A Movement Against For-Profit Journals


Is there a burgeoning movement in philosophy to avoid for-profit journals?

A professor of philosophy writes:

I’ve now met over twenty-five junior and/or rising senior (e.g., assistant to early associate) faculty around the globe who are adopting a new policy towards journal refereeing. I don’t know whether there’s some sort of “movement” along these lines, but perhaps there should be. I myself am leaning towards adopting the same policy — and will in turn resign from various editorial boards that don’t meet the policy—but would first like to see a much wider discussion on the topic.

The issue is not new: too many journals are part of an aggressively for-profit (perhaps profiteering) model. The only way to change things for the better is in the hands of authors and referees.

A policy for authors: unless there is special reason to do so, do not submit papers to aggressively for-profit journals! (What is a special reason? Each author may need to decide for herself.)

A policy for referees: unless there is special reason to do so, do not referee papers for aggressively for-profit journals! (What is a special reason? Each referee may need to decide for herself.)

An abstract example of a special reason might be that the journal’s profits directly fund important philosophical work—including, for example, some philosophical association, some philosophical institute, or even research fellowships/grants for philosophers.

A concrete example of a special reason: the Australasian Journal of Philosophy (AJP) is now owned by Taylor & Francis, which is a clear (though perhaps not the absolute worst) model of an aggressively for-profit approach to journals. But there is (or would seem to be) a special reason to submit to and referee for the AJP: namely, the AJP provides a great deal of support for the Australasian Association of Philosophy (AAP).

Oxford University Press is a clear example of a not-for-profit publisher, and so falls outside of the aggressively for-profit models. There are others, not to mention the rising wealth of open-access journals. (See this running list from Feminist Philosophers.)

Famously, mathematicians and linguists have taken strong steps towards changing a bad practice in journal publishing. Philosophy can make a strong step by adopting the above policy for authors and referees.

Question: Is there some reason that we (or at least tenured faculty) ought not adopt the given policy?

For data about the pricing of philosophy journals and some discussion of these issues, see this previous post.

dollar phign

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