Guest Editing a Special Issue with MDPI: Evidences of Questionable Actions by the Publisher

MDPI

The publisher.

Note: I received the message below from a scientist who served as a guest editor for a so-called special issue of one of the many MDPI journals. The message comments on and describes the scientist’s experience working with MDPI, a publisher included on my list. The statement was endorsed by  interviews with other guest editors involved in recent special issues. The scientist has asked to remain anonymous.

I recently read your post about MDPI’s “special” issues and decided to contact you to explain why MDPI is a questionable publisher by all means.

Unfortunately, I realized that while serving as guest editor in one of their special issues…

As a young scientist, I received an email a while back from the publisher inviting me to guest edit a special issue in one of their journals. I thought it weird, but they said they would do all the work on my behalf, so I thought again: Why not? … and accepted the invitation.

Soon after the website of the special issue was launched, they sent me an extensive mailing-list of authors that they were going to invite (more than 500!)… and a few days later, when I asked, I received the news that all invitations were already sent…so I thought, WOW how efficient they are!

That intrigued me, so I decided to take a look again on the mailing-list and check the record of some authors (since most of them I never heard about); to my surprise, most of them had absolutely nothing to do with the field of the special issue. I immediately asked the editorial office who was responsible for selecting the names, and how they were “selected”. The answer was astonishing:

The names were “selected” from the Web of Science Core Collection, based on some keywords (those that you find in each website of a special issue) during the last 5 years… so the selection process is completely random. The output is a list with the last name and the email of the corresponding authors (these lists may be composed of 500, 1000, 2000 or even more contacts). After that, they have a software that send all invitations at once! As I noted, no checking is done (they just grab the list and send the invitations through the software) !!!

That’s why they send massive emails… and that’s why most authors receive invitations that have nothing to do with their expertise. Their names were randomly picked by a software, based in a keyword match!

I was quite embarrassed with the situation, but as I have accepted the invitation, I could not step down at that stage… so I waited to see the result. As I was expecting, only a few authors submitted (poor quality) manuscripts…all completely unknown in the field… all Chinese or from weird universities. I just knew that at the final stage, because the own editorial office selects the reviewers (the selection process is the same as previously informed for the authors).

After the experience, I also realized that the EiC never was informed about the special issue or its development (not a single cc email to him). Even during the initial phase, on discussing the topic of the issue, all my conversations were only with the Chinese assistant editor, which is the real editor of the journal (the EiC is just a figurative name, who accepted the position because the publisher does all the “work” — in fact, a Chinese employee from MDPI with no scientific expertise does all the work). Well, if the EiC does nothing, what to say about the editorial board? So, although MDPI has an office in Switzerland (probably because of the easy way to open a company there), all work is done by low level Chinese employees, with no scientific expertise, trained only to keep the machinery running.

So, it is evident that most of the EiCs and board members from MDPI journals are not aware on how the journals they are supposed to be leading are indeed being “developed”, which explains why there are so many problems. e.g. beyond the low quality of the authors in each issue (which may be called opportunistic authors), it is common to publish papers not related to the issue. Basically, the editorial office sent random invitations and anyone who suggest anything will be guest editing a special issue with them!

I recently also noted that they have a strategy of re-launching the same special issue to give a false impression, so the special issue appears more qualified. Plus, they hide some dead projects (probably to re-launch later, just changing the deadline, as nothing happened before). As you may see, these two hidden special issues (http://www.MDPI.com/journal/genes/special_issues/cancer-gen ; http://www.MDPI.com/journal/genes/special_issues/genomics-aging), are not listed on the journal’s website (http://www.MDPI.com/journal/genes/special_issues).

For example: The deadline for this issue just closed:  But if you see, the first paper was published in 2012!!! So, four years receiving contributions and only 5 papers were published so far!

The same goes for this special issue.

I got examples from Genes because of its particular feature, i.e. this journal has been indexed in Web of Science (as highlighted on its website). This raises the question: why do PubMed and Web of Science index journals from this publisher? As far as I know, PubMed and Web of Science have strict criteria for inclusion on its databases. But, why then these clearly questionable journals are included? As I know, there are journals kicked out of Web of Science because they were manipulating their own citation rate to increase the impact factor. But why Web of Science also does not kick out these journals which are based in all kinds of questionable actions???

It is also interesting how MDPI try to deceive people. Yes, probably all members on their editorial boards accepted the (random) invitation to be there; but none of them does anything (even most of the EiCs, I believe). Yes, MDPI probably perform peer review to all submitted manuscripts; but what about the quality of these peers? Probably, most of them are unknown… that’s was my experience when I checked the referees selected for the papers from my special issue. Sometimes, more than 20 referees were invited, and only (usually two) unknown names accepted. I truly believe they choose (again, randomly) low quality referees, so the papers can be easily accepted; if there are critics, they just have to say: hey, we did peer review (as they already did in several cases)!!!

Also interesting is that the machinery behind their questionable way of profit has been well hidden. I would like to see them explaining to the public how potential authors have been “selected” and how they are invited (i.e. all invitations sent at once by their software). Considering that a single journal like Molecules has so many special issues each month (something over 10!), and MDPI has 137 journals, could you imagine how many invitations are sent by the publisher within a single month?!!!

Of course, the heads of MDPI will certainly deny these facts, as they are used to… probably saying again: “We ensure that messages are directed to researchers who match the scope of the invitation and do not, for example, purchase lists of contacts from third parties”. But the fact is that: the many examples of random emails sent by them, the many published papers not related to the issue, among many other aspects, clearly demonstrate the true nature of MDPI, i.e. a highly questionable publisher.

For these reasons, it will be good to expose the questionable machinery behind MDPI to the scientific community. Probably, most predatory open access publishers do the same.

 

 

 

81 Responses to Guest Editing a Special Issue with MDPI: Evidences of Questionable Actions by the Publisher

  1. I am grateful that this researcher was willing to share his/her experience with MDPI. Although the methods used by MDPI to solicit manuscripts is not surprising, what does surprise me is the continued presence of many of their journal titles in DOAJ.

    • TM says:

      It is well known that DOAJ is not qualified, as they index a lot of predatory journals. What really is surprising is that OASPA, supposed to be a respectable Association, defended this publisher. But after reading this interview with two MDPI people (http://poynder.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/the-open-access-interviews-publisher.html), it is clear to me why!!! OASPA defended this publisher (even considering that there are so many evidences of predatory actions) because MDPI certainly put a lot of money in the game.

      I believe there are enough evidences to re-open that case. If nothing is done by OASPA, it would be clear evidence that the Association is also corrupted.

    • Storm says:

      It is also important to point out that, after attacking and threatening Jeffrey in many ways, MDPI tried to buy him !!! Of course, he ignored the offer (as it is highlighted in that interview http://poynder.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/the-open-access-interviews-publisher.html).

      So, it clear that MDPI try anything, from attacking and threatening till trying to buy you. What a Mafia!!!

      Unfortunately, it seems that well known associations (like DOAJ and OASPA), have accepted the bribe.

    • Grégory says:

      The DOAJ and OASPA consist, at least in part, of questionable publishers themselves, who are not at all involved in open access publishing in the proper sense of the term, but rather in MDPI-style abuse for commercial purposes of the term and publishing practices reminiscent of classic vanity presses (a publisher that demands that its authors pay to publish is a vanity press by definition and it’s the very opposite of the core idea of open access). The fact that a predatory/questionable publisher “meets the membership criteria” of the predatory/questionable publishers’ own organisation is as relevant as when the wolves in sheep’s clothing’s Sheep Association determines that a wolf “meets the sheep criteria.”

      • Grim reaper says:

        Alas, the only thing that these journals want to achieve is an impact factor, because this will keep the profts rolling with the gold OA model, especially from countries like China that remunerate their scientists in hard-core cash based on the IF score of the journal their paper is published in. So, well done (facetiously) MDPI. Materials just scored an IF score of 2.651:
        http://www.mdpi.com/journal/materials
        Therefore, the scientific community MUST hold MDPI accountable for what it has drawn profit from. In your field of study, closely analyze papers post-publication to ensure that no errors exist. This is your duty to the community.

  2. Keith Fraser says:

    “they said they would do all the work on my behalf”

    That seems like kind of a clue to me. Why do so many people accept these sorts of invitations? It sounds like a typical “money for nothing” spam email scam, even without knowing anything about the publisher.

    • JB says:

      Indeed Keith, well pointed!

      Have anyone heard about a high quality publishers sending spam invitations or inviting low quality guest editors? Certainly not, because that’s the feature of predatory publishers, like MDPI, Hindawi and OMICS. They all operate using the same predatory machinery.

      So, with so many high quality OA journals and publishers, why some authors choose these ones to publish their research? Just because their papers would be easily accepted? What about theirs reputation within the scientific community?

      • wkdawson says:

        I don’t have personal experience myself, but someone reputable I worked with some years ago told me that projects like “Annual Review of xxx” also invite people like MDPI does (in reference to me being invited to do guest editing for Entropy), and Annual Review ask the person to do essentially the same things as Entropy asked me to do.

        I cannot understand the person’s attitude, as I would have greatly welcomed the responsibility of being an editor with that series, but at any rate, I simply relate what I was told.

      • John David says:

        How do we know the right open access journals because the few I know to be good are very costly!

      • Correct; this is one of the problems with the open-access model.

      • Manf says:

        John, I would suggest eLife (http://elifesciences.org/about) if you work in Life Sciences.

        There are also journals from SpringerOpen (http://www.springeropen.com/journals), among others.

  3. tleski says:

    Unfortunately, MDPI was able to lure some reputable scientists who (probably unwittingly) are providing legitimacy to the publisher. I was asked repeatedly by my colleagues to contribute manuscripts to a number of special issues of a few different MDPI journals. One of the recent examples, which is especially troubling for me is the special issue of the journal Microorganisms entitled Antibiotic Resistance Mechanisms for which the guest editor is Dr. Laurent Poirel, one of the leading experts in the field. I invariably reject these invitations since I do not trust MDPI, but I am sure there will be many people unaware of poor reputation and shady practices of MDPI, who will be attracted by Dr. Poirel’s name.

    • JB says:

      Tleski, here is another special issue on the same topic i.e. Antibiotic Resistance, but launched by another mdpi journal (http://www.mdpi.com/journal/genes/special_issues/antibiotic-resistance). So, they don’t have any control on the topics. They just launch as many special issues as possible in order to send more predatory invitations.

      Unfortunately, some leading scientists, like Dr. Laurent Poirel, are being deluded by MDPI. I believe they should be alerted of that, because they surely are not aware of the bad reputation of this publisher. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be involved with a predatory journal.

      • wkdawson says:

        At this point, this is straw man fallacy.

        There is not even _one_ single publication there yet, and the statement is this… Let’s break it down….

        “Understanding the rise in antibiotic resistance requires an understanding of the factors that contribute to the mobility of resistance, particularly among Gram-negative bacteria.”

        [Is there a problem here? I guess that we are having a crisis of many antibiotics not working anymore…..]

        “This includes the small mobile genetic elements that capture and mobilise genes, as well as plasmid and other vehicles, and the relationships between them.”

        [Mobile genetic elements include transposons, SINEs, LINEs, and other non-coding RNA. I am not an expert in plasmids, but they are a type of mobile element. Generally, these are rather restricted in eukaryotic cells because they have a nucleus, but the biology of this stuff is a rapidly advancing field and it is very hard to even begin to keep up. One of the major questions is how these things can become resistant so fast. Plasmids sounds like an interesting and plausible mechanism, as far as much understanding goes. I suppose maybe they could be wrong, but cannot say from this.]

        “The effects of antibiotic selection on polymicrobial populations such as the gut microbiome are also important.”

        [There is whole lot of stuff going on in that intestine. That community down there also seem like a good place to consider as a “marketplace” for transfer of genetic information.]

        “In this Special Issue, we aim to deal with the effects of antibiotics at the population level, as well as on individual bacterial cells, and the genetic mobility that determines the ultimate epidemiology and ecology of antibiotic resistance. We welcome submissions (reviews or original articles) that examine genetic ecology and epidemiology of antibiotic resistance, vehicles (resistance plasmids, their antibiotic-susceptible ecological partners and competitors) or antibiotic effects on polymicrobial populations (from wastewater to the gut microbiome). These submissions should be aimed at a biologically literate readership with a general interest in genetics and a desire to better understand the dynamics of antibiotic resistance in highly mobile and recombinant gene pools.”

        [Is there anything wrong particularly here?]

        It could be an interesting issue if they are successful at getting some good people to submit to it.

        At any rate, this argument, as it stands without evidence is simply wrong. They will be watched I am sure, and let’s hope these guest editors take their job seriously, unlike the guest editor who submitted this comment. It is, after all, an opportunity to show the quality of __your work as an editor__.

        As a final note, I do acknowledge, our friend Roy who points out that sometimes MDPI has been a little lax on these matters. There is no doubt that they should watch themselves, and we may have to come back to this at some point in the future if they do heed this.

      • wkdawson says:

        Sorry JB, I misunderstood your point.

        Whether it was wise for the researchers to agree to do a special issue or not, it is the duty of an editor to carry through and do the best job possible. More problematical is not so much what MDPI is doing with introducing very similar special issues in its fleet of journals, rather the unfortunate thing is that the editors may end up having to weed through some very low quality contributions and they may have to go to a lot of work to raise the level.

  4. I co-authored a paper that was in a Special Issue of the MDPI journal Publications (2014, vol 2) on “Misconduct in Scientific Publishing” edited by Grant Steen, a well-respected scientist. My interactions with the EIC were very professional. Our paper was extensively reviewed by referees who were obviously experts in the field (Radiation Biology). We were not asked to pay any fees and there was no indication of a rush to publish as it took several go-rounds and revisions before out paper was finally accepted. I am sorry that others have not had a positive experience with this publisher and I wonder if different of their journals have different modi operandi.

    • Grim Reaper says:

      In fact, this is not completely true. Serious concerns were raised about at least one paper in that special issue by Grant Steen, which took also about 2 years – or more – to develop. A challenge was officially submitted to the journal, as a letter, and the submission got squashed – both by Dr. Steen and by the MPMI management who actually closed down my account to prevent me from resubmitting the letter – to avoid the critical evaluation of the paper that was, as you put it, “peer reviewed”. Fortunately, the discussion and criticisms are openly available at Retraction Watch (see comments section):
      http://retractionwatch.com/2014/01/27/a-rating-system-for-retractions-how-various-journals-stack-up/

  5. hzhill says:

    I co-authored a paper that was included in a Special Issue “Misconduct in Scientific Publishing” edited by Prof R Grant Steen, a well-respected scientist, in the MDPI journal “Publications”. Our paper was extensively reviewed by obvious experts in the field (Radiation Biology) and there was no indication of any rush to publish as it took several months and extensive rewriting before our paper was accepted. We were not charged any fees and our interactions with the EIC were very professional. I wonder if their various journals differ in their modi operandi?

  6. Pieter Vandenberg says:

    “they would do all the work on my behalf, so I thought again: Why not? … and accepted the invitation ”

    When will people learn that there is no free lunch? I bet this person was planning on passing this “free lunch” off on his resume thus becoming part of the fraud.

  7. Unfortunately, this contribution is almost entirely useless since the author decided to keep anonymity, and she/he did not even disclose the journal she/he is referring to.

    As far as my own experience is concerned as EiC of Universe and Board Member of Galaxies, well, things are quite different as described below.

    Most of the Board Members of Universe were invited personally by myself; by the way, those I found when I accepted to serve as EiC are almost all high-level researchers in the field. I can also say that, at that time, I asked for removing an individial from Universe’s board because I did not find her/his metrics comparable to the other members’; indeed, now you will not find her/him in the Universe’s board.

    Same as for the Special Issues I have guest edited or I am guest editing: apart from the fact that I personally contributed to them, I sent out personally several invitations.

    Peer-review has always been managed in a very efficient way: I have always had full control of it, and I personally assumed my own responsibility as editor of the Galaxies’special issue, with my name displayed in the accepted papers. Several manuscripts have been rejected: in several cases, I was asked a pre-review screening rejecting outright some of them. In one case, six (6) referees were consulted for a manuscript in three (3) rounds of refereeing. It is rare than only two (2) referees are allocated to a manuscript: I can also tell you that I have currently a manuscript under review which has already received two (2) positive reviews: nonetheless, a third referee has been contacted.

    Incidentally, my Editorial for the Special Issue of Universe was peer-reviewed by two referees: I do not know who they were, since they were kept anonymous. Moreover, when i submitted my Editorial, I was asked by the staff if I wished to have it peer-reviewed: my reply was positive.

    At the moment, my experience with MDPI, as EiC of Universe and board member of Galaxies, is scientifically satisfying.

    • Storm says:

      useless??? There are a lot of evidence and examples in this contribution, which corroborate with previous facts about this predatory publisher. Plus “the statement was endorsed by interviews with other guest editors involved in recent special issues.”

      So, how could someone deny all these facts from different sources collected along the years?

      Of course, there may be some exceptions … but the questionable machinery behind MDPI is quite clear. Only fools would ignore that.

    • From Morocco says:

      If you are a MDPI lawyer, the lengthy comment is understandable. If not, I wonder why you are defending this publisher which its principle objective is to make MONEY.
      When there is some research subjects of great importance, a journal launch a special issue, to highlight if there is a progress in this area and suggesting the perspective …
      But MDPI and other professional predatory publisher (Hindawi …) find a new way by launching special issues rather a new journal to make MONEY. They do not care about progress in research and they prefer researchers from developing countries as an easy target they knew these countries suffer from low quality of research principally due to resources …
      In these predatory journals you can find more mini-review than original research articles (low quality). I rather better add the suffix Wiki (wikiMDPI, wikiHindawi, …)

      Concerning the free of charge paper on “Misconduct in Scientific Publishing” Helene Z Hill, please be reasonable MDPI and other predatory publishers are well known for misconduct. It’s quite similar to the plagiarized article on the subject of plagiarism http://retractionwatch.com/2015/04/01/you-cant-make-this-stuff-up-plagiarism-guideline-paper-retracted-for-plagiarism/#more-27050

      NB. Professional predatory publisher means they are not completely bogus publisher such as Omics and ScienceDomain. The later perform an open peer-review (take a closer look and you will see it’s a completely joke!).

      • Sofia says:

        What MDPI does is offensive, unethical, and quite unprofessional. I know very well that MDPI has underground routes of black money with several professors and associations.

        It is well know that, since Jeffrey added MDPI to his list, the heads of this publisher have requested many friends to come to this forum and defend MDPI. lorenzo iorio is probably one of them … and others will follow once the heads be aware of this new post. That’s why they are defending a predatory publisher in a blinded way, despite so many evidences of misconduct.

      • Yu Xue says:

        Please note that all the defenders of MDPI are editors or authors with (sometimes multiple) papers in MDPI and they do not like to reveal and acknowledge the truth about MDPI because it would be a shame to admit that they published with a Bogus publisher.

    • Sofia says:

      What MDPI does is offensive, unethical, and quite unprofessional. I know very well that MDPI has underground routes of black money with several professors and associations.

      • Grim Reaper says:

        Sofia, this is an anonymous forum, so you are protected. Please reveal the exact identities of those names, and how you know what “routes of black money” they are receiving. If we only have broad public accusations wthout any solid proof (e.g., e-mails posted publicly), then the accusations are baseless.

  8. Cesar says:

    It is nice to read a first hand experience with MDPI. I have experience as author in one of its “special issues”. I submitted a manuscript to one “special issue” (I submitted it specifically designed for this journal, not as a “ricochet kill”. I wanted to help a new publisher in open access that, in first instance, looked legit), given that the two guest editors were well known in the field. I received the invitation and I answered yes. They gave me absolute flexibility, in spite of the specified deadline (clearly they are happy recruiting certain authors) and, later, I saw that MDPI continued adding papers to the “special issue” one year after initial deadline. They made no attempt to collect my money. In favor of MDPI I can say that the paper was revised by two referees and both of them well known. Specially one of them, very notorious in my field of study. How I know it? MDPI put their names in their respective revisions. I interpreted that as if they wanted to demonstrate something: a new publisher trying to show seriousness and professionalism. Obviously the revision, as expected from these reviewers, were deep and full of interesting comments. I do not know if the reviewers gave permission to the publisher to share their names with the authors. I want to believe that yes.

    I feel myself divided about MDPI: They want to growth and gain prestige as a leading and legitimate OA publisher (and as every young creature, they made mistakes or used unusual or questionable tactics) or it is just a questionable publisher to avoid?. I do not know.
    What concerns me is: if we question the publisher, we question the author. In my case, I published an original and legitimate work (obviously prepared taking into account where it was going to be published) and our work received a fair, correct and good revision from two well known and accurately selected reviewers. Maybe I should contact with referees to know their versions.

  9. wkdawson says:

    Perhaps different MDPI journals operate differently.

    As a guest editor, I did have control of the situation.

    They did create a list, but I reviewed it personally and decided who I would permit them to contact. As far as I know, they cooperated with me on that.

    I rejected about half the papers that I was responsible for handling, and I reviewed them personally and forced the authors to improve them to meet a minimum standard that I would tolerate for publishable work. In some cases I even worked directly with the reviewers personally to make a finally decision — particularly in one case that I found suspect.

    As the person above says, the initial quality of the papers were typically not very high when I first recieved the manuscripts. Nevertheless, of those that I accepted, the papers were significantly improved, clear, and at least had something respectable to say. Perhaps I went out of my way to help some of the authors.

    At least for the journal I worked with (Entropy), they have a reviewing system and, as an editor, I can work with the reviewers and the authors. They did assist with finding reviewers, and many of the reviewers they found, I at least have some familiarity with their professional work. The final decision was something I had the authority to make.

    The one thing that I found annoying was that several papers took about 6 months of back and forth before I was satisfied. However, in some cases, the final publication listed only the last submission date, not the first and then the date of the last revision. However, when I raised an issue with them, as far as I know, they did respect my complaints on the subsequent submission that I finally accepted.

    At any rate, maybe you can blame the general operation of mdpi. However, it is also true that journals are what the people who serve as editors make them. I find it troubling that anyone would accept the __responsibilty__ of an editor and not take take charge of that duty. Whether the journal promises anything or not, is this any more ethical? I certainly don’t think so. Editorship is a privilage, and you should do your job, even if you made promises to such a lowly journal as one within mdpi.

  10. About the Special Issue deadlines, I can tell that, in the case of Galaxies, it was extended once. Then, it was closed, and no more submissions were accepted.

    Moreover, after the unjustified and comic “withdrawal” (indeed, it was later put on the internet by a number of independent sources…) of my paper on JASIST about the pseudonyms “Forst” and “Felici” used by Mr. Ciufolini on arXiv to anonymously criticize myself and the GP-B team, I tried to submit an extended version of it to the Special Issue on misconduct of Publications: I was told that the deadline was expired long before.

  11. wkdawson says:

    Perhaps different MDPI journals operate differently.

    As a guest editor with Entropy, I did have control of the situation.

    They did create a list, but I reviewed it personally and decided who I would permit them to contact. As far as I know, they cooperated with me on that.

    I rejected about half the papers that I was responsible for handling, and I reviewed them personally and forced the authors to improve them to meet the minimum standard that I would tolerate for publishable work. In some cases I even worked directly with the reviewers personally to make a finally decision — particularly in one case that I found suspect.

    I do concur, as above, that the quality of the manuscripts I received were typically low and there were a higher fraction of submissions from China (no surprise since they probably advertise in China). Nevertheless, of those manuscripts that I finally accepted, the papers were significantly improved, clear, and at least had something respectable to say. Perhaps I went out of my way to help some of the authors.

    The one thing that I found annoying was that some of the papers that took about 6 months of back and forth before I finally accepted the work, listed only the last submission date, not the first and then the date of the last revision. I raised issue about this too, and as far as I know, they did respect my demands on the last submission that I accepted.

    I can surely agree that mdpi is not top tier, and I am not all that happy with the way they operate. An editor is also someone in the position to decide what the journal is going to be. Therefore, I find it troubling that anyone would accept the _responsibilty_ of an editor and not take personal responsibility for the production. Whether the journal promises to do everything for the editor or not, isn’t it the duty of an editor to take charge of the situation, or resign if that is impossible? As I say, maybe mdpi varies with the particular journal, but this story is also rather strange.

  12. D Web says:

    Interesting about the keyword search that coughs up author emails… I wonder if they wrote a script that reads article titles and auto-inserts them into emails? Because that would be a super sneaky way to make it seem as if you were sending a personal invitation. I’m guessing this because it happened to me today, I received an invitation to submit to a journal, and the invitation quoted the title of one of my papers, but my field is not even remotely related to the journal’s topic.

  13. Frankly speaking, I did not and do not care anything if publisher X allegedly behave badly with a journal y outside my field of expertise: I only look at what X does with the journal(s) I am interested in. About them, first of all I look at the quality of the Editorial Board, the page layout, etc.etc. And in all these cases MDPI has been fine so far. All the rest is utterly useless.

  14. Sylvain B. says:

    “But why Web of Science also does not kick out these journals which are based in all kinds of questionable actions???”
    mmmhh… Perhaps because many journals indexed by Thomson Reuters are also involved in such questionable actions??? If too many journals are fired, the web of Science will be forced to shut down.

  15. LF says:

    I work in publishing so I thought I’d share my thoughts on what happened here.

    First: editing a journal is a time-consuming job. Even if one leaves soliciting new papers or subscriptions to the publisher, merely finding and evaluating reviews for submissions is time-consuming. Handling each submission can easily take 30+ minutes, and if a journal receives 10+ submissions a day (not unreasonable for a big journal) then, well, editing that journal might almost be a full-time job. It doesn’t help either that most members of editorial boards that I know don’t seem to understand what is expected of them when the EiC redirects a submission to them: they assume that they are expected to review the article, not find reviewers for the article. The result is that, pretty quickly, many members of the editorial boards suffer from fatigue and become inactive. This is why the editorial board don’t seem to be involved in handling some journals / submissions at all. The publisher can scarcely be expected to let the journal die, yet replacing the editorial board is a difficult process. Someone has to pick up the slack, and the only obvious candidate is the publisher.

    Notably, this isn’t a situation the publisher wants. The publisher would certainly be happier if the editorial board handled all the reviews: not only would the reviews be of higher quality and the journal do better, it would open up more time for the publisher to do things like prepare better databases for call for papers, do acquisition work, and so on. But someone has to pick up the slack, and the only obvious candidate is the publisher.

    Also it’s worth mentioning that there’s this idea going around among academics that publishing is the world’s biggest scam. After all, academics write the papers, serve on editorial boards, review manuscripts, typeset it, copyedit it, etc, and all the publishers do is add a bit of formatting and reap a large profit (see e.g. the Wikipedia article on the Cost of Knowledge). How true this is isn’t important here, but it does put some pressure on publishers – me personally, at least – to do as much as possible for my editorial board. If that includes finding reviewers for submissions, so be it.

    Second: the publisher’s staff often aren’t trained in science (or have forgotten things entirely), let alone in the fields the journals they handle cover. The result therefore is that they have to rely on such haphazard ways of finding researchers as keyword matching. This is clearly less than ideal, yet there is no better way, because evaluating the research field of an academic vs. that of the special is onerous and time-consuming. For illustration, if one begins with a keyword search and then manually refines every researcher (by Googling them), then one might be able to build up a list of 20-30 researchers every day. A keyword search goes much faster than that. Not only is manual refining slow, it is beyond the capability of many people (not trained in science / have forgotten everything they learned in university), and furthermore for the people who ARE capable of doing it, it’s not a stimulating job. Imagine working for a month to compile a list of 500 researchers, performing the call for papers, and getting two positive responses (if that many). Ouch!

    Combining this with the first point above, we have 1) an editorial board that does little and 2) journal staff that aren’t trained in the fields but are now tasked with finding peer reviewers or submissions. One can imagine that the results would be less than ideal.

    I’ll be the first to say that I think publishers should change their hiring practice, and hire staff that are trained at least to undergraduate level in the fields their journals cover. The problem with this however is that such knowledgeable people are rare (the best students will likely go on to do graduate studies, or seek a better-paying job) and / or more expensive (naturally if a staff member has an advanced degree, he / she should be paid more).

    ———

    Back to MDPI and this article. I note the following:

    1) Author accepted the invite to guest edit a special issue, assuming (?) that he / she will not have to do any work. This is obviously a very bad sign for the special issue, but MDPI still wants him or her name to go with the special issue, because that is a crucial part of whether the issue succeeds. So they go ahead and promise the author that he / she won’t have to do much work.

    2) Author promptly neglects to do anything. MDPI can’t just let the special issue fade away either, so making the best of a bad situation they handle everything as best as they can (such as by performing keyword matching).

    3) Author then takes it all as a sign that MDPI is a highly questionable publisher. Uhh, if author objects so much, why didn’t he / she do something? MDPI is extremely unlikely to object if the author decided to handle the peer review personally, or to contribute names to the mailing list, or to personally invite people to submit to the special issue. In fact they are likely to be pleased!

    tl; dr: The author’s objections are, to my eye, about as valid as not providing guidance to students yet still expecting them to do a good job. Author, if you want the special issue to be of good quality, you have to put in at least some effort. If you’re not able or willing to put in that effort, don’t agree to be guest editor.

    PS: The implicit racism is irksome, too.

    • wkdawson says:

      I think mdpi has a manuscript management system for all their journals; at least it appeared to be so. Entropy certainly had one. They did try to find peer reviewers, and many of them I know professionally. They certainly asked me for a decision based on the reviews — and sometimes we had spent some time on it too. So again, what “the author” says is largely inconsistent with my experience there.

      About 1/4 of the reviewers were actually very good, and 1/2 of them were at least ok. I can say that because I read all the manuscripts that I passed and rejected myself. So I spent far more than 30 min on each of them. This is maybe another issue that journals like this can suffer from. They end up with people who submit at least respectable work and they also get some very questionable stuff. So it takes quite some work to sort out the people submitting the work and it is better to make sure.

  16. Nils says:

    A while back, I received repeated invitations to contribute to a special issue of the journal Symmetry. I did not know the guest editor, and the theme of the special issue had nothing to do with my area of expertise. However I may have used the keyword “symmetry” in a paper I published, which supports the statement that MDPI skims keywords in article databases to select lists of authors to contact. The mails were not signed by the guest editor, but by an MDPI employee or a computer program named Wanda. I never reply to this kind of solicitation.

  17. Reader says:

    Well, if the concern is about the list of invited authors, I think the mistake does not come from MDPI only, but also from other companies or pseudo-companies that hold contact details and sell them to MDPI and other publishers/advertisers that do similar mass spamming invitations such as Researchgate for example, which would sell the contacts of its subscribers to buying publishers and other advertisers.
    I think that many publishers and scientists need training in “ethical education” much more they need research funds!

  18. John says:

    Based on the amount of spam that I receive from them (mostly calls for papers in special issues), the fact that their automated emails do not feature a “unsubscribe me” link, and the fact that I did not manage to be removed from their lists after several complaints, I would say that they are not a respectable publisher, at all!

  19. Zky says:

    In order to elude people, MDPI clearly cheat and steal brand names from reputable one-word journals like Cell, Science, Nature to create their one-word predatory journals. In many cases, by adding a “S” to so many famous journals, like Cells (Cell), Cancers (Cancer), Genes (Gene), and so on (e.g. Proteomes – Proteomics).

  20. […] The editor of a special issue of an MDPI journal says the publisher is trying to deceive people. […]

  21. Nep says:

    I have some experience with MDPI. It is not only one side of the coin. There is no question that these newly emerged publications are for money, but the extent differs. I am surprised here that people are continuously attacking open access, but I have never seen people questioned to the reputed scientist from respect university who are willing to serve as editors and editor in chief in these journals. Why should not we ask them what are they doing on the Editorial board. I don’t believe that they do not know about these journals. Absolutely, they know, but they are willing to serve, why, because nothing is completely white or black. They have their own agenda there, either for promotion, or become more famous or what? So, all these scientists who are serving and supporting these journals either should defend their journal saying that they are doing their jobs or should resign. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how much we write here, the fact is, scientist need paper, if their paper keeps rejecting, there are always these open access to save their work, either it is good or bad.

    I published one paper in MDPI myself, paid for the paper, there were four reviewers who did a fair job, took two rounds to finalize, no rush until they were satisfied. It is what the big name journals do, they also entirely depend on the reviewers. I would say MDPI is predatory publication, but it had helped many scientists in different ways. So blaming MDPI doesn’t end the story, but I think, it is a start of new publication business.

    • tleski says:

      I am sorry Nep but you do not seem to understand the problem here. The real problem is not that they are for profit, the problem is that they are using deception and lies to make money damaging the whole scholarly publishing business in the process and diluting the scientific record with a deluge of worthless papers. I am not sure what is the agenda of some respected scientist serving on their editorial boards or acting as guest editors, editors or reviewers. It may be many things. Most likely they are not aware of the shadiness of this operation, possibly they do not have time for verification who are they dealing with. I can also imagine that some people may be paid to promote the brand. I have no proof for that, but it defies my imagination why would they want to associate with a publisher with a questionable reputation.

      • Nep says:

        I agree most of the part, but if you are being a police and say I am not aware who is thief, it is not enough justification for me at least. Don’t blame these shady publications, everyone knows, the editor and editor and chief should be accountable of their individual journals. That is how the big journal works. Everyone can disagree with me, but if editors and editors in chief are accountable of their job, I am sure 95% of this problem will be reduced and another 95% of journal will out of business without editorial board.

  22. Grim Reaper says:

    There is only one real and viable solut ion to revealing the academic rot of this publisher, if there is any. To reexaine published papers and to reveal flaws and problems, as a post-publication peer review. Use PubPeer as the platform because each paper will link to PubPeer via the DOI, and comments can be made anonymously. For example, I complained anonymously in January 2015 about problems with a paper. By March, the paper had been retracted:
    https://pubpeer.com/publications/A24FAF0D5D2B0DDE8E811876ECC93A#fb20319
    That indicates that peer review at that journal FAILED. If there are enough retractions, then this says loads about the authors, but it also begins to paint a real picture about the publisher, too. The issue of e-mail campaigns and the modus operandii will gradually start to get similar between “traditional” and “predatory” publishers, so the “predatory” model will start to get diluted, diffused, and confusing (actually it already is). So, the only salvation for academia is post-publication peer review.

    My plea to the broad scientific community: set aside 30 minutes each day to voluntarily rereview already published papers and get those critiques published publicly at PubPeer.

  23. Hagar says:

    I had a paper recently published with MDPI, which I deeply regret as now it is obvious I was victim of a predatory publisher (I thought indeed strange that there are papers completely out of the scope of the issue published, while the few others published I never heard of the authors). But I learned the lesson and will avoid publishing in MDPI hereafter. It would be terrible that a colleague think that my data or my research, obtained after a hard work, is questionable because it was published in a MDPI journal. Thanks to Jeffrey and the guest editors who endorsed this post for their courage to reveal in details how a predatory publisher works.

  24. O. M. says:

    Hi,

    I had a question about citing articles from potentially predatory journals such as MDPI. I had an article from an MDPI journal whose results I got some ideas from, and the article itself seemed to be legitimate (as in cited by other authors numerous times, and not just to debunk the claims). Would it still look bad for me to cite such an article?

    • Sylvain B. says:

      O. M. As a general rule, what you cite in your references list are articles, not journals. If you genuinely think that a publication related to your own work is worth to be cited, then include that reference, regardless in which journal it was reported. The omission of an essential reference is considered as unethical (assuming that you do it intentionally).

      You may also consider the opposite case: it’s NOT an obligation to cite papers published in Science, Nature, etc. But if you consider that the Benveniste’s lunatic papers are OK, or that the As-based life hypothesis is legitimate, go ahead, cite these references.

    • wkdawson says:

      I second the point that this is very unethical. Just think about it. Let’s say it is your paper that ended up there, for whatever reason. You may not be happy about the esteemed reputation of the journal later on, but you did your job, you did good quality work, and that is where it ended up (again, for whatever reason).

      Would you not find it intellectually dishonest of researchers if refuse to cite your good quality work, _simply_ due to an “ad acta” (akin to “ad hominem”) dismissal?

      Gibbs (of Gibb’s free energy) published in a very obscure journal and even the publisher had no idea what his 300 page tome was about. I kind of wonder how he would have faired in the climate of these times.

      • O. M. says:

        I didn’t mean to say that I wasn’t going to cite – of course I would cite it. I was just making sure that, since similar (as in replicated, not copied) data can be found in other papers, I should cite the papers from the better journals instead. I guess it’s somewhat parallel to a situation citing solubility data from a high school chemistry book versus a peer reviewed journal.

        I guess I will go ahead and cite the paper without worries.

    • Claudia G says:

      On citing a paper from predatory journal, you are promoting this predatory journal/publisher, which will incentive them to go ahead with their predatory actions.

      The best thing to do is to cite the papers from the good journals.

      • wkdawson says:

        You are also denying the author’s their entitled right to original work. You do not know the reason the authors submitted to the journal. This is basically blaming the victim, is it not?

    • wkdawson says:

      Got your point O.M.

      When I have confronted with these sorts of quandaries, this was my decision at least:

      If the people who replicated the work cited the authors, and I have a hard restriction like Nature puts on with maximum 30 references, then I would cite the later work. If there is no restriction, I would cite both. On the other hand, if the authors who did the replicated study didn’t bother to cite the original work, I would consider it my duty as a scholar to cite both (given I have found this out).

      Original work should be recognised _as_ original work, wherever it comes from. Encountering non-citations, I cannot say the reason why the authors of the replicated work didn’t cite the original; it is possible they might not have known about it. Nevertheless, it raises a flag in my eyes that I don’t tend to forget quickly.

      “Scholarly” does mean striving to have some reasonable command of the literature. Unfortunately, it is not so humanly possible to really keep up anymore, so no matter how hard you try, you are sure to miss some things.

      • Claudia G says:

        This is true when you are talking of good papers published in reliable sources. When it comes from papers published in predatory journals, the rule is to avoid them; otherwise, you would be promoting these mafia groups that are marginalizing science and the academic publishing.

      • wkdawson says:

        I see. To get rid of the mafia, kill all the drug addicts. It is true that there will be less drug addicts.

        I simply cannot agree with your way of thinking.

  25. Nils says:

    Topical and special issues are not uncommon and can be a valuable addition to the scientific literature. I know about numerous cases where selected participants of a conference were asked to contribute to a special issue in a particular journal on the topic of the conference. This is not unlike conference proceedings, but usually with a higher quality level, because the contributors were carefully selected. It also happens that the editors of a well-established journal invite contributions on a special topic. There is nothing basically wrong with special issues per se.

    Now it appears that publishing special issues is part of the business strategy of a number of publishers such as MDPI, Hindawi and Frontiers. Judging from the number of unsolicited invitations I get, often hardly related to my domain of expertise, it appears that these publishers leave out the “carefully selected” part. Why would they do such a thing? I think that the answer is very simple: special issues allow them to delegate a large amount of work to the guest editor. Instead of having to solicit articles themselves and handle their peer review, the guest editor will take care of all this work, resulting in a non-negligible number of papers, which, in the gold OA model, means that more income for the publisher.

    Why would researchers agree to participate in such a scheme? There are probably a number of different reason. Some feel flattered to have been asked, as it seems to confirm their importance in the field. Some may be genuinely interested in providing a topical review of their domain. Others accept because a controversy in their field opposes them to some powerful rival, whose influence they hope to circumvent.

    In the end, some of these special issues may turn out to be very good, if the guest editor does a serious job. So where is the problem? Mainly, quantity rarely goes with quality. The business plan of MDPI and others appears to consist in contacting large numbers of potential guest editors and providing huge computer-generated lists of potential contributors, a process I am inclined to call Monte Carlo publishing. The law of large numbers implies that such a broadly scoped process is bound to produce a few very good issues, but at the price of also producing a large number of mediocre ones. As a collateral damage, the reputation of well-meaning researchers who published in these issues gets hurt.

    While this Monte Carlo strategy seems to generate a substantial short-term income, I wonder whether it will work out in the long run. Many colleagues are, like me, annoyed by the large amount of spam invitations in our emails, and certainly would never submit their research to publishers relying on such a strategy. There have been other controversies, like this one where Frontiers was accused by a number of their board numbers to favour quantity over quality: http://news.sciencemag.org/people-events/2015/05/open-access-publisher-sacks-31-editors-amid-fierce-row-over-independence

    If as a researcher you want to preserve your good reputation, it is important that you examine carefully with which publisher you get involved, be it as an author, an editor or a reviewer.

    • Claudia G says:

      Nils,

      Just to complement your reply, as highlighted in this post by the anonymous guest editors, the reason why these publishers launch a indiscriminatory number of special issues, is not to delegate a large amount of work to the guest editor; it is quite the opposite. They just use the name of anyone who accept to guest edit the special issue to mask their predatory scheme.

      At the beginning, these publishers sent massive random invitations to any author without a reason…nowadays, everyone knowns that’s a predatory mechanism.

      So, these predatory publishers have found a new way: with the excuse of a special issue, they can continue sending massive random invitations to a large number of authors, this time with a masked reason…since the chance to reach people within the scope of the issue is higher than sending random invitations without a particular topic, the chance to deceive authors is also higher, and eventually someone gets caught in their bait.

      It is quite a scheme. As you may note, most predatory journals are adopting this strategy now.

  26. tekija says:

    On closer look, an MDPI “special issue” is a completely virtual one. The papers are published when they are received so that they get a running volume and page number, and are just earmarked to belong to a “special issue”. Thus, e.g. the special issue referred to by Dr. Lorenzo Iorio, above, had its first papers published in an earlier volume than the last ones, as the publication of this “special issue” run over half a year. Thus page numberf of papers in a “special issue” ae not consecutive. The “special issue” is actually virtual, created by labeling a set of running published papers as belonging to an “issue” in addition to their running volume.

    Incidentally, one notices at the same time that Dr. Iorio has over the last years publshed in journals and books of several publishers that apper in this and related blogs as predatory or vanity presses, in addition to the two MDPI journals:

    Frontiers
    https://scholarlyoa.com/2013/11/05/i-get-complaints-about-frontiers/
    from which Nature Publishing Group has recently diatanced it although many sites still refer to their earlier paertnership plans which never were realized.
    http://news.sciencemag.org/people-events/2015/05/open-access-publisher-sacks-31-editors-amid-fierce-row-over-independence

    NOVA Science
    https://scholarlyoa.com/2015/05/26/watch-out-for-publishers-with-nova-in-their-name/#more-5317
    https://scholarlyoa.com/2014/04/08/a-list-of-print-on-demand-publishers-self-publishingvanity-presses-and-other-non-traditional-publishers-for-librarians-and-authors/

    World Scientific/Singapore
    http://fakeconferences.blogspot.fr/2014/03/spam-from-bogus-fake-junk-world.html

    Definitly he is not a troll of MDPI, as someone suspected above:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lorenzo_Iorio

    http://digilander.libero.it/lorri/homepage_of_lorenzo_iorio.htm

    This is no comment on the quality of his research which is entirely different from mine and which I am thus unqualizied to assess.

  27. Claudia G says:

    Edit a special issue with MDPI is not a privilege, it is a terrible mistake. MDPI have marginalized the concept of special issue and turned it in a black scheme to get money from low quality authors… or from authors who certainly don’t know the publisher and its reputation. With their random and massive emails, eventually someone gets caught in their bait.

    This is quite clear when you see their indiscriminatory way of launching their so called “special issue”. Jeffrey have already denounced this serious problem in his previous post: https://scholarlyoa.com/2015/02/24/so-called-special-issues-of-journals-big-money-for-gold-oa-publishers/

    Quoting what the author said: “Basically, the editorial office sent random invitations and anyone who suggest anything will be guest editing a special issue with them!”. Not surprising, most of these issues have a very low number of papers published, most of low quality.

    It is sad to witness what this Mafia is doing with the academic publishing.

  28. Kees Stigter says:

    Dear All,

    I had some other other experience with MDPI, Journal “Atmosphere”, in 2013. This was a special issue for the knowledge field of “Agrometeorology”. Three relatively well known editors from that knowledge field had been appointed. Two reviewers were determined by them, two others were chosen from a list of five that we had to propose. I submitted two papers, which were very seriously reviewed and published after we replied to the to the point queries and comments.

    Little use was made of this special issue, possibly because of the strict reviewing and the fact that costs were between 200 and 500 US dollars. However, the two papers are doing fine on ResearchGate. One has been downloaded more than 600 times and the other more than 300 times.

    At the moment of submission I was not aware of the publisher being on your list. I would have thought twice after this recent story above but it shows that not all needs to be negative if you consider it from the point of view of your research results being properly disseminated.

    Kees Stigter

  29. Grégory says:

    Kees,

    If the editors were well known, why there were only 6 papers published is this broad topic ??? Certainly not because of a strict reviewing process, as everyone knowns the real “quality” of this publisher.

    Regarding your two papers published in 2013, neither of them received any citation so far. If you consider this a good result, after paying 500 US dollars for each one, please continue publishing your work with them. I am sure you will get the academic credit you deserve.

    • Kees Stigter says:

      Gregory,

      a paper published at the very end of 2013 is not cited in papers published in the first half of 2015 or earlier. If a paper is downloaded more than 600 times in that period, citations will definitely follow. So your unkind reaction does not hold.

      It is my point that unknowingly that time of the journal’s reputation, publication has led to considerable dissemination. See also other comments.

      Kees

      • Grégory says:

        So, I encourage you to continue publishing your work with them. Like I said, I am sure you will get the academic credit you deserve.

  30. Jerry says:

    This discussion raises a serious concern about the effects of these practices *and* the listing of predatory publishers. A scholar who submits to one of these journals could potentially be penalized by their academic institution or lose credibility among their peers. A lot of good research is published by MDPI journals and probably a lot of the others. The list ranges from truly worthless outlets and pseudo-journals to some that include oft-cited excellent work.

    An author who selects one of these journals for very good reasons — including (a) that an increasing number of useful sources may have come from these journals, (b) that open access gets your work exposed more widely, and (c) that open-only journals often have lower open-access fees than print journals — may be dismayed to find the publisher’s practices have landed them on Beall’s list.

    The list is very useful, but I’m very concerned about the negative effect it may have on hard-working researchers who have happened to publish in some of these journals. If the list starts being used as a litmus test of the quality of one’s work by association, this raises a serious issue. In the case of MDPI, there are some excellent papers in the journals I’m familiar with, and it seems extremely damaging to denigrate this work by listing the publisher. This should certainly make us angry at the publisher, but it should also make us angry about the effect of the listing.

    I think that this needs to be part of the discussion.

    • tekija says:

      Would you be kind enough to link here as an example, say, three of the excellent papers that you have found – this would greatly help to judge your concern – thank you in advance.

      • Jerry says:

        There are quite a few good papers in Remote Sensing, for instance, certainly worth the relatively high impact factor (for a specialty topic journal) of over 2.5. Take Pinzon & Tucker’s 2014 article on AVHRR, with 31 citations already; or Cook et al.’s 2013 article on NASA Goddard’s sensors, cited by 20 already; or Zhu et al.’s 2013 article on LAI, cited by 65. I can’t evaluate a lot of the MDPI journals — there really are so many that frankly I don’t have a lot of faith in the lot — but authors publishing in journals like Remote Sensing shouldn’t be brought down by association.

    • tekija says:

      Would you be kind enough to link here as an example, say, three of the excellent papers that you have found, this would greatly help in judging your concern – thank you in advance.

      • As far as my own field is concerned (general relativity, gravitation, astronomy and astrophysics), NASA/ADS returns the following current situation for some papers published in Galaxies (please note that the citations displayed by Galaxies itself are fewer than the following ones):

        L. Iorio, Galaxies 2013, 1(1), 6-30, citations: 13

        L. Iorio, Galaxies, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 192-209, 2013, citations: 6

        L. Iorio, Galaxies, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 259-262, 2014, citations: 4

        L. Iorio, Galaxies, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 13-21, 2014, citations: 4

        Altamirano, N. et al., Galaxies, vol. 2, issue 1, pp. 89-159, 2014, citations: 53

        Capozziello, S., Galaxies, vol. 1, issue 3, pp. 216-260, 2013, citations: 8

        Harko, T. et al., Galaxies, vol. 2, issue 4, pp. 496-519, 2014, citations: 4

        And so on….

      • solihu says:

        MDPI has a journal by ISPRS, an international body for photogrammetry and remote sensing which is now listed in ISI index. Are all the papers published by this ISPRS supported journal unworthy of publication? For me, I am a bit undecided. Do I publish in journals supported by recognized body and patronized by renowned scholars despite being listed by Beall?

      • Isack says:

        With the exception of a few names, most of the editorial board of ISPRS is relatively unknown, “recognized body” or “renowned scholars” is not correct. These are just the ones who accepted the random invitations massively sent by mdpi.

        Anyway, as pointed out by Manf, even their flagship journals (Molecules and IJMS) have a very high percentage of articles flawed and out of the journal’s scope.

        If you would like to be known within the scientific community for only be able to publish your work with a highly questionable journal/publisher, it’s up to you.

        For me, that’s not the kind of recognition I want.

    • solihu says:

      Isack,
      I do not know what you are driving at; do you say ISPRS is not a recognized body or Prof. Kainz, Ehlers, Jiang, Konecny, Leitner, Molenaar, Skidmore, Strobl are not known in Geoinformation? As Jerry as said it is a serious concern and sometimes conflicting signals are passed to beginners. For example, despite the criticism of MDPI, the journal Remote Sensing is gaining high impact. How do they do it? And Thomson Reuters has not flagged the journal for any inconsistency. I am not advocating for MDPI. I am just saying that established scientist should be more united in stating which research outlets are bad. They should also not support predatory outlets.

      • In the case of the journal Universe, its editorial board (scrutinized and finally approved by myself) includes renown scientists as S. Capozziello, E. Vagenas, S. Odintsov, E. Saridakis, J.-M. Alimi, A. Wang, P. Salucci, S. Alexander, K. Bamba and many others: a simple search in the freely available database NASA/ADS (or even Google Scholar) is enough to unambiguously reveal their unquestionable standing.

        At the moment, we have something like 8 manuscripts submitted/under processing, and more are expected: just today I heard from colleagues that they will submit a manuscript.

      • tekija says:

        This is an interesting and relevant question. The official ISPRS journal is nevertheless by Elsevier:

        http://www.journals.elsevier.com/isprs-journal-of-photogrammetry-and-remote-sensing/

        and

        http://www.isprs.org/isprsjournal/

        However, Isack probably errs in his comment above, so I side with solihu in this matter.

        ISPRS has several publications. The MDPI journal is a recent (2012) “joint publication” between ISPRS and MDPI:

        http://www.isprs.org/publications/

        I would expect that this means that ISPRS runs the journal and in this spwcific instance, MDPI just provides the technical publishing. Thus the editorial board most likely was complied and is overviewed by ISPRS and was not invited by MDPI spams. I understand they spammed this offer at one time – and perhaps still do – to a wide variety of scholarly societies as one means of increasing their revenue, but not many societies seem to have entered such a partnership.

        In fact the publisher still has this on their web site:

        “MDPI always welcomes suggestions for new journals in any research area. We are also open for publishing collaborations with research societies. Please send your publishing proposals to the Publishers, Dr. Shu-Kun Lin with a copy to Dietrich Rordorf.”

        The ISPRS MDPI journal does not have an IF so far although a number of MDPI journals have it:

        http://www.mdpi.com/about/announcements/720

        but it is indexed in SCI Expanded.

  31. Manf says:

    Tekija,

    The point is not that, as there may be some good papers lost in the so many journals from this publisher. The problem is the huge amount of low quality papers usually published in these journals.

    As a reader, I read several articles published in “Molecules” and “International Journal of Molecular Science” (the two flagship journals from this publisher). And each time, I wonder how these papers could have been published without anyone noticing that they were so flawed and out of the journal’s scope. I found an author who has published more than a dozen of articles in the journal “Molecules”, spanning a period of three years (4 articles related to plant physiology per year in the same journal). The similarity between these articles is so flagrant. One has the impression that the author only recycles old results and texts, not to mention their pseudoscience nature and their inappropriateness for the journal’s scope.

    • tekija says:

      The point is that without concrete examples from Jerry’s finds his comment

      “In the case of MDPI, there are some excellent papers in the journals I’m familiar with, and it seems extremely damaging to denigrate this work by listing the publisher.”

      can equally well be a hyperbole than a convincing argument.

  32. […] 1. https://scholarlyoa.com/2015/06/11/guest-editing-a-special-issue-with-mdpi-evidences-of-questionable-… […]

  33. Paul Vaucher says:

    After my enquiry, my conclusion is that the main office is truly based in Basel and that this open source publisher does all it can to provide honest and academically sound reviews and editor’s choice for published articles.

    I rang their office up and spoke in German to which the person who answered was able to respond and then spoke in English to a colleague for further enquiry. I was then passed on to the CEO Delia Costache who was entirely transparent on their policies and way of working. All her arguments could be verified and their way of working is truly professional. Their main office is in Basel and they have two additional offices in China who work on editing the format of manuscripts.

    To have a clearer view on what MDPI is worth, I suggest reading Richard Poynder article and interview on the subject:

    http://poynder.blogspot.ch/2015/04/the-open-access-interviews-publisher.html

    • Paul Vaucher says:

      I have gone through the entire process and have to admit that MDPI has revealed itself very professional. I was invited for a special edition in Geriatrics on the theme of driving cessation, this truly corresponded to my field of expertise. The special guest editor, Dr Max Toepper, took his role seriously and confirmed his role as special editor personally. Three reviewers then commented my manuscript and all of them seemed to be familiar with the topic and at least two were clearly experts in the field. My article was reviewed twice before been accepted. The final decision was communicated by the assistant editor. On my request, I however received a written confirmation from the special editor that he was the one that oversaw the reviewing process and he was the one that gave the final decision of acceptance. We asked for the English to be edited but given the editor found the text to only include a few minor errors, we were not charged for the service. The staff was professional, fast, and efficient. MDPI seems to take very seriously its own reputation as a leading open source publisher. I remained sceptic through the entire process; my experience has however convinced me that in my case the process was entirely correct.

      Prof. Paul Vaucher, HES-SO University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland

  34. Ananish Chaudhuri says:

    I would like to add my two cents to the comments made by Paul Vaucher. I am currently acting as Editor in Chief of a special issue of the journal GAMES (Economics and Game Theory) published by MDPI. I am just about the wrap up the issue. The issue received 17 submissions, almost all of which were quite high quality. I have accepted ten of these. My impression is that – yes, some of the reservations expressed here may be valid – but a lot of this depends on the editor.

    One thing that the editorial office does and which I actually appreciated is an extremely hands on refereeing process. When a paper came in they asked me if I had suggestions for reviewers. The ones I suggested were always invited. However, in many cases, not all of them agreed to serve as referees or else they did not respond in a timely manner. At that point the managing editor (who I found to be extremely conscientious and efficient) went ahead and using keyword searches looked for additional referees till they found at least two – and in some cases three – referees. With few exceptions, I was aware of the research done by the referees who were chosen and in ALL cases I received reports that were extremely thorough.

    There was one early hiccup where, for the very first submission to the special issue, after the first set of referee reports came in the authors were asked to undertake a revision without my input. I think this is the point where the Editor’s stand becomes crucial. It would have been easy for me to simply go with the flow but I made it absolutely clear that henceforth I wanted to see the reports and make ALL decisions.

    From that point on the process unfolded EXACTLY like it does at other highly reputable journals where I am involved in Editorial capacity. The papers were sent out for review – with the caveat that the referees were not always the ones I chose but this did speed up turn around times which is a good thing. Once the reports came in, I read them and decided how to proceed.

    Most of the papers that were accepted went through at least two rounds of revisions and in some cases more. I believe this is NOT the preferred approach of the journal which suggests a single round of revision or rejection to keep things moving. But no one interfered with my decisions or showed any reluctance or raised objections when I asked for multiple rounds of revisions.

    After the early mishap, I found the process professional, efficient and in no way different to my experience at other well known journals. I have no hesitation is saying that the papers I accepted are all high quality and would have been able to make their way into better known journals. I was happy that they had chosen to submit it to the special issue; maybe hoping for a quick turn-around in a discipline (Economics) where long publication lags are typical. In fact I found the process more efficient than at other journals mostly because of the managing editor’s hands on approach with referees; sending out regular reminders and keeping me updated as to what was happening.

    So in conclusion, my impression is that the journal GAMES published by MDPI seems to work exactly like other well-reputed journals; however, if the Editor in charge wishes to slack off then it is possible to do so with the editorial office picking up the slack. This is not desirable but then the problem may lie with people who agree to take this on as an easy line on their line on the resume but are not willing to put in the hard yards. So yes, seems like there my be scope for abusing the system but the responsibility seems to lie more with academics who are unwilling to discharge their responsibilities fully rather than a publisher who may be willing to enable that shirking.

    Of course, this is based on my experience at GAMES and the situation may well be different at other journals.

    As for me, would I submit to GAMES? Yes. Would I encourage others to do so? Yes.

    Ananish Chaudhuri
    Professor of Experimental Economics and Head of Department
    University of Auckland

  35. I also edited a “special issue” in MDPI’s Journal of Develomental Biology on Cell Lineage. Sure the journal helped me find suitable contributors, but I also submitted names of persons many of whom responded by writing articles. I handled the reviews of all the submissions, which included one rejection. I made the final decision on each article, based on peer review. Most were accepted after two revisions.

    I also agree with some of the comments about the original post in this thread. Why post anonymously? Also, did the person expect the process to happen without any input? Additionally, was this person happy to include their “special issue” on their CV. I am guessing yes.

    Bob Dettman,
    Northwestern University

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