MDPI and Beall – further comments from a “brainwashed Brit”

After my recent post on MDPI there has been a flurry of comments on this blog and I have also received a few private mails. Some are accusatory either of me or other correspondents.

To clarify my position:

  • I have been aware of MDPI for ca 16 years and have no indication that they are other than a reputable scientific publisher. I have 2-3 times corresponded  with them.
  • I wrote “I have no personal involvement with MDPI”. This was poorly phrased – I mean to say I have no financial interest in MDPI nor am I involved in any way in the running of the company.
  • A month ago I accepted an invitation to be on the editorial board of the journal Data. I approve of what Data is setting out to do and I intend to take an active interest – making comments and suggestions where appropriate. I do not approve of editorial boards who simply provide names.  I intended to announce my membership on this blog.
  • I have been invited to contribute an article to a special issue edited by Bjoern Brembs and continue to do so.

I have worked extensively on material in the 3 journals Molecules, Materials and Metabolites because it is well presented and I believe it to be honest science. This does not involve MDPI, although I have told them what I am doing.

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I note that there are a great number of accusations about what various people have been doing, some implying fraud or near-criminal activity. I know nothing more of these (that is what the phrase “no personal involvement” was intended to address.) I do not intend to try to find out more about these. I shall not respond to them and may decline to post some of them.

  • I shall continue to mine the content from MDPI journals and publish the resulting science. I can do this with or without the cooperation of MDPI. I shall report the science objectively.
  • I shall continue to be an active member of the board of Data.

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I remark that the scholarly publishing industry has a turnover of ca 10-15 Billion dollars. Profit margins are very high. I am not surprised that there are low quality journals. Elsevier’s “Fractals, Solitons and Chaos” is a case in point (see Wikipedia for objective analysis). How many libraries have bought that? What chccks are there on quality? none.

I have argued for many years that Open Access needs a regulatory organ and been generally shouted down. The OA community is now reaping the harvest of its lack of care in standards – the (mis)label “Open Access” costs far more dollars than marginal publishers. Had the OA community created a system whereby MDPI or any other publisher could get formally certified they would not need to be have to defend themselves.

No good can come from single people who set themselves up as self-appointed arbiters, be they Beall or Harnad.  Criticising single articles (as Retraction Watch does or the chemical blogosphere) is admirable – especially as the discussion is open and different points of view are accepted. However Beall writes:

This post is a good example of how Brits in particular and Western Europeans in general have been brainwashed into thinking that individuals should not make any assertions and that any statements, pronouncements, etc. must come from a committee, council, board, or the like. This suppression of individuality is emblematic of the intellectual decline of Western Europe. This suppression is laying the foundation for the erosion of individual rights in Europe and the forced imposition of groupthink throughout the continent.

This immediately shows Beall’s total lack of objectivity. He gave an indication earlier with a white paper effectively attacking Open Access as a capitalist plot (or an anti-capitalist one – I couldn’t work out which). My nationality is irrelevant. Beall’s language verges on the nationalist – the nationality of the proprietor of MDPI (Chinese) is irrelevant for me – the question is does s/he run and host an effective operation.

Murray-Rust’s statement “I have no personal involvement with MDPI” is not reflective of the facts. Indeed, he is listed as serving on the editorial board of one of MDPI’s many (empty) journals, the journal Data. See: http://www.mdpi.com/journal/data/editors (Peter, if you did not know that you were listed here, please let me know, because this is a common practice, adding people to editorial boards without their permission. Otherwise, please explain your statement that you lack involvement with MDPI.)

I have explained this above

It would be great if SPARC were to list predatory publishers and journals, but it and most OA organizations pretend that predatory publishers don’t exist because they are afraid to admit that their OA fantasies are … just fantasies. OASPA’s membership list functions as sort of a white list, so if you don’t like my list, use OASPA.

The word “fantasy” immediately removes any chance or rational discourse.

MDPI is becoming an increasingly controversial publisher. This controversy will rub off on authors who publish there, and in the long run, I think most will wish they had published in a higher quality venue. Authors should make decisions as individuals (while they still can) and do what’s best for themselves as researchers. I am saying that for most individual researchers, MDPI is not a good choice, and you ought to consider a better-quality venue.

“controversial” is a subjective term and irrelevant. It is possible to whip up opinion against an organisation and, where the organisation depends on trust, this can be very difficult to refute. Beall has built a  list of publishers of questionable ethics and practices. Initially I felt it was useful, though I disliked the word “predatory” as it applies to many closed access publishers – they just use different tactics. I now have no regard for Beall’s list which I consist consists of personal prejudices (some of them nationalist).

I shall not write more on this topic. I shall write on Data and I shall write on content extraction.