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01/09/2018

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Jonathan Kramnick

I'm a former editor of a journal with periodic backlog problems. There’s an easy solution that the journal could chose to do, namely, publish the occasional double issue. I know for a fact that JHU press is amenable to this, as my journal (ELH) was also published by them. Finally, they also don’t seem to say when the moratorium will be lifted. If they haven’t, they really should

Margaret Atherton

Better yet, JHU with its dubious editorial practices you list should be left to flounder on, and a new online journal should be founded. I wish I knew more about how to bring this about but I am sure others are better informed than I.

Aaron Garrett

Margaret is right, as usual. It's time for a new journal on the model of Ergo. Open access, as transparent as possible, and triple anonymous.

Paul Schuurman

A journal observes that its publication queue has grown and hence declines publication of articles belonging to a certain category — presumably a category in which it has an especially large publication queue. So far so good. Erich Schliesser is able to draw dramatic consequences from this 'scandal', including 'horrible' costs that might 'penalize' young academics and even, horrible dictu, 'the recovery of female philosophers'! What else? Perhaps the pace of global warming will also be affected?

Margaret Atherton

Horribile dictu? Really?

Steven Nadler

Let me respond as the most recent former editor of JHP. First of all, Eric Schliesser is wrong when he says that JHP has ever allowed what he calls initial screenings and "desk rejects" to be handled by graduate students. All decisions about whether or not to send a paper out to referees has always been handled by the editor, in consultation with the managing editor who (a) has always had a completed PhD in some field in the history of philosophy, and (b) typically gave a first reading to papers in his/her area of specialization, primarily to weed out papers that either (a) have nothing to do with the history of philosophy, (b) are so badly written that they have no chance of being accepted, or (c) in some other way do not even come close to the JHP's standards in that field (e.g., there are no citations of secondary literature on a well-trod topic). Papers in areas other than that of the managing editor were given their initial screening by the editor. Moreover, the editor always gave a second look at papers screened by the managing editor. In addition, it was not unusual for the editor to ask a member of the editorial board to give an initial screening to a paper in which neither the editor nor the managing editor felt they had sufficient competence. Second, for Schliesser to accuse the JHP of "explicitly discriminating" against a field within the history of philosophy before actually consulting with anyone associated with the journal to find out the facts seems to me quite irresponsible. He implies that the JHP has a particular bias against early modern, when the actual facts suggest just the opposite: the JHP is overwhelmed with papers in early modern -- we LOVE publishing in early modern -- and the growing queue of papers in that area means a significantly longer lag time before publication, which in turn does no service to early career scholars who need a quicker time to publication. The problem with these online discussions is that everyone gets overheated and starts flying off the handle on the slightest apparent provocation without any real information at hand. I suppose that's how it is in the Age of Trump.

Aaron Garrett

To be clear, I don't know anything one way or the other about Eric's allegations. What I think Margaret is absolutely right about is if there's more excellent early modern philosophy articles than can be published in the standard venues, then its high time for a strong open access journal in the area.

Eric Schliesser

Thank you for your detailed response, Steve. In light of it I have corrected the way I describe the desk-rejection policy and apologized for factual misrepresentation of it. I should have described it differently. I am pleased you have given us a more detailed description of the story behind the scenes.
We all know that editing is hard work and often unappreciated. So, it is completely understandable that you wish to defend the institution you have stewarded.
Even so, I find it peculiar that you primarily focus on one factual mistake, and that your note does not take the opportunity to reflect on the substantial problems with and (foreseeable) effects from JHP's editorial policies regarding desk-rejections, revise and resubmits, and the shape of its current moratorium.

Steven Nadler

Eric -- I suppose I'm just not seeing the problems regarding initial screening and editorial policies that you describe. We do not give "biased, outdated and moronic referees control over the journal"; we are very careful about choosing referees for papers (although I will say that the very hardest part of being editor is finding willing and responsible referees, including simply getting them to respond to requests), and the editor uses his/her judgment over how to treat their reports. I have my own concerns about "triple blind" refereeing, since a well-informed editor is least likely to send a paper out to an author's dissertation director, current departmental colleague, or collaborator.
As for the foreseeable effects of JHP editorial policies and "harm to junior scholars": I was not involved in the decision to very temporarily suspend submissions, but it seems that the ever increasing lag time to publication, given the length of the queue, would have a more serious effect on younger early modern scholars than a short suspension of submissions in that field.
I can only speak about my own term as editor, but we received very few submissions on women philosophers, in the early modern period or any period. And this was a source of concern to me and to the members of the JHP Board. So yes, I agree with you that we need to see more articles (and more submissions) on women philosophers. But I do not see this as bearing any relation to JHP's editorial policies. In a soon-to-appear issue, we are publishing an article by Christia Mercer on inclusiveness and new methodologies in early modern scholarship. And notice that this summer the theme of JHP's "Master Class" (for which we put up a substantial sum of funding) is an early modern woman philosopher. In sum, the headline of your post seems to me unnecessarily accusatory and incendiary and just plain false, and even harmful in that it will certainly not help JHP increase submissions on women philosophers.

Eric Schliesser

First, Steve, when the moratorium was announced, it appeared as open-ended without any mention of time-frame. I I am pleased to learn it is now officially short-term, although the lack of definite date means unnecessary uncertainty for people having to make important scholarly decision that they think will have a big impact on their careers.
For, second, PhD students and untenured faculty feel enormous pressure to publish. So, for them a moratorium has very different impact than on folks like you and me. So I think you are just wrong in your evaluation of its likely impact here. (And given that the lag time between submission and would be acceptance is long-ish, a moratorium has a cumulative impact.)
Third, the way JHP has decided to solve its queue schedule problem is the path of least resistance. Other journals have shown that you can (i) add a double issue; (ii) move to online first publication (which alsoo addresses your lag to publication claim); (iii) move to online publication (with extra payment for paper). All three have added bonus that they address the underlying problem which is unreasonable scarcity of journal pages. (Between you and me we publish about as much in a year as the papers of JHP put together!)
Fourth, it *is* discriminatory when you target only one area of scholarship. And given the way the field is developing it is also foreseeable that the effects will be felt in the way that I describe. (And again, it is remarkable that Synthese can publish two Cavendish papers --an area brimming with activity -- whereas JHP is not pulling its weight; the journal is not a passive bystander in these matters.) It is swell that JHP has invited Christia and putting money in a Master Class-- hopefully that will stimulate the best work in the area to appear at JHP.
Fifth, you minimize editorial judgment if your procedure treats a R&R as a reject (as the new explicit policy advocates).
Finally, in a seven to year period, I have published about a 100 blogs posts about editorial standards in philosophy most of them devoted to editorial practices in the history of philosophy. It is remarkable fact about philosophers -- they are just humans sometimes -- that its the polemical ones, when names or institutions are mentioned, that elicit a response. As for 'incendiary;' compared to the name-calling and abuse our Spinoza faced from his philosophical peers, my blogging prose is, alas, lame, tame, and domesticated.

Steven Nadler

You can rest assured that you will not be receiving a herem.
Rather than continuing an online debate, we can continue the conversation next time I'm in Amsterdam (in late March).

Margaret Atherton

I appreciate the further discussion of JHP's editorial policies and like Eric I understand how under appreciated the hard work of serving as an editor must be. But my primary concern is the need for more publishing opportunities in philosophy generally and in early modern in particular. I hope JHP will consider the various ways of expanding the output of the journal that have been considered and I hope that a dedicated online journal might eventuate fron this discussion.

Margaret Atherton

Ben Hill has provided some very helpful information about his experiences setting up the online Locke Studies on Facebook and has expressed a willingness to help with further efforts.

Steven Nadler

Thanks Margaret (and everyone else). The JHP Board has been following the various discussions and is taking all of these concerns and suggestions very seriously, and we hope to come up with some solutions very soon.

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Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.

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