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Open Access Increases Author Misconduct? It is NOT so Simple!

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Recently on Scholarly Open Access dr Jeffrey Beall published a post on authors’ misconduct in OA stating that in his view “open-access publishing enables, facilitates, and increases the rate and occurrence of author misconduct.” I could not disagree more with this statement.

Dr Beall provided few examples of plagiarism that appeared in Open Access publications. These examples lead to a harsh conclusion, supported by an assertion of the author:

“I also think that authors are more blatant in their misconduct, not caring whether their misconduct eventually gets discovered, preferring only to get the academic credit for their work when it’s published.”

In my opinion these conclusions are far-reaching oversimplifications. First of all, the straight linkage of Open Access with authors’ misconduct and the assertion that Open Access increases risk of that kind of behavior cannot be accepted. Questioning the value of OA because of cases of plagiarism is like questioning the value of science in general, because plagiarism takes place in science too.

I understand that the author refers to “predatory OA journals” which do not always follow the rules of scientific procedures and methodology for acceptance of scientific articles. But that, by itself, does not mean an encouragement to plagiarism.

Plagiarism is the matter of personal and professional ethics and of scientific credibility of researchers. Plagiarism is a phenomenon, which has affected science from the very beginning and had appeared far earlier than Open Access. If someone, seeing ‘a loophole in the system’ decides to take advantage of it, does that mean, that whole system is wrong and corrupted? Does it mean that science too ‘enables, facilitates, and increases the rate and occurrence of author misconduct’? Mistakes in the process of accepting submission for publication occur also non-OA journals.

I do not dispute the fact that from time to time, an unreliable OA publisher makes an appearance, but the potential strength of Open Access lies precisely in the openness of this model, which, as any other form of liberty, carries a risk of abuse. Thanks to openness, detecting abuse may in fact be easier, because the evidence is accessible to all interested parties.  However authors’ misconduct is not a consequence of a particular model of publishing, but of the attitude of the researchers themselves. Those who decide to cheat do not need and do not seek encouragement to do so. If they can find a way to circumvent a system, they will use it.  Neither Open Access nor any other model has anything to do with that.

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  1. I agree with your opinion. Actually, I have written in the Beall’s blog as a response of his overgeneralisation conclusion about open access. Unfortunately, he did not approve my reply. I do not know why. Besides I strongly agree with him that predatory publishers should be handled seriously by academic communities, but this is not in the case and idea of the open access principle.

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