Controversial Articles

Sometimes it happens that an individual scholar or a group of scholars are dissatisfied with an item published by a journal. These scholars cast doubt on the accuracy of the publication, or the integrity of the publication process. Motivations vary widely and can include political or corporate agendas, and competing economic or intellectual interests. Such publications can become controversial in the sense that two groups form—one supporting the published work and the other opposed to it. Often, the implications cross over from one of simple scholarly merit to political or financial interests, thus clouding the most important criteria for judging the issue of suitability for publication.

In the online era, one can find an unprecedented amount of information, comments, and even libels distributed via social networks and blogs. It becomes difficult to distinguish personal opinions, rigorous scientific commentaries, and comments from laymen misrepresenting or misunderstanding scientific work. It is often not clear whether commentators have ever read the article in question in its entirety. Such comments can also attack the journal, their editors, or the publisher by claiming that editors lack competency, that the paper did not undergo a rigorous peer-review, or that the paper should never have been published in a serious research journal. Such allegations require the support of relevant facts. In accordance with our review policy, all articles published by MDPI are refereed by at least two senior experts in the relevant field. The final decision to publish a paper is always taken by an external, academic editor who has no personal interest in the publication of a particular article. The external editor has no information on the financial status of a paper (i.e., whether authors will be asked to pay publishing fees or whether they received a discount or a full wavier of the publishing fees if their paper is accepted), and the external editor has no financial interest in accepting or rejecting a particular article.

The policy for our journals is to widely ignore the blogosphere, where competing interests, corruption, and anonymity prevail. Scientists contesting an article in one of MDPI’s journals are asked to prepare a scientifically rigorous Comment and submit it to the Editors of the journal for editorial review. The authors of such Comments are asked to declare all competing interests and their identity in the Comment, which will be published in the regular issue of the journal if it passes editorial review. Additionally, the author of the Comment will be asked to present references to their scientifically relevant previous publications on the subject, so that the Editors can assess the commentator’s capacity to judge the contested article in a rigorous manner. We do not allow personal attacks, defamatory statements, or comments of an aggressive tone. Any statements in the Comment need to be backed with scientific facts and references to the relevant scientific literature. Editors may ask that the Comment be revised at any time or may refuse to publish a Comment if it is judged to be inappropriate. Authors of the contested work will be given an opportunity to reply to the Comment.

In cases where authors are found guilty of scientific misconduct (in particular: falsification of data, inappropriate editing and manipulating of images or videos, plagiarism, or republication of previously published work), the editors or the publisher may retract an article. If the scientific misconduct cannot be appropriately judged and assessed by the editors of the journal, we will usually require an instruction for retraction from an institutional investigative body.

Dr. Shu-Kun Lin
E-mail: lin@mdpi.com

Dr. Martyn Rittman
E-mail: rittman@mdpi.com