It’s just a known and accepted fact about the internet that there are trolls everywhere. If you post a video of your six-year-old’s dance recital on YouTube, someone out there invariably will down-vote it and make a rude remark in the comments section. There is almost an air of acceptance about the process, a sentiment that users understand that putting content on the internet opens the door to people hiding behind computer screens and spreading negativity, and there’s not much that can be done about it.
One publisher, however, is taking a stand against what it claims is a troll-like level of criticism from an online grump. The problem is, the so-called grump has spent years collecting and gathering data on the subjects he disparages on his blog, and can fairly-well back up his accusations of less-than-honorable business practices aimed at taking money from scholars at institutions of higher education.
In an article by Jake New for The Chronicle of Higher Education, the plight of one University of Colorado – Denver librarian was exposed. Indian publisher OMICS Publishing Group, who claims to publish around 200 scholarly journals, is suing the librarian for $1 billion and threatening him with criminal prosecution, which they claim under Indian law can result in up to three years in prison.
The metadata librarian in question, Jeffrey Beall, has been featured in prominent journals and newspapers for his work on his site, Scholarly Open Access, which exposes publishers and journals who may be operating under false pretenses or bad business practices. Beall’s site has come to be known as “Beall’s List” within higher education circles for its accuracy and comprehensive depictions of academic publishers.
At the university level, the pressure to publish one’s work is incredibly high, and publishers are available to charge a professor or researcher thousands of dollars just to be able to state that his work is published. Beall has written about OMICS’ practices of using prominent people’s names without permission, their charge of as much as $3,000 to publish one’s research, and hosting sham conferences whose names are misleadingly close to real and prestigious events.
For its part, the publisher claims that Beall’s information is completely unfounded and is suing for the potential damage he can cause their company. The group also claims that under India’s laws, Beall can face a lengthy jail sentence for his “unfounded” accusations; Beall’s attorneys are countering that this is nothing more than a publicity stunt on the part of the publisher, and are taking a stand against the accusations.
Fortunately for Beall, his roles as both the originator of the list and his work as a librarian mean he knows the power of excellent documentation and record preservation, and he counters that he has saved evidence of shady business practices on every publisher he’s ever included on his comprehensive list.