Date Published: September 23, 2015


There has been some recent discussion about what it means to be a predatory journal, and who suffers as a result of these unscrupulous behaviors. And, while publishers bask under the safety of the illusion of a free market, Institutional Repositories are criticized for posting the manuscript version of articles with proper citation but without the specific publisher’s unique requirements, even after a 12 month embargo.

While trying to further the positive impact of spreading knowledge created at our higher education institutions, repository managers spend a great deal of time checking copyright, applying metadata and adding publisher’s approved statements to articles so readers are fully aware of the original place of publication. We do this because it makes articles more useful, but also because publishers demand it on their often lengthy, shifting, and unique set of requirementsfor publishing in repositories.

This is partially why, this spring, when colleagues found their article “Building Library Community Through Social Media” indexed in Google Scholar but pointing to a copy in ProQuest behind a paywall, I felt a particular frustration.

The author’s felt similarly frustrated and expressed it on Twitter. ProQuest replied on Twitter stating that “ProQuest provides many types of content, including OA.” Which would be acceptable if they left the content OPEN. They also state that “Our goal is to simplify the workflow for our users, to avoid looking in multiple places for quality content.” Which is interesting because we found this link on the popular site Google Scholar which does a pretty good job of simplifying the search workflow. And, because the article is already easily found through its original open access publication in LITA.

Further, ProQuest asked that our author “Please DM your contact details if you’d like to talk with us.” Maybe they thought that making a public (Twitter) conversation private would be a nice analogy of their actions around the article.

ProQuest failed to link to the published version. Their citation:

Building Library Community Through Social Media Young, Scott W H; Rossmann, Doralyn. Information Technology and Libraries (Online)34.1 (Mar 2015): 20-37. )

You will note that there is no DOI. And ,they are creating HTML versions of the ITAL articles, which, if you manage to get behind the paywall, omit all non-textual material (images, charts, graphs, etc.). This is very troubling.

I helped my colleague write a response to ProQuest that outlined our concerns, below.

My library colleagues, who are active advocates of open publication, are left frustrated with ProQuest. And while we remain hopeful that current (and future) open access library journals continue to provide options for open publication, that does not fix the issue at hand: ProQuest’s unethical indexing. ProQuest has not added a DOI to the citation in question or changed their practice in any visible way based on this interaction. If one definition of predatory is “seeking to exploit others”, then I would bet that ProQuest fits that pretty well.

NOTE: Some issues with the web indexing from the journal Information Technology and Libraries(ITAL) lead to the ProQuest version being the first search result for a few weeks. [Of the 7 versions currently available through Google Scholar, 6 link to the ITAL page or directly to the .pdf of their article from the ITAL page.] Although ProQuest’s unethical linking practice is now muted by the availability of the open access versions of the paper, the exchange should be a call to arms for OA options to flood the market where there clearly is a need and for authors to speak up when their content is hidden behind a paywall for commercial gain [without their permission].

The email exchange:


Dear [ProQuest],

I write to you in response to the following exchange I had recently with the ProQuest Twitter account.

The following article is available through a fully Open Access publication, which means that it is freely available to anyone with internet access.

Subsequent to publication, this article has been indexed by ProQuest and is currently made available through ProQuest, though it is behind a paywall with standard options for access to subscription content. This is troubling, as the content is available through an Open Access journal that is not routinely indexed by ProQuest.

When ProQuest replied on Twitter that they provide access to content, including OA, it is as if you confuse OA with a topic, like Economics or Biofilm. Open Access is about the freely available use are reuse of knowledge, which ProQuest’s paywall actively denies.

This is, in part, the justification for the CC-BY 3.0 license attached to this publication which allows for reuse contingent of attribution of authorship. Your use falls within this license mostly, although I would argue that the lack of a link back to the original posting is improper attribution: you have posted an incomplete citation with this article.

Reposting a freely-available article behind a paywall is poor practice. Your response on Twitter stated that “Our goal is to simplify the workflow for our users, to avoid looking in multiple places for quality content”, yet picking one article from a journal issue and posting it for subscription access does not seem to work in favor of that “simplification,” but rather adds to potential confusion for a researcher who finds yet another source for this article.

In light of this situation, I have a few questions: How did ProQuest come to index this particular article? Why does the citation on ProQuest’s preview page not include a link to the original posting? How does ProQuest justify reposting a freely-available article
behind a paywall?

Please help me better understand this situation. 

Thank you for your time addressing this matter.  I look forward to your response.

The response from ProQuest:

Thank you for your patience and the time you’ve allowed me to ensure that I was providing you accurate details in my reply.

The journal Information Technology and Libraries has been indexed in Library and Information Science Abstracts (LISA) from ProQuest and its predecessors since 1968, when it appeared in print as the Journal of Library Automation. To make this information more apparent, we have asked our sister company Ulrich’s to update their coverage details, and will also request the journal’s publisher, the American Library Association, include this information on its publication site.

ProQuest includes many open access titles in our databases. Where the full text is made available inside the ProQuest platform, this is always through a formal license agreement with the publisher. In the case of Information Technology and Libraries, we have been licensing the full text from the American Library Association since 1987 and continued to license the journal after it moved to the new open access, online-only format in 2012. It’s an important title and widely used by researchers, who are accustomed to finding it within the ProQuest platform.

ProQuest is a key resource within the scholarly workflow and we have found that inclusion of high quality OA content in ProQuest boosts its dissemination and discovery by the academic community. Our goal is not to hide OA content behind paywalls, but to integrate it so that it’s discovered in context with other relevant scholarly content. We use end-users as our guides for decisions such as these, consulting usability studies that we conduct and also those from organizations focused on the research workflow.

We fully understand and appreciate your perspective on the matter of linking to the original version. It’s a thorny issue as there are no industry standards for citing articles appearing in open access journals, and the entire community is adapting to an OA landscape that is changing rapidly.   Here at ProQuest, we are evaluating and testing models that work for publishers, authors, as well as libraries and their patrons. Please know the feasibility of linking to author versions is of prime concern.

I hope this answers your questions and concerns. I’m happy to discuss this further.