Today I got an invitation to contribute to a special issue of ‘Animals’, a journal of MDPI. I’m well aware of the criticisms of MDPI and that they are are seen as (borderline) predatory in several aspects. I also know that they have a very large number of ‘special issues’ and that they charge high APCs.
The reason that I’m potentially considering contributing to this special issue, is that they state that they will waive the article processing charge. Additionally, the special issue editors have an established track record in the field. Finally, MDPI recently took over a legit journal that I submitted to before and it seems the responsible society supported this.
What is your opinion about contributing to this special issue?
EDIT: link to the issue is Animals | Special Issue : Recent Advances in Canine Osteosarcoma
Good questions @Jelle
I agree that MDPI has some concerning publishing practices. When revising the CoRC in July, the IGDORE global board discussed the difficulty of classify a publisher as predatory, and rather than including a statement against publishing in predatory journals, we wrote:
- be responsible in their selection of outlets for their research publications, and cautious of publishers that misrepresent the level of quality assessment involved;
Essentially, we hope that IGDORE researchers will submit work to journals where they expect that it will be properly peer-reviewed and publication is not guaranteed for a fee/APC. I have been a co-author on one article published in an MDPI journal (also to a special issue, in Plants) and I recall the peer review, although fast, was fairly thorough. So if you think that the editors of this special issue are good researchers and will organise a thorough peer-reviewer, then I think you are meeting this expectation of the IGDORE CoRC if you submit your work there. The APC waiver also seems to remove MDPI’s incentive to ‘guarantee’ anything submitted gets published. Still, whether you want to support MDPI’s business practices (that have been termed aggressive rent extraction) is a separate matter, and I expect that if you publish there with a fee waiver, you will then get a lot of emails encouraging you to publish there again, but this time without a waiver!
What do others think? @pcmasuzzo? @carlsalk?
This is an important question. My short answer is that I now completely avoid MDPI, not just as an author, but also as a reviewer, guest editor, or any other role.
I have published with MDPI in the past, including two first-authored papers resulting from my second postdoc position in their journal Remote Sensing. This superficially seems like a pretty good journal, and I never paid any APCs for these papers. The reason for this is that my post-doc supervisor is fairly prominent in his field, and he was constantly getting invitations to publish there with a waived APC. I’m convinced that this is one strategy that MDPI uses to artificially enhance the reputation of their journals - free publishing for famous people, but less well know scientists have to pay the APC (which from an equity point of view is basically the opposite of how it should be).
The quality of peer review at Remote Sensing was high but weird. One of my manuscripts was actually rejected initially, based on one malicious review that accused us of saying some things that were actually the opposite of what we said in our manuscript. However, getting the editor to recognize this was an uphill fight, but I eventually prevailed and was given an opportunity to respond to this unfair review (and eventually got the manuscript published there). This brings me to another issue. The editors who you deal with in the review process do not seem to be working professional scientists as at most journals (or former scientists with a PhD and decent experience in their discipline(s) as at Nature-owned journals). Rather, they appear to be full time staff who are under great pressure to accept and publish papers as quickly as possible. I base this conclusion on the extremely short deadlines they request for reviews and revisions, and also that they don’t even pretend to have PhDs.
For me, the final straw with MDPI was a student-authored paper on which I was a coauthor. The student author submitted a manuscript (to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health) that just wasn’t ready to go. I thought the underlying science was good, but the quality of the writing was a mess. On seeing that it had been submitted, I thought it would be editorially rejected, and the student would learn a lesson about not submitting before getting sufficient feedback from supervisors. However, the paper received three glowing (and rather superficial) reviews and a two-week deadline to revise and resubmit. Even the student thought that this was kind of suspicious and decided to with draw the manuscript from consideration at that journal. I suspect that some of these reviews may have been written by the editors themselves in an effort to speed the paper on to publication. Note that this happens at legitimate journals sometimes, and in my view is fine if the editor does a fair review and has sufficient expertise. This reveals a problem of anonymous review - you can’t check if a real person has done the review, and this is one (of many) reason that I always sign my reviews.
As I see it, any journal where more accepted papers means more profit is on a slippery slope to predatory behavior, if they are not there already. This means not just MDPI, but any for-profit open access journal. This is why I totally avoid MDPI and similar publishers (frontiers, omics, etc.) now. There are plenty of great non-profit open access journals out there. I don’t know the journals in your discipline, but PLoS One is a great all-purpose choice.
I hope this is helpful!