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Catarina Dutilh Novaes

I hope this doesn't sound self-serving, but I believe Synthese is already implementing the suggestion. We have 12 issues per year, often going up to 400 pages per issue. Space is never a consideration regarding which papers to accept: we accept all of those that receive positive reports from referees. (We also send 90% or more of our papers to referees, and with well over 1.000 submissions per year, that's a lot of referee work!) I don't recall our exact acceptance rate at this point, but I believe it is about 20% (including special issue submissions).

Elizabeth Hannon

Thanks for giving this more coverage. We're keen get as wide a sample of opinion as possible, before we decide about whether to implement this proposal.

1. I’m not clear on how a higher acceptance rate will solve the problem of the free rider. If the thought is that with fewer papers circulating, referees will have fewer demands on their time and thus be better behaved when reviewing, then I’m not at all confident that this follows. It doesn’t appear that the worst offenders here are also the busiest, by any means. Busy people will often decline reviews, it's true; but flaking on reviews is a different matter. And we’re not proposing any penalty for simply declining invitations.

2. It's true that I didn’t discuss the ‘social and institutional sources of the problem’. A lot of the problems in academic publishing are outrageous, but they are also well known. What’s less well discussed are refereeing norms and how we might come to some agreement about what these ought to be; how we might minimize the harm done to authors (often junior colleagues, often referees) and avoid making the often invisible labour of editors (also colleagues, also referees) any more burdensome. Stick two fingers up at Springer by all means (other evil publishers are available) and perhaps being a flake will turn out to be the best way to fight all the problematic elements of the system. All the same, free riders harm the other cogs keeping the system going, and so perhaps alternatives ought to be considered first.

3. We are limited in how many papers we can accept by our page budget (though we frequently overshoot this limit). If we were to accept many more papers, we'd need to increase the number of pages that we’re allocated each year. To pay for the extra pages, we’d have to increase the journal’s price. We’re significantly cheaper than Synthese; indeed, the BJPS is one of the cheapest out there (and is free in some parts of the world). We’d like to keep it that way. And of course the internet solves nothing (evergreen): one third of our readers are print subscribers.

I chose the term ‘free rider’ because there are a group of people getting something for nothing out of academic publishing besides the profit-making publishers: bad referees get the benefit of the labour of their colleagues without returning the favour, and in doing so they frequently increase their colleagues' labour.

Eric Schliesser

Thank you for your engagement with your critics, Elizabeth.
1.The problem of free-rider is, in large part, the problem of the overstretched referee, who is part of a system where there is a lot of gate-keeping of prestige/journal space and free-riding by institutions who do not reward/acknowledge his work. That's why I call this a framing issue. There is huge amount of demand on our time from lots of directions, most of whom are in the dark about each other's demands (and then make claims about to what degree we are busy or not according to their lights).
2. I understand that you qua editor want to solve a very localized problem. Nothing stops you from implementing your solution. Go for it. I am not against more experimentation among philosophy journal editors. I wish there were more of it.
3. I think it is clear that philosophy journal editors are keeping access to their pages relatively low and so generating extra work for everybody else and making publication a weighted lottery. The only benefit I see from the status quo is that editors are primarily in the business to be able to confer prestige. But that element of my argument you refuse to address let alone acknowledge.
4. Look, if you extol the cheap price of BJPS, you should at least note the even cheaper price editors seem to put on the time of their referees. I really prefer not to look at these things in monetary fashion, but if we do let's take in the wider perspective.

Keith Green

Just one brief though: re the issues with refereeing from 'Synthese' to 'Hypatia': I wonder if part of the problems might be at least contained by allowing reviewers to see other reviews, but still only under the veil of anonymity, and only after a final and irreversible editorial decision has been made. This would allow reviewers to 'check' their own reviews by reference to others (without knowing who the reviewers are, one would still have to focus on the comparative merits of reviews). Even under the veil of anonymity, I think it would make reviewers more careful about several things, including the tone and language of their review, but not only this. In general, it would recognize and underscore the accountability of reviewers to authors and editors.

Eric Schliesser

Some journals do that already. I like it a lot.


" I wonder if part of the problems might be at least contained by allowing reviewers to see other reviews, but still only under the veil of anonymity, and only after a final and irreversible editorial decision has been made."

I've refereed for a fairly large number of journals (not all strictly in philosophy, but mostly in philosophy or closely related areas) and the only two that I've refereed for that did this automatically were the Journal of Politics and Legal Theory. In both cases, it was done as suggested and, like Eric, I liked it, finding it very useful. I'd be quite happy if it became more common.

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


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