History of MDPI

MDPI launched in 1996 as a non-profit institute for the promotion and preservation of the diversity of chemical compounds. Founded in Basel, Switzerland as a “Verein” under Swiss law, the abbreviation MDPI initially stood for “Molecular Diversity Preservation International”. After successfully running several open access journals, including Molecules, Sensors and Entropy, MDPI developed into a leading open access publisher and the publishing part was transferred into a separate legal entity in 2010. MDPI remained the abbreviation of the newly founded “Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute”. The samples project continues today and is maintained by the MDPI Sustainability Foundation. MDPI has hosted or organized a number of scientific conferences, including electronic (virtual) conferences. The timeline below summarizes major milestones in each year since its establishment.

Preparation for founding a worldwide center for the collection of rare chemical samples was started. In order to promote this project, a journal entitled Molecules was planned and ISSN 1420-3049 obtained after application by Dr. Shu-Kun Lin, who was then working at Ciba-Geigy in Basel. The Editorial Board of the journal was set up with Dr. Shu-Kun Lin as the Editor-in-Chief. Several advertisements were published in leading chemistry journals in order to promote the samples collection project.
Molecular Diversity Preservation International (MDPI) was officially founded and registered in the commercial register in Basel, Switzerland, in June 1996 by Dr. Shu-Kun Lin and Dr. Benoit R. Turin. The stated goal of the entity was the international promotion and preservation of the diversity of chemical compounds by launching the collection of samples that could be made available to the scientific community for research purposes. The same year, the journal Molecules was launched in collaboration with Springer Verlag as one of the first electronic journals on chemistry. The University of Basel offered to host the first homepage for MDPI, then at www.unibas.ch/mdpi. Later, MDPI launched its own server and the website was made available at www.mdpi.org.
MDPI took over the publishing of Molecules from Springer Verlag and started to publish it as an open access journal. Molecules published 74 papers. The Molbank section of Molecules was introduced in the same year (Molbank publishes papers on synthetic compounds and natural products as one-compound-per-paper short notes. The section became an independent journal with its own ISSN 1422-8599 in 2003). Dr. Derek McPhee started working part-time, from Canada, as an Editorial Assistant to the then Editor-in-Chief of Molecules, Dr. Esteban Pombo-Villar. Until 2002 when the first staffed Editorial Offices were started, he would handle all the manuscript processing duties (manuscript receipt, peer review, layout and editing) for Molecules and the new journals as they were launched, while Dr. Shu-Kun Lin handled all the actual publishing and administrative tasks in Basel. The first annual e-conference ECSOC (http://www.mdpi.org/ecsoc/) was held this year.
A legal dispute with Springer Verlag regarding the ownership of the title Molecules was resolved outside of court. MDPI has continued to publish Molecules (ISSN 1420-3049) until this day, while Springer Verlag published a competing journal titled Molecules Online (ISSN 1433-1373, until it was discontinued in 1999). Molecules publishes 81 papers. Dr. Benoit R. Turin left the board of directors of MDPI in order to concentrate on his many other professional activities. The same year, a new journal International Journal of Molecular Sciences (IJMS) was planned, ISSN 1422-0067 obtained and the Editorial Board formed by Dr. Shu-Kun Lin.
Dr. Shu-Kun Lin took over as Editor-in-Chief of Molecules, replacing Dr. Pombo-Villar whose senior management duties with Novartis no longer allowed him to dedicate appropriate attention to the journal. Dr. Derek McPhee was formally appointed its Managing Editor. Over the years, Derek has actively edited thousands of manuscripts and has supervised the editorial procedure for several thousands of manuscripts in his current function as Editor-in-Chief of Molecules. Another MDPI journal Entropy (ISSN 1099-4300) was founded by Dr. Shu-Kun Lin who also served as the founding Editor-in-Chief. Two Nobel Laureates joined the Editorial Board of Entropy (Prof. Dr. Philip W. Anderson, Princeton University and Prof. Dr. Kenneth J. Arrow, Stanford University) and stayed until 2006, when the original Editorial Board was reorganized. A total of 94 papers were published.
The IJMS journal officially started publication with Prof. Dr. Jerzy Leszczynski as the founding Editor-in-Chief and two Nobel Laureates on the Editorial Board (Dr. Jerome Karle, Naval Research Laboratory and Prof. Dr. Yuan-Tseh Lee, Academia Sinica). Dr. Francis Muguet (1955-2009) joined MDPI as an Associate Editor for Molecules, Entropy and the IJMS and initiated production of print issues of these three journals using the infrastructure kindly provided by ENSTA. Francis also helped to run several mirrors of the MDPI website (some still running today). Molecules publishes 381 papers.
Sensors (ISSN 1424-8220) was launched. The idea of launching this title was formed earlier when Dr. Shu-Kun Lin met Prof. Dr. Ursula E. Spichiger-Keller on a train leaving the French speaking part of Switzerland when Ursula was returning to Zurich from her home and when Dr. Shu-Kun Lin returned to Basel after handling chemical samples in an office offered by Dr. Benoit R. Turin in a village in Valais. A total of 260 papers were published.
The MDPI office moved from Sängergasse 25, 4054 Basel to Matthäusstrasse 11, 4052 Basel. Dr. Shu-Kun Lin opened an editorial office in Qingdao, China in collaboration with the Ocean University of China. The International Symposium on Frontiers in Molecular Science 2002 (ISFMS2002, http://www.mdpi.org/isfms2002) was held in Qingdao, China the same year. It was the second scientific congress organized by MDPI (see http://www.mdpi.org/conferences.htm). The Editorial Office in Qingdao operated until early 2005. A total of 242 papers were published.
The journal Marine Drugs (ISSN 1660-3397) was launched in the Qingdao Editorial Office. The International Symposium on Sensor Science (I3S 2003) was held for the first time in Paris, France, organized mainly by Dr. Francis Muguet. We ran I3S 2004 in Nanjing, China (organized by Prof. Dr. Huangxian Ju) and I3S 2005 at Aachen University of Applied Sciences, Germany (organized by Prof. Dr. Michael J. Schoening). A total of 315 papers were published.
The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (IJERPH, ISSN 1660-4601) was launched. Many papers in the earlier volumes of this journal were papers presented at the International Symposium on Recent Advances in Environmental Health Research (organized by Prof. Dr. Paul B. Tchounwou, the Editor-in-Chief). The journal title Pharmaceuticals (ISSN 1424-8247) was planned and a paper was published. However, this journal only started to grow in 2009, thanks to the great editorial job of Ms. Yan (Jely) He. A total of 270 papers were published.
MDPI started to use a two-tier publication system whereby certain papers were published in a subscriber-only area for those papers where authors did not wish to contribute financially to the publication costs (see https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/10/6/583/). Mr. Dietrich Rordorf joined MDPI as Dr. Shu-Kun Lin's assistant in August 2005. As an experiment, a modified version of the online submission and editorial system based on the Open Journals System (http://pkp.sfu.ca/ojs/) was launched by Dietrich for IJMS. The handling of manuscripts was subsequently transferred to an in-house editor (the papers were previously handled by the Editor-in-Chief’s assistant). Molecules celebrated its tenth anniversary. A total of 391 papers were published.
Using the experience of IJMS, several other previously externally-edited journals were taken back in-house, including Entropy, Marine Drugs and Sensors. The editorial board of Entropy was reorganized after a dispute with the former Editor-in-Chief of the journal. Francis Muguet and Derek McPhee helped MDPI to defend the interests of this open access journal and MDPI. The editorial handling of manuscripts was professionalized and standardized across all MDPI journals. The two-tier publication system was abandoned after a few months test and replaced by a fully open access policy, see https://www.mdpi.com/1099-4300/8/3/131/. A total of 417 papers were published.
The editorial office in Basel was expanded by hiring and training two full-time editorial staff members. Mr. Matthias Burkhalter joined as Assistant Editor of Sensors in February 2007. Another staff member was hired as Assistant Editor for the IJMS in March 2007. During that Summer, Dietrich Rordorf and Marco Biasini worked on a database and publication system which enabled semi-automated conversion of scientific articles to XML format and production of PDF and HTML versions. Two papers were experimentally published in Marine Drugs using this conversion system at the end of the year. Later, part of the system was detached to build a new database and dynamic publication system for the journals. The XML conversion system had been further improved and started to be regularly used in 2011. Three new journals were planned in 2007 with preliminary websites setup: Algorithms, Energies and Materials which were all launched in the following year. For the first time slight profitability was reached for the publication project, which demonstrates the financial viability and success of the fully open access publication model. A total of 663 papers were published.
The domain www.mdpi.com was purchased to host the future publication system for the MDPI journals. Sensors and Molecules rapidly expanded through several topical special issues guest edited by leading scientists. MDPI joined Crossref and started to assign DOI numbers to each published paper in May-June 2008. At the same time, the open access policy which commenced in 2006 was further clarified and the Creative Commons license adopted, retrospectively, for all papers published by MDPI. An office was re-opened in China and three editorial staff members were quickly hired. The office in Basel was expanded by hiring a few students working part-time. The new publication system was launched at www.mdpi.com in October 2008. With the new website, a series of tools was made available to editors to ease the maintenance of the publications database and to guarantee data integrity. The three journals planned in 2007 started publication. Three new journals were planned for 2008 with preliminary websites setup: Sustainability, Remote Sensing and Viruses. A total of 1124 papers were published.
Twelve new journals started publication, effectively doubling the MDPI journal portfolio: Cancers, Diversity, Future Internet (a journal founded following the advice of Dr. Francis Muguet), Nutrients, Pharmaceutics, Polymers, Remote Sensing, Sustainability, Symmetry, Toxins, Viruses and Water. A new system was deployed to host electronic conferences at www.sciforum.net and launched with the hosting of the 13th International Electronic Conference on Synthetic Organic Chemistry (ECSOC-13). Dr. Yuan Gao was appointed as the Managing Director for the branch office of MDPI’s editorial work in Beijing, China. A total of 2332 papers were published.
MDPI AG (Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute) was founded in May 2010 as an operating company for the journals by Dr. Shu-Kun Lin and Dietrich Rordorf. Dietrich Rordorf was appointed CEO. The publication system of the journals, including the administration backend, was reengineered. The second version of the publication system brought large performance increases and further efficient administration of the database. An internal reporting and controlling system established more transparency for the evolution of the journals. Ten newly launched journals; 4103 papers were published.
A new submission and manuscript handling system (SuSy) — internally developed by Mr. Thomas Schurter — was launched for all MDPI journals. The promotion activities of MDPI were intensified: flyers of the journals and promotional gifts with engraved MDPI logo were sent out to editors and authors of MDPI journals. MDPI also started using social media by opening a Facebook page. The XML conversion system was further modified and finally used on a larger operating scale. There were 25 newly launched journals; 4684 papers published. In total, 15,430 papers published.
iPhone and Android app versions of the MDPI platform are made available via the iTunes and Google Play store. Total staffing of the two Editorial Offices reached 100 in June 2012. In total, 23 new journals started publication during 2012. Four journals were accepted for coverage by the Science Citation Index Expanded (Web of Science): Toxins, Remote Sensing, Water and Polymers: 7000 papers published; 21,000 papers published in total.
A new office was opened in Wuhan, China, in March 2013. Jely He served as the Managing Director for the operations in China. The Basel headquarters moved from Kandererstrasse 25, 4052 Basel, Switzerland to a larger office at Klybeckstrasse 64, 4057 Basel, Switzerland in July 2013. Most impact factors of MDPI journals grew significantly and five journals received their first Impact Factor in June 2013. Forests, Atmosphere, Micromachines and Symmetry were newly accepted for coverage by the Science Citation Index Expanded. Sustainability was accepted for coverage by the Science Citation Index Expanded and the Social Sciences Citation Index. Religions was accepted for coverage by the Arts & Humanities Citation Index. The MDPI Magazine was launched in Summer 2013. A rewritten version of the MDPI submission system was released in August 2013. A first version of Scilit was released, and an institutional membership was setup in Fall 2013. MDPI sponsored various conferences all over the world. Total staff reached 180 by the end of 2013.
The articles published exceeded 40,000 papers by November 2014 and the number of publications to over 12,300. Four journals received their first Impact Factor: Symmetry, Sustainability, Micromachines and Atmosphere. Four journals were accepted for Web of Science coverage in 2014: Minerals, Metals, Nanomaterials, and Catalysts. A total of twelve new journals were launched. Sciforum.net, the platform for open scholarly exchange and collaboration, was expanded and features for discussion groups, commentaries and conference hosting were introduced. The total number of institutional members exceeded 50 by December and the total number of staff members reached 230 by the end of 2014. The Haidian office moved to a larger office space.
Delia Mihaila is appointed CEO. Published articles surpass 60,000 papers in December and compared to 2014, the volume of publications grows 40% in the year 2015. Thirteen journals are launched in 2015. MDPI journals have one of the fastest median average publication times across the industry: 69 days from submission to publication; 84% of the content published in MDPI journals is indexed in Web of Science databases (including 34 journals indexed in the newly launched database ESCI). Four journals were included in SCIE (Applied Sciences, Genes, Crystals, and ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information. MDPI organizes two international conferences in Basel in collaboration with the University of Basel (The 4th International Symposium on Sensor Science and the 5th World Sustainability Forum). The total number of regular MDPI staff member exceeds 350 at the end of 2015.
MDPI celebrates its 20th anniversary. Dr. Franck Vazquez is appointed CEO in May 2016. The total number of articles published surpasses 86,500 at the end of 2016, with 23,500 published in 2016 (a 35% increase compared to 2015). Molecules and Sensors both reached the milestone of publishing their 10,000th paper. Fifteen journals are launched. Coatings was included in SCIE and 24 journals indexed in the newly launched database ESCI. More than 90% of the content published in MDPI journals is indexed in Web of Science. MDPI opens a new office in Barcelona, a new office in Serbia and the headquarters move to a new office in St. Alban-Anlage 66, 4052 Basel. The total number of MDPI staff members reaches 454. MDPI organizes the international Viruses2016 conference in Basel and the First Basel Sustainability Forum: Energy in collaboration with the University of Basel. MDPI runs its first publishing course at the University of Basel. MDPI joins as a member of SPARC, as a member of the United Nations Global Compact, and is added to the list of OA publishers which comply with the Wellcome Trust criteria for funding of APC. Preprints, a multi-disciplinary platform for early showcasing of articles in all research fields and disciplines, is launched.
The total number of articles published reaches 122,470 at the end of 2017. With 35,950 peer-reviewed articles published in 2017 (a 52.5% increase compared to 2016), MDPI has become the leading pure open access publisher in number of articles published in 2017 (source: DOAJ). Nine journals were accepted for coverage in the Science Citation Index Expanded (Web of Science): Cancers, Journal of Clinical Medicine, Animals, Agronomy, Cells, Electronics, Insects, Pharmaceutics, and Processes. Nineteen new journals were launched during the year, and, the number of full-time employees reached 1000. MDPI reinforced its links with scholarly communities by sponsoring and meeting researchers at scholarly events; by publishing journals in cooperation with learned societies; by hosting 24 conferences on its conference hosting service at Sciforum.net; by offering its Journal and Article Management System (JAMS) to institutional publishers such as UCL (University College London) Press; or, by collaborating with 300 academic institutions around the world, who participate in the Institutional Open Access Program (IOAP).
The total number of articles published reaches 193,780 at the end of 2018. With 64,687 peer-reviewed articles published in 2018 (a 79.7% increase compared to 2017), MDPI has become the 7th largest publisher in number of articles published in 2018, and the largest publisher of open access articles in DOAJ in 2018. Ten journals were accepted for coverage in the Science Citation Index Expanded (Web of Science): Biomolecules, Diversity, Foods, Journal of Marine Science and Engineering, Mathematics, Metabolites, Microorganisms, Pathogens, Plants and Vaccines. The journals Medicina, World Electric Vehicle Journal and Journal of Open Innovation: Technology, Market, and Complexity were transferred to MDPI. Fifteen new journals were launched during the year. The number of full-time employees reached 1248. The number of scientific societies partnering with MDPI or affiliating to MDPI journals reached 63 at the end of 2018. The Institutional Open Access Program (IOAP) reached 503 academic institutions around the world.
Delia Mihaila was appointed CEO in May 2019. The total number of articles published reached 300,000 at the end of 2019. With 106,152 peer-reviewed articles published in 2019 (representing a 64% increase compared to 2018), MDPI has become the 5th largest academic publisher. Seventeen journals were accepted for coverage in the Science Citation Index Expanded (Web of Science): Photonics, Life, Biology, Membranes, Agriculture, Healthcare, Separations, Journal of Personalized Medicine, Journal of Fungi, Chemosensors, Biosensors, Magnetochemistry, Toxics, Actuators, Children, Pharmaceuticals, and Biomedicines. Land and Healthcare were indexed in the Social Sciences Citation Index (Web of Science). The European Journal of Investigation in Health, Psychology and Education was transferred to MDPI. The European Burn Association started a new journal in collaboration with MDPI and fourteen other new journals were launched during this year: Acoustics, AgriEngineering, Chemistry, Clean Technologies, Clocks & Sleep, Forecasting, Gastrointestinal Disorders, Machine Learning and Knowledge Extraction, Physics, Prosthesis, Psych, Quantum Reports, Sci, and Vehicles. The number of scientific societies partnering with MDPI or affiliating to MDPI journals reached 95. The open peer-reviewed journal Sci, the scholarly encyclopedia Encyclopedia.pub, article endorsements and recommendations, and the scholarly networking platform Sciprofiles.com were launched. Five new offices were set up: United Kingdom (Manchester), Japan (Tokyo), Romania (Cluj-Napoca), China (Tianjin) and Thailand (Bangkok). The number of full-time employees reached 2137 at the end of 2019.

At the end of 2020, the total number of articles published reached 470,000 where 160,313 peer-reviewed articles were published in 2020. Nine journals were accepted for coverage in the Science Citation Index Expanded (Web of Science): Aerospace, Buildings, Fermentation, Fractal and Fractional, Gels, Horticulturae, Journal of Cardiovascular Development and Disease, Machines and Veterinary Sciences. In 2020, 53 new titles were launched: AI, Analytica, Applied Mechanics, Applied Nano, Automation, Birds, Chemistry Proceedings, CivilEng, Corrosion and Materials Degradation, Dairy, Diabetology, Earth, Ecologies, Electrochem, Electronic Materials, Endocrines, Eng, Engineering Proceedings, Epidemiologia, Environmental Sciences Proceedings, European Burn Journal, Fuels, GeoHazards, Hearts, Hemato, Hydrogen, IoT, Journal of Molecular Pathology, Journal of Nanotheranostics, Journal of Nuclear Engineering, Journal of Zoological and Botanical Gardens, Journalism and Media, Materials Proceedings, Modelling, NeuroSci, Nitrogen, Oceans, Optics, Organics, Polysaccharides, Psychiatry International, Reactions, Reproductive Medicine, Sexes, Signals, Solids, Surgeries, Sustainable Chemistry, Telecom, Tourism and Hospitality, Transplantology, and World. Fourteen journals were transferred to MDPI from other publishers: Audiology Research, Cardiogenetics, Clinics and Practice, Current Oncology, Dermatopathology, Gastroenterology Insights, Infectious Disease Reports, Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research, Journal of Xenobiotics, Microbiology Research, Neurology International, Nursing Reports, Pathophysiology and Pediatric Reports. The number of scientific societies partnering with MDPI or affiliating to MDPI journals reached 124. A new office was set up in Kraków, Poland. MDPI has a global workforce of 3861 people based in 13 different locations. In 2020, MDPI ran a total of 38 conferences: four physical conferences (two MDPI and two external ones), 31 online conferences (29 MDPI and two external), three virtual conferences have been switched from the physical ones, one poster competition and a total of 53 stand-alone webinars.

2021 (Q1)

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the original foundation of MDPI (see 1996 entry above). As of 1 April 2021, the total number of articles published by MDPI surpassed 526,700 where 51,000 peer-reviewed articles were published from January to March 2021. Four journals were accepted for coverage in the Science Citation Index Expanded (Web of Science): Axioms, Drones, Fire and Fishes. In the first quarter of 2021, 24 new titles were launched: Adolescents, Allergies, Biophysica, Conservation, Digital, Disabilities, Encyclopedia, Gases, Geomatics, Histories, Immuno, Journal of Cybersecurity and Privacy, Journal of Respiration, Livers, Macromol, Oral, Osteology, Parasitologia, Pollutants, Radiation, Stresses, Taxonomy, Uro and Women. Two journals were transferred to MDPI from other publishers: Current Issues in Molecular Biology and Tomography. New offices were opened in Singapore, Toronto (Canada) and Bucharest (Romania). Our global workforce now includes more than 4000 people.

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