I have previously described the difficulty that we have had publishing in semantic web conferences (http://www.russet.org.uk/blog/2157); the two main conferences (ESWC and ISWC) both publish with Springer-Verlag, and so provide no open access option.

Although the contents of the paper has been made available now both through arXiv and here, we decided that in the middle of REF madness, it did not make sense to let the work lie there. So, where to publish?

Well, I was inspired by Ross Mounce post (http://rossmounce.co.uk/2012/08/30/a-visualization-of-gold-open-access-options/) showing the various open access options, showing the entertainingly large gap between the price of open access from different publishers; the gap should only be a surprise to those with little understanding of economics; prices relate to what the market can bear and not what a service costs to provide, I have described previously (http://www.russet.org.uk/blog/2248). At the top left of the graph (most permissive license, cheapest article charges) comes MDPI, although the second version of the plot shows cheaper options (http://rossmounce.co.uk/2012/09/04/the-gold-oa-plot-v0-2/).

I have never published with MDPI before, but I have recently reviewed a paper for them; I am very selective with reviewing these days, but the paper sounded interesting and I had never heard of Future Internet before. So, this seemed like a reasonable bet. Accordingly the paper has just been published and come complete with (10.3390/fi4041004); a dubious badge of honour if ever there was one (http://www.russet.org.uk/blog/1849).

So, how was the experience? On the whole I think it was very positive. The review period was pretty impressive, with a turn around of relatively few days; they seem to have taken the approach to ask reviewers to say no, if they cannot return within a short time. Ironically, our own response to the reviews was much longer delayed by the start of term work bomb, stretching to well over a month. Type setting was efficient and seems to have be done reasonably; this is not a given as previous experience has shown (http://www.russet.org.uk/blog/2170).

There are only two things that I dislike; first they offer full-text only as PDF. I use PDFs only under exceptional circumstances these days; the viewers are all clunky and horrible, and total fail when moving between different screen sizes. Especially, given that MDPI offers an XML download, the lack of full-text HTML is a bit surprising. And slightly ironic for a paper discussing web publication.

Secondly, they seem to have adopted a strange policy with respect to publication/acceptance dates. Our original submission recieved this reply:

Thank you very much for your manuscript:

Manuscript ID: futureinternet-22379
Type of manuscript: Article
Title: Three Steps to Heaven: Semantic Publishing in a Real World Workflow
Authors: Phillip Lord *, Simon Cockell, Robert Stevens
Received: 17 August 2012

Yet, by the time the paper was published our submission date has morphed into 22 September 2012. Now we were told that this might happen — apparently, this is their policy if revisions last over a month. Very strange, and I cannot really think of a good reason for not having a submission date which is the same as the date of the submission.

Of course, this does not worry me that much; the work was “submitted” and published on 12th April here (http://www.russet.org.uk/blog/2054). I consider this to be the canonical version of my work (http://www.russet.org.uk/blog/2170). However, as a mechanism for secondary publication, I think, Future Internet seems a reasonable bet.



  1. Ross Mounce (@rmounce) says:

    Glad you found my OA APC charges plot entertaining :)

    More seriously, thanks for ‘trying out’ and reporting the experience of MDPI. Aside from PLoS & BMC I think there are actually quite a lot of good low-cost, efficiently run OA publishers out there – they just don’t have marketing budget klout of the big corporates or more established OA players.

    I’m probably guilty myself of ‘bigging-up’ PLoS & BMC too much at the expense of these lesser-known but thoroughly fit-for-purpose (odd HTML issue aside) journal publishers. Now if only we could convince the rest of academia that publishing here was okay… an uphill battle! But with this post and paper published there you’ve made it that bit easier.

    Thanks again!

  2. Phillip Lord says:

    Your plot was more than entertaining. Too many people think cost and price are associated and they are not. Publishers charge what the market can bear. And that is quite a lot.

    I think we need to have a serious discussion about ease and price of publication. At the moment, this is often not considered by academics when publishing. My own experience with http://bio-ontologies.knowledgeblog.org show that we can conference publish for about £40 a paper; and this is ad-hoc, low volume.

    MDPI are a good stop-gap solution where I can publish with some form of “kudos” as artifical as that is. It may not work, but I hope we can start a trend of scientists talking about whether publishers do a good job or not. This is my contribution!

  3. Nuno Franco says:

    I’ve already posted a similar comment on another blog. So I apologize beforehand for that. I’m actually posting this beacuse I came across this post when I was conducting kind of a “background check” on MDPI for deciding whether I would submit a paper to one of their journals or not. I ended up doing it and I must say I do not regret it one bit. Au contraire…

    The paper was a review, published on the recent MDPI journal, “Animals” (http://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/3/1/238). At first I was very apprehensive because I didn’t know the publisher – although they have been around since the 90s – and the journal itself was only in its third year of activity, and for that sake it didn’t have an impact factor yet (and it still hasn’t).

    However, I took the time to read their editorial policies, to browse their articles, check the authors that had published in that journal and look at the editorial board. There were very few “top dogs”, but some of them were fairly known. Since it was a paper not central for my line of research – it was actually a “side-project” of mine – I took the chance, although I was already fairly convinced of its trustworthiness when I submitted the paper.

    The reply from the editorial office was surprisingly fast. My paper was assigned to four anonymous reviewers – although I don’t know if it was double-blind, i.e., if they could know who was submitting the paper – with expertise in the field. All four of them gave fast (~two weeks) and very thorough reviews of my paper, that contributed immensely to its quality (so much that I included their contribution in the acknowledgements section).

    The review/copy-editing process went smoothly and, overall, I was very well impressed. It actually went much better than with other reputable journals to which I had submitted manuscripts before. So far, the paper got many good online and personal comments by people and institutions with an interest in the use of animals in science (both from the “pro” and the “against” side), which may also give some insight into its quality.

    I can’t speak for other MDPI journals, and I know some issues have arisen with a few papers published in some journals from this publisher (although the mere fact that they have retracted them and discussed this matter openly is a clear indicator that they are reputable), but I would recommend anyone who is all for open access but concerned with quality peer-review to submit to “Animals”. Of course, you also have to be honest and contribute to the transparency and “ethicality” of the process, by suggesting reviewers that 1) you consider to have right expertise in the field and 2) you don’t know personally (some people would advise AGAINST the latter, but that’s my view, anyway)

    However, even if one is not obsessed with impact factors, most of us still need to publish papers in already established journals, so “Animals” may not probably be a first choice, yet. However, I will definitely consider it as a first choice for publishing secondary (but nonetheless relevant) work in the future. And, of course, I’m sure I’ll be submitting more important manuscripts as soon as they are given an IF.

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