I am a junior researcher and physician at a German university hospital. I am part of a funding program with regular workshops on grant applications, scientific writing, etc.

More recently, we discussed grant applications at the workshops. All of us had to hand in a sample application or an application we recently sent. When discussing my application, the course instructor / lecturer said the following things (translated from German):

Your application is good but very factual based. It is not very creative. A major point of concern is your top 10 publication list. The majority of your publications is from a single publisher - which could be interpreted as a lack of diversity.

Do you agree on this? I checked my top 10 list, which is a list of my own most relevant publications for the grant application, and it included: 3 publications in Springer, 2 in BMC and 5 in MDPI journals. Usually, my boss would decide where to submit. Should I be concerned? As we are in Germany, most publications in Springer and BMC are made open access free of charge for us by Project DEAL, and I simply do not have the money for some Elsevier / Taylor & Francis open access journals etc...

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    Is the "course instructor" also a researcher and physician or something else? What else if the latter?
    – Buffy
    Sep 11, 2022 at 11:30
  • She is a local assistant professor in Sociology and one of the 3 main instructors of that very mixed course. I am one of the few participants with a clinical medical background, the majority is from a basic science field.
    – Dr.M
    Sep 11, 2022 at 12:19
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    I find it strange that the number of publishers is the concern and not the number of journal titles. For instance, a notebook binder of papers on a certain topic I randomly picked from my bookshelves has papers published in Amer. Math. Monthly, Acta Math. Hungarica, J. Symbolic Logic, Proc. Amer. Math. Soc., Pacific J. Math., Real Analysis Exchange, J. London Math. Soc., Quaestiones Mathematicae, among others. I certainly know and recognize these journals, but the publishers . . . ? I can guess a few of them, and I know Amer. Math. Monthly recently changed publishers for example. Sep 11, 2022 at 13:26
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    Just to clarify: Your top 10 list of publications is a list of own publications, right? Something in the style you would attach for example to a DFG proposal? Sep 11, 2022 at 20:25
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    Dear Snijderfrey: exactly - this is my own list of publications ( a real one covering my achievements within the last 4 years). I used it for a DFG proposal - which was rejected in the end.
    – Dr.M
    Sep 12, 2022 at 18:58

3 Answers 3


It may be that the concern was not so much that half the publications come from a particular publisher, but the specific publisher involved. There are some people who do not have a great opinion of MDPI journals - see the fourth paragraph of their wikipedia article.

I do not know enough about MDPI to be able to speculate as to the validity of such an opinion.

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    See also: Is MDPI a reputable Academic Publisher? Sep 11, 2022 at 19:39
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    That was my first thought when reading the feedback you received ... the reviewer may be skeptical of MDPI journals but unwilling to specifically "name names" in the suggestion he or she gave you.
    – qdread
    Sep 12, 2022 at 12:08

Frankly, the comment seems bizarre. But since it seems to be just advice on writing grants, without a supervisory component, you can safely ignore it.

You may have limited influence over where those papers were published, and possibly no control, given that your PI decides. It would be a mistake to write with the goal of maximizing the number of publishers cited rather than the appropriate papers no matter where they appear (if reputable).

The instructor may believe (wrongly IMO) that papers get prestige or validity from the journal they are published in, rather than the other way about. Journals have prestige because they publish high quality papers. If they publish junk, they lose prestige.

Had they criticized a particular journal for lack of quality, it would make some sense, but "more is better" seems, to repeat, bizarre.

I doubt that people evaluating a grant proposal have the "number of journals cited" as a measure of quality, though some journals are recognized to be low quality.

Edited to add that some MDPI journals are controversial as noted by other writers here, and MDPI itself has been criticized as a publisher.

  • I am pretty sure that OP's top 10 list of publications is a list of own publications. Is this also your understanding? Sep 11, 2022 at 20:16
  • @Snijderfrey, maybe you are correct. Modifying a bit.
    – Buffy
    Sep 11, 2022 at 21:45

Your course instructor probably reiterates something she was taught herself by somebody else. In fact, I have heard the recommendation to avoid publishing too large a fraction of one's publications in the same journal before, uttered by different people. This recommendation was not focussed on the publisher, though, but on the journal. So yes, there is a chance that a proposal you write is assessed by somebody who concurs with your course instructor, and you may want to take this into account for future manuscript submissions.

The reasoning behind this was usually to avoid the impression that there is some personal connection to a specific journal or editor which improves the chances that a manuscript is accepted for publication there.


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