The title of this post is the explanatory subtitle of a very good article that sums up the current state of scholarly publishing and its relationship with open access, in all its complexity.
The article, Some Research Wants to Be Free, Some Follows the Money, is available free in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, a journal published by giant Elsevier.
A few interesting observations:
Some commentators see the effect of the junk journals amplified beyond their actual scale. Biophysicist Cameron Neylon, PhD, advocacy director for PLoS, calls them “relatively small operations” but finds that the scammers’ conduct means that for OA publishing in general, “everyone gets tarred a bit with the same brush … . There’s an awful lot of dodgy behavior happening in subscription space, and people don’t seem to pay any attention to that, but that’s the nature of being the new people on the block.”
The junk publishers, in the PLoS perspective, are “the equivalent of a Nigerian e-mail scam. It’s at that level of sophistication in most cases, and it’s at that level of obviousness. It’s not so much that it’s a real problem; it’s that it is damaging for the industry as a whole.”
Regarding Jeffrey Beall’s list of predatory OA journals:
The binary simplicity of the blacklist, however, calls for caveats. “I would distinguish between low-quality journals and dishonest journals,” cautioned Dr. Suber. “They’re both problems, but they’re separate problems. And the same distinction exists on the subscription side: there are low-quality subscription journals and there are dishonest subscription journals. Some of them are in both categories at the same time. I think Beall’s list doesn’t distinguish low quality from dishonesty.”
From the conclusion:
Suboptimal practices have appeared in OA space, Dr. Neylon suggested, for a host of reasons, many of which are hard to see from inside the existing scientific publication system, eg, the hidden costs built into that system, “the perceived hierarchy of journals and the conservatism that drives the choices of how and where people publish,” the wide variance in the distribution of citations as a measure of how articles are received, the inability of any single publishing format or prestige metric to account for the ways different researchers might find articles useful.
“The biggest barrier to achieving the potential of open access,” he summarized, “is researchers ourselves.” The rise of opportunistic publishers may be a source of inadvertent heuristics, a visible symptom of a communication system awkwardly adjusting to needs that its insiders are only slowly beginning to recognize.