Guarding the Guardians (or Editors) (3 updates)


The reason your paper is listed as ‘editor assigned’ is that I’m going to review it myself.

In the wake of the recent discussion here about the editorial practices at philosophy journals,  Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa (UBC) recounts a story, set about five years ago, in which he submitted a paper to a journal with a policy of double-anonymous reviewing—Philosophical Studies—but which clearly, and quite blatantly, did not make its decision using such a procedure. Instead, the editor, Stewart Cohen, who became Ichikawa’s colleague during the process, engaged in various email and in-person exchanges about the article, revisions to it, and its ultimate acceptance. Ichikawa recounts the story at his blog. He writes:

The editor of Philosophical Studies seems to be treating submissions in his own area of research interest very differently from the way he treats other submissions, sometimes deciding to referee papers himself. As far as I know, Cohen was the sole referee for my submission… On the whole I’m very confident in asserting that in at least one instance, Philosophical Studies engaged in seriously problematic editorial procedures. I don’t know how atypical my story is.

UPDATE: Stewart Cohen, editor of Philosophical Studies, has asked me to post the following:

Philosophical Studies is now in the process of instituting a triple-blind review system.  Neither the editor, nor the associate editors will know the identity of the authors until after the decision has been made (except for special issues and symposia which are invited). [Edit: Cohen asked that the preceding struck-through text be replaced with the following:]  All submissions will be triple-blind reviewed.  Invited papers will be labeled as such.

UPDATE 2 (2/4/15): I would like to get a better sense of the extent and types of these kinds of problems. Publicizing the problematic episodes and naming the journals will help with that, serving to raise awareness of the problems as well as possibly deter them. If a paper of yours received what seems like inappropriate treatment by a member of the editorial team at a journal (as with Ichikawa, Anonymous (comment #4), Clayton (#12), anonymous junior prof (#21), Grad @ the time (#35)), please describe it in the comments. I encourage you to name the journal. Anonymous comments will be accepted, provided that they are submitted with a real email address by which I can verify the identity of the author. Your email does not get published when your comment is approved, and, as usual, I will not reveal the identity of anonymous commenters. Please refrain from posting second-hand stories (e.g., “this once happened to a friend of mine…”). NOTE: I have received a few comments recounting alleged editorial malpractice in which the journals are named, but the authors have failed to provide real email addresses. These comments will not get posted. Feel free to resubmit your comment with a real email address I can use to verify your identity, if I need to.

UPDATE 3 (2/7/15): One of the journals receiving a lot of attention in the discussion below is Philosophy and Public Affairs. Its editor, Alan Patten, has provided the following statement:

Readers of the blog might be interested in the statement about editorial practices that is posted on Wiley’s Philosophy & Public Affairs site under Author Guidelines

Some of the questions about the journal’s procedures that have been raised in this forum are addressed in the statement, including questions about our policies on anonymity, on lengthy submissions, and on submissions by associate editors. Concerns about fairness and bias are certainly valid in this area, and there are some genuinely tough questions such as whether to publish articles by our associate editors. I’m sure we could do better in some respects, but on the whole I think our procedures do a reasonable job of balancing some of the competing goals and demands of running a journal.

I’m disturbed by the insinuation in one or two posts that there was something corrupt about our decision to publish Niko Kolodny’s recent two-part article. I acknowledge that there might be reasonable disagreement about whether a journal should have a blanket policy of not publishing papers by current editors. But that point aside our adherence to our editorial policies could not have been more rigorous in this case. In addition to sending the paper to an external reader (as described in the statement) I confirmed with that reader at the start of the process that s/he was not already familiar with the paper, did not know the identity of the author, and had no presumptions either way. I should add that it’s not as if there’s been a great many articles published by associate editors in recent years. We’ve accepted a grand total of two such articles (including the two-parter by Niko) under my editorship (which began in 2010). We’ve also declined several submissions by editors in this timespan. In any case, I’m proud that we were able to publish Niko’s article. If you take the time to read it, I doubt that you will conclude that the best explanation of why we published it is anything other than its excellence.

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