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24 February 2014
Update: Response to Mr. Jeffrey Beall’s Repeated Attacks on MDPI
Update added on 14 April 2014: The Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) concluded their investigation into the claims made against MDPI. Based on their findings they "feel satisfied that MDPI continue to meet the OASPA Membership Criteria". OASPA carefully reviewed correspondances and other relevant documents from MDPI. More details are available from the OASPA blog.

Mr. Jeffrey Beall is a librarian at the Auraria Library, University of Denver, Colorado and has publicly criticized MDPI twice via his blog “Scholarly Open Access”.

First, in May 2013, Mr. Beall who has no PhD himself, published scholarly comments on a biophysics review paper that was published by a senior PhD scientist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA. The paper was published after the usual procedure: it was refereed, revised and later approved by both peer-reviewers and an external, academic editor of the journal after major revisions. The paper is somewhat hypothetical and controversial—however, it is up to expert scholars in the domain of the paper to judge its merits and to provide critical, scholarly comments and follow-up research.

More recently, Mr. Beall redoubled his attack by publishing an incompetent general critique of MDPI. As someone forwarded an advance copy of Mr. Beall's post to MDPI, we have asked Mr. Beall to communicate with us before publishing his critique. Mr. Beall did not react. Mr. Beall has become known as the maintainer of a list of questionable open access journals. However, in December 2013 he expressed personal views highly critical of open access in general in a piece published in the open access journal TripleC.

Mr. Beall’s allegations against MDPI include:

  • A serious claim that MDPI added Nobelists to its Editorial Board without their approval. We have provided evidence to Mr. Beall that this is not the case. In particular, a news story on eCampus News had reported that Professor Capecchi was not aware of his board membership. After writing to him, the Editor-in-Chief of Biomolecules obtained a written confirmation from Professor Cappechi that he was indeed aware of his membership. eCampus News has already updated its story.
  • A bizarre statement criticizing the use of “one-word names” for journal titles. MDPI journals are appropriately named according to the scholarly domains that they cover and the journals and their websites are easily distinguishable from other journals covering similar domains. All journals are exclusively published on the www.mdpi.com website.
  • A statement that MDPI regularly publishes controversial articles to boost the citations to its journals. MDPI has published a statement on publishing controversial articles, see http://www.mdpi.com/about/controversial-articles/. Possibly controversial articles are marked as such on the abstract page, and the note points to the above statement. These are few in number, and we do not deliberately seek controversy. Any reputable publisher sometimes handles such cases and makes a judgment call on what is interesting to publish. The decision to publish is always made by an external, academic editor.
  • A discriminatory statement that the Publisher is “Chinese”, although MDPI AG is a formally registered Swiss company, managed in the head office in Basel, Switzerland. All rights to the journals are owned by MDPI AG.
  • The posting of a picture of the fast food shop next door claiming these are the MDPI headquarters. MDPI occupies the entire second floor of the building Klybeckstrasse 64–70, owned and partially used by a major Swiss bank. The entrance to the staircase is at Klybeckstrasse 64.

Mr. Beall bases his questionable writing on a “report” that was published by Dr. Xin Ge. Dr. Ge has been harassing MDPI and its academic editors for several weeks, as MDPI twice sponsored a prize against academic fraud in China, which is awarded annually since 2012 by Dr. Shi-min Fang, see our statement http://www.mdpi.com/about/announcements/502/. The “report” is one of many open letters from Dr. Ge to Nature, after Nature co-sponsored the 2012 John Maddox Prize, which was jointly awarded to Dr. Shi-min Fang and Professor Sir Simon Wessely. Dr. Ge’s “open letters” have all been ignored by Nature.

Open access publishing is just one of the publishing models and it should maintain the same professional standard as advocated by societies such as COPE, STM and OASPA. MDPI strives to fulfill the high standard of publication ethics. We believe that open access has a significant advantage over other models of publishing: the scientific community can easily access the literature and make scholarly comments on the papers. Serious critique of any paper published in our journals is very welcome and should be addressed to the editors of the journal. Discussions, criticism and proposal to help to improve other aspects of open access publishing service are also appreciated.

We wish to conclude by expressing that Mr. Beall’s blacklist in its current form is unnecessary and unreliable. On the one hand, there are professional indexing databases operating as watchdogs of journal quality. Professional databases such as the Web of Science, Scopus or PubMed can be used as whitelists of good journals. Also, professional services and societies, such as the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA), are putting in a great deal of effort to distinguish reputable open access journals and their publishers from scamming activities. On the other hand, Mr. Beall operates as an individual person and does not provide sufficient evidence for his claims, does not attempt to verify his statements for accuracy, nor operate a methodological approach to his appraisals. Mr. Beall also denies the right to defense to those that he attacks. Mr. Beall’s judgments are therefore to be considered as unreliable, unmethodical and his personal opinions.

Notes

Mr. Beall’s anti-open access comments can be accessed from the website of the journal TripleC:
http://triplec.at/index.php/tripleC/article/view/525

Mr. Beall published a paper in the MDPI journal Future Internet in 2009:
http://www.mdpi.com/1999-5903/2/1/1

A chemist’s blog criticizing Mr. Beall’s attack:
https://blogs.ch.cam.ac.uk/pmr/2014/02/18/bealls-criticism-of-mdpi-lacks-evidence-and-is-irresponsible/

The news story on eCampus News:
http://www.ecampusnews.com/research/open-access-publisher-566/

(First published: 24 February 2014, last updated: 25 February 2014)

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