Reviewed by: Cheryl LaGuardia, Research Librarian, Widener Library, Harvard University
Religions bills itself as “an Open Access journal, which is free to access and read on the Internet. MDPI guarantees that no university library or individual reader will ever have to buy a subscription or buy access through pay-per-view fees to access the articles published in the journal.” However, it does charge authors “a form of conditional submission fee referred to as Article Processing Charge (APC).”
The Religions website states, “For Religions (ISSN 2077-1444), authors are asked to pay a fee of 300 CHF (Swiss Francs) per processed paper [note from reviewer: approximately 303 US dollars at the time of this review], but only if the article is accepted for publication in this journal after peer-review and possible revision of the manuscript. An additional fee of 250 CHF [252 US dollars] may apply for those articles that need major editing and formatting and/or English editing…. Discounts are available for authors from institutes that participate with MDPI's membership program.”
That’s a fairly hefty author fee for a humanities paper, and it should be noted that MDPI the publisher is on Jeffrey Beall’s List of Potential, Possible, or Probable Predatory Scholarly Open-Access Publishers. MDPI’s stated goal is “to open up the scientific exchange by publishing widely available journals of a high scientific standard and impact.” That said, let’s look at the journal.
Religions has an unusual layout. The main page has a search section at screen top that presumably comes from a common MDPI interface. In it you can search by title / keyword, author, article type, journal, section, special issue, volume, issue, or page. Below this are sections of links about the journal, a description of the journal, and contact information for the editorial office. Beneath that is a box in which you can set up e-mail alerts for forthcoming issues, and then a series of tabs labeled: Latest Articles, Most Cited, Current Special Issues, News, and Conferences. Latest Articles is a list of the 6 most recent articles published, but it is not a continuous list – you can’t page down for more. I kept trying to find a way to get at more articles, and finally my eyes wandered over to the lower left-hand side of the screen, where the Journal Browser is located (/hidden), and you can examine the Forthcoming issue, the Current issue, and older issues by date. It took quite a while to locate this.
When I clicked on Current Issue I got a list of 15 articles, ranging from “Finding God through the Spirituality of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous” (published 29 September 2014) to “Mind, Body and Spirit in Basket Divination: An Integrative Way of Knowing” (published 17 December 2014). Interestingly enough, the first article was labeled as belonging to the Special Issue Religion & Addiction, while the second was labeled as being part of the Special Issue Body and Religion. Next I clicked on Forthcoming Issue, and found two articles that have a 2015 publication date on them (I’m writing this review in December 2014). A note at screen tops says that “Issues are regarded as officially published after their release is announced to the table of contents alert mailing list,” so I’m assuming that’s why these are listed under Forthcoming.
Unfortunately, the Journal Browser continued to be confusing, since it lists the following links: Forthcoming Issue, Current Issue, Vol. 6 (2015), Vol. 5 (2014), Vol. 4 (2013), Vol. 3 (2012), Vol. 2 (2011), and Vol. 1 (2010). If you’re more alert than I was, you’ve figured out that Forthcoming Issue is the same as Vol. 6 (2015) and Current Issue is the same as Vol. 5 (2014). I guess I expected the terms “issue” and “volume” to be used consistently and logically… but that wasn’t the case, obviously.
Adding to my confusion were the Special Issues, on Body and Religion, Religions and Health Care, Religion and Addiction, Music and Spirituality, and more. Curiously, the articles for these Special Issues were spread out over multiple dates, so they don’t correspond to any consistent volume or issue numbering, but rather seem to be published randomly and then listed as part of a particular Special Issue (caveat: that’s a guess on my part, as I couldn’t find any explanation of arrangement or grouping on the site).
You will find a very wide array of highly-specific subjects represented in the content here, from “Does the Spiritual Well-Being of Chronic Hemodialysis Patients Differ from that of Pre-dialysis Chronic Kidney Disease Patients?” (part of the Special Issue, Integrating Religion and Spirituality into Clinical Practice), to “A Latter-Day Saint Approach to Addiction: Aetiology, Consequences and Treatment in a Theological Context,” “Religious Coping, Social Support and Subjective Severity as Predictors of Posttraumatic Growth in People Affected by the Earthquake in Chile on 27/2/2010,” and “Can Music “Mirror” God? A Theological-Hermeneutical Exploration of Music in the Light of Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel.” The journal is indexed in Arts and Humanities Citation Index and in Current Contents; it is not indexed in ATLA Religion Database.
I tried doing some searches and found that the search system is not dependable. A Title / Keyword search for: south asian found two articles, but another Title / Keyword search for: south asia found only one. That just doesn’t make sense.
The editorial board for Religions is an impressive international list of scholars, and the wide-ranging subject matter will provide something for nearly everyone – if they can find it. I can’t make a positive recommendation for this title, given its many inconsistencies along with the difficulty of discovering information in it, but librarians working with religious scholars should at least take a look, and possibly recommend to the publisher changes that might improve it.