Who’s Down With QPPs? (Questionable Publication Practices) (guest post by Mark Alfano)


The following is a guest post* by Mark Alfano (Australian Catholic University & Delft University of Technology).


Who’s down with QPPs?
Mark Alfano

Questionable research practices (QRPs) appear to be troublingly common in contemporary scientific practice. To call something a QRP is not in itself an indictment. Rather, QRPs are just that: questionable—meaning that a reasonable person would have some questions (and potentially some follow-up questions) when they encounter any particular case.

Whereas QRPs mostly have to do with data collection and analysis, we might also have some questions about instances and patterns in a researcher’s approach to publication. To this end, I’ve developed a list of “questionable publication practices” (QPPs) meant to mirror the list of QRPs. QPPs are meant to be questionable in just the same way that QRPs are. While there has been some discussion of QPPs in other disciplines (here, here, here, and here), it’s worthwhile to address them specifically in the context of philosophy.

Here’s the list[1]:

  1. self-dealing
    a. individual self-dealing (e.g., publishing in one’s own edited volumes)
    b. collective self-dealing (e.g., publishing in one’s department-mates’ edited volumes, or those of a similar cabal)
  2. publication in predatory journals
    a. publication in clearly predatory journals (e.g., those on Beall’s list or some other, better-curated list)
    b. publication in economically predatory but academically respectable journals (e.g., those held by Elsevier, Springer, Wiley-Blackwell, and Taylor & Francis)
    c. publication that is not open access
  3. unoriginal publication
    a. plagiarism and borderline-plagiarism of others
    b. self-plagiarism
    c. highly repetitious but not quite self-plagiarizing publication
  4. misuse of textual evidence
    a. quote fabrication or fudging
    b. citation fabrication or fudging
  5. problematic citation patterns
    a. stingy citation patterns
    b. clique-ish citation patterns
    c. brown-nosing citation patterns
    d. excessive self-citation
    e. giving in to citation-extortion by referees
  6. financial conflicts of interest
    a. industry funding (especially undisclosed)
    b. ideological foundation funding (especially undisclosed)
    c. potential to reap financial gain from publication (e.g., IP or spin-off companies)

While the items on this list obviously differ in severity, all are cause for questioning. A few are constitutively bad practice, such as 3a, 4a, and 4b. Others, like 1a and 1b, are signals that might be thrown off when someone is engaged in bad practice but are not in themselves objectionable. It’s also helpful to distinguish between one-off and occasional instances of these QPPs, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, robust patterns of them—especially when someone’s profile includes little else. Additionally, it’s important to recognize that perverse incentives embedded in our publishing culture put pressure on people to engage in various QPPs, especially people with precarious employment.

I’ll briefly go through the rationale for each item on the list, and include an asterisk next to ones that I’ve committed myself and a dagger next to those I’ve witnessed.

1a*†. Imagine glancing at a CV and seeing that the researcher has eight original publications.[2] Two are in peer-reviewed journals and the other six are in volumes they themselves edited. This would give me pause. By contrast, if I saw six peer-reviewed articles and two chapters in the author’s own edited volumes, I’d shrug. Self-dealing of this sort seems to be a problem only when it constitutes the bulk of someone’s publication record. Where exactly to draw the line is tricky, of course, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t clear cases on either side of the line.

1b*†. Likewise, imagine glancing at a CV and seeing that the researcher has eight publications. Two are in peer-reviewed journals. Two are in volumes they themselves edited. And four are in volumes edited by their department-mates. This would also give me pause. It indicates the establishment of an academic ghetto or perhaps a chummy in-group. Of course, it might be the case that the best work on a given topic is done within a single department, but then again it might not. This is why further questions are called for.

2a†. I’m sure most of us have spam folders full of invitations to publish in predatory journals. Don’t do it. (This one isn’t merely questionable, though researchers who are just getting started and don’t have a strong support network may understandably fall for these spam invitations.)

2b*†. Given the sorry state of our publishing ecosystem, avoiding this QPP is probably supererogatory—especially for scholars in junior and precarious positions. Many of the most prestigious journals in philosophy have been captured by rapacious publishing houses. If one wants to make a name for oneself or just accrue enough of a reputation to enjoy stable employment, one may have to publish in such journals. But for those who already enjoy stable employment (especially those with tenure at prestigious universities), there is at least a defeasible reason to avoid such journals. European universities (and others) are starting to put economic pressure on these publishing houses, as is the popularity of sci-hub. If the publishing ecosystem is adequately reformed, this QPP would disappear.

2c*†. This QPP is essentially the same as 2b: avoiding it is desirable and supererogatory, especially for those in senior, stable, prestigious positions. For those in more junior and less stable positions, it’s just part of the game.

3a†. Outright plagiarism is obviously just wrong. Cases of borderline plagiarism are harder to assess. I’m thinking, for instance, of cases where someone hears a work-in-progress presentation at a colloquium or conference, then goes on to scoop the author of the work-in-progress. This might even be done innocently, with the expectation that the original author’s work must already be in press. One way to handle this problem would be to develop a more robust culture of sharing pre-prints on, for example, philpapers.org. Doing so would lay down a mile-marker that could both be used to establish precedent and be cited by others who want to avoid engaging in borderline plagiarism.

3b†. What exactly constitutes self-plagiarism is often hard to say. Obviously, if someone publishes verbatim the same paper in two places, that’s self-plagiarism. But it seems to be pretty rare in philosophy. More common is the practice of publishing 70% (near-)verbatim content with a little twist thrown in at the end. This sort of thing really bothers me, but I’ve spoken with quite a few philosophers about it and many of them just shrug their shoulders. Your mileage may vary.

3c†. This QPP is meant to capture cases that don’t quite rise to the level of self-plagiarism but are still worrisome or annoying. Such publications clog up the pipeline, gobble up limited space in journals (there already isn’t enough!), and artificially inflate the author’s publication count, citation count, h-index, and i10-index.

4a†. Whereas outright citation fabrication may be rare, citation fudging seems to be fairly common. What I have in mind by this is citing a paper or book as an exemplar of a view, argument, objection, or fallacy when it probably isn’t.

4b†. Again, outright quote fabrication may be rare (though I’ve caught a case of it!), but quote fudging is more prevalent. Similar to citation fudging, quote fudging takes a quotation out of context or slightly misuses it in some other way. Other types of sloppy quotation and fabrication also fall under 4a and 4b.

5a*†. There seems to be an emerging consensus that philosophers don’t cite enough. We can (and should) do better. Of course, exactly how much is enough is itself contentious.

5b*†. This QPP is related to 1b. The clique might be a department (e.g., one that conceives itself better than the rest of us), a small consortium (my own dear 4TU is often like this), or an academic ghetto (e.g., an isolated ideological or religious network of hold-outs and last-standers). It can be hard to distinguish a small but robust community of discourse that tends to have inward-facing citation patterns from a problematic, self-congratulatory in-group. Since there’s no such thing as instant rationality, we may have to wait for decades to decide which was which.

5c*†. People who have already published on a topic are most likely to be referees, so citing and praising them is tactically smart, even if it does make me throw up in my mouth a little bit.

5d*†. We probably all think our work is unfairly neglected, so this QPP is easy to fall into. For those operating in academic environments where citation counts, h-index, and i10-index matter, there’s also a perverse incentive to self-cite.

5e*†. Referees often demand that they themselves be cited before a paper can be released from R&R purgatory and enter the blessed realm of the forthcoming. As with many of the other QPPs, there are perverse incentives for authors in this context. To some extent, they should be expected to push back against such demands, but it’s also on editors to weed out and curate citations that don’t belong.

6a†. This QPP and the others in category 6 are probably rarer in philosophy than, for instance, the hard sciences, but they’re not entirely absent. Industry funding sometimes (perhaps often) comes with gag rules, non-disclosure agreements, and corporate oversight of findings. That can be problematic for obvious reasons.

6b*†. The elephant in the room when it comes to this QPP is of course the John Templeton Foundation. In my experience (I’ve received three sub-awards on JTF projects), JTF does not dictate analyses or results. What they do do is fund research on some topics/questions and not on others. That sort of agenda-setting has a slow but steady influence on the discipline. Thus far, I’d say that JTF has done considerably more good than harm, but I certainly understand why others might disagree.

6c. This QPP seems to be vanishingly rare in philosophy, but I’m happy (well, unhappy) to learn otherwise.


[1] Thanks for suggestions and feedback are due to Jack Woods, Richard Pettigrew, Kate Norlock, Kevin Timpe, Jade Schiff, Roman Altshuler, David Rosenthal, Kareem Khalifa, Neil van Leeuwen and Elizabeth Harman.

[2] Reprints are a separate issue, since they presumably passed through peer review before being chosen for reprinting.

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grad student4
grad student4
2 years ago

I’ve read several philosophy books from top publishers by (a) rising star author(s) lately that are pretty philosophically crappy (bot implausible, but low-quality) and haphazard (the latter of which can be demonstrated by the excessive number of typos in the published manuscript). It seems once you get a relationship with a publisher, if you’re prolific you get a sort of direct line to publication if you have something. This seems like a QPP.Report

grad student4
grad student4
Reply to  grad student4
2 years ago

Not* implausible. Oh, the irony.Report

Roger GS
Roger GS
Reply to  grad student4
2 years ago

“bot implausible” – so haphazard, it’s unlikely to have been produced by a human?Report

Sam Duncan
Sam Duncan
Reply to  grad student4
2 years ago

Gradstudent 4,
Yeah I’ve noticed that the editing at some top publishers is pretty slipshod these days. I haven’t read any books by them that I’d criticize as strongly as you do (though I have seen typos), but more than a few could have been much better with some editing. In one case where I thought this the book was pretty clearly rushed to press to cash in on its connection with current events. But in a couple others that just wasn’t a factor. Does anyone else have a sense that editing at even the good presses isn’t what it used to be? If so, is there a reason for this?Report

Louis
Reply to  Sam Duncan
2 years ago

As an admittedly rather casual and unsystematic peruser/reader/consumer of academic books, I won’t speak specifically to books in philosophy, but over the past several decades I’d say there has been a significant decline in standards of copyediting at prestigious university presses and probably university presses in general. There’s variation from press to press and book to book (some are still very good), but on the whole there’ s been a decline in editing.

Typographical and similar errors are minor if isolated and far between, but when a book is riddled with them (and I’ve seen at least a few from top university presses that are), it detracts from the author’s arguments and presentation, and is damaging (or should be damaging) to the press’s reputation. Basic grammatical errors, such as failure to match a singular subject with a singular verb, also now make their way into print more frequently than they used to. Since there are quite a few good freelance copyeditors around, not to mention companies that contract out such editing, I speculate that the university presses are too financially strapped and/or too cheap to ensure consistently good copyediting, preferring to rely on in-house copyeditors who are probably overburdened and under tight time pressures.

This should not be read as one of those grumpy “everything used to be better” complaints. Some things are better now than they used to be, but copyediting at university presses is definitely not one of them. Report

Chris Surprenant
Chris Surprenant
Reply to  Louis
2 years ago

Add to it that copyeditors frequently introduce errors into the text that weren’t there when the author sent it off, and some presses are now going to a model where the author doesn’t even see the final, final set of proofs before something goes to press. Report

Louis
Reply to  Chris Surprenant
2 years ago

That last point is interesting; I didn’t know that. Seems like a not-good practice.Report

Mark Alfano
Reply to  grad student4
2 years ago

Typos are really the least of our worries, as this thread in fact exemplifies.Report

Witha Question
Witha Question
2 years ago

How many self-cites is too many? I have several papers on the same new topic, and they all bear on my latest paper. But will I draw scorn if I self-cite six papers in one bibliography? Report

Mark Alfano
Reply to  Witha Question
2 years ago

It… depends?Report

SCM
SCM
Reply to  Witha Question
2 years ago

It strikes me that it is not a question of quantity but rationale. I cite my own papers when they are directly related to the issue at hand, as they, unsurprisingly, often are. If I’m talking about one aspect of an issue in paper X, I presume it may be useful to the reader that I have discussed another aspect of the same issue in paper Y. But if I’m manufacturing self-citations without some plausible justification in my reader’s presumed interests, then I’m doing something a bit iffy. The problem, in my mind, is not so much inflating one’s citation count, but just manifesting the vice of being a self-important windbag. Report

Charles Pigden
Charles Pigden
Reply to  SCM
2 years ago

Surely the honourable thing to do, when keeping count of one’s citations for promotions and related purposes, is to explicitly exclude self-citations., likewise citations to you in papers or online dissertations by recent students of yours. Someone who adheres to this rule may still be a self-important windbag, but at least they won’t be a blatantly self-serving self-important windbag. Report

Fool
Fool
Reply to  Witha Question
2 years ago

If you have 6 papers on the same topic, all of which are essential for the current paper, I would wonder why you couldn’t just have written one, slightly longer, paper.

The scent of thin-sliced salami hangs in the air.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Witha Question
2 years ago

I’m aware I do this fairly often, so I had a quick look at one of my recent papers (intentionally chosen to have a lot of self-citation, mostly because it crosses a lot of different areas). I won’t name the paper because that might itself be seen as egregious self-advertising, but it was written last year and is coming out in a volume this year.
There are eight citations to previous papers of mine. These are:

– my 2008 review paper on the quantum measurement problem as a general source of references on a bunch of topics I mention in passing.
– my 2012 book on the Everett interpretation as a source for the form of that interpretation I’m defending
– two of my papers on quantum field theory for extended discussion of effective field theories, something I have only a one-paragraph discussion of in the paper
– my 2016 paper on metaphysics and quantum mechanics for further defense of the claim that there’s no unique underlying classical mechanics and that classical-mechanical inter-theoretic relations have to be understood in a piecemeal case
– two of my earlier papers on Everett as part of a fairly thorough summary citation of the historical development of our understanding of branching structure (there are in total 16 citations in that paragraph).
– a different 2016 paper to defend a claim I make briefly in a footnote, that even ‘classical’ statistical-mechanical probabilities really have a quantum-mechanical underpinning’.

I think I’m content with that. In most cases the citation is because I’m making a substantive assumption about an at-least-somewhat-contentious topic, and only briefly defending the assumption in the paper; in each case, it seems relevant that I have a fuller defense elsewhere. (There are in each case somewhat-related defenses by other people, but in each case (unsurprisingly) my own work defends the most directly-relevant version of the thesis and does so making assumptions closest to what’s being presupposed in the paper. I could have left out the review-paper reference, but (again unsurprisingly, if immodestly) I think it’s the best collection of references on the specific topics I’m discussing. I could have left out the footnote, but it’s really there to explain to a reader already familiar with my work on statistical mechanics why something that might look like a contradiction with that earlier work, isn’t.

It’s perhaps relevant that my overall citation practice is on the thorough side for philosophy – there are 77 citations in the paper in total. Perhaps that’s a good answer to ‘withaquestion’: if you’re citing yourself too much *relative to the overall size of your bibliography*, worry!Report

An English philosopher
An English philosopher
2 years ago

“Obviously, if someone publishes verbatim the same paper in two places, that’s self-plagiarism. But it seems to be pretty rare in philosophy.”

I came across a paper that had been published in three separate journals. The three versions even had the same title. Unsure of what was going on, I notified the editors of the journals. Two of them expressed their concern, and the matter was raised with a publisher. However, nothing – as far as I can tell – came of this, and all three papers remain online.Report

Mark Alfano
Reply to  An English philosopher
2 years ago

Well, that’s just awful. Report

SCM
SCM
Reply to  An English philosopher
2 years ago

To be fair, the arguments were more valid the third time round.Report

Lilian
Lilian
2 years ago

There is also “honorary authorship”: every single member of the department has to be listed as co- author, even when they just checked the ms for spelling. This all to get more publications without writing them. Report

Andrew Sepielli
Reply to  Lilian
2 years ago

It’s also annoying when someone claims first-authorship when all he did was scream “We the best!” between verses.Report

Kenny Easwaran
Reply to  Lilian
2 years ago

This seems to me to be a legitimate difference of conventions in different academic fields. In the sciences, it is traditional to include as an author anyone who made any sort of important contribution to the research or manuscript. If someone is thanked in a footnote rather than included as an author, that is often counted as a kind of publishing malpractice, of denying someone appropriate credit.

I like the proposal of explicitly stating what contribution each person made to the theory, or the research, or the writing. But of course, it’s much harder to put that on a CV, and also harder for a casual reader to notice or understand.

https://www.elsevier.com/authors-update/story/publishing-trends/the-challenges-around-defining-authorship-you-have-your-sayReport

Cheyney Ryan
Cheyney Ryan
2 years ago

Mark – The issue of self-plagiarism is an interesting one, with which I’ve wrestled. It has arisen for me in this way. I get asked a lot to write general pieces on pacifism. While I take them in different directions, I find the first parts are pretty repetitive of what I’ve said in other places. The nature of the publications (e.g. Routledge anthologies) mean you dont want to begin by saying–“See my other piece X”. I make a point of noting that the views presented are re-hashing stuff from elsewhere, but on at least one occasion several paragraphs are pretty much the same. This may be inevitable in this sort of expository piece, but it can be misleading on a CV how much original material is being produced. Report

Brian Weatherson
2 years ago

I don’t see how 5a and 5c are consistent. If you want people to cite more, then they’re going to have to, among other things, cite potential referees.

If the problem is that there is excessive *praise* of work by would-be referees, then that’s definitely bad, but I think it’s a very different kind of thing than poor citation practices. And in any case, I can’t see how it would good strategically. The paper is more likely to be sent to people who oppose X’s view than to X (for almost any value of X), so brown-nosing X feels like a poor play.

More generally, I don’t see the appeal of things like 5a. Do folks just want every paper to have a long list of relevant papers, or do they want every paper to include that and a sentence or two on why that paper is relevant? If it’s the former, it’s better to just say “See category C on philpapers for more sources”. (I mean literally – telling folks exactly which philpapers keywords a work matches with would often be useful, in the way that scientific articles often have keywords/category codes.) If it’s the latter, then every paper will have to start with a survey article on the topic, and that’s a disaster. Books have survey chapters, not papers.Report

John
John
Reply to  Brian Weatherson
2 years ago

I agree with Brian here and I also question how bad these practices really are overall and what responsibility scholars have for helping to create someone’s vision of the a normatively ideal publication ecosystem. It strikes me that the chief responsibility is to produce good scholarship. Report

Charles Lassiter
Charles Lassiter
2 years ago

What I find most egregious here is the appropriation of Naughty by Nature. Clearly, *they* are down with OPP, while the OP is not down with QPP. I’m confused about how to think about QPP: are we down with them or not?Report

Michael
Michael
2 years ago

I sometimes see well-known scholars widely promote a draft work on social media, and I wonder whether using social media to advertise one’s works-in-progress is a problematic way of compromising blind review.

I say well-known scholars because I think this practice would especially benefit them, whereas it might harm lesser-known academics without an established track record. Report

Kenny Easwaran
Reply to  Michael
2 years ago

In practice, I’ve found that even though I spend a lot of time on social media and am well-connected, and I also do a lot of refereeing (about 30-50 papers a year), it is still relatively rare for me to be asked to referee a paper I have encountered in a social media promotion. So I think that this problem is less severe than you might have thought it could be.

It seems to me that the bigger effect of this sort of promotion is to get more people to read it early and offer feedback or comments. That ends up improving the final paper a lot. This is still an advantage that famous and/or well-connected people have over others, but it is actually a valuable tool to make papers better, and I don’t think we should tell people to avoid doing something because it makes their papers better.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Michael
2 years ago

The point of writing a paper is to advance scholarship and contribute to ongoing conversations. That means communicating it to interested readers as quickly as reasonably possible. That’s genuinely in conflict with blind review, but I think blocking it on those grounds would get the priorities badly wrong.Report

Michael
Michael
Reply to  David Wallace
2 years ago

Fair enough, but you can get interested readers on social media by saying “I have a paper one such-and-such topic” and then share it only with people who ask to see it, rather than blast 1000+ people with the actual title and link to your paper, which seems to be a common practice.

But I take you point, and Kenny is probably right that this happens less often than one might think, but I do have a few salient examples in mind.

In any case, my original post was just floating the question about whether this is a questionable practice rather than taking a stand on the issue. I’m still unsure. Report

Jack Woods
2 years ago

Given various features of professional academia, the way papers are linked to other papers on sites like google scholar etc, I EXACTLY want a long list of relevant papers. Of course, if we massively overhauled the reward and notice system, I wouldn’t be hugely opposed to a philpapers keyword treatment instead (though I’d worry about people not appropriately crediting where they got their ideas from.) Report

Joe
Joe
2 years ago

I find this either completely disingenuous or just a bad case of over-the-top virtue signalling. I am sorry but

1) getting lectured on immorality of publishing with Elsevier or other “economically predatory” journals by someone employed by (and so taking money from) a Catholic university, that is, university associated with Catholic church with its long and well-documented ‘predatory’ history and present (whether sexual, economical, or social) really gets me. I do not see how that is supposed to get a pass but publishing a paper with Springer won’t.

2) So we should not publish open access? or give in to referree pressure for literature citation? How about I have family that depends on my job and on my keeping that job? Oh of course, I can just adjunct it for life if I do not get tenure, but god forbid I publish a paper in something that is not open access!

3) clique-ish citation patters, brown-nosing, etc – really? There is probably little denying that people tend to read and cite people they know, often in their approximate age groups (like older scholars still only really reading each other and ignoring the yonnger generations). But it is ridiculous to find this morally wrong – it’s like saying that you should not prefer to hang out with your friends when really anyone with similar features would do. I do not know in what world MA lives, but social practices of human beings do extend to academy.

I could go on. I agree with some points (say, 3 or 6) but who would not? There is little point in bringing up those. The rest is just a show.Report

Mark Alfano
Reply to  Joe
2 years ago

Accusations of virtue-signaling are themselves virtue-signaling.

And anyway, as the asterisks above show, I am also questioning my own practices.

In any case, I’m not sure where you got the idea that I was saying these practices are *morally* wrong. My claim is that they are questionable, as explained in the OP. In many cases where there is something wrong, it’s probably epistemically and not morally wrong.Report

Tom Hurka
Tom Hurka
Reply to  Mark Alfano
2 years ago

“Accusations of virtue-signalling are themselves virtue-signalling.”

This is false. What makes something virtue-signalling is its motive, and you can point out virtue-signalling without having the virtue-signalling motive.Report

Mark Alfano
Reply to  Tom Hurka
2 years ago

How about, “Accusations of virtue-signaling are often themselves virtue-signaling”? 😉Report

JTD
JTD
Reply to  Mark Alfano
2 years ago

I disagree with Joe’s complaints. But on the virtue-signaling point, it seems impossible (or perhaps extremely unlikely) for someone to have a virtue-signalling motive if their speech act is anonymous. Hence, anonymous accusations of virtue-signalling are never (or rarely) themselves acts of virtue-signalling. Report

Colleen
Colleen
2 years ago

Beall’s List isn’t the best criterion for avoiding predatory journals, as Beall is all too happy to conflate predatory publishing with open access. (“Predatory” itself isn’t the best term, in my view, as it’s too narrow.)
Better sources for OA journal- and publisher-checking are:
(A) the Directory of Open Access Journals;
(B) Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association; and
(C) one’s wits and colleagues.
You have (C) covered well, I think, but librarians are a fitting addition. Increasingly, academic librarians, especially scholarly communication librarians, can assist with sussing out questions like these.
For (A) and (B): DOAJ and OASPA are comprehensive and reliable. Both are whitelists, not blacklists. So, it’s not necessarily the case that a publisher or journal ought not be trusted if it isn’t found on DOAJ or OASPA. But I think this fits better with your list anyway, Mark, since your aim is to point out practices that may require further investigation. A whitelist does the same.
And lastly, a word on OA publishing. One further thing to think about is the proliferation of “open access” options available via subscription journals. I think this is where most people remain confused about OA. Publishing in a journal that charges authorside fees is not the only way to make one’s work OA: There are no-fee OA journals, and one can self-archive one’s article — author agreement depending — with just about any journal, OA or not. Moreover, there is a difference between publishing in an OA journal that charges a (reasonable) fee, and a subscription journal that charges an author thousands of dollars to make that one article OA. More on the latter below, as I think this is a questionable practice worth knowing about.
When a typically subscription-based journal wants an author to pay several thousand dollars to make their article immediately OA (and retain copyright, apply an open license, free up other restrictions, etc), the author should think about what this is worth. Options like this from, e.g., Taylor and Francis aren’t really advancing OA by very much, given that the rest of the journal is paywalled — yet the arbitrary (!) cost to authors is substantial. Moreover, there is no incentive to transition to a sustainable and cheaper OA model. So-called hybrid options aren’t likely going to be in a senior or junior scholar’s interest — for good reason! Hybrid options, themselves, should make a scholar think twice. Perhaps this may be a point worth adding to your list.
Report

Postdoc
Postdoc
2 years ago

A thought on 1b. I think the problem is much broader, but precisely because of this it might be difficult to effectively address it. I’ll try to explain what I mean.

The case described is quite similar to that of publishing in collections edited by friends who work at a different university, and who ask you to contribute to their edited book. And of course this can happen with special issues of journals too, perhaps even prestigious ones… The thing is, having friends helps, in Academia as everywhere else, and the more powerful they are, the better.
Did it ever happen to you to wonder whether a certain philosopher’s achievements owe more to the fact that he/she is well-liked as a person, more than well-respected as a scholar? It did occur to me, but I will admit it’s a cynical thought.

To sum up: if this behavior is widespread, targeting publications edited by department mates will still allow other similarly questionable publications to go unnoticed, in which case we might do a better job at maintaining a level playing field if we ignore 1b cases entirely. What is more, if departmental solidarity is more common in departments that are isolated (geographically, socially, intellectually – maybe they do very niche stuff), targeting those cases as malpractice may make the situation even more unfair.

In fact, it would be worth discussing this in a separate post: how much do personal relationships, over and above mere “collegiality”, help in getting a job, and in publishing? Report

Narsi Marsi
2 years ago

Here’s another QPP: publishing your draft paper on online repositories (academia, SSRN, researchgate, your own website…). Doing so essentially allows referees to establish your identity, bypassing the “blind” of blind reviews. This is especially problematic if you’re authoritative voice your field, because it clearly increases the chances that your paper will get published (call me suspicious, but arguably some authors do aim for this facilitated route). Does it really increase your chances though? Well, imagine that a referee discovers that the author is Wim Tilliamson, as opposed to discovering that it is a graduate student: it’s hard to imagine they’ll be more lenient in the latter case. Of course here the blame is also on the referee (they should not google your paper), but hey, referee are curious humans, and we are discussing what is questionable, not what would be questionable in an ideal world where referee don’t try to peek. In sum: it’s a QPP to feed the referee’s curiosity. Famous professor, I’m talking to you: don’t do it!Report

Daniele
Daniele
Reply to  Narsi Marsi
2 years ago

I disagree here. Uploading one’s paper on online repositories such as academia.edu is a good way to get feedback over and above what one can get from referees’s comments (I’m thinking of the ‘discussion’ options that some online repositories have). The real problem is referees googling titles. This is frankly unacceptable. And the fact that an author’s identity is revealed by a google search does often not depend on one putting their paper online. Simply having given the paper as a talk in a conference, for instance – which is almost always the case for submitted papers – will reveal the identity of the author. So, the questionable (or, dare i say, utterly unprofessional) practice is that of referees trying to find the identity of a paper’s author, not the latter uploading their paper on the internet. Report