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The title includes my main problem. I am a clinician-scientist in the field of clinical nutrition. I love my job and I have a good relationship with my supervisor who supports me a lot. I have my own research projects running and access to his databases - so I publish on a regular basis. My boss grants me freedom regarding the topics I focus on. Everything is great - except that my boss insists on publishing with MDPI. More specifically, he almost all the time asks me to submit to "Nutrients", a Q1 MDPI Journal with one of the highest IF in the field of nutrition. However, MDPI and Nutrients attracted a lot of criticism (e.g. an article called "Persistent Issues With the Journal Nutrients and Its Publisher MDPI" ) in the past.

Almost 70% of our work goes there, which means that only 30% of my work has been published in other journals. I am well aware of the potential implications and want to convince him that we should try other venues. He loves open access though, and we cannot afford OA in the higher ranking options in the field of Nutrition (our library subsidizes publications with MDPI). What can I do ? I feel this negatively affects grant applications and my reputation in the field.

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    Well, have you talked to your boss about the MDPI issues? Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 16:55
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    @ Wolfgang Bangerth - Yes, of course. To the extent that every time I bring this up he would reply " Not again." His argument is that its all about impact. Impact factor and reputation is a synonym - for him.
    – Dr.M
    Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 17:17
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    @AnonymousPhysicist That's a wild hypothesis. I haven't heard of any journal that give anything to any author. Is there the slightest evidence or hint for you to form this hypothesis?
    – Dirk
    Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 12:16
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    @Dirk I think the more plausible assumption is the MDPI is cheap OA, fast, and reasonably easy to publish in. Frankly, given the horror gatekeeper reviewer stories I increasingly hear from so-called reputable journals, I can see why people lose patience with wasting their time trying to pass by a reviewer that wants "yet another wafer-thin change" or that thinks "the paper shows a very interesting and original concept, but the examples are not large-scale enough and not yet tested on real-world data" when the paper is about an innovative idea rather than a perfectly engineered outcome. Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 20:55
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    Emphasize the reputation. I have reviewed for MDPI journals -- not Nutrition, but others -- and that experience was enough to make me heavily scrutinize (or dismiss) anything published under them. Read into that what you will. I'm not going to air the dirty laundry here. Their impact factor is high because they are open access. Nothing more, nothing less.
    – Kev C
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 17:23

7 Answers 7

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Please consider the position of your "boss" more closely. Nutrients has a reasonably high ranking, impact factor, citations, etc, meaning that your articles are in good company. I claim that the position of your boss is reasonably rational and that your boss could very well not see the harm to your career that you see.

Instead of trying to convince your "boss" that (s)he is wrong, try to convince her/him that your concerns are genuine and that you two should publish elsewhere on occasion. Otherwise, I see very little chance for things to change.

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Perhaps it is too late to take this approach, but I would try to drop the MDPI angle (it doesn't sound like you are going to change your boss's opinion of them), and make the point that it is not a good idea to publish too much in any single journal.

The reasons for this are:

  1. You are putting all your eggs in one basket. I consider that there are four top journals in my field (which differ in focus, rather than quality). However, if I only submitted to one of the four, someone with a slightly different view of which the top journals are might rate my CV much lower as a result. I'd expect almost everyone's list to mostly agree with mine, though, so by spreading papers out between them I don't need to worry.

  2. Simply the fact that someone publishes most of their papers in a single journal would make me suspect that the journal is not very selective. This is a bigger problem if your CV is being evaluated by someone outside your field (which eventually it will be), who may not be familiar with the journal.

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Hiring committees in many countries are beginning to view publication in MDPI and similar venues as a negative on a curriculum. Even without looking at the quality of the article (which hiring committees often do not do in any meaningful sense), the mere fact of repeatedly publishing in such a venue can be seen as indicative of certain behaviors which many regard as problematic or undesirable particularly in a coworker.

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I had a similar experience in the past. My former boss was insisting to publish all my PhD papers on an MDPI journal [Entropy], even though in our field the journal is not even Q1 but rather Q2.

I would propose to stand your ground, but be prepared to face any consequences.

  • Send him this recent post List of all MDPI predatory journals that includes additional links describing the questionable practices of this editor.

  • Emphasize that this journal choice will harm your CV, since a lot of grant agencies and universities do not recognize MDPI journals as valid publications, and may even consider this detrimental for your application, since they view it as trying to publish inaccurate results/science.

  • If he still remains unconvinced with these discussions you have to go to a responsible person at your university/institution (probably ombudsman) explaining them the situation and asking for advice and help with this situation.

The publication venue has to be jointly decided by all authors, and if one author has valid points for not wanting to publish to a journal (i.e., due to predatory practices) this should stay out of the question.

My personal story is the following: After we published a paper at an MDPI journal and my advisor noticed that it was rather easy to get a fast acceptance, he started publishing all his students' papers at this journal. He was at the verge of retirement so didn't really care about any career consequences.

In the past we had big fights over this issue, where I sent him several blog entries describing the questionable reviewing practices of MDPI journals (even a wikipedia link). He was insisting to the point of threatening me to remove his name from the paper if I was insisting to send it to a non-MDPI journal. I started suspecting that MDPI was giving him bonuses/bribing him for publishing with them. I don't make this thoughts very easily, but we literally had weekly fights for 6 months straight over this exact topic, without him being able to give me a proper justification on to why not to send the paper to another publisher. Fortunately I didn't publish the paper there, but that came with a big health cost and complete breakdown of my relationship to the advisor.

Good luck!

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    Dear can't stop me now - Thank you so much! I am exactly in the same situation - although a lot of work has been published there. My boss will retire in five years. He is an editorial board member of Nutrients. I do not know what benefits he has. I just understand that going beyond his "recommendation" will cause me big troubles.
    – Dr.M
    Commented Jun 8, 2023 at 9:58
  • What is your career stage? Are you a PhD student? Commented Jun 8, 2023 at 10:52
  • Check also the answers to this question: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/152319/… Commented Jun 8, 2023 at 10:57
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    Dear can't stop me now I am a clinician scientist. I have no PhD. I am in research for about 5 years.
    – Dr.M
    Commented Jun 8, 2023 at 11:23
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    @Dr.M You should mention in your post that he is an editor there. That is a potential conflict of interest, and typically editors try not to publish too much in their own journals.
    – Kimball
    Commented Jun 15, 2023 at 16:48
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I think the answer depends a lot on what you mean by boss.

If it is just your supervisor, you can just say "no, this is my work and we are submitting elsewhere", and that is it.

If it is your phd supervisor, the history is a bit different.

In my view, a supervisor is just a senior colleague, but a colleague nonetheless. Unless you are doing his work under his direct direction (seldomly the case), there is no reason why he should dictate where you submit your work.

Of course, mostly people somehow view this as a power dynamics, where the supervisor has more power.

However, in the end of the day, he will have very little impact in the future of your career (again, if we are talking about academia, not a company), and your publishing history will be more important.

Also, be aware that permanent staff in ula lot of universities receive bonus based on publication. The size of bonus is proportional to some index, which often is associated with bibliometrics like IF.

Most selection committees for academics only look at IF as well. So, as long as you do not have 100% of your best papers in a single journal, no one cares really.

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One way people have shown badness of journals was writing a bad paper and getting it accepted. You could try to do that, maybe under a pseudonym, and show your acceptance notification to your boss (without actually publishing it).

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    i don't think that this is reasonable since it potentially wastes reviewer time with a dishonest submission. Even if the submissiom gets accepted, acceptance being easy does not diminish other advantages the boss lists (IF, speed, low price, open access...) Commented Jun 14, 2023 at 12:25
  • On one hand you are right, but if it decreases the amount of papers submitted to a bad journal in the long run (meaning less reviews and less funding spent on their open access), then I'd say that in a utilitarian fashion the positives outweigh the negatives
    – Pronte
    Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 13:06
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Where are you planning to submit your results then?

Scientific publication is bad from its roots, see its history. And now we are splitting the hair, considering MDPI "bad", but Elsevier or others "good".

The real question is: what better venue can we offer/build? in the meanwhile, it is either accepting that your professor and the people at MDPI get credibility and profit, or that the big western publishers get credibility and profit.

Given that MDPI is transparent in their effort of being a leading publisher, but they are not doing for profit, the choice is up to you:

  • money to western publishers (money is power)
  • credibility to the child of the single party chinese capitalism (in the capital world, credibility brings money and money brings power)

Good luck!

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    @ EarlGrey: we also have agreements with Wiley and Springer that allow us to publish there for free. For my boss this is not an option due to the comparably longer review times.
    – Dr.M
    Commented Jun 8, 2023 at 9:59
  • @Dr.M I am 100% sure that "for free" is the result of an agreement where your university is already paying "a lot" to the publishers you mentioned. Good for you, but it does not change a thing in the big picture ...
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Jun 8, 2023 at 14:18
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    There are many alternatives that are not as bad as MDPI or Elsevier. Commented Jun 8, 2023 at 17:33
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    @AnonymousPhysicist As a physicist, which your name implies, you have APS. They are very good in my experience. Not everybody has this luxury. Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 13:29
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    @EarlGrey the people who don't rate MDPI are probably not thinking in the way you suggest. For me it's nothing to do with who owns them, what profits they make, where the money comes from or where it goes to. The issue is that I have much less confidence that a paper in an MDPI journal is correct, because in my experience they do not give reviewers enough time to verify this. Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 8:54

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