I recently noticed with great interest a call for papers on the JISC Knowledge Management Forum in regard to a forthcoming special issue of the journal Sustainability on the topic of “knowledge sharing and sustainable development.”
The role of knowledge management (KM) in sustainable development is a topic of considerable interest within the KM community, for example it was the focus of a significant recent MBRF webinar. Because of this interest, I was intending to widely promote the Sustainability call for papers, including posting the link into the Knowledge Management for Development (KM4Dev) community.
But a subsequent post from Joern Fischer on the Ideas for Sustainability blog stopped me in my tracks. Fischer is Professor for Sustainable Land Use at the Institute for Ecology, Leuphana University Luneberg. In the introduction to his post, which is reproduced in full below, he states that “I would like to share my personal opinion why not to work with this journal, not as an author, and not as an editor.”
I was quite surprised by the post, given that Sustainability is indexed in Web of Science, which is described as “the world’s most trusted publisher-independent global citation database.” Because of this, the idea that Sustainability could be anything other than a reputable journal had never entered my thinking, and consistent with this, I have summarised KM articles from this journal here in RealKM Magazine.
The practices described below by Fischer – that is, bombarding academics with spam emails and accepting almost all submissions – sound more like the University Affairs description of a predatory journal than what would be expected from a high-quality academic publisher. However, this University Affairs article reveals that the publisher of Sustainability, the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI), has been embroiled in a number of controversies including having previously been on Beall’s list of potential predatory scholarly open‑access publishers.
Although MDPI was removed from the list following a successful appeal, Beall remained critical of their approach, writing that “It is clear that MDPI sees peer review as merely a perfunctory step that publishers have to endure before publishing papers and accepting money from the authors.” Beall also implicates MDPI in his decision to shut down his list in 2017 following pressure from his university employer, stating that1 MDPI had “tried to be as annoying as possible to the university so that the officials would get so tired of the emails that they would silence me just to make them stop.”
In retrospect, I had missed a clear sign that MDPI was a potentially predatory publisher. The papers from Sustainability that I have summarised here in RealKM Magazine were KM papers published in a journal not with KM as a focus, but sustainability. Publishing articles not related to the journal focus is one of the characteristics of predatory journals identified in a 2017 study2.
While I still think that the papers from Sustainability that I have summarised here in RealKM Magazine are credible, I’ll certainly be thinking twice about using any further articles published by MDPI. I’ve already been doing this in regard to another publisher – IEEE – on the basis of a massive number of retractions and an unwillingness to disclose the reasons why.
You should do the same in regard to the call for papers for the forthcoming special issue of Sustainability on the topic of “knowledge sharing and sustainable development.” You should also consult our journal reviews series for information on KM journals that are worth your while.
Header image source: Deposit Photos.
- Beall, J. (2017). What I learned from predatory publishers. Biochemia medica, 27(2), 273-278. ↩
- Shamseer, L., Moher, D., Maduekwe, O., Turner, L., Barbour, V., Burch, R., … & Shea, B. J. (2017). Potential predatory and legitimate biomedical journals: can you tell the difference? A cross-sectional comparison. BMC medicine, 15(1), 28. ↩