More Controversy Over Open-Access Publisher MDPI

Entropy is an open-access journal published by MDPI, the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, based in Basel, Switzerland.

The journals were formerly published by the organization Molecular Diversity Preservation International, until it created the open-access publisher using the same initials, MDPI, as a separate entity. The original MDPI is a .org, and the new one is a .com.

MDPI is not included on my list of predatory publishers. However, I do regularly receive email inquiries about it, an indication that some find its practices suspicious.

I published an article with them once in their journal Future Internet. The article processing charges were waived. I found it strange that the journal asked me to submit names of reviewers for my paper. They didn’t use the editorial board to review it.

The publisher.

Controversy

The article “Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases,” recently published in Entropy, has generated some controversy. The Discover Magazine blog Collide-a-Scape published a post entitled When Media Uncritically Cover Pseudoscience.  The blog states,

“The paper is by two authors with dubious credentials and is such a mashup of pseudoscience and gibberish that actual scientists have been unable to make sense of it. As one of them also noted, the paper is published in a “low-tier pay-for-play journal.”

The blog post was written after a Reuters reporter wrote a story based on the paper. The reporter accepted the paper as fact, apparently without doing any original reporting.

The paper claims that the the chemical glyphosate — found in the herbicide Roundup — is linked to multiple common diseases including “inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, depression, ADHD, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, multiple sclerosis, cancer, cachexia, infertility, and developmental malformations.” The controversy is described in the Wikipedia article on the journal. Entropy has an impact factor of 1.183.

Some progressive groups, accepting the article as fact, have used it in their discourse. One example is the website Nation of Change, which covered the article in their news section. Other groups, such as Common Dreams, used the story in a similar fashion. This is an example of how political policymakers can be victims of questionable science.

MDPI is no stranger to controversial articles. See here, here, and here for information on earlier controversies.

One of the definitions for the word entropy given by Wictionary is “The tendency of a system that is left to itself to descend into chaos.” We may be witnessing this process occurring presently with MDPI.

See also:

Is glyphosate poisioning everyone? / by Derek Lowe.

Hat tip: Bruce Toman

35 Responses to More Controversy Over Open-Access Publisher MDPI

  1. Frank says:

    It is not unusual in engineering for journals to ask authors for potential reviewers.

    What is unusual here is where is entropy involved in the subject of the paper? Without creating too much entropy on my own, I see no reference to entropy, irreversibility, chaos or related concepts. Shouldn’t this paper be published in a biomed journal? Or no?

  2. DW says:

    Very much appreciate your work. Just a quick note, it is very common in medicine for journals (even the best) to ask authors to suggest reviewers. They don’t necessarily use the reviewers the authors recommend, however. I think it’s done to increase their own bank of reviewers to draw on.

    • Tobias Jeppsson says:

      The same goes for journals in ecology – it is almost standard practice to ask for suggested reviewers.

  3. Nils says:

    I received two unsolicited mails by that publisher, inviting me to contribute to some “special issue”. While I have no particular reason to suspect that publisher of being predatory, I could not help noticing that
    – the journal in question is only remotely related to my area of expertise
    – the journal uses the pyramid-like scheme of hiring guest editors, who are in charge of soliciting further contributors
    – the only two people in the editorial board I know are a colleague who plainly accepts invitations indiscriminately, as he also belongs to the boards of some very dubious publications… and a heavily advertised Nobel laureate; I wonder whether he is aware of his luck?

    Needless to say, I never reply to that kind of query.

    • Martin says:

      Almost all new journals use associate editors and guest editors to solicit papers and recruit authors for the journal, whether they are open access or subscription based, and weather they are commercial or non-profit. Subscription and open access journals need to be held to the same standard.

  4. Davide Ciucci says:

    I am currently doing a review for this journal and I found no problems except the very limited time they give (which can however be negotiated).

  5. Ifraeem says:

    Mr. Beall, if someone ask you about any journal it does not mean that he is asking due to journal’s predatory activities. Many people ask just for a second opinion. Ok………. Now tell me what do you think about these journals, i am evaluating them nowadays: jbsq.org and http://www.mecs-press.org/journals.html

    Inform me asap by replying in comments.

    • I don’t see any major problems with this publisher. It appears that they are open access but don’t charge article processing fees at this time. I did see a couple small examples of plagiarism and self-plagiarism. The publisher requires copyright transfer. The papers bear a copyright statement but are open access. I will not be adding this publisher to my list at this time. It looks like they are putting in much effort to operate professionally.

  6. bcohen99 says:

    What is most troubling is reading that a Reuters reporter sees what he/she thinks is a mainstream scientific journal, but does no further journalistic research to find out if that assumption is accurate. Nowadays, an apparent scientific journal can actually operate
    more like a magazine, except for charging the authors instead of paying the authors.

  7. Tomasz Leski says:

    Some of my colleagues publish papers with their Sensors journal, which seems to be a decent journal with more than 10 years of history (with rather modest impact factor around 2). However MDPI recently expanded and added a huge number of new journals with very uninspiring titles (e.g. Atoms, Computers, Climate, Cosmetics, Diseases, Fibers, Galaxies, Laws, Machines, Microorganisms, Proteomes, Risks, Toxics, Vaccines), which have little or no content. Looks like they are out to make more money taking advantage of a few decent titles they inherited from previous publisher.

  8. Ifraeem says:

    The Journal of Multivariate Analysis has retracted a paper it was never meant to publish — a problem, it seems, of multivariate analyses.

    The article, titled “Regression estimation with locally stationary long-memory errors,” came from a pair of statisticians in Chile, Wildredo Palma and Guillermo Ferreira.

    This article has been retracted at the request of the Editor-in-Chief, who noted an administrative error. The EiC accidentally accepted while the reviewers’ recommendation was to reject. We apologize that this was not detected during the submission and review process.

    Mr. Beall there are mistakes from well reputed journals too, wolud you call this journal by Elsevier a predatory journal?

    • Martin says:

      I think that this was a bad but honest mistake, but there are other Elsevier journals that are predatory. For example, they have published journals with the look of scientific peer-reviewed that were completely funded by pharmaceutical companies [http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/27383/title/Elsevier-published-6-fake-journals/]. There are other Elsevier journals that have formal peer-review, but that publish pretty much everything in order to increase article volume enough to warrant their high subscription prices. The important thing is to hold subscription based publishers to the same excellent and important standards that Mr Beall has set for open access publishers.

  9. We invite scientists, who consider an article published by MDPI to be problematic, to submit their findings and position directly to the Editorial Office of the concerned journal (in this case: entropy@mdpi.com). We will review the feedback and share it with both the authors and editors of the journal. We treat all feedback with utmost respect, and suggestions for improvement are always welcome.

    MDPI performs a standardized (single) blind peer-review process on all articles. The peer-review is organized by our in-house staff under the supervision of an academic editor (usually the Editor-in-Chief of a journal). We solely rely on senior scholars for peer-reviewing the manuscripts submitted to MDPI journals. We have appropriate controls in place to avoid any publication of manuscripts without acceptance by reviewers and the academic editors. The final decision to publish a paper is taken by our Guest Editors and Editors-in-Chief, which have no financial or material incentive to either reject or accept papers, other than the desire to progress science. The review article mentioned within this blog was submitted to MDPI as part of a Special Issue for Entropy in January 2013, and was published in April 2013 after the completion of our standard process. The Special Issue was titled “Biosemiotic Entropy: Disorder, Disease, and Mortality”. It should be noted here that this is a review paper, and not an original article.

    We reject the comment added to this post suggesting the “journal uses the pyramid-like scheme of hiring guest editors”, as this insinuates we are hiring guest editor to exploit others. Guest Editors work for MDPI on an honorary basis to progress scholarly research in their field of expertise. MDPI does not pay guest editors, and relies on the goodwill and support of the community.

    We would like to add: if all scholars were concerned with publishing “non-controversial” and “conformant” research, we would miss out on much discourse and, in some cases, progress. We are aware that there are many opinions out there, and the Internet provides a forum for anyone to voice their opinion (in contrast to the peer-reviewed article). You refer to three other ‘controversial’ articles published by MDPI: not all the 25’000 articles published by us in the last 17 years have come under scrutiny, however we are always open to feedback, and would like to reiterate that readers can always reach out to us via our website with their concerns.

    • Dietrich Rordorf says:

      Dear Jeffrey,

      Here some news related to another recent “controversial” paper published in Entropy: http://www.nature.com/news/space-plasmas-share-a-secret-1.13159

      By the way, the title of this blog post “More Controversy Over Open-Access Publisher MDPI” is not correct. It should read “Controversy Over An Article Published in Entropy” or similar. There has not been any controversy over MDPI.

      Best,
      Dietrich

    • Jeffrey Boore says:

      I’d add that if controversy, unconventional results, overturned conclusions, or even retracted papers are the measures that undermine the value of a journal, how would we rate Nature and Science?

  10. gggpimentel says:

    Dear Jeffrey Beall,

    We have a doubt. We were invited for a submission on http://scholarly-journals.com. Considering the possibility of a chance for a publication, perhaps your sir could say something about this particularly journal. We found out odd this invitation.

    Guga Pimentel & Ernesto Bueno.

    • Nils says:

      You don’t have to wait for an invitation to get a “chance for a publication”. Do some serious research, write a good paper, and send it to an appropriate journal. No need to waste it on a predatory publisher.

    • That publisher is on my list, so I recommend that you avoid them and find a better one.

  11. Wayne Dawson says:

    Maybe journal editors should ask “who are your enemies”? It would help reduce the volume of papers I have to read.

    Actually, as I recall, even Nature asks for suggested referees during a submission. A journal has no obligation to use them, but fair peer review does require impartial scientific evaluation.

    The story behind the Nobel Prize winning (Lord) DeBroglie’s two page PhD thesis was that the committee urged him to publish in a very obscure journal. Copernicus published posthumously and I’m sure that was not the top name publisher of the day in Italy.

    Caveat emptor applies to all published work, even that in Nature. Obscure journals have long been an important forum for original ideas. Open access make information available and accessible to everyone in the world. In the past, these would have been the obscure journals. Unlike in the past, open access means anyone can download and evaluate the claims of an author whether it is accessed in Stanford Library or in Logos Nigeria and whether this is a scholar or a garbage man.

    Nevertheless, Open access journals will probably have to evolve to some extent because some authors and journals may be abusing this privilege of a free flow of useful information and ideas.

  12. ED says:

    I have reviewed for and published with MDPI, and while I think there is always room for improvement, I agree with Jeffrey Beall that they are “putting in much effort to operate professionally.” In my experience, editors and staff were responsive, and the review process was rigorous. On the other hand, I once reviewed a submission to an MDPI journal and found that it was almost entirely plagiarized, indicating that at least some authors consider MDPI to be a potential venue for peddling such wares. Use of anti-plagiarism software prior to review is something I would strongly recommend to MDPI or any other publisher.

    • Martin says:

      That is great to you were able to detect the problem and stop the paper. Unfortunately, all journals are not that vigilant and responsive regarding plagiarism. A section of a paper of mine was once plagiarized in an article published by the journal Epidemiology. I don’t blame the reviewers for this, as it is an easy thing to miss. I do blame the journal though. When my colleague and first author requested an erratum to be published, with a citation to our plagiarized paper, the editor agreed that it was plagiarism but refused to publish the erratum. Instead, he simply sent a letter to the authors asking them not to do that again.

  13. […] Da Jeffrey Beale, un caso sul quale m’informo meglio, semmai ne scrivo su Oggi scienza o qui, e la storia […]

  14. […] Rivista dell’editoria predona. Si paga per pubblicare  in open access, per esempio, sette articoli di Senneff nel numero […]

  15. […] Rivista dell’editoria predona. Si paga per pubblicare  in open access, per esempio, sette articoli di Senneff nel numero […]

  16. roryrobertsonformerfattie says:

    Readers, I have another paper to add to the MDPI shamefile: the clownish Australian Paradox paper, published in 2011 in a “Special Issue” of the MDPI publication “Nutrients” http://www.australianparadox.com

    The publication of the obviously faulty paper with a spectacularly false conclusion was overseen by an influential University of Sydney lead author operating as “Guest Editor” of the “Special Issue”: http://www.mdpi.com/journal/nutrients/special_issues/carbohydrates

    Despite major errors in the paper including a reliance on falsified data, the Editor-in-Chief of Nutrients Professor Peter Howe wrote an Editorial against me – http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/4/4/258 – as he allowed his unreliable authors/”Guest Editor” to restate their self-published nonsense in a fluffy, factually incorrect rebuttal that did not address the substance of my correct critique: http://www.smh.com.au/business/pesky-economist-wont-let-big-sugar-lie-20120725-22pru.html

    Seeking the correction or retraction of the University of Sydney’s obviously faulty Australian Paradox paper has been a saga, leading to what I see as strong evidence of research misconduct, featuring “persistent negligence” (including in the handling of falsified data), mismanaged conflicts of interest (pro-sugar business) and false information pro-sugar promoted on the public record, in the critical debate on the origins of obesity and type 2 diabetes, together the greatest public health challenge of our times:

    x http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/AustParadoxfalsifieddata.pdf

    x http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/22Slideshowaustraliangoestoparadoxcanberrafinal.pdf

    x http://www.smh.com.au/national/health/research-causes-stir-over-sugars-role-in-obesity-20120330-1w3e5.html

    x http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/health-science/a-spoonful-of-sugar-is-not-so-bad/story-e6frg8y6-1226090126776

    Any thoughts, anyone? Please be very critical of me if you think I have my facts wrong or am being unreasonable in any way.

    • Dietrich Rordorf says:

      Dear Rory,

      It is up to the authors’ university to commission an investigation into your claims of potentially falsified data. If the Publisher receives an official note from either the university or the academic editor to retract the paper, the paper will be taken down. Note that MDPI is an adhering member to COPE – the Commission on Publication Ethics – and that we strictly operate according to industry standards. We can not simply retract papers based on blog posts.

      Kind regards,
      Dietrich Rordorf

    • Wayne Dawson says:

      I’m not highly persuaded of a paradox, but a large number of processed foods have trans-fats and corn syrup. With many people consuming fast foods (rich in trans-fats) and parents taking the easy way by feeding kids these processed foods, the current situation is probably caused by trans-fats, more than sugar per se: though there are surely many issues with sugar as well.

  17. H.R. says:

    What is clear is that you don’t have much experience publishing, many of the most important and reputable journals may ask you for suggestions of reviewers for your paper. Shame on you that we such a little experience in academia you dare to make a comment of a decent journal publisher that is trying to build its reputation and with 10% of its journals with good ISI impact factors. I wish all open access journals were like MDPI. And to use Entropy, one of their flag journals, to discredit them…

  18. […] wrote a blog post in May, 2013 (as did other writers) describing a questionable article about the chemical glyphosate […]

  19. […] and vaccine opponent. She published a paper in Entropy, a journal that is in the process of being delegitimized. It made me wonder: what does author affiliation mean these […]

  20. Thank you very much for this post, Jeffrey. This article got me thinking about author affiliation, and I emailed MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory to see what they think of one of their researchers publishing in Entropy. I don’t know if you’re interested in what they have to say, but I can let you know when I hear back from them, if you like.

  21. pooja says:

    I my self its real true that this is absolutely Country based Publishers. even the worst papers they are accepted in short time.
    very very few papers form the other country they are welcoming.
    really worst review process.

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