|Country of origin|
|Headquarters location||Basel, Switzerland|
|Key people||Shu-Kun Lin|
|Publication types||Open access scientific journals|
|No. of employees||3536 (in 2020)|
MDPI or Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute is a publisher of open access scientific journals. Founded by Shu-Kun Lin as a chemical sample archive, it has established over 200 broad-scope journals. MDPI is the largest open access publisher in the world and the 5th largest publisher overall in terms of journal paper output. The number of published papers has been growing significantly in the last decade with year over year growth of over 50% in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
As of December 2020, MDPI publishes 287 academic journals, including 71 with an impact factor out of 80 covered by the Science Citation Index Expanded. Four journals are indexed in the Social Sciences Citation Index. MDPI journals are currently included in the Directory of Open Access Journals. MDPI is a member of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association, a participating publisher and supporter of the Initiative for Open Citations, and a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE).
MDPI's business practices have resulted in significant growth but have attracted criticism, with controversies related to the quality of its peer reviews and accusations of subordination of academic functions to business interests. The publisher's business model is based on establishing entirely open access broad-discipline journals, with fast processing times from submission to publication and article processing charges paid by the author. MDPI was included on Jeffrey Beall's list of predatory open access publishing companies in 2014 but was removed in 2015 following a successful appeal.
MDPI traces its roots to Molecular Diversity Preservation International, also abbreviated MDPI, which was founded by Shu-Kun Lin in 1996 as a chemical sample archive, with some scholarly publishing and conference activities. The second organisation, Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, was founded in 2010, primarily as a publisher. All of MDPI's journals have been open access and since 2008 published under a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY).
Molecular Diversity Preservation International
Molecular Diversity Preservation International was founded and registered as a non-profit association (Verein) by Shu-Kun Lin and Benoit R. Turin in Basel in 1996 to enable the deposit and exchange of rare molecular and biomolecular research samples.
The journal Molecules was established in 1996 in collaboration with Springer-Verlag (now Springer Science+Business Media) in order to document the chemical samples of the MDPI collection. Several other journals were established by the MDPI Verein, including Entropy (1999), the International Journal of Molecular Sciences (2000), Sensors (2001), Marine Drugs (2003), and the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (2004). The publisher MDPI AG (see below) was spun off from MDPI Verein in 2010.
MDPI Verein co-organized several academic conferences, including the International Symposium on Frontiers in Molecular Science. It also runs virtual conferences, such as the Electronic Conference on Synthetic Organic Chemistry, which was started in 1997. In 2010 MDPI launched the platform Sciforum.net to host virtual conferences. In 2014, various virtual conferences were hosted in the areas of synthetic organic chemistry, material sciences, sensors, and sustainability. In 2015, MDPI co-organized two physical conferences with and at the University of Basel, the 4th Internationational Symposium on Sensor Science and the 5th World Sustainability Forum. Since 2015, scholars can organize their own conference for free on the Sciforum platform.
MDPI (Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute)
MDPI, a publisher of open-access scientific journals, was spun off from the Molecular Diversity Preservation International organization. It was formally registered by Shu-Kun Lin and Dietrich Rordorf in May 2010 in Basel, Switzerland, and maintains editorial offices in China, Spain, Serbia, and the United Kingdom. It is primarily based in China and has established over 200 broad-scope journals, usually with one-word titles.
The number of published papers has been growing significantly in the last decade with year over year growth of over 50% in 2017, 2018 and 2019, with 110,000 papers published in 2019. As of 2020, MDPI is the largest open access publisher in the world and the 5th largest publisher overall in terms of journal paper output.
In December 2011, the MDPI journal Life published Erik D. Andrulis' theoretical paper, Theory of the Origin, Evolution, and Nature of Life, aiming at presenting a framework to explain life. It attracted coverage by the popular science and technology magazines Ars Technica and Popular Science, which characterized it as "crazy" and "hilarious". A member of the editorial board of Life resigned in response.
In 2013, another MDPI journal, Entropy, published a review paper claiming glyphosate may be the most important factor in the development of obesity, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and infertility. The paper itself does not contain any primary research results. It was criticized as pseudo-science by the popular science magazine Discover. With regard to the same controversial study, Jeffrey Beall has rhetorically asked, "When publishers like MDPI disseminate research by science activists like Stephanie Seneff and her co-authors, I think it’s fair to question the credibility of all the research that MDPI publishes. Will MDPI publish anything for money?".
In 2016, MDPI journal Behavioral Sciences published a review paper that claimed that watching pornography is a cause of erectile dysfunction. After critics raised concerns, an independent review by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) recommended that the article be retracted, based on issues including an unusual editorial process in which the listed journal editor declared that he "was not involved in the final decision regarding correction/retraction/authorship," an inaccurate and incomplete conflict of interest declaration that failed to disclose author connections with anti-pornography activist groups, failure to obtain informed consent from the study subjects, and failure to protect the identities of those subjects. Instead of retracting the paper, MDPI removed the editor's name from the paper and issued an amended conflict of interest statement which, according to Retraction Watch, did not fully address the conflicts of interest identified by COPE, nor the other issues identified by them. When contacted by Retraction Watch, MDPI's response was "The argument is already done. Both sides got large audience. Time to stop and made peace."
The journal Magnetochemistry accepted a paper in 2019 by a controversial scientist Susan Pockett which stated that "scientists are suppressing evidence that microwave radiation from smartphones and other devices cause harm to people". The paper was later that year retracted due to lack of a scientific contribution and being an opinion article. The journal initially invited Susan Pockett to submit a paper according to the author's own account.
In 2019, MDPI journal Psych published an editorial on race and intelligence by Richard Lynn, who had previously had his emeritus status revoked due to his promotion of discredited sexist and racist views, such as scientific racism. MDPI later issued an expression of concern and they changed the status of the article from editorial to opinion, three months after publication. According to science journalist Angela Saini, Psych had also published other similar work defending scientific racism.
Who's Afraid of Peer Review?
Inclusion in Beall's list
MDPI was included on Jeffrey Beall's list of predatory open access publishing companies in February 2014, and removed in October 2015 following a successful appeal. Beall's concern was that "MDPI's warehouse journals contain hundreds of lightly-reviewed articles that are mainly written and published for promotion and tenure purposes rather than to communicate science." Beall also claimed that MDPI used email spam to solicit manuscripts and that the company listed researchers, including Nobel laureates, on their editorial boards without their knowledge. Beall remained critical of MDPI after removing the publisher from his list; in December 2015 he wrote that "it is clear that MDPI sees peer review as merely a perfunctory step that publishers have to endure before publishing papers and accepting money from the authors" and that "it's clear that MDPI's peer review is managed by clueless clerical staff in China."
MDPI was removed from Beall's list in 2015. Beall's list was shut down in 2017; Beall later wrote that he had been pressured to shut down the list by his employer University of Colorado Denver and various publishers, specifically mentioning MDPI as a publisher that had "tried to be as annoying as possible to the university so that the officials would get so tired of the emails that they would silence me just to make them stop."
2014 OASPA evaluation
Following Beall's criticism of MDPI, the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) conducted an investigation in April 2014. This investigation was based on the controversy surrounding two papers, one in Life, the other in Nutrients; the listing of Nobel Prize winners on the website; the roles of editorial board members and of Shu-Ki Lin within the company; and the functions of the different office locations. OASPA concluded that MDPI satisfactorily meets the OASPA Membership Criteria.
2016 Data breach
In August 2016, MDPI was breached, leaving exposed 17.5 GB of data, including 845,000 e-mail addresses and e-mail exchanges between authors, editors and reviewers. According to MDPI, the unprotected instance at which the data was breached has since been protected.
2018 Resignation of Nutrients editors
In August 2018, 10 senior editors (including the editor-in-chief) of the journal Nutrients resigned, alleging that MDPI forced the replacement of the editor-in-chief because of his high editorial standards and for resisting pressure to "accept manuscripts of mediocre quality and importance."
Assessments in the Nordic countries
The National Publication Committee of Norway has assigned MDPI an institutional-level rating of "level 1" in the Norwegian Scientific Index since 2017, the standard rating designating a publisher as academic. Individual MDPI journals have separate journal-level ratings. As of 2020, 165 MDPI journals are listed in the Norwegian Scientific Index of which 158 have a rating of "level 1", and 7 have a rating of "level 0." In 2021 the National Publication Committee of Norway conducted a survey of how MDPI is perceived among Norwegian researchers. It showed that many are outraged at the way authors and reviewers are treated, but that some also appreciate fast and open publishing. In 2021 the executive committee of the National Publication Committee announced the creation of a new level X for dubious journals and publishers, and linked the creation of the new level specifically to the many expressions of concern regarding MDPI.
Norwegian scholars Olav Bjarte Fosso and Jonas Kristiansen Nøland at NTNU have criticised the inclusion of MDPI's journals in the Norwegian Scientific Index and noted that MDPI's journals have not been assigned basic scientific status in the Danish index, and that a third of MDPI's journals lack such recognition in the Finnish index with the remainder being assigned the lowest possible status; they note that many academics boycott MDPI and describe it as a "money machine" based in China with "a small 'artificial' office in Switzerland." The head and two members of the National Publication Committee of Norway stated that they shared Fosso's and Nøland's concerns over MDPI and described it as a "borderline publisher" that "deftly makes sure not to fall in the 'predatory publisher' category" and that "superficially meets the criteria" for level 1 status. In 2021 Fosso and Nøland argued that MDPI dilutes research by playing on academics' "vanity and desire to embellish their CV, " and has "an aggressive focus" on "flooding the market with rapidly published special issues motivated purely by profit."
Simen Andreas Ådnøy Ellingsen questioned the quality of MDPI's peer review based on his experiences as a reviewer for the publisher. He wrote that he had been only given one week to review a paper, that he recommended rejection, that the paper was then simply published without further comment, and that he never was in contact with any editor.
In June 2020, MDPI sparked controversy when – while attempting to publish a special issue on failures – a group of Water, Sanitation and Health researchers from the University of Leeds was informed by an MDPI representative that a quota of publication-fee exemptions allocated to the special issue could only be given to scholars from developed countries.
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- Fosso, Olav Bjarte; Nøland, Jonas Kristiansen (2020-01-06). "Forskere blir ledet til etiske overtramp" [Researchers are led into ethical transgressions]. Universitetsavisa.
- "Guest Post – MDPI's Remarkable Growth". The Scholarly Kitchen. 2020-08-10. Retrieved 2021-03-01.
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- DOAJ. "Directory of Open Access Journals". doaj.org. Retrieved 2020-03-31.
- "OASPA Members". Retrieved 2019-09-01.
- "Initiative for Open Citations". Retrieved 2019-09-01.
- "COPE: MDPI (Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute), 190 Member Journals". Retrieved 2019-09-01.
- "There is no black and white definition of predatory publishing". Impact of Social Sciences. 2020-05-13. Retrieved 2021-03-05.
- de Vrieze, Jop (2018). "Open-access journal editors resign after alleged pressure to publish mediocre papers". Science. doi:10.1126/science.aav3129. Archived from the original on 2018-12-24.
- Gillis, Alex (January 12, 2017). "Beware! Academics are getting reeled in by scam journals". University Affairs.
- Pal, Shalmali (1 January 2017). "Predatory Publishing: The Dark Side of the Open-Access Movement". ASH Clinical News.
- Beall, Jeffrey (18 February 2014). "Chinese Publisher MDPI Added to List of Questionable Publishers". Scholarly Open Access. Archived from the original on 2014-03-06.
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- Andrulis, Erik D. (2011). "Theory of the Origin, Evolution, and Nature of Life". Life. 2 (1): 1–105. doi:10.3390/life2010001. PMC 4187144. PMID 25382118.
- Timmer, John. "How the craziest f#@!ing "theory of everything" got published and promoted". Ars Technica. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
- Nosowitz, Dan. "Hilarious "Theory of Everything" Paper Provokes Kerfuffle". Popular Science. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
- Zimmer, Carl. "Life turned upside down". Discover Magazine. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
- Samsel, Anthony; Stephanie Seneff (2013). "Glyphosate's Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases". Entropy. 15 (4): 1416. Bibcode:2013Entrp..15.1416S. doi:10.3390/e15041416.
- Kloor, Keith. "When Media Uncritically Cover Pseudoscience". Discover Magazine. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
- Beall, Jeffrey. "Anti-Roundup (Glyphosate) Researchers Use Easy OA Journals to Spread their Views". Scholarly Open Access. Archived from the original on 12 January 2015. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
- Park, Brian Y.; Wilson, Gary; Berger, Jonathan; Christman, Matthew; Reina, Bryn; Bishop, Frank; Klam, Warren; Doan, Andrew P. (2016). "Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review with Clinical Reports". Behavioral Sciences. 6 (3): 17. doi:10.3390/bs6030017. PMC 5039517. PMID 27527226.
- Marcus, Adam (2018-06-13). "Journal corrects, but will not retract, controversial paper on internet porn". Retraction Watch. Archived from the original on 14 June 2018. Retrieved 13 June 2018.
- "'No scientific contribution': Journal pulls paper alleging radiation coverup". Retraction Watch. Retraction Watch. 9 September 2019.
- Oransky, Ivan (2019-08-08). "Prof who lost emeritus status for views on race and intelligence has paper flagged". Retraction Watch. Retrieved 10 January 2020.
- "Status withdrawn from controversial academic". BBC News. 14 April 2018. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
- Lynn, Richard (24 April 2019). "Reflections on Sixty-Eight Years of Research on Race and Intelligence". Psych. 1 (1): 123–131. doi:10.3390/psych1010009.
- Psych Editorial Office (2019). "Expression of Concern: Lynn, R. Reflections on Sixty-Eight Years of Research on Race and Intelligence". Psych. 1 (1): 429–430. doi:10.3390/psych1010033.
- See the Data and Documents of Bohannon, John (2013). "Who's Afraid of Peer Review?". Science. 342 (6154): 60–65. Bibcode:2013Sci...342...60B. doi:10.1126/science.342.6154.60. PMID 24092725.
- Beall, Jeffrey (28 October 2015). "MDPI removed from publisher list following successful appeal. #OA #MDPI". @jeffrey_beall. Retrieved 27 June 2017.
- Beall, Jeffery (11 June 2015). "Guest Editing a Special Issue with MDPI: Evidences of Questionable Actions by the Publisher". Scholarly Open Access. Archived from the original on 2015-06-16.
- Beall, Jeffrey (17 December 2015). "Instead of a Peer Review, Reviewer Sends Warning to Authors". Scholarly Open Access. Archived from the original on 2016-03-13.
- Beall, Jeffrey (2017). "What I learned from predatory publishers". Biochemia Medica. 27 (2): 273–279. doi:10.11613/BM.2017.029. PMC 5493177. PMID 28694718.
- Barclay, Alan W.; Brand-Miller, Jennie (2011). "The Australian Paradox: A Substantial Decline in Sugars Intake over the Same Timeframe that Overweight and Obesity Have Increased". Nutrients. 3 (4): 491–504. doi:10.3390/nu3040491. PMC 3257688. PMID 22254107.
- Redhead, Claire (11 April 2014). "Conclusions from OASPA Membership Committee Investigation into MDPI". OASPA.
- www.ITSecurityNews.info (2018-03-26). "MDPI – 845,012 breached accounts". IT Security News - cybersecurity, infosecurity news. Retrieved 2018-08-12.
- "Have I Been Pwned: Pwned websites" (Press release). haveibeenpwned.com.
- "MDPI". Norwegian Scientific Index. Archived from the original on 2019-11-27. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
- Børresen, Anne Kristine; Røeggen, Vidar; Sivertsen, Gunnar (2020-01-16). "Innlegg: Forlag sluker forfatterbetaling". www.dn.no. Retrieved 2021-03-02.
- "Vi innfører nivå X for tvilsomme tidsskrifter" [We are introducing level X for dubious journals]. Khrono. 27 May 2021. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
- "The BFI lists". Ministry of Higher Education and Science. Retrieved 2020-05-02.
- Børresen, Anne Kristine; Røeggen, Vidar; Sivertsen, Gunnar (2020-01-16). "Forlag sluker forfatterbetaling". Dagens Næringsliv.
- Nøland, Jonas Kristiansen; Fosso, Olav Bjarte (25 May 2021). "Profittjegere vanner ut norsk forskning" [Profit hunters dilute Norwegian research]. Khrono. Retrieved 25 May 2021.
- Ellingsen, Simen Andreas Ådnøy (2019-10-21). "Faren med kommersiell Open Access" [The danger of commercial open access]. Universitetsavisa.
- ""What the F?": How we failed to publish a journal special issue on failures : Water, Sanitation and Health (WASH) Blog". wash.leeds.ac.uk. Retrieved 2020-06-17.
- Marcus, Adam (2020-06-16). "Failure fails as publisher privileges the privileged". Retraction Watch. Retrieved 2020-06-17.
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