This blog post is a review of the article:
Nwagwu, W. E. (2016). Open access in the developing regions: Situating the altercations about predatory publishing. Canadian Journal of Information and Library Science, 40(1), 58–80.
Summary: (Nwagwu 2016) is a very weak article that (1). Includes significant errors of fact; (2). Includes unattributed text and tables that match text and tables from previously-published articles; and (3). Poorly analyzes the status quo of scholarly open-access publishing.
I received a Google alert when this article was published and read it soon after, but I found the article flawed and disappointing. I ask that the journal investigate the findings I share here and take appropriate action.
After I read the article, I emailed the editor of the Canadian Journal of Information and Library Science, Dr. Valerie M. Nesset of SUNY Buffalo, and asked whether I could submit a response to the article to be published in the journal. She responded that any response had to be submitted as a regular article and pass through peer review.
I found this requirement problematic for two reasons. First, the journal’s peer reviewers missed several significant errors in (Nwagwu 2016), so I concluded they must be incompetent and didn’t want to spend my time waiting on their subpar analysis. Second, I’ve learned that, these days, whenever I submit a paper to a “progressive” library science journal, the peer reviewers recognize me as the author and make unreasonable demands, like requiring that I rework my submission to highlight the “noble aspirations” of gold open-access, a publishing model I’ve documented as seriously flawed.
I wrote back to the editor, informing her that the one option was unsuitable. My next plan was to use PubPeer to point out the paper’s flaws and apparent overlap with earlier articles, but I encountered a significant setback: the article lacked a DOI, a standard identifier that’s a requirement for commenting on papers in PubPeer.
How strange, I thought: a library science journal published in 2016 that doesn’t even bother to use standard identifiers. I emailed a contact at Project Muse, the platform that hosts the Canadian Journal of Information and Library Science, to inquire about this and found they were as surprised as I was.
It turns out that the journal used to assign DOIs to its published articles, but for unknown reasons the identifiers stopped being assigned and published after the last 2014 issue. I was the first to notice and report the failure. They are investigating it.
So, I decided to publish my review of the article here.
First, errors of fact.
The paper says, “At the last count in August, 2012, Beall had already identified 136 predatory publishing houses …” (p. 59). At last count in 2012? Why use four-year old data? The blog is constantly updated, and it’s easy to determine the number of publishers on my list. The article has references from at least one paper published in 2014, so there’s no reason the author couldn’t have used more recent data.
On page 60. Nwagwu says, “Methodologically this article is an opinion type …”. Huh? Since when did opinion become a “methodology”?
The author misspells my first name (p. 61) and my surname (p. 63). The names are spelled correctly elsewhere, so I’m surprised the peer reviewers and copyeditors (if there were any) missed these inconsistencies.
The author mistakenly reports that the publisher Hindawi is on my list (p. 64 and p. 73).
The author blunders and completely misunderstands a tongue-in-cheek blog post by M. Eisen. Nwagwu writes:
Eisen created a manuscript that claimed something extraordinary, namely that he had discovered a species of bacteria that uses arsenic in its DNA instead of phosphorus. According to him, he made the science so egregiously bad that no competent peer reviewer would have accepted it.
In fact, Eisen never wrote any such manuscript, and he even admits in the blog post Nwagwu cites (“OK – this isn’t exactly what happened. I didn’t actually write the paper”).
Nwagwu completely misunderstands Eisen’s blog post, and the journal’s clueless editorial board members completely missed the error.
Second, re-publication of unattributed text. I shall refer to two of Nwagwu’ earlier papers, both published in 2015, and each one written with a different co-author. The two papers are:
Nwagwu, W. E., & Ojemeni, O. (2015). Penetration of Nigerian predatory biomedical open access journals 2007-2012: A bibiliometric study. Learned Publishing, 28(1), 23–34. http://doi.org/10.1087/20150105
Nwagwu, W. E., & Onyancha, B. (2015). Back to the beginning: The journal is dead, long live science. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 41(5), 669–679. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2015.06.005
(Nwagwu 2016) has this text on pages 64-65:
The highlighted text matches content that was previously published in (Nwagwu & Onyancha 2015):
(Screenshots above from p. 673 and 672). The 2016 paper does not cite the earlier articles that contain the matching text.
Third, re-publication of unattributed data.
The 2016 paper contains these tables:
I found tables containing the same data in (Nwagwu & Ojemeni 2015):
The submission guidelines for the Canadian Journal of Information and Library Science state,
All articles must be the author’s original work, previously unpublished, and not being reviewed for publication with another journal.
Final point: in (Nwagwu 2016), the author writes glowingly about the potential of scholarly publishing and open-access in Africa, yet he chooses to publish his own article in a toll-access, North America-based journal. This is another example of “Everyone should publish in open-access journals, but I should be able to publish in a respected subscription journal.”
To conclude, (Nwagwu 2016) is full of factual errors, contains unattributed text and data matching content published previously yet presented as original, and is, overall, a shallow analysis.