RIP OAPL: An Academic Publisher Vanishes (UPDATED)

By Neuroskeptic | October 15, 2018 2:08 pm

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.)

rip_oapl

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 By early 2015, the OAPL site was no longer being updated.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:

deadpaper

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.”

CATEGORIZED UNDER: ethics, law, PIE, select, Top Posts
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  • https://youtu.be/6dm5fk84HtU Lee Rudolph

    The Google-Scholar-cited paper is, in fact, available at the Internet Archive, at this URL. It was non-trivial to find (at least for me; I had to start from the information in the Google citation you quoted, trim it down a bit, and pray), and though the Internet Archive also has copies (collected at various dates) of the defunct homepage http://www.oapublishinglondon.com, I couldn’t manage to navigate from there to the required article using only information that I found on the homepage together with the lead author’s name and the title (which were in the citation, unlike the journal name, publication date, volume, etc.—OA Case Reports 2013 Aug 08;2(8):72, according to the PDF available at the first URL above).

    I agree that the situation is deplorable, but it is not perhaps entirely unsalvageable by the afflicted authors, no thanks to their publisher.

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/ Neuroskeptic

      Interesting… thanks!

  • smut clyde

    I’m no expert on ethics – unlike, say, Waseem Jerjes, who recently edited a book about “Research Integrity and Publication Ethics.”

    Inquiring minds are wondering whether Kugler Publications charged him and his co-editors.

  • FSE

    > Can the former OAPL papers still be considered “published work”, if they are nowhere to found in any publication?

    In days of old, publications were exclusively made of paper, and they occasionally went out of print. That inevitably meant that some publications, for all practical purposes, were inaccessible.

    Listing a publication on your CV was no guarantee that anyone could actually read the publication, and nobody gave it a second thought.

    And I suspect that in this case, most of the authors probably still have a version of the OA paper somewhere on their laptop. It’s not really “lost” if you can simply ask the author for a copy.

    • Chris Preston

      Except that in the old days a physical version of the defunct journal would exist in libraries. This would enable any one who wished to read it, either by going to the library or by inter-library loan.

      The disappearing website is a risk in paying to have your paper in a predatory joirnal. OAPL is not the only predatory publisher that has stopped publishing, so I expect this to happen again.

  • completecourse

    This is an early manifestation of the Digital Dark Age–i.e., the present age as seen from the future, when most of the world’s previously-published digital content will no longer be readable or obtainable, or even exist. We still have copies of some of the earliest journals published in the 1600s, and we still have books published or hand-copied centuries before that. But how much of today’s digital content will be available 400 years from now?

  • Chris Mebane

    The durability of articles published by mainstream subscription-based outfits can also be a problem. Kluwer published the “Journal of Aquatic Ecosystem Stress and Recovery” from 1992 to 2002, ending about the time Kluwer was absorbed by Springer. The journal website said it was continued as Hydrobiologia, which is a much larger, broader scope journal published continuously since 1948. My library subscribes to Hydrobiologia, but when I asked why I couldn’t access the articles from the “continued as” ‘Stress and Recovery’ journal, I was told that it would require purchasing a separate subscription. Who is going to pay for a subscription to a defunct journal? While the articles still exist locked away in some crevice in Springer’s paywall dungeon, those 303 articles are effectively lost to science.

  • Raion

    I am not recieving a domain name expired message. When I use your link, I am primarily taken to a 403 forbidden page, though occassionally I reach the OPAL site. When I google the pharse “OA publishing london” and click on the first result to their site, I have no difficulty accessing it. I wonder if there is a server error? If the domain was expired (I’m just reading your post now), who has it now?

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/ Neuroskeptic

      Ah! They’re back to life then. The site was down for about two weeks I think because it was offline for a few days before I put up this post.

      I will update the post

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Neuroskeptic is a British neuroscientist who takes a skeptical look at his own field, and beyond. His blog offers a look at the latest developments in neuroscience, psychiatry and psychology through a critical lens.

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