Bad experience at MDPI (J. Intell.) journal

After OP journal, here, I had problems with MDPI (J. Intell.) as well. Since I have decided not to publish at OP, my Wordsum article had to be published somewhere. I thought about MDPI because it is the one that resembles OP the most.

MDPI journals are open-access, have faster time of review than the other ones. The journal charges some fees if there are many english (grammatical) errors to correct. MDPI does not charge fees for open access journals but only for young journals, e.g., within 5 years-old (which thing I have learned only later). Some MDPI journals even have the nice idea to make the reviews open access, although it is not a common practice even among MDPI journals.

Currently, the editor in chief of J. Intell. is Paul De Boeck. And I have a problem with him. I have sent a first mail the February 9th 2015 and De Boeck was fast to reply (after 24 minutes). I have asked if it was a problem that I am not an affiliated researcher (I have no institution) and if I can upload ODT file (Open Office) for the manuscript because I do not have Microsoft Word and I find it hard to use LaTex. The editor answered and asked if I can convert it to PDF. In reply, I sent the pdf, ODT file and all of the related material (syntax, data, XLS file). He didn’t reply anymore. I have sent three more emails, but nothing at all. And the third one (February 16th) was important enough that his silence is really troublesome, as I will explain below.

At that moment, I didn’t know why he didn’t answer me. I have looked at the website again, and I discovered that the manuscript needs to be uploaded by completing the submission form. First page (step), select the name of the journal, section, article type, title, abstract, number of pages, authors, etc. Second page, email address, name of the author. Third page, select the suggested reviewers, if there are any. Fourth page, upload the manuscript and materials (not mandatory but highly recommended). Fifth page, confirm. This is the usual way to do. I learned that after. Silly me. But whatever.

If I send the manuscript to the editor, he would, I guess, tell me to use the submission form. But De Boeck said nothing. I think I understand why. He probably opened the files and discovered I was talking about “black-white cognitive difference” and perhaps didn’t appreciate.

But I wasn’t sure about that. Anyway, I have uploaded the paper the February 15th 2015. And I got this mail :

Dear Dr. Hu,

Thank you very much for uploading the following manuscript to the MDPI submission and editorial system at http://www.mdpi.com. One of our editors will be in touch with you soon.

Journal name: J. Intell.
Manuscript ID: jintelligence-78710
Type of manuscript: Article
Title: An update on the secular narrowing of the black-white gap in the
Wordsum vocabulary test (1974-2012)
Authors: Meng Hu *
Received: 15 February 2015
E-mails: m h 1 9 8 7 0 4 1 0 @ g m a i l . c o m

Kind regards,

MDPI AG

Yet, I discovered that there is a special template to use when submitting the manuscript : the MDPI template. It seemed to be a recommended step. Unfortunately, I was unable to edit or change the files I have already sent for the submission. So, I decided to contact De Boeck, the February 16th. I sent a mail, explained the problem and attached the corrected manuscript. I have asked if there is no possibility to change the uploaded file “manuscript” in the submission menu.

I thought he would respond, because a non response would be a lack of professionalism. Yet, he didn’t answer me. I started to have a bad feeling. And I was right. I have uploaded the manuscript the February 15th and there was no return after several weeks. I got nothing. No email from MDPI saying that De Boeck will be in charge of publishing it, or that some reviewers have been contacted or whatever. If I’m not mistaken, it is said in the MDPI website that the editor is the first to check the manuscript and if it is receivable, the editor will invite several reviewers.

I didn’t have any response after several weeks. And I didn’t think that it would take several weeks for an editor to decide whether it is receivable for being peer-reviewed. So, in March 9th 2015, I sent that mail :

Dear Editor of J. Intell.,

I have sent my article several weeks ago, and I don’t know about the current situation. I would like to know if it is receivable for being peer-reviewed, or if the article in its current form (presentation) needs to be modified in some ways (e.g., use of the template).

The article is :

An update on the secular narrowing of the black-white gap in the Wordsum vocabulary test (1974-2012)

jintelligence-78710

Thanks in advance

Meng Hu

March 10th 2015, I received that mail :

Dear Dr. Hu,

Thank you very much for your e-mail and the manuscript submission:

Manuscript ID: jintelligence-78710
Type of manuscript: Article
Title: An update on the secular narrowing of the black-white gap in the
Wordsum vocabulary test (1974-2012)
Authors: Meng Hu *
Received: 15 February 2015
E-mails: m h 1 9 8 7 0 4 1 0 @ g m a i l . c o m

We are writing to inform you that we will not be able to process your paper further. Your manuscript was not given a high priority rating during the initial screening process. Please understand that we receive more interesting papers than we can publish. Hence only those papers most likely to be published in J. Intell. are sent for in-depth peer-review. Papers are selected on the basis of discipline, novelty and general significance in addition to the usual criteria for publication in specialized journals. Therefore, our decision is not necessarily a reflection of the quality of your research but rather of our stringent resource limitations.

We wish you every success when you submit the paper elsewhere.

Kind regards,
Cathy Wang
Managing Editor
Email: c a t h y . w a n g @ m d p i . c o m

“This must be a joke” was my reaction. Apparently, my paper was not given a high priority rating. In other words, the editorial board is uninterested in publishing it. Lack of motivation, thus. This is the first time I have heard an author being rejected due to lack of motivation from the editor. And what is the last sentence about their “stringent resource limitations” ? It is not as if J. Intell. has lot of publications published per month (in general, one per month). In fact, only a few number of people publish there. And most of the papers I have read are uninteresting. That is, they are not big projects or big findings. Just quick comments on questions about intelligence (and some of these papers were published because apparently their authors have been contacted by De Boeck who invited them to publish). Papers published at Intelligence are infinitely better. And more numerous. I presume this is because most researchers prefer Intelligence (Elsevier) or they do not know J. Intell. (MDPI).

Oh, I guess it is not a problem. After all, the above message seems to be some sort of standard. If you copy paste the paragraph, you will see. Other people also received exactly the same message when they are rejected before they get the review. In my situation, it is even more frustrating that I have to ask De Boeck in person, before he decides what to do. If I didn’t ask, how much longer I will have to wait ? And since De Boeck immediately forwarded my mail to Wang who, in turn, replied to me, I have sometimes the feeling that he already made his decision about my paper well before I emailed him.

Yes, you read well. It’s Wang who sent me the above message, despite the fact that my mail was sent to Paul De Boeck. No one else. I thought he should have the responsibility to reply to my query but no. He forwarded the mail to someone else. Is this cowardice or is there something I do not understand with the MDPI procedure ? But I do not care anymore. Because I decided I would never publish at J. Intell. anymore. Not if De Boeck is the editor. And I prefer now Elsevier.

To be honest, my paper has also been rejected by Detterman, editor of Intelligence (Elsevier) very recently. But probably the main reason is the first reviewer, who said that the paper should not be submitted in Intelligence because such papers must evaluate, test theories, whereas mine is mostly about which statistical method is most suitable for analyzing score changes over time in a cohort analysis from a survey data like the GSS. James Flynn was the second reviewer and he disagreed 1) about my interpretation of Dickens & Flynn (2006) who didn’t admit there is no black-white narrowing for adult samples and 2) about my speculation of the predicted black-white genetic gap because of the correlation (i.e., confounding) between genes and environment and he referred to Dickens & Flynn’s (2001) social multiplier model. Oh, I could have answered that, or I could have avoided the exhaustion from the struggle by merely accepting the changes or modifications he suggested. The problem being that Flynn didn’t request anything. He didn’t reject but he didn’t accept. But it’s very likely he would have rejected it if I refused to make the necessary changes.

In any case, Elsevier took one month for proceeding the review. But still, I get a response. Although I find it silly, I accept the rejection. I guess it is my fault if the abstract (and conclusion to a lesser extent) was written the way it was.

I do not believe MDPI is a respectable journal if MDPI recruits editors like Paul De Boeck. I do not know how well the other MDPI journals are doing. I hope, for MDPI, that they are doing better.

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