Update 14 April 2021: Following on from previous discussions below this blog post, I’d like to highlight another level of “escalation” in MDPI practice. I received an invitation from an actual special issue editor — presumably an academic, i.e. NOT just from MDPI staff (!) — to contribute to a special issue. Fine — apart from the fact that I do not work in that topic area. Credible special issues obviously approach colleagues with expertise on the topic, which in this case, I clearly did not have. So even some academics are now — either willingly or unwillingly — pulled into nonsense spamming of everyone for not-so-special special issues. We’re all harming our academic communities if we collaborate with this publisher.
By Joern Fischer
If you are a publishing academic in sustainability science, chances are high that you have been approached by the journal “Sustainability” to lead a special issue. With this blog post, I would like to share my personal opinion why not to work with this journal, not as an author, and not as an editor.
Sustainability is a journal that specialises in publishing special issues. To set up those special issues, it approaches authors of other recent papers, asking them if they might like to consider a special issue on a particular topic. For example, over the years, I have received invitations (among others) to contribute work for special issues on “Sustainability and Institutional Change”, “Landscape and Sustainability”, “Ecosystem Function and Land Use Change”, “Sustainable Landscape Management”, “Sustainable Futures”, “Integrated Landscape Governance for Food Security”, “Sustainable Multifunctional Landscapes” or “What is Sustainability? Examining Faux Sustainability”.
If you do accept to guest edit a special issue, you become one of now more than 1800 editorial board members (!). (I won’t link this to the journal’s website, but you can find that information easily on the journal website.) Hardly much of an achievement or distinction, given the predatory process with which the journal recruits people who are willing to run special issues.
That’s all not very uplifting, and many of us have known of this shady process for some time. But the situation appears to be getting worse, bordering on entirely non-sensical invitation emails.
One colleague of mine received the following statement:
“We recently invited you to serve as Guest Editor in Sustainability for the Special Issue “Sustainability Journal”. Please let us know whether or not you are interested, and if you have any further questions.“
Another person received this:
“Sustainability has launched a new position—Topic Editor.
Given your impressive expertise, we would like to invite you … The main responsibilities of Topic Editors are as follows:
- Promoting the journal during conferences (adding 1–2 slides into your presentation, distributing flyers, recommending the journal to your colleagues, etc.);
- Providing support for the Special Issues on topics related to your expertise or when the Guest Editor(s) is not available, including SI promotion via social media, pre-checking new submissions, making decisions, and giving advice on some scientific cases.
- We are glad to publish a paper of the Topic Editors with a special discount …“
Please take these excerpts as examples of the kinds of emails that come from this journal. YES, it’s easy to get stuff published there (I don’t know of anything ever having got rejected, in fact). YES, it has an impact factor. And YES, I’ve even co-authored one paper in this journal myself. But seriously, if we want to advance credible science on sustainability, then clearly not like this.
In case anyone from the Web of Science happens to be reading this blog: please review whether this journal and other similar ones really deserve an impact factor.
It is not my intention to say that all else is working well in the publishing business. I simply chose to share some basic facts and excerpts from recent emails by the journal, which for most of us, will make it self-evident that this is not a journal that ought to be supported in any way that might boost its credibility.