black lists, those houses reduce or cease their activity (due to his immoral slandering), hundreds of jobs will be lost and families will end up in the street. Naturally, despite my repeated emails, Jeffrey Beall never replied.

    There are also rumors on the internet that some publishing houses, like Hindawi and Elsevier, pay Jeffrey Beall on a yearly basis in order not to be included in his black list. This looks like heavy taxing that the publisher is asked to pay annually to Jeffrey Beall, and, as we’ll see below, part of this tax ends up in the Denver University funds.

    Actually, Hindawi was in Jeffrey Beall’s black list a year ago. Then, after negotiations, Jeffrey Beall placed them in a watching list (i.e. an “under observation” list), and eventually completely removed them.

    Just like Jeffrey Beall himself mentioned in his blog, Hindawi’s people visited him in Denver and offered him “explanations”. After that, Jeffrey Beall gradually removed Hindawi from his black list.
    Why, Mr. Jeffrey Beall, did you agree to meet with Hindawi’s representatives in your office in Denver, when Hindawi was black listed? What did you talk about, Mr. Jeffrey Beall? Hindawi, as mentioned on their website, has an annual turnover of $6 million.

    Couldn’t they use part of that money to pay off Jeffrey Beall?

    Furthermore, in his blog, Jeffrey Beall has posted a photo of Hindawi’s headquarters, which he calls “House of Spam”. So, Mr. Jeffrey Beall, why isn’t Hindawi in your black list, when among your fundamental black listing reasons, like you mention in your blog, is spam?

    Having read all that, you can draw your own conclusions on who Jeffrey Beall is and what his real motives behind his publishing house and scientific organization black listing blog are. Houses and Organizations that Jeffrey Beall calls “Predatory Publishers”.

    Maybe it’s time to talk about Predatory Librarians, Mr. Jeffrey Beall. About librarians who target Open Access Journals, especially because the open, online PDF policy deprives librarians (like Jeffrey Beall) from the possibility of receiving kickbacks from publishing houses.

    To those who are not aware, it is known that several publishing houses paid- and pay-off librarians (like Jeffrey Beall), in order to get their libraries to subscribe to those houses.

    Meaning that, in order for a certain University, Research Center, Company to buy some books or subscribe to some journals, it is common knowledge that librarians receive money under the table from the respective publishing houses. It is therefore natural and understandable for this kind of librarians (Jeffrey Beall, for instance) to fight Open Access Journals and Open Access Publishing Houses, since they
    a) lose their kickbacks,
    b) lose their power and influence in the library, as well as the University.

    I’ve saved all my email exchange with Jeffrey Beall, along with their headers/source code, and I will soon upload them to various websites. I need everyone’s help though, by sending me emails (to the email address found at the bottom) and exchanging information on Jeffrey Beall’s scandalous behavior.

    And one last question to Jeffrey Beall: How can a librarian WITHOUT a Ph.D. be an Assistant Professor at the University of Denver, Mr. Jeffrey Beall?

    Could it be that Jeffrey Beall bribed older professors, using the abundance of money that he is said to possess?

    Could it be that Jeffrey Beall threatened that if they don’t vote for him, he’ll include all journals where they have papers published in his black list, and slander them on the internet?

    Or is it that they were so much impressed by his research? Actually, Mr. Jeffrey Beall, what is your scientific research? Your scientific research as a “real scientist” that is, Mr. Jeffrey Beall. What publications do you have, besides slandering, insulting and discredit hundreds of scientific organizations and publishing houses? What do you teach at the University of Denver Mr. Jeffrey Beall?

    Is there really any course (real scientific course) that you can teach, Mr. Jeffrey Beall, besides calling publishing houses and scientific organizations “predatory”?

    It doesn’t look like it, Mr. Jeffrey Beall. No matter how hard we looked, we didn’t find any courses taught by you at the University of Denver.

    Neither on your personal webpage, Mr. Jeffrey Beall, nor on your money-making blog, nor even on the University of Denver website is there any mention about courses taught by you.

    So, since you do absolutely no scientific research, and you don’t even teach pre-graduate or post-graduate students, what is your role at the University of Denver, Mr. Jeffrey Beall?

    Does the University of Denver pay you a salary, Mr. Jeffrey Beall, or do you pay the University to let you bear the title of Assistant Professor?

    A title that you really do not deserve, as you have no Ph.D., no actual research work and do no teaching whatsoever. It is a shame for the University of Denver to have professors like you, Jeffrey Beall.

    Or is running a blog that slanders everyone and everything considered scientific research?

    It most certainly is not, Mr. Jeffrey Beall.

    Could it be, however, an applied money-making project for you and your university, Mr. Jeffrey Beall?

    (By the way, why should a small publishing house from some place in India, which cannot attract papers, nor editorial board members, from western universities, be in your black list Mr. Jeffrey Beall? In this case, you should also black list all non-US and non-European universities. Of course there exist first-rate universities, like Harvard, MIT, Berkeley, Cambridge. Should all other universities be in a black list? Is this your logic “Professor” Beall? Furthermore, you condemn any new publishing house, as it is natural for them to not have papers and not be indexed as soon as they launch, but has to deal with you, who, like a vulture, immediately includes them in your black list for those reasons.)

    I would greatly appreciate your response, Mr. Jeffrey Beal. And I would also appreciate feedback from anyone who agrees with me. My email is:

    My aim is to create a network of true scientists and expose “Professor”, “Academic Teacher” and, above all, “Researcher” Jeffrey Beall (this science jack-of-all-trades, who doesn’t know a first-degree algebraic equation, derivatives, integrals, elementary Physics and Chemistry laws, etc)
    Thank you
    Nicola Bellomo

  10. Mike Taylor Says:

    I can only assume that this comment is intended to destruction-test our “we allow all comments except spam” policy. Nicola, I couldn’t read through to the end of your rant, but I knew we were in trouble when I read this:

    “There are also rumors on the internet that some publishing houses, like Hindawi and Elsevier, pay Jeffrey Beall on a yearly basis in order not to be included in his black list. This looks like heavy taxing that the publisher is asked to pay annually to Jeffrey Beall.”

    That is an extremely serious allegation made without a shred of evidence, and without even evidence that evidence may actually exist. Let the record show that we at SV-POW! absolutely disown the opinions expressed in the previous comment.

    Nicola, this is your one warning: any more comment like will be removed, despite our usual everything-but-spam-is-OK policy. From here on, if you want to use our blog as a platform to criticise Beall (or anyone else) then keep your messages concise, and — more important — provide evidence for every allegation. This is a science blog, not 4chan.

  11. Zolitu Says:

    Hindawi journals are fake journals of the worst kind. They do not have Editor-in-Chief. Secretariats (some girls in Egypt) are authorized to review papers.
    They have a fake address in USA to cheat people. Do not trust Hindawi. They have retract many papers. Hindawi is really a junk publisher. Hindawi also accept very easily rejected papers from conferences. Stay away from this academic-commercial house: Hindawi. It is fake and bogus.

  12. sudesh Kumar Says:

    We hear a lot about spam from journal, especially new journals. My question is:

    How is a new journal supposed to advertise – without sending spam – to attract papers for publication? What methods can it use which are considered ethical and non-spammy? A point to note is that it may not have too much money to attend seminars and medical conferences around the world to advertise itself.

  13. Mike Taylor Says:

    That is a fair question. Anyone have ideas?

  14. It helps having an editorial board of well-known people, then these can reach out to people they know for first round of submissions. And by know, I don’t mean closely know, unless said people are v. high quality, else it looks like nepotism.

    In my area (mathematics) there are multiple mailing lists for various overlapping fields, and any bunch of editors setting up a new journal that was relevant to one or more lists, would post an general announcement. Such a thing would be plain text, no hype, and be clear and focussed. An older example, for an online journal that is still one of the, or the, main for my field is, for the journal

    One thing it wouldn’t do is send poorly formatted html-rich emails to people starting “Dear ,” (yes, with a missing name) and give details like how many lists they are or hope to be indexed in (worst: “we’re listed on Google Scholar!”), or say that they will have quick turnaround times (or give a time limit, like 3 weeks).

    Other options are to look at advertising in society publications, or other broad-interest publications in the area (e.g. the Notices of the American Mathematical Society often have adverts for Hindawi journals). Inquire, if there is no money as yet, as to cheap advertising.

  15. sudesh Kumar Says:

    Thank you for your helpful comments. My concerns are:

    1. Isn’t it unlikely that “well known” people would join the editorial board of a start-up journal?

    2. Even if one sends plain text emails, isn’t using the mailing list considered spam – considering that the people in the list did not enroll to receive information about every start-up journal??

    I just saw Hindawi listed as advertiser of the current issue of the society. If i understood correctly, the subscription rate for the notice is US$569. Using the advertisement in society publication is a good idea, by my guess is that it will end up costing a lot of money

    Any other ideas will be most welcome.

  16. Mike Taylor Says:

    Sudesh asks: “Isn’t it unlikely that “well known” people would join the editorial board of a start-up journal?”

    I think not, for suitable values of “well known”. What matters of course is whether the people on the initial editorial board are well known to the relevant community of possible authors. I am the smallest fish imaginable in academic terms, but if I were to be on the board of a Journal of Dinosaur Palaeobiology, the people who might submit work to such a journal would mostly have some vague sense of who I am.

  17. sudesh Kumar Says:

    I agree 100% that it will definitely help to have well known people on the Editorial Board. So it is:

    1. Have well known people on the editorial board
    2. Use mailing list for specific specialty (I have some concerns about this)
    3. Advertise in society notices (costs money but a good way.)

    I would welcome more ideas.

  18. If one is considering starting a journal, it is worth enquiring about these things before saying for sure it will actually happen. If it isn’t possible to get a decent board of editors, and afford (in time and/or money) some promotion, then there had better be a really good reason why this journal should be started, for instance it really fills a gap (and by gap I don’t mean some microniche); if it is to provide an open access alternative to a closed-access journal, it should be in some way attractive other than the mere fact of being open access, like having a very good online platform (cf PeerJ).

    One thing that doesn’t go down well is a new OA journal that aims to “make money”. This is hard to define (“I know it when I see it”), but as an academic, one can sniff these a mile off. PLoS obviously makes money, but that’s not how or why they started out. If the platform is something like Scholastica or OJS, then it’s not costing the earth; the editors are likely not being paid – and with these big money items out the way, if there is a non-zero APC it should reflect this. If PeerJ can charge $99 (ok, more complex than that, but right order of magnitude), and they are a fancy startup who developed a suite of software in-house, then a small journal on one of the free/cheap platforms shouldn’t charge more. If whoever is doing this is looking at making a living income from publishing, then that is a tricky situation. Unless they have experience in scholarly publishing (from the writing side, or the production side), then it doesn’t look very good. They are not so much as trying to start a journal but a publishing company, and that is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.

    Ideally there could be a period, if the intent is to charge APCs, where such fees will be waived, to attract initial publication (see, for instance, the Forum of Mathematics Journals, that waived publication fees for two years – but they are, big-scale, big-name efforts so not directly comparable).

    Best of all would be not to charge APCs, full stop. but if so, it should be specified upfront how that money is spent/broken down.

  19. Mike Taylor Says:

    The other important thing, sudesh, is word of mouth. Back to the hypothetical situation where I wanted to start The Journal of Dinosaur Palaeobiology, the first thing I’d do after sounding out possible editorial-board members would be to start blogging about it here, explain the motivation and mechanisms, start to establish a community around the journal before it launched. (Pete Binfield and Jason Hoyt did something similar with PeerJ, though they mostly used direct contacts rather than blogging.)

    You don’t just want to appear on the scene and have every go “eh, what?” You want a buzz in your discipline before you launch, people keen to get their work into this awesome new journal they keep hearing about.

  20. sudesh Kumar Says:

    Thank you to both David and Mike. That was very informative. The important goal should be to start creating a buzz and start building a community much before the journal comes into existence.This combined with other efforts will attract papers for initial issues.

    Speaking of PeerJ, I wonder how they can charge $99-299, manage the production cost of the articles, perhaps pay incentive to Editors and also manage all the administrative expenses? I guess that the publication cost of one article must be about $200-300 or may be more.

  21. Mike Taylor Says:

    Best wishes with your journal!

    Regarding PeerJ, it is indeed a much-pondered mystery how they can make money at the levels they’re charging. What we know for sure is that the business plan that Peter and Jason showed to Tim O’Reilly was persuasive enough for him to jump in. And he probably knows more about making money from digital publishing than anyone else alive.

    There’s no secret about what the main driver of the low costs is, though: much better software than legacy publishers are using, which minimises the human input needed for mechanical tasks. Editors are not paid anything that I know of — indeed, that is very much the exception rather than the rule in STM publishing generally, and when there is payment at all it’s below minimum wage.

  22. sudesh Kumar Says:

    That is interesting. It will be fun to do some calculations based on PeerJ’s subscription charges. I will get back in a day and you can correct them if they are off the mark.

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