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MDPI

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MDPI AG
MDPI-logo.png
StatusActive
Founded1996
Country of origin
  • Switzerland
Headquarters locationBasel, Switzerland
DistributionWorldwide
Key peopleShu-Kun Lin
Publication typesOpen access scientific journals
No. of employees3536 (in 2020)[1]
Official websitewww.mdpi.com

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.[2] MDPI is the largest open access publisher in the world and the 5th largest publisher overall in terms of journal paper output.[3] 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.[3]

As of October 2021, MDPI publishes 369 academic journals, including 83 with an impact factor out of 91 covered by the Science Citation Index Expanded.[4] Eight journals are indexed in the Social Sciences Citation Index.[5] MDPI journals are currently included in the Directory of Open Access Journals.[6] MDPI is a member of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association,[7] a participating publisher and supporter of the Initiative for Open Citations,[8] and a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE).[9]

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.[10][11][12][13] 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.[3] MDPI was included on Jeffrey Beall's list of predatory open access publishing companies in 2014[12][14] but was removed in 2015 following a successful appeal[13] and applying pressure to Beall's employer.[15] In 2021 five MDPI journals were among the initial 13 journals included in the Norwegian Scientific Index as possibly predatory journals, known as level X;[16] the publisher of the list, the National Publication Committee of Norway, linked its creation specifically to the expressions of concern regarding MDPI.[17] Since 2017, MDPI has a book publisher-level rating of "level 1" in the Norwegian Scientific Index, the standard rating designating a publisher as academic.[18]

MDPI's average article processing charge has grown significantly over the years: most journals started with an APC 0-100 $/article, but currently the charges are 1000 CHF (~ 1000 US$) for most journals, and even higher (2000 CHF) for medical journals.[19][20] The charges levied by journals that had both IF and CiteScore were significantly higher than those charged by journals with neither IF nor CiteScore (p <0.05). The charges were also correlated to the age of the journal: the more recently launched journals charged less than the older journals did.[20]

History

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).[21]

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.[22]

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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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.[22] It is primarily based in China[2] and has established over 200 broad-scope journals, usually with one-word titles.[2]

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.[3] 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.[3]

Controversies

Controversial articles

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.[23] It attracted coverage by the popular science and technology magazines Ars Technica and Popular Science, which characterized it as "crazy"[24] and "hilarious".[25] A member of the editorial board of Life resigned in response.[25][26]

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.[27] The paper itself does not contain any primary research results.[27] It was criticized as pseudo-science by the popular science magazine Discover.[28] 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?".[29]

A study published in the MDPI journal Nutrients in 2011 went through a series of corrections first in August 2011, then in April 2012, and then again in February 2014.[30] The article claimed that obesity rates in Australia increased in the same timeframe that sugary soft drink consumption declined by 10%. The article was used by soft drink industry lobbyists to argue that sugary drinks were not significantly contributing to obesity rates.[31] However the article itself debunked its own claim, with one figure showing that soft drink consumption had increased by 30% during the time period where the authors claimed a 10% reduction in consumption. Nutrients issued a correction claiming that the previously described 10% drop in consumption referred to an increase in the use of artificial sweeteners, and reflected overall sugar consumption rather than soft drink consumption. The correction said that "some words were missing." This correction has been derided by some as "nonsense" and untrue, suggesting that the correction does not address the core issue of whether sugar consumption increased in Australia over the time period investigated. The journal Nutrients and the senior author of the article maintain that the thrice-corrected article is now accurate, and that corrections that were made were immaterial to the conclusions of the study.[31]

In 2016, MDPI journal Behavioral Sciences published a review paper that claimed that watching pornography is a cause of erectile dysfunction.[32] 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."[33]

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.[34]

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.[35][36][37][38] 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.[38][35]

In 2021, the MDPI journal Vaccines published an article claiming a "lack of clear benefit" for COVID-19 vaccines.[39] The article was heavily criticized for misusing data and as a result reaching a false conclusion.[40] Katie Ewer, one of the journal's editors, called the publication of the article "grossly irresponsible" and resigned from the editorial board as a protest against its publication.[40] Subsequently, four other members of the editorial board also resigned. The journal then published an "expresssion of concern" regarding the article,[41] and then retracted the article.[42][43]

Who's Afraid of Peer Review?

In 2013, one of MDPI's journals was targeted in the Who's Afraid of Peer Review? sting operation and rejected the fake paper.[44]

Inclusion in Beall's list

MDPI was included on Jeffrey Beall's list of predatory open access publishing companies in February 2014,[14] and removed in October 2015 following a successful appeal.[45] 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."[14] Beall also claimed that MDPI used email spam to solicit manuscripts[46] and that the company listed researchers, including Nobel laureates, on their editorial boards without their knowledge.[14] 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."[47]

MDPI was removed from Beall's list in 2015.[13] 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."[15]

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,[23] the other in Nutrients;[48] 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.[49]

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.[50] According to MDPI, the unprotected instance at which the data was breached has since been protected.[51]

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."[11]

Assessments in the Nordic countries

The National Publication Committee of Norway has assigned MDPI a book-publisher level rating of "1" in the Norwegian Scientific Index since 2017, the standard rating designating a publisher as academic.[18] Individual MDPI journals have separate journal-level ratings. As of 2021, 188 MDPI journals are listed in the Norwegian Scientific Index of which 173 have a rating of "level 1", 5 have a rating of "level X" and 10 have a rating of "level 0."[18] 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.[52] In 2021 the executive committee of the National Publication Committee announced the creation of a new level X for possibly predatory journals and publishers, and linked the creation of the new level specifically to the many expressions of concern regarding MDPI.[17] The new level became active in September 2021, and five MDPI journals were among the initial 13 journals included in the level, making MDPI the largest publisher of level X-designated journals; the journals were Arts, Sustainability, Geosciences, Processes and Axioms.[16]

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,[53] 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."[2] 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.[54] 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."[55] Scientists Anders Skyrud Danielsen and Lars Mølgaard Saxhaug referred to MDPI as a "money machine fraud operation."[56]

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.[57]

Preferential treatment of authors from developed countries

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.[58][59]

Journal citation reports and the definition of a predatory journal

In July 2021, an article titled "Journal citation reports and the definition of a predatory journal: The case of the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI)" was published in the academic journal Research Evaluation, written by María Ángeles Oviedo-García.[60] Oviedo-García argued that MDPI used self-citation practices known as "citation cartels" to increase the apparent Impact Factor of MDPI journals, and that MDPI journals bear a number of hallmarks of predatory publishing. MDPI also released a public comment on the article on August 19th, 2021, claiming the article was predicated on the notion that MDPI was a predatory publisher, and that the article misrepresents MDPI business practice. In that comment, MDPI did confirm that its journals had some of the highest self-citation rates amongst academic publishers.[61] The article in Research Evaluation later received an editorial "Expression of Concern," and as of November 25th 2021, an investigation is ongoing.[62]

See also

References

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External links