A dubious predatory academic publisher called Open Access Publishing London (OAPL) seems to have died. Their website has gone down, taking some 1,500 scientific papers with it. What can we learn from this? (UPDATED: The site is now back online, and no longer gives a ‘domain expired’ notice. It was down for about two weeks by my count.)
Long-time readers will remember my series of posts on OAPL back from when I first investigated it in 2013. As far as I can tell, it was a one-man operation. The man turned out to be a Dr. Waseem Jerjes. Jerjes is a dental surgeon with many legitimate research papers to his name, and he was formerly editor of a journal for well-known publishers BioMed Central (BMC).
OAPL published dozens of journals on their now-defunct website, from OA Anaesthetics to OA Women’s Health. These journals claimed to be peer-reviewed and some boasted well-known researchers on their editorial boards.
Eventually, the OAPL story went cold. By early 2015, the OAPL site was no longer being updated. Some researchers who’d had papers accepted by OAPL journals in the final few months were left in the lurch by this, their manuscripts lost in limbo. At that point, however, papers that had been published were still accessible.
Now, the OAPL website hosts nothing more than a ‘domain name expired’ message and a series of links to things like “Bass Fishing Trips Near Me”. All those papers – over 1,500 if I recall correctly – have just been un-published. Vanished. The journals that published these papers no longer exist.
Fortunately, many of the lost papers are still available elsewhere online, e.g. on the author’s own webpage, or on mirroring services such as SemanticScholar.org. However, some papers seem to have fallen through the cracks and, with no mirrors, they really have vanished. For example, a Google Scholar citation is all that remains of this one:
It would be wrong to think that none of this matters because OAPL were never a serious publisher. Although OAPL did publish some dreadful papers, most of their output seemed to be serious work from legitimate researchers. These innocent researchers are the victims here. They paid money for OAPL to publish their work, and now it’s gone.
This case also raises interesting questions about the nature of academic publication. Can the former OAPL papers still be considered “published work”, if they are nowhere to found in any publication? Will anyone really miss the lost papers – or have they already become ‘too old’ to bother reading in today’s fast-paced science world? Does anyone read papers, anyway?
As for OAPL, I’m sure they’re not the first publisher to vanish and they surely won’t be the last, but it doesn’t seem right to allow papers, trusted into your care by the authors, to just disappear. Then again, what do I know? I’m no expert on ethics – unlike, say, Waseem Jerjes, who recently edited a book about “Research Integrity and Publication Ethics.”