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I have some preliminary experimental results that won't fit into the next round of experiments. The first only shows there is problem but can't make any conclusions about why. The second will hopefully both point out the problem and explain why. The experimental methods are independent of each other but data analysis overlap.

I was originally thinking about submitting it to a conference (electrical engineering, conferences publications are not really looked upon), but was offerred the opportunity to publish in a MDPI journal (Batteries, IF 4.0, our top journal has IF around 10). My personal experience with MDPI (Energies & Batteries) say that they are mediocre at best, and I have stopped reading/citing their articles just to save some time.

My PI suggests I publish the MDPI & submit future results to a good journal. He did previously comment on how MDPI journals are having decent impact factors and I think is basing his judgement on the IF.

My friends are suggesting a conference + journal makes more sense than bad journal + good journal, and publishing in MDPI may harm the reputation of my good journal because when people look into it, they will find the preliminary results are published in a borderline predatory journal.

This would be my first ever journal publication, so I thought it won't harm my personal reputation too too much since I have lots of time to prove myself later, but I also don't want to waste energy publishing something I'm not even proud of.

How will this look when I later apply for post-doc and tenure track? Am I overthinking this and should just get one publication out of the way since my lab requires 3 to graduate? Would love to hear some thoughts on this.

Want to add some clarifications since this question still seem to be attracting attention:

  1. This is not intended as a debate over the quality of MDPI journals. I'm asking that given the not-so-good reputation, which I think people can agree on, could it hurt my personal reputation or the reputation of my future potentially interesting paper. Specifically, if you see an interesting paper, does it make you suspecious if the prior related research is published in an MDPI journal? My speculation is yes which is why I decided to submit to the conference instead.
  2. There are comments on if I don't read/cite them, why publish. I don't prioritize reading or citing their articles simply because there is too many to read already. I still think they are good as a documentation kind of journal to document some not-so-interesting-but- nonetheless-done kind of research from and occasionally compare my results to MDPI papers for additional validation. Additional, I have the motivation of having 1/3 of my graduation requirements out of the way, which gives me more freedom to try things in the future. Finally, I think my results right now is exactly the "we found something here it is" kind of paper I still occasionally read from MDPI, so it could potentially benefit someone.
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  • 3
    Why not post a preprint? It’s free and does not have the risk to negatively impact your CV like a MDPI paper might (the publisher is considered predatory or at least borderline by many researchers).
    – user126108
    Dec 8, 2023 at 0:44
  • 2
    MDPI deserves a lot of hate, but by golly, most of the reasons people give for hating MDPI read like disinformation at best.
    – Allure
    Dec 9, 2023 at 3:04
  • 1
    How do you get from "fast publication process" to "easy"? I'm curious how you draw a causal relation. Like, how does a fast publication process make it easy? Unless you mean the production process is easy for authors (which it is, relatively) - but presumably that's not what you mean.
    – Allure
    Dec 9, 2023 at 8:32
  • 2
    @Allure They are not related, but from our past experience MDPI has a nearly non existent peer review that made it really easy for the author, this what I was implying. I'm not saying it's good but just thought it suits the situation. Dec 9, 2023 at 14:12
  • 3
    And yes, I would argue that an average of a month to review, revise, and accept a journal submission is "barely sufficient or adequate" (i.e., scant). Now, that's probably enough for comments here... That is a full topic for a week long discussion.
    – Clement C.
    Dec 10, 2023 at 0:11

13 Answers 13

8

I've encountered two schools of thought. One, you start where you want to end - i.e., early in your career you aim to publish as high as possible to set the standard. Obviously this isn't always realistic. Most people cannot conjure up a Nature paper out of thin air. Two, you work your way up, understanding that as a student or early career researcher you might not be producing work right off the bat that will make it into top journals (this is more about "impact" than scientific quality) and it's more important to establish a track record.

I don't think there is a right or wrong approach. Your situation will dictate what you do. The caveat is that no matter what, avoid predatory journals. A high quality journal does not necessarily need to be high impact though. And while MDPI comes up in many discussions about predatory journals, it is field dependant.

MDPI doesn't have a stellar record. It would not be my first choice in general. But it's really journal dependant and it may be that Batteries (I am not familiar with the field) is a perfectly fine journal that no-one will look twice at. If your PI is encouraging it, I might at least look into it a bit more. Do the papers you read cite articles published there? Are the recently published articles decent quality? Do you cite them? If the answer to these questions is yes, then you could send it there. Otherwise I would either look for a different journal, or submit to a conference.

This advice is assuming your work is actually publishable in its current state.

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  • 1
    Thank you for the thoughts! I should have probably mentioned in the post, but I first ran into MDPI when I started noticing their papers were constantly subpar, not necessarily bad but just uninteresting and don't draw convincing conclusions, which is exactly the manuscript I have right now. There are occationally terrible or good ones of course, but I eventually stopped reading & citing them. Given that with your advice, I think publishing at a conference may be a better choice. Dec 7, 2023 at 22:14
  • 1
    And there are always kind-of interesting results that you aren't going to spend more time on, and it would be fairly quick to get an OK paper out on, but not one that would go to the top journal. Just don't submit to a predatory journal.
    – Jon Custer
    Dec 7, 2023 at 22:17
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Short answers: Yes. Publishing in journals that are well recognized as low-ranking, or even predatory, hurts severely your CV in any decent research university.

Longer answer: I don't think that MDPI is "mediocre". It is perfectly fine to publish in mediocre journals. MDPI on the other hand is considered by some as predatory, which means it is much below "mediocre". Its credibility is put in doubt.

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    @leonos, fixed. thanks.
    – Dilworth
    Dec 10, 2023 at 23:30
3

I analyzed some data with my advisor for a collaboration, and it ended up in the highest impact factor MDPI journal. If I could take it back, I would. Not only I feel like I don't really need the article and that it doesn't speak for what I do in science, but also they harass you with an endless barrage of unwanted emails about sketchy conferences and journals. And this kinda shows the full picture, it's not about science and a peer review service, it is about publishing and charging APCs as much as possible. Even you said it, you don't bother reading those journals, then why publish there in the first place. I know it is tempting because of the metrics, but no one will read your article, even less so cite you. It won't impact your h-index. And those metrics are SO skewed due to the self-citation rate in those journals.

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    I have to disagree with the sentiment because I still occasionally run into MDPI papers that can be somewhat valuable. I find them mostly boring rather than false science and can occasionally be good to compare my results to. And for spam, I get enough even with only two IEEE conference publications so it may not be a MDPI specific thing although I get it it's more annoying when it's coming from the publisher itself rather than some unknown emails. I agree I don't absolutely need this article and it may not affect things in the long run so not worth dealing with it though. Dec 9, 2023 at 3:31
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I have several publications in MDPI and also peer review for them. I also have many publications in society journals, and these society journals are considered high quality in my field (Nutrition science). In the cases that I had published in Nutrients or IJMS (MDPI journals), the reviews were pretty critical and helpful in enhancing the paper. Whereas the two most recent publications in society journals, the reviews were extremely minor. As a peer reviewer for MDPI, I'm also extremely critical and I'm often rejecting a lot. My rejections are taken seriously by the editor, even in cases where the other two reviewers say accept. I think there's overall a bad reputation but I don't think it's universal. Depends on the reviewers and depends on the editors.

1
  • The OP specifically mentions which MDPI journal they are considering, adding "My personal experience with [this journal] say that they are mediocre at best, and I have stopped reading/citing their articles just to save some time." So while the question seems to be at first quite general, and maybe about MDPI overall, it's actually about a specific journal the OP already has a very bad opinion of.
    – Clement C.
    Dec 9, 2023 at 23:14
2

They have drastically increased the impact factor of several of their journals by adopting the "guest editor" model where someone you respect asks you to submit, often offering you discounts etc to do so. I published with mdpi under this model and I thoroughly regret it. Having canvassed my mentors and peers since then, I'm confident in saying the journals are not at all well regarded despite the impact factor, and I won't be publishing with them again. I've also been harassed with emails and spammy invitations ever since and I can't get them to stop despite asking several times to be taken off their lists.

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  • Do you have any source for how the guest editor model increases IF?
    – Allure
    Dec 9, 2023 at 3:02
  • 1
    @Allure this recent preprint kind of answers your question: arxiv.org/abs/2309.15884 and also this blog post and its sources: mahansonresearch.weebly.com/blog/…
    – user126108
    Dec 9, 2023 at 18:46
  • 1
    TLDR: avoid MDPI (and Hindawi, Frontiers, although to a lesser extent) if you want your papers to be trusted by most other scientists.
    – user126108
    Dec 9, 2023 at 18:47
  • @leonos Can you be more specific? I've seen that paper and as far as I can tell it only shows MDPI has abnormally high "impact inflation", which is not impact factor, and it is evidently not caused by the guest editor model since Hindawi, Frontiers, etc all use the same model.
    – Allure
    Dec 9, 2023 at 22:52
  • 1
    @Allure I’m not sure a direct link is shown, but the impact inflation combined with the increasing number of papers published (mostly due to the increase of special issues), which themselves contribute to more impact inflation, probably contributes to an increase of IF? The specific contribution of special issues could just be in terms of volume or also in terms of lower bar on the accepted papers, and perhaps reviewers that are more lenient on self-citations. This is mostly speculation though.
    – user126108
    Dec 9, 2023 at 23:30
1

You are overthinking the situation. You have never published before so why are so concerned with IF? If you can publish something then publish because your work doesn't exist until you do. Get your feet wet with this publication and build toward higher IF journals. Publishing in high IF journals is more than a notion. As a grad student your focus should be your thesis. A publication (regardless of IF) is a big step toward your thesis.

1

Others have provided some very valuable comments you should reflect on.

My view is that you've already answered your own question. If you consider journals from this publisher to be 'mediocre' and you don't read or cite from them then why on earth would you consider publishing with them?

1
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    Exactly. If someone doesn't think papers in journal XYZ are worth reading (let alone citing), why publish in it?
    – Clement C.
    Dec 9, 2023 at 23:09
1

you can go for Scientific Reports! A little bit more expensive and as long the resulst you present are scientifically sound and technically correct you do not hav3 any impressive innovation or novelty!

best luck for you first publication

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    – Community Bot
    Dec 9, 2023 at 13:40
1

While I wouldn't overestimate the influence of a first, small MDPI publication, I suggest to look for alternatives first. There are often smaller journals in the field, having a lower IF, but a better reputation, discuss with your PI if there's something around. If there is not really an alternative, then just put it out. Just don't do it too often, early career researchers with 5 MDPI publications and one "bigger" would still have a difficult time proceeding in some high reputation labs. Also make sure that this Publication counts for your PhD record, I know some universities don't count them.

1

Research isn't done until it's published. My first publication was a herp review note as a masters student. I wrote it and submitted it on my own. Then, brought it to Edward O. Moll, full professor at eastern Illinois University. He looked at me very seriously when I downplayed it, and said, "This is important. Good job!" When I graduated with PhD I had a pile of small pubs, and one in j of wl diseases and in zootaxa. I was recruited to a very good postdoc position. When interviewed, I downplayed the number of pubs (over 20). The prof, full prof at veterinary school at top 100 University said, "you know what these small pubs tell me?". I shrugged. "You finish what you start. That's valuable." I suggest that it also means you value publication. Then, I was offered a tenure track job I took. After my dissertation defense, a new faculty member told me, "those small pubs are going to help a lot when you get a few big ones.". My doctoral advisor said, "publications are the currency of academia." Low ranked pubs are pubs.

Now, in advice for a young scientist, the author, a nobelaureate, stated that people who publish a lot of important papers also publish a lot of duds. (Not his exact words ).

So, if you want to be considered someone who finishes what they start, cares that trivial data may be important to someone else and thus further science, and has a nice portfolio of assorted papers, then, what should you do?

Published in mdpi, is in legitimate journa. I know a lot of r1s faculty published there, and even hindawi 😱). A publication in mdpi trumps someone with none.

If it's the best you are capable of, who cares. I publish everything. The reader can decide if it's important to them. I have one note that has been cited more than most peoples' 40 page diatribes.

I encourage you to publish it. It matters. Even if in a non-impact rating journal.

2
  • “Published in mdpi, is in legitimate journa. I know a lot of r1s faculty published there, and even hindawi 😱). A publication in mdpi trumps someone with none.” I would disagree with this. As the OP says, MDPI is known for bypassing the peer-review process and disregarding the opinion of their reviewers. It would be better to publish in a respected venue, even of smaller impact factor. Hindawi is also known for poor publication practices. Check this preprint for some quantification: arxiv.org/abs/2309.15884
    – user126108
    Dec 9, 2023 at 18:44
  • Hindawi is now owned by Wiley. Wiley has continued the same practices by hindawi. Mdpi is just a low quality publishing house. So, now thast Wiley has continued hindawis practices, do we abandon Wiley? Wiley is even removing hindawi from journals to make it more difficult to assess. Best to look at the individual journal. I have a marketing friend who actually published a paper in a scam journal because his discipline didn't want it published. Now, it's widely Accepted that what he said was accurate! Dec 10, 2023 at 23:53
1

The reason you publish is to get your name out there and improve your CV. The reason we publish is to get knowledge distributed. If the data you are talking about publishing isn't exciting but shows a problem, that's absolutely something people shouldn't need to redo from scratch if you decided to join the circus.

Also, having published it, when you do figure out whatever it is and want to publish a major paper, you can just cite this paper to show the details of the problem and don't need to rehash it.

Don't just answer one of those spam emails asking for contributions, but do feel fine publishing in a "lesser" journal that is still known in your field.

0

It appears to me that you actually don't have enough data and interpretation of it to publish anywhere, MDPI journal or not. I agree with some of your friends who suggested to present your preliminary results at a conference. Depending on the conference and the field, it might even go into the proceedings of the conference. Depending on where you are and the scientific practice in your country/department, you could also use these preliminary results to submit a grant proposal too.

I personally don't understand the hate for MDPI. In my field, MDPI IF is on par, if not above, most traditional pay-wall based journals. Why would I complain for getting access to scientific publications for free when my university is not able to pay the huge subscription fees of more traditionally established journals?

As for the alleged better "quality" of non-MDPI journals compared to MDPI, I think this is completely misguided. What happens is that many journals have decided to ramp-up their editorial policy by introducing a rejection quota based on editorial decision alone and have made the marketing move of making researchers believe that rarity equates quality. An editor in PRL, Nature or Science can reject a paper on the sole basis that they believe that the results and take-home-message are not 'impactful enough' to sell well; and this is going to be ideology based at times. A good example I am aware of is that in 2013 I believe, PRL changed its editorial policy and decided to reject 50% of submitted papers on editorial ground only.

As for review quality, it's not like MDPI sends review requests to people in unrelated fields or that you just need to pay to get published. I have actually seen papers getting rejected many times. I actually have suggested rejection in few occasions myself to MDPI (which I seldom do because often I like to think that papers can often be improved to the highest standards). In fact I think that reviewers have a better incentive to do their job right with MDPI than more traditional journals because a) they are getting 'paid' in vouchers to publish in MDPI (granted, it's only a fraction of the fee but still) and b) MDPI is adopting an open review policy which can get your review published alongside the article if it gets published; which compels reviewers to try getting it right and remain polite throughout their review.

In my opinion, the reason why MDPI journals are becoming more popular with authors is because, as long as the scope of the paper fits with the scope of the journal, editors will try to find reviewers for it, period. Their 'guest editor' strategy also allows researchers to explore research avenues that would likely be 'unwanted' in other journals too. They have not fallen into some weird ideology like ArXiv that is now asking for 'endorsements' and whatnot just to submit a preprint there. I am aware of stories where ArXiv even deleted a submitted preprint which had already been peer-reviewed and published in an established journal in the field just because they apparently did not like the take-home message. I find that much more worrying than MDPI personally.

Finally, I think that MDPI journals' IF is increasing because most universities in the world simply cannot afford the pay-wall from traditional journals, and therefore researchers working there access whatever they can get for free. That does not mean that MDPI journals are rubbish, that means that IF is impacted by the local scientific culture.

From a regular researcher with reviewing experience for PRE, EPL, J Chem Phys, Nature Communication, PRL, PRX, Physica A, J. Stat. Phys., Entropy (MDPI), Systems (MDPI) and Applied Sciences (MDPI).

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  • I agree that the manuscript is not good to get published anywhere and realized I was thinking MDPI just as an “easy publication quota”. However, my supervisors and myself all think we have a decent chance of getting accepted, partly because the quality of papers we’ve read from it, partly because of previous experience with them. Based on this I decided to just go with the conference. This is of course not a post focusing on the quality of MDPI journals, but I think it’s unfair to regard them as a normal reputable publisher given the controversies and proven questionable peer review practices Dec 9, 2023 at 6:57
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I would go for the MDPI journal in this circumstance, it does at least get peer reviewed so they're not a true predatory journal. Certainly in my field, conferences are not peer reviewed and ultimately disappear from the record.

MDPI are worse than a good journal but certainly better than nothing especially at the start of your career. By the time you're looking at tenure track jobs your first paper will just be a statistic anyway.

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