A White Paper on Publication Ethics in Philosophy


A project that “seeks to foster greater awareness among humanities scholars and editors about ethical issues in publishing, with a focus on the discipline of philosophy” (previously) last week published a white paper with its initial findings and recommendations.

Ramon Todo, glass book sculpture

The paper, “Just Ideas? The Status and Future of Publication Ethics in Philosophy,” is part of a process of addressing the fact that:

in the humanities in particular there is a dearth of the kinds of policies commonly found in the sciences and social sciences, which have established paths for determining the unreliability of research findings and rectifying unethical research, such as correcting and retracting articles. What such unreliable or unethical research means in humanities fields requires further elaboration to ensure that the highest ethical standards are understood and achieved in research in these disciplines. The issues raised about the ethics of publication in philosophy in particular prompted the question of what guidelines for publication ethics and best practices might be established for philosophy and the humanities.

It is based on a substantial amount of information gathering and feedback, including:

(1) a survey of existing explicit policies and statements on publication ethics of 265 journals in philosophy, (2) a set of in-person and virtual focus groups with journal editors and members of American Philosophical Association (APA) leadership committees, and (3) a set of focus groups with representatives from publishers of philosophy journals and representatives from COPE. Additionally, we (4) convened scholar conversations at the 2018 APA divisional meetings open to any attendee and invited feedback via the project website and (5) collected and examined the existing literature on publication ethics, especially with respect to the humanities and philosophy, which resulted in an extensive bibliography.

The questions that were discussed in the project’s focus groups with editors included:

  • Do editors’ and referees’ assumptions and decisions about what counts as real philosophy affect diversity (of topics, authors, styles, etc.) in the journals you work most closely with? If so, how?
  • In the sciences, there are explicit guidelines and shared understandings about when and how a piece of scholarship should be corrected or retracted. Are there similar understandings and guidelines in philosophy/the humanities? If not, should there be?
  • What constitutes plagiarism? Is there anything other than plagiarism that constitutes misconduct in philosophy that means an article should be corrected or retracted?
  • Who is responsible for discovering, preventing, and addressing misconduct? What (if any) mechanisms do we need to address allegations of misconduct that occur afterpublication?
  • How would you describe ethical research and citation practices, especially in scholarship pertaining to and affecting marginalized groups? Should journals offer guidance to encourage inclusive engagement with marginalized bodies of scholarship? If yes, how could they accomplish this?
  • What do you think are the main obstacles that make it difficult to accomplish diversity of authorship in journals? Are there practices that you know of or that journals have experimented with to address this situation?

The focus groups with publishers were centered around the following questions:

  • In what ways are humanities different from STEM in terms of ethical challenges and practices?
  • What humanities-specific policies/guidelines do you have in place? If you are “discipline-agnostic” in your approach, why? Have you run into any problems with the “discipline-agnostic” approach?
  • What would be considered conflicts of interest in the humanities context?
  • What policies (if any) do you recommend to your journal editors for handling post-publication discussions? How are the policies about who responds developed and how are they communicated to relevant parties?
  • Do you have plans in place for what to do should discussions escalate on social media post-publication? At what point do you determine that a response is required? Who is responsible for a response?
  • What advice or training do you give editors concerning how to handle social media criticisms and controversies?
  • What data/technologies do you have in place or can be put into place to better help journals understand publication patterns, including diversity of all kinds (e.g., demographics, professional rank, topics)?
  • What training do you provide to editors, especially in terms of publication ethics? When does such training take place? What about “refresher courses” for those who have been editors for several years?
  • What modes of communication do you use to let editors know about new guidelines they may need to take into account to develop their own journal policies (e.g., the use of preprint servers)?
  • What training (if any) do you offer in publication ethics for authors, reviewers, editorial boards?
  • What guidelines (if any) do you provide for pertaining to marginalized or vulnerable populations? What does accountability to marginalized and vulnerable populations look like for humanities research?
  • How can publishers help ameliorate the marginalization of underrepresented groups and bodies of knowledge in the humanities?
  • What training (if any) do you provide to help editors understand when corrections or retractions might be appropriate actions to take?

You can read summaries of the discussions of these questions in the white paper.

The authors do a good job of summing up a crucial aspect of the situation: “nearly everyone in the publishing ecosystem is looking to someone else for guidance.” They elaborate:

Editors expect referees to identify misconduct, but they do not always clearly communicate this expectation—or many other expectations—to referees. Referees seldom receive training (from a journal, from their graduate program, or from their professional societies) about how to prepare a review report. Editors generally assume that their publishers have policies in place to address misconduct, while publishers often look to the editors and scholarly societies to determine what is expected of scholars in their respective disciplines. While a number of editors are aware of COPE, they either believe that COPE’s guidelines do not apply to the humanities, or believe that COPE has explicitly defined policies and procedures that can be directly applied should a problem arise. Such misunderstandings persist despite the fact that COPE explicitly states its expectation that journals define these policies and procedures for themselves. Moreover, while it is widely agreed among editors that more diversity of authorship and scholarship is needed, and that current structures in publishing (and academia, more broadly) inhibit this goal, nearly everyone is stymied as to how to achieve this diversity and how to revise the structures that stand in the way.

So what can be done? The authors make some modest suggestions:

  1. Discuss and disclose. Based on our focus group discussions, our first and most important recommendation is that every journal undertake a series of discussions—with editorial team members, publisher representatives, and other key stakeholders—to articulate its values, standards, policies, and procedures as related to publication ethics (including diversity of methodology and of authorship), and to make those values, standards, policies, and procedures publicly available and easily accessible, to the extent feasible.
  2. Take steps to diversify journal leadership. In pursuit of methodological as well as demographic diversity, we encourage journals to pursue diverse representation in editorships, editorial boards, and reviewer pools and seek to involve these groups and individuals actively in the journal’s relationship to diverse communities.
  3. Encourage collaboration among scholarly societies. We recommend that scholarly societies—both within philosophy and more broadly in the humanities and humanistic social sciences—work together to identify common values and expectations for scholars across the humanities. 
  4. Continue to improve peer review. Though we did not make peer review a focus of our conversations, concerns with the peer-review system were an undercurrent through every focus group and discussion. We encourage journal leaders to consider how their current peer-review practices and policies serve their values and goals, and whether experimenting with new models and strategies for peer review might be worthwhile.

Each of the these is discussed in greater detail in the paper.

The paper was authored by Kris Sealey (Fairfield University), Yannik Thiem (Villanova University), Adriel M. Trott (Wabash College), Amy E. Ferrer (American Philosophical Association) and Rebecca Kennison (K|N Consultants), with input from an advisory board consisting of Linda Martín Alcoff (CUNY), Luvell Anderson (Syracuse University), Lisa Guenther (Queen’s University), Sally Haslanger (MIT), Nicole Hassoun (Binghamton University), Serene Khader (CUNY), Eva Feder Kittay (Stony Brook University), Rebecca Kukla (Georgetown University), Carole Lee (University of Washington), Christopher Long (Michigan State University), Mariana Ortega (Penn State University), Henry Richardson (Georgetown University), Eric Schwitzgebel (UC Riverside), and Kyle Powys Whyte (Michigan State University).

The authors are seeking feedback. Substantive comments welcome here and also via a comment form linked to at the site hosting the paper.

(via Michael V. Dougherty)


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Caligula's Goat
Caligula's Goat
2 years ago

On its face, these recommendations seem fine to me. Perhaps most important is increasing transparency to the degree possible. Seems like the machinations of journals are opaque even to everyone who works within them, at least that’s the impression I get from reading this summary of the report.

On the other hand, as Leiter points out on his own blog, the authors of this white paper, and many of those on the advisory board, were also signatories to the petition calling for Rebecca Tuvel’s article to be retracted from Hypatia. That seems like an odd thing to have done when they simultaneously call for increasing “diversity of all kinds (e.g., demographics, professional rank, topics).” Her article, if it did nothing else, represented diversity of topic and methodology for Hypatia. Doubly so when we’re also asking questions about being more open minded about what counts as “real philosophy.” So, if their deeds are meant to be models for how to put the material in this white paper into practice, then I’m left scratching my head.

That aside (and it’s a big aside), I was also really surprised at the dual recognition that nobody seems to have been trained on how to write a reviewer report when refereeing and yet that editors expect referees to catch issues of plagiarism and other misconduct.

Also, though I appreciated the authors somewhat neutrally raising the issue of “post-publication discussions” on social-media, knowing what we know about the authors and the advisory board and assuming that they think that their actions in the past were justified (i.e., calling for a retraction from a non-plagiarized article that successfully navigating its way through a journal’s peer-review system), I’m genuinely curious, and mildly concerned, about how these authors and their board (whom all seem to be in relative agreement about the ethics of post-publication discussions calling for retraction) will develop and try to implement these policies across a variety of journals.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
2 years ago

I don’t think it ‘impugns’ the paper’s authors to note relevant facts about their past professional activities (after all, if the white paper was by some random undergraduates, I doubt we’d be discussing it). In this case, the fact that three of the authors of the paper were major players on one side of a major recent publication controversy, and the fourth is the head of the APA, seems highly relevant background context. It has been totally routine across many past DN discussions for that kind of contextual information to be mentioned and discussed (in part, I take it, because the epistemic and societal background of authors has been seen as relevant to epistemic assessment of their writing; in part because it’s relevant to assessing the likely impact of a given project; in part because of broader concerns along various axes of diversity). I’m not seeing any reason that’s not legitimate in this case too. (Of course, “this author has previously said X” is not in itself an argument against any given claim: that’s as true here as it has been in other DN discussions.)Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  David Wallace
2 years ago

Given Justin’s request to avoid derailment, I won’t comment on these issues after this – but following my first quick post I’ve had a chance to do some homework, and I find that three of the five authors of the white paper, and five of the fifteen advisory board members, were actively engaged in the Tuvel controversy, all supportive or at least highly sympathetic to the original Open Letter:

– four (Anderson, Guenther, Thiem, Trott) were early signatories of the Open Letter;
– two (Kennison, Kukla) were active on social media defending the Letter (Kennison is also a signatory, though only some while after it was initiated);
– two (Alcoff, Ortega) are among the Hypatia associate editors who wrote the original apologetic reply to the Open Letter and who resigned as associate editors after being unwilling to accept COPE’s July 2017 finding that they’d acted inappropriately.

Two other Board members (Haslanger, Whyte) were not directly involved in the Tuvel affair as far as I can tell, but wrote pretty sympathetic public statements about it or related matters in its immediate aftermath (both at DN; Haslanger on 4th May 2017, Whyte on 7th May 2017).

I don’t inherently have a problem with the academics on that ‘side’ of the Tuvel affair taking the time to work out more fully the right intellectual framework for their criticisms. (I very strongly disagree with those criticisms, but we might as well discuss the intellectually most defensible version of them.) But I do find it problematic that the White Paper itself, even as it repeatedly cites the Tuvel affair, nowhere mentions how greatly entangled many of its authors were in that affair (arguably bordering on a conflict of interest in some cases). I’d be prepared to accept that the lack of full disclosure here is an oversight, but it’s a regrettable oversight, and doubly so in a paper that apparently carries the imprimatur of the APA and has its Executive Director as a co-author.Report

Leslie Glazer
Leslie Glazer
2 years ago

I agree we shouldn’t impugn the authors, but it is reasonable to wonder if there is an agenda behind this effort. I say this in part because on the face of it the ethics involved in publishing is pretty clear. Authors should practice intellectual virtues— honesty, seriousness of thought, conscientiousness in regard to the texts written about and ideas analyzed, a prioritizing of truth, and so on— and reviewers and publishers ought to practice correlative virtues— honesty, an interest on truth and the ideas themselves, a consideration for how well written and how well researched an article is, and how the specific article fits with the frame of the journal in question. If the paper shows sufficient scholarship and clarity and fits within the general frame of the journal it would be ethical to publish it. Articles published under false pretenses of course wouldn’t fit. But, whether or not a journals editors or authors are diverse is, while possibly important for other political and social reasons, has little to do with whether a publication is ethical, as a publication or bit of scholarship. And, whether the conclusions in the article are P.C. or considered offensive shouldn’t disqualify it as such. Even while a rejoinder and rebuttal could be published along side it if need be.Report

Rebecca
Rebecca
2 years ago

I did not sign or defend the Tuvel letter and have no idea where this pervasive myth came from. If I were going to defend it why wouldn’t I just sign it? I do however think that this ad hominem dredging up of years old gossip is pathetic and irrelevant. Judge the white paper on its substance.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Rebecca
2 years ago

I’m traveling and about to board a plane; absent a chance to check my homework i’m content to take your word for it that you didn’t in any way defend the Tuvel letter: in which case, apologies.

The broader point about full disclosure stands and is robust against replacing 3/5+5/15 with 3/5 + 4/15.Report

Andrew
Andrew
Reply to  Rebecca
2 years ago

You didn’t sign the open letter, but you publicly excoriated Hypatia for publishing Tuvel’s paper, stated that the fact that the paper was published represented a sort of systematic failure, and stated that you were not signing the letter because you thought it wasn’t necessary in light of the apology issued by the associate editors, in which they apologized for publishing the paper and stated that it should not have been published, right?Report

Preston Stovall
Preston Stovall
Reply to  Rebecca
2 years ago

Hi Rebecca – it doesn’t seem quite right to call the concerns raised over the relationship between this white paper and the Tuvel controversy as “dredging up of years old gossip” when the authors of the essay themselves point to the Tuvel affair as one of “A wide range of ethical issues pertaining to publishing in humanities (including the question of how to address them) [that] came to the fore in 2017” (see the seventh paragraph in the Introduction, along with the associated footnote 6).

Of course, perhaps you mean that people shouldn’t be taking the stand on the Tuvel affair that they have, or that they shouldn’t be taking that stand in response to the paper here. But that’s a political disagreement, it seems to me (something Mark Lance taught me to be sensitive to), and given the politics in play it seems perfectly appropriate for people from that political persuasion to point out that the association of the white paper with the Tuvel affair, along with the rather nebulous connection the paper has to the APA, is worth commenting on.Report

kailadraper
Reply to  Rebecca
2 years ago

Assuming you are Rebecca Kennison, you are listed as a signatory. https://archive.is/lUeR4#selection-1157.0-1157.37Report

Philodemus
Philodemus
Reply to  kailadraper
2 years ago

I think it’s Kukla. Who didn’t sign the letter. But said things online that were supportive of the letter.Report

kailadraper
Reply to  Philodemus
2 years ago

Oh, thanks. My apologies.Report

krell_154
krell_154
2 years ago

I won’t comment on the authors’ of this letter less-than-stellar track record, but I would like to say something about this:

”Take steps to diversify journal leadership. In pursuit of methodological as well as demographic diversity, we encourage journals to pursue diverse representation in editorships, editorial boards, and reviewer pools and seek to involve these groups and individuals actively in the journal’s relationship to diverse communities”

Now, I won’t touch the topic of demographic diversity, if for nothing, then for the reason that my views about it might not be so popular here, but what does sound problematic is the idea that journals should pursue methodological diversity. Why? Is it obvious that methodological diversity is good in and of itself? To me it is not obvious. Why should Mind or Philosophical Studies accept papers written in Lacanian-Žižekian-psychoanalytic dialectic? What is so wrong with journals specializing in a particular style of philosophy?Report

Ben A
Ben A
Reply to  krell_154
2 years ago

I think you raise a reasonable question, krell_154. But to encourage methodological diversity need not presume that methodological diversity is good in and of itself, and it also need not imply that every philosophy journal be open to every possible methodological style.Report

krell_154
krell_154
Reply to  Ben A
2 years ago

”it also need not imply that every philosophy journal be open to every possible methodological style”

Yes, I understand, and my example is a little extreme. But still, I don’t see what’s problematic even with a highly specialized philosophy journal, which would publish papers written on a rather small set of topics and in a particular style of philosophy. If the journal makes it clear what kind of submissions it will take into consideration, let it be as specific as the editorial board wants it to be.Report

Matt
2 years ago

… In pursuit of methodological … diversity…

In a lot of discussions about diversity, there is a conflation of diversity within and between institutions. One form of “methodological diversity” would seek to have lots of that _within_ particular journals. Another form would seek to have lots of different journals, each favoring a more narrow range of methods, but with lots of methods represented by the whole field of philosophy journals. It seems to me that philosophy does pretty well on the 2nd type of diversity, and less well on the first sort, but it isn’t clear that this is a problem. At the very least, it seems to me that when diversity is discussed in cases like this, and the distinction between diversity within and between institutions isn’t carefully noted, that the reader should be careful, as either sloppy thinking or a slight of hand is likely at play.Report

Grad Student4
Grad Student4
2 years ago

A good-faith question about diversity of authorship:

Is the implication of authorship demographic diversity that a journal should be more willing to accept some paper X if it’s written by, e.g., a black person than the very same paper X, only it’s by a white person?

Or is there some theory about the ‘kind of scholarship’ black philosophers do (which would itself seem problematic) that we want more of, and so we should be accepting more scholarship that resembles this kind of scholarship?

A parallel question:

The white paper encourages journals to “diversify leadership,” from which “accomplishing diversity of authorship would flow more easily.” I understand this point when it comes to diversity of methodology/scholarly traditions. But it seems the authors also want to incorporate demographic factors as well. Is the claim here, then, that, e.g., black editors will be more likely to accept work by black authors? Or would be more likely to accept ‘black scholarship’?

Thanks!Report

PaulWhitfield
PaulWhitfield
2 years ago

If these comments are representative of the demographic the white paper is for…Report

Leslie Glazer
Leslie Glazer
2 years ago

I wonder if the need for the ‘white paper’ is a regression to an institutional form of ethics within the humanities like we see in professional organizations and licensing boards for professional practice? While necessary these ‘codes of conduct’ often seem forced efforts to constrain ethics in terms of ‘rules’ in a field where the inner logic and sense of ethics has disappeared. For while there are always hard cases, the gist of being ethical isn’t mysterious. There are virtues connected with the practices inherent to the field, or at least there should be. Perhaps just as truth has become problematic in our age of ‘fake news’, following a century of critique, perhaps there is no longer a way to distinguish clearly the ethics ingredient in the practices of scholarship, research, reasoning, and writing, from ideology. And therefore no way to distinguish a scholarly journal publishing an academic paper from a polemical magazine whose purpose is to advance an ideology. And, if I am correct ere, this is why we see here a collapse of the academic ethics of research and writing, scholarship and publishing, with ethical-political agendas that operate on a different level. Diversity, for example, however valorized, isn’t an academic virtue as such. Truth is. Honest research is. Good clear writing is. Doing due diligence with the material, factual or textual, is. While we can argue that our institutions should be welcoming, that is a social ideal rather than an argument for anything ethical academically. SImilarly, ‘standpoint epistemology’ can be illuminating perhaps of some misunderstandings, that may lead to some unfairness, but isn’t necessarily a ground for anything definitive within academic ethics. The value of a piece of writing or scholarship isn’t due to the particulars of the person who wrote it’s identity standpoint, but to the quality of what they wrote. Academic/publishing ethics is then quite akin to a teacher reading a students paper— The judgement is about whether the student has ‘done their homework’, whether they write well, whether they make their case with reasons and evidence of some sort—- not whether the teacher agrees with them in some or all ways, and not whether the paper violates some PC standard.Report

J. Bogart
J. Bogart
2 years ago

Not enough information about the composition of the focus groups to assess the value of the reported comments. It is not, e.g., the number of journals contacted but who in fact showed up. I hoped for more transparency on that point. It would also help to understand how the Team was selected and how the Advisory Board was selected. Neither looks like the APA membership or the wider profession. The project seems vague on whether it aims at an Ethics of publishing or a set of Best Practices. They are not the same. Actual review processes got short shrift, e.g. “we did not make peer review a focus of our conversations.” It would be helpful to know why. The Paper gives the impression that the project is really about institutionalising the view that demographic diversity in authors should be a primary concern of journals, that philosophical work touching on (it is hard to discern exactly what the standard is) matters of concern to marginalized or vulnerable groups should be vetted by members of such groups, and that there should be a post-publication process of discipline or sanctions. The latter receives far too little discussion. E.g., what sort of error in argument is like misstating the data? They are all three controversial, so I expected some defense or explanation of their centrality to the Paper and its recommendations. The recommendations re citation reviews reminded me the equally enlightening symposium on citation in law reviews:
https://www.law.gmu.edu/assets/files/publications/working_papers/1305MicroSymposiumonOrinKerr.pdfReport

Reinhard Muskens
2 years ago

I was happy to see the endorsement of diversity of all kinds, but I missed any mention of geographical diversity. Many journals cater to an international audience and accept papers from all over the world. The Journal of Philosophical Logic, for example, for which I am an editor, definitely does, and one thing I hope is that the geographical balance of the papers we can publish will further improve. What I found remarkable (and also a bit comical) is that all authors of this white paper seem to be based in North-America and most of them in the US. This does not strike me as particularly diverse…Report

Rebecca Kukla
Rebecca Kukla
Reply to  Reinhard Muskens
2 years ago

Reinhard: This is a product of its being funded by the APA and involving in-person meetings. However the topic of geographical diversity was central to our discussions, and our panels at the APA definitely included people from all over the world, by design.Report

Jamie Dreier
Jamie Dreier
Reply to  Rebecca Kukla
2 years ago

I don’t think the project was, in fact, funded by the APA. It was funded by a Mellon grant.

Contrary to what a number of commenters have said, the project is not an APA project, and has no endorsement from the APA.Report

Joel Pust
Joel Pust
Reply to  Jamie Dreier
2 years ago

Isn’t the participation of the APA executive director (presumably selected for that reason) an implicit or damn-close-to-explicit endorsement?Report

Joel Pust
Joel Pust
Reply to  Joel Pust
2 years ago

I hope the number of “likes” on Wallace’s posts give the APA pause if they intend to endorse this white paper.Report

Sergio Tenenbaum
Sergio Tenenbaum
Reply to  Joel Pust
2 years ago

I was just about to raise the same point as Jamie; I don’t think the project even received one of the APA small grants. I also don’t understand why Amy Ferrer’s participation counts as an APA endorsement. I’d think she’s free to participate in any research project or initiative she chooses to without having to ask permission from the APA board or to take herself to be representing the APA (of course, she could be in a project officially representing the APA, but this doesn’t seem to be her role here).

It seems to me that the APA has provided some resources for the projects (such as meeting rooms at the meetings and databases), but this again seems to me to fall far short from endorsement. A quick look at the preamble and various statements does not reveal any place in which this is described as an APA project. I might be missing something here (I mean this as an honest “I did not dig very deeply here”), but it doesn’t seem to me right to say that the project has any kind of APA “imprimatur”.Report

Joel Pust
Joel Pust
Reply to  Sergio Tenenbaum
2 years ago

With respect, Sergio, I disagree.

The executive director of the APA is not (primarily) an academic and is not serving in an academic capacity and so the issue is not one of academic freedom. Moreover, the topic of the white paper is the appropriate professional ethical standards governing publication for professional philosophers. Indeed, she was presumably selected *entirely because* she is the executive director of the professional organization for U.S. philosophers. As a result, her involvement seems to indicate *some* sort of APA involvement. At the very least, she should make it crystal clear that she does not endorse the paper *qua* APA director.

She is, of course, free to participate without comment or declaration in any project she wishes independent of of the concerns of the APA as a professional organization.

To repeat, I hope the APA Board does not endorse this white paper as it stands, not least because it suggests that Tuvel did (or may have done) something unethical and that Hypatia ought to have retracted her paper (or seriously considering doing so). I continue to think that the “likes” on Wallace’s post indicate the agreement of the silent majority of philosophers. I wish more would stick their necks out.Report

Sergio Tenenbaum
Sergio Tenenbaum
Reply to  Joel Pust
2 years ago

Joel, I was just denying that we had “damn close to explicit endorsement” or the APA “imprimatur” on this report. “Some sort of involvement” is significantly weaker. I was really just countering the suggestion that this was being proposed by the APA (if not already accepted) as its recommended ethical code for journals (I agree that it would be highly problematic,, to say the least, to do so without wide consultation with, and consensus among, its members).Report

Sergio Tenenbaum
Sergio Tenenbaum
Reply to  Joel Pust
2 years ago

Sorry, I hadn’t seen Amy’s statement clarifying her role below, which makes my point moot…Report

Tom Hurka
Tom Hurka
Reply to  Jamie Dreier
2 years ago

If the report isn’t endorsed by the APA, why is it called a “white paper”? A white paper, in the standard use of the term, is a document produced by a government or other authoritative body. This group can make whatever suggestions they want, but especially given their ideological unrepresentativeness (see David Wallace above), I don’t see that they have any authority whatever.Report

Joel Pust
Joel Pust
Reply to  Joel Pust
2 years ago
Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  Joel Pust
2 years ago

Thanks for those important links, Joel.

I find this lack of clarity troubling. Is this, or is this not, an APA project?

If it isn’t, then it would be good for the APA to be clear that it is merely coincidental that the Amy Ferrer, a non-philosopher whose involvement with the White Paper is otherwise a little perplexing, is promoting it, and that the White Paper does not at all represent an officially binding or even officially recommended set of practices for the discipline.

If it is, then the set of recommendations should be discussed, voted on, and properly ratified by the APA membership.

It seems bad for the APA to conduct itself in a manner that could be taken by critics as allowing a partisan, activist subgroup of the profession, working with the collusion of an top-level executive, to sneak a set of strategically desirable professional norms in through a side door. I’m certainly not saying that anything less than innocent was the motivation for this, but our professional organization must be above such suspicion, particularly when the political makeup of so many behind this project would make such an interpretation more plausible.

A clarification on this matter, one way or the other, would resolve that problem.Report

Reinhard Muskens
Reply to  Rebecca Kukla
2 years ago

Rebecca: If you want to give recommendations about publication ethics in philosophy and you want them to be accepted internationally, I think it should be very clear that these recommendations have been crafted by a group that is truly geographically diverse. Where are the voices from the Russian Federation, from Iran, from India, from China, etc., etc.?Report

Amy Ferrer
Amy Ferrer
Reply to  Rebecca Kukla
2 years ago

To clarify, as others have noted, this project was funded by the Mellon Foundation and did not receive funding from the APA. It is not an APA-managed project, nor has the white paper been endorsed by the APA board of officers. My role in the project was to provide my perspective as a scholarly society leader, not to speak for the APA itself. I expect that the next draft of the white paper will include a note to this effect.Report

Nick
Nick
Reply to  Amy Ferrer
2 years ago

Isn’t it worrisome that a board member for the project—Kukla—is apparently completely wrong about the source of funding?Report

Tim
Tim
Reply to  Amy Ferrer
2 years ago

@amy Ferrer

“A white paper is an authoritative report or guide that informs readers concisely about a complex issue and presents the issuing body’s philosophy on the matter. It is meant to help readers understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.” (Wikipedia)

Maybe the next draft should clarify who the issuing body is and on whose authority it speaks.Report

Steven French
Steven French
Reply to  Reinhard Muskens
2 years ago

Indeed – some might even view this as yet another example of US/NA folk telling the rest of us what to do! (with little if any consideration of the particular geographical/political/social/economic circumstances that the rest of us find ourselves in and which may have a direct impact on e.g. attempts to improve diversity etc.)Report

Tristan
2 years ago

How about viewpoint or ideological diversity? And if the objection is “let the quality of the argument determine the representation of philosophical viewpoints,” then why not the same criteria for the other types of diversity proferred by this “white paper”?Report

J. Bogart
J. Bogart
2 years ago

The Paper does discuss diversity of ideology, viewpoint, methodology.Report

Tristan
Reply to  J. Bogart
2 years ago

I see the discussion of methodology. But where is the discussion of diversity of viewpoint? Among the 67 hits for “diversity”, I only see references to “diversity of all kinds” and “diversity of styles, approaches, and topics,” etc.Report

J. Bogart
J. Bogart
Reply to  Tristan
2 years ago

Focus Questions for Editors; the discussion of the “jumpstart of conversation about kinds of scholarship”; search on differ, for examples. I di not mean to suggest there was extensive material, only that there was some.Report

Tristan
Reply to  J. Bogart
2 years ago

Thanks, Dr. Bogart, I overlooked that.

On the topic of viewpoint diversity, I published a thing in Quillette recently discussing the lack thereof in philosophy:

https://quillette.com/2019/04/23/the-dearth-of-conservatives-in-academic-philosophy/

Disappointingly, I got very little feedback from actual philosophers. But given the tone of this comments thread, and the reaction to the white paper, perhaps more will be interested.Report

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
Reply to  Tristan
2 years ago

Tristan, Quillette is not a particularly good place for healthy debate. I remember, however, that philosophers did opine on the topic last year on this very blog.Report

Tristan
Reply to  Nicolas Delon
2 years ago

Hi Nicholas, Why do you say that? I don’t agree with the ideological perspective of everything they publish. But they have a lot of readers and the discussions in the comment sections strike me as eminently healthy, even by the low standards of online comment sections. Quite apart from that, Quillette is one of the few places online where these conversations are happening between academics and the general public. I would like to see more of this on Daily Nous, and I imagine others would as well. In the meantime, I will look for the post you mentioned. I don’t recall seeing it.Report

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
Reply to  Tristan
2 years ago

Hi Tristan. Unfortunately I suspect ideological disagreement is shaping the way we perceive the comments section at Quillette.

“the discussions in the comment sections strike me as eminently healthy, even by the low standards of online comment sections”

I have a hard time even imagining how I could bring myself to agree with this statement. Anytime I have tried to engage there, or simply read the comments, I I’ve encountered trolling, stonewalling or worse. If anything, it reads like disgruntled folks (typically always the same handful) cheering each other up in an echo chamber. But perhaps I should spend more time there. Or not. Anyway, all I was suggesting is that comments section on news outlets, Quillette being no exception, are no place for receiving helpful feedback on your opinion pieces.

Here are the two posts I had in mind (there have been others):
http://dailynous.com/2017/09/18/because-they-are-universities/
http://dailynous.com/2017/09/19/response-conservative-guest-post-philippe-lemoine/Report

Leslie Glazer
Leslie Glazer
2 years ago

I would appreciate it if someone could actually make the case for how diversity and standpoint epistemology could be considered central to academic, scholarship, or publication ethics. This seems to slip into and overtake what seems on the face of it to be more central in the white paper. And, while one can surely argue for diversity and representativeness as social goods fostering social justice in a broader political sense, it seems to conflict with an ethics centered on inquiry, truth as an ultimate good, and the cultivation of knowledge communities and communities of open inquiry.Report

A-1
A-1
Reply to  Leslie Glazer
2 years ago

Here’s a positive reason to think a knowledge community such as ours shouldn’t try to harness standpoint epistemology through demographic diversity. Standpoint epistemology implies that the members of oppressed group G1 are more likely than members of a non-oppressed group G2 to know of G1’s oppression. But a group’s having members that are relatively likely to know about some subject matter is a bad reason for using membership in that group, per se, as a criterion for inclusion in things like conference panels, editorships, professorships, etc. It’s clear that such criteria would be less reliable indicators of the relevant abilities than direct consideration of credentials. Furthermore, such criteria would be unlikely to foster diversity and, indeed, would likely reduce the presence of under-represented groups in fields having less to do with oppression. Which demographic groups are more likely than which to have high mathematical aptitude?
There may be good reasons to want to increase diversity in our epistemic community. But we shouldn’t assume without careful argument that standpoint epistemology grounds an epistemic reason for it.Report

YAAGS
YAAGS
Reply to  A-1
2 years ago

This is to say nothing of the fact the more basic premise of standpoint epistemology is extremely questionable. There are good reasons to think that oppressed groups are in a far worse position to understand their oppression precisely *because* they are being oppressed. In fact, that generally seems to be the rule. The most tragic and poignant example being the holocaust. How many Jews knew what was happening when they got on the trains? Before that, how many were in denial about the anti-semitic rhetoric of the Nazis? Similarly, it is rather hard for someone who was denied a decent education to understand why the economic policies that were used to justify denying them a decent education are faulty.

In general, one’s personal life experience just doesn’t give one access to the overarching causes and social structures that give rise to that experience. For instance, you are generally in a terrible position to tell why you were rejected for a job since you don’t have any access to the hiring process. The idea that someone could just be able to tell that they were discriminated against without having any access to the hiring process borders on superstition. Unless they’re throwing about slurs during the interview you just aren’t in a position to know.Report

J.Bogart
J.Bogart
2 years ago

The White Paper is not based on and does not discuss Standpoint Epistemology. A good short statement of the aims is: “our project has been especially interested in work on and by marginalized groups, including but not limited to inclusive citation and engagement practices, peer-review practices, and scholarly consideration of the effect of the research being undertaken on those most affected by that scholarship.”Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  J.Bogart
2 years ago

True, J. Bogart, it’s not clear that standpoint epistemology is being recommended. But:

1) The passage you quote is problematic for other reasons. To take an example: suppose I write a number of papers exposing flaws in arguments made by Scientologists and generally showing problems in the views of Scientology. Scientologists are marginalized in the general population and also in philosophy, so the passage you cite from the White Paper implies that both I and the editors could rightly be blamed if we published the articles without considering the effect they are apt to have on Scientologists (since they, presumably, would be the most affected by my scholarship). Other passages from the White Paper seem to suggest that I would also need to get permission from Scientologists before publishing my papers, and that the philosophical writings of Scientologists should be given special weight in the discussion, regardless of how poor the best of those writings are. While that view is discussed but not (as far as I could see) explicitly endorsed by the White Paper, it does seem very close to standpoint epistemology.

2) Regardless of whether or not standpoint epistemology in particular is endorsed by the White Paper, the White Paper frequently recommends that good editorial practices should include a commitment to _methodological_ diversity. While a diversity of _views_ on the matters under discussion is clearly essential to good philosophical practice, and indeed to good practice in any truth-seeking enterprise where the facts are not clearly incontrovertible, _methodological_ diversity, per se, is not. In fact, the very idea of a discipline necessarily involves a limitation on proper methods and practices.

That isn’t to deny that it’s possible to take too narrow a view of proper methodology: of course, it is. But it should be even clearer that one can be too broad in one’s methodology, and that some methods — like those incorporating astrology — are bogus philosophy. However — and here’s the point –, nowhere does the White Paper acknowledge any proper restriction on methodology. It merely stresses, repeatedly, that methodological diversity is a desideratum.

If I were to attempt to make a contribution to the philosophical literature by analyzing the astrological details of those philosophers whose views I contested, I could, by invoking this White Paper, publicly criticize the editors for being closed-minded toward my varied methodology. Is this a great risk to the discipline? Not in the astrology case, which would presumably be laughed off by anyone but the most absurd methodological pluralist. But if there were some intellectually bankrupt methodologies whose proponents found a way to associate them with a popular sociopolitical goal in today’s almost politically monolithic philosophical scene, then it isn’t hard to see how those endorsements of methodological diversity could lead people to feel morally obligated to let their methods pass without criticism, thus causing harm to the integrity of the profession. In that way, standpoint epistemology and its siblings seem to get a boost here after all.Report

A-1
A-1
Reply to  J.Bogart
2 years ago

Here is one of the White Paper’s recommendations: “Take steps to diversify journal leadership. In pursuit of methodological as well as demographic diversity, we encourage journals to pursue diverse representation in editorships, editorial boards, and reviewer pools and seek to involve these groups and individuals actively in the journal’s relationship to diverse communities.”

Give what I know about the authors, I take the idea here to be that *demographically* diverse representation in journal leadership will lead to methodological diversity. And methodological diversity would presumably be desirable precisely because it will facilitate the pursuit of our epistemic goals. Moreover, “relationships to diverse communities” will contribute to these same goals through the same methodological diversity.

There may be different ways of developing these lines of thought. But to bring standpoint epistemology into the discussion is just to bring in one of the more prominent ways of developing them.

And anyway, my argument generalizes beyond standpoint epistemology. The crux of my argument is that:

A group’s having members that are relatively likely to know about some subject matter is a bad reason for using membership in that group, per se, as a criterion for inclusion in things like conference panels, editorships, professorships, etc.

To apply the point to the quoted passage: if you want methodological diversity, bring in people espousing diverse methods. Don’t use demographic identity as a proxy for the espousal of diverse methods. (The ‘don’t’ here is epistemic; again, there might be social or political reasons to appeal directly to demographic identity.)Report

Preston Stovall
Preston Stovall
2 years ago

I see that there’s a call for feedback and substantive comments at the bottom of Justin’s original post. In September of last year I sent the following letter to the email address at the webpage Justin links to. I never heard a response. Perhaps now that others have voiced similar concerns the authors of the white paper will address those concerns in this space.

Greetings,

On the basis of the conversation begun here:

https://blog.apaonline.org/2018/05/09/women-in-philosophy-publishing-ethics-in-philosophy/

I wanted to offer some thoughts on the project. I hope this is helpful in some way.

While I do not doubt the sincerity of the motives of those involved, I am concerned that this project may turn into an ex post facto justification of the treatment that Rebecca Tuvel received at the hands of the editors of Hypatia and some segments of the broader philosophical community. And according to the form for submitting comments on the project, three of the six members of the “core team” signed the letter censuring Hypatia for publishing Tuvel’s article.

https://gendertrender.wordpress.com/alexis-shotwell-open-letter-to-hypatia/

I recognize that the signatories of that letter held (and hold) firm convictions, but I hope it is appreciated that many of us in the philosophical community hold different convictions. A code of publishing ethics that prioritized the concerns of those who were calling for a retraction of Tuvel’s paper would not reflect a balanced view, I’m afraid.

As you’re probably aware, the Heterodox Academy is beginning to document the kinds of social and intellectual problems that arise from academic circles that lack sufficient ideological diversity. I hope that the members of this committee seek out and consider the views of those within the philosophical community who may disagree with them about just what a code of ethics in publishing should call for. And this goes not just for responding to the perceived flaws in the publication of Tuvel’s article, but for issues concerning publishing ethics more generally.

Sincerely,
Preston

Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
2 years ago

Great discussion so far. I’ve recently been pondering a question that bears on this issue. One would imagine that it has a pretty straightforward answer, but I haven’t found one.

The question is this: are members of the APA executive, in fact, responsible to the members at all? I’m asking a procedural question here about the APA bylaws. If I’m not mistaken, the surprising answer is no!

From my reading of Article 7 of the bylaws, every member of the APA executive is appointed to that position by the board. There are never, as far as I can see, any elections in which the general members participate. Perhaps I haven’t looked closely enough, but I can’t even find a procedure by which the general members could oust a member of the APA executive even if everyone not on the board agreed that that ought to be done.

If I’m wrong, could someone please explain where I am? If I’m not, then it’s surprising that this fact isn’t better known.Report

Jamie Dreier
Jamie Dreier
Reply to  Justin Kalef
2 years ago

I think I’m pretty familiar with APA governance — not to the degree that the Chair, the Presidents, or the most active participants have been, but more than the average member. I have no idea what you mean by the “APA executive”. (I’ve looked at Article 7, and it didn’t illuminate me.)Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  Jamie Dreier
2 years ago

Hi, Jamie. Do you really have no idea what I meant by “the APA executive”? I used the word in a fairly standard sense. As Merriam-Webster puts it: “a directing or controlling office of an organization.”

Here’s a different way of putting the question that doesn’t use the word ‘executive’. Suppose that a few thousand members of the APA came to feel that those directing the APA were not furthering the ends of the profession, and wanted the organization to be run along different lines, with different policies, etc. What power, if any, would those thousands of members have in changing the direction of the organization? Or would it be possible for a small number of people who, say, might have a common ideology that is rejected by most members of the profession to continue to hold power indefinitely, regardless of what the general APA membership thinks about the direction in which those few people are taking the profession?

I’m far from knowledgeable about the workings of organizations. But here are some relevant points I’ve found on the APA website. Since you say you have a better-than-average understanding of the structure of the organization, I hope you can show where I’ve gone wrong, if I have, in thinking this through, or else confirm that things are as bleak as I suspect.

Under 7.1, I’ve learned that “The governing body of the association shall be the board of officers. The board shall have all powers and duties for the conduct and management of the business and affairs of the association except as otherwise required by law, these bylaws, or a resolution duly adopted by the board.”

From this, it seems clear that the Board, once determined, may do as it pleases until the Board members are removed. But how exactly could this be made to happen? There don’t seem to be any general elections at all. Instead, members of the Board seem to vote among themselves on who becomes or remains a member of the Board.

Here’s what I learned from 7.3: “The officers of the board shall be:
(a) The vice-president of each division
(b) The president of each division…
(c) The immediate past president of each division…
(d) The secretary or secretary-treasurer of each division…
(e) A representative of each division, elected by the division in accordance with its bylaws…
(f) Three members at large, to be elected by mail, electronic mail, or secure electronic ballot of all regular members of the association, for three-year terms, with one member to be elected each year and the terms to be staggered…
(g) The chair of the board…
(h) The vice chair of the board, during the term of office…
(i) The chairs of the standing committees of the association as enumerated in Article 8…
(j) The executive director of the association…
(k) The treasurer of the association.”

How many of these officers are simply appointed or elected by the board?

Not (g): Section 7.4 tells us that “[t]he chair of the board shall be elected by majority vote of the board.”

Not (h): Section 7.5 tells us that “[t]he vice chair shall be nominated by the chair of the board and appointed by the board.”

Not (i): Section 7.6 tells us that “[t]he chairs of standing committees shall be nominated by one or more members of the association and appointed by the board.”

Not (j): Section 7.7 tells us that “[t]he executive director shall be appointed by the board”, and that “[t]he executive director of the association shall be the chief executive officer of the association and reports to the board of officers.”

Not (k): Section 7.8 tells us that “[t]he treasurer shall be nominated by the chair of the board and appointed by vote of the board.”

How about (a), (b), (c), (d), and (e)? They are all officers of the various divisions. How many of them need the support of the general members of their divisions? None, apparently. According to Section 6.3, “A. Each division shall elect divisional officers. it shall be free to determine offices and manner of nomination for office, provided that:
1. The responsibility for the affairs of the division be entrusted to an executive committee which shall include at least a president and secretary; and
2. The divisional officers be chosen from among the regular members of the association whose voting affiliation is with that division.”
If it were ever to happen that, say, some highly partisan individuals who shared the political ideology of the general board of the APA were to take over the various divisions, it seems that there might be no way to prevent such people from dominating the APA in perpetuity, regardless of how unpopular they and their political approach were to become. Is that correct, or am I missing something?

It appears that only one type of board member is elected by the general APA members: the members at large listed under (f). But if the other members of the board were part of the same political machine, as they would seem to be forever after if such a machine were ever to be established, then those three members would be completely outnumbered even if they all worked together to ameliorate the direction of the rest of the board. Each of (a) through (e) is three people: one from each division. That makes fifteen. (g), (h), (j) and (k) are another four. There are eight chairs of the standing committees in (i).

So, the number of people appointed or voted on by the board are, it seems, twenty-seven, and the three members at large would just have one-tenth of the vote: not enough to make their presence felt in any way if the other board members are opposed to them.

Are things really this bleak?Report

Kathryn Pogin
Kathryn Pogin
Reply to  Justin Kalef
2 years ago

I also had no idea what you meant, though I’m perfectly familar with ordinary use of “executive.” It might have something to do with the usage of “executive” as a collective noun, rather than, e.g., “the executive branch” or “the executives” that made it challenging for some of us to parse.Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  Kathryn Pogin
2 years ago

Hi, Kathryn. Interesting: the definition I just gave above, from Merriam-Webster, is indeed specified as a singular noun: “a directing or controlling office of an organization.” It’s the second definition given. Strange!

Leaving these linguistic speculations aside, I wonder whether you have any insights or reflections on the structural question I raised. Do you?Report

Kathryn Pogin
Kathryn Pogin
Reply to  Justin Kalef
2 years ago

Sorry, but no! Aside from occasionally going to an APA conference, that APA and I don’t often cross paths, so I don’t have strong views about either its governance structure or about its relationship to its members — and I wasn’t entirely sure what the relevance was here since this wasn’t done with an APA grant. But, in general, I suppose I think some measure of accountability is built into any organization that relies on volunteer affiliation for its membership. In other words, while one might not vote on particular positions within a board, one might still well vote with their membership dues, and an organization that relies on dues to function will necessarily either attend to its membership or ultimately face dissolution–so it may be less than fully democratic, but I’m not sure I’d want to concede that any institution that is less than democratic has no responsibility to its membership (I say ‘concede’ here not in the sense that we’re arguing, and I’m conceding a point, but rather that from your perspective, this isn’t the way I’d want to frame the concern) . I also don’t know what the board’s internal governance structure is (e.g., if a group operates by a consensus one person may hold just as much power as the other 29), and the relative force of individuals within a board may depend just as much on personalities as it does sheer numbers. There are also a variety of democratic goods in addition to voting (e.g., transparency). I suppose I’m also not entirely sure as a base matter the extent to which private professional organizations ought to be democratic as a means of ensuring accountability (which isn’t to say otherwise, but again, just haven’t thought much about it — and I’m not entirely sure what the membership requirements are, which seems like it would be relevant). Again though, I don’t have strong views, and I’m not exactly sure how this relates to the white paper.Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  Justin Kalef
2 years ago

Thanks for the interesting and thoughtful reply, Kathryn.

I’m not sure how much I agree about the voluntary nature of membership entailing a sort of responsibility to its members. The APA has, at present, a monopoly on a number of services the profession depends upon, and those who choose to withhold their dues thereby forego a number of things that it could hurt them professionally to do without, particularly if (like most in the profession) they are not fortunate enough to work somewhere that gives them regular access to other philosophers in their field.

The connection between this issue and the White Paper one is that there seems to be considerable confusion, even among those involved in writing the White Paper itself (see above), about whether the White Paper is meant to be, or will be implied to be, a statement of norms promoted by the APA administration. Whatever one thinks of the White Paper or its connection with the APA, this thread (and the very telling numbers of likes received by certain comments far above) seem to give a fair indication of the concerns many members of the discipline have with some of the direction the APA has been taking for some time. In most organizations, there would be a simple solution for that: if the members are generally unhappy with the moves made by those in power, they work to put others in power. But if this is impossible given the structure of the APA bylaws, then perhaps that bears thinking about in this and many other connections. Or, again, maybe I’m misreading the bylaws and someone will point this out to me shortly.Report

Kathryn Pogin
Kathryn Pogin
Reply to  Justin Kalef
2 years ago

Oh, as to the relationship between the APA as an organization and the white paper, I would have thought the response above by Amy Ferrer cleared that up: “To clarify, as others have noted, this project was funded by the Mellon Foundation and did not receive funding from the APA. It is not an APA-managed project, nor has the white paper been endorsed by the APA board of officers. My role in the project was to provide my perspective as a scholarly society leader, not to speak for the APA itself. I expect that the next draft of the white paper will include a note to this effect.”Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  Justin Kalef
2 years ago

Well, so she says, Kathryn! But as Joel Pust pointed out upthread, the project has been taken by others to be ‘the APA project’ about publication ethics, and it was announced on the APA blog with special emphasis of the fact that Amy Ferrer, whose role as Executive Director was stressed, was involved; and as others have pointed out, a ‘white paper’ is a draft put out by an organization before it becomes policy, and the organization in this case doesn’t seem to be anything other than the APA. Also, as others have pointed out upthread, it would be strange to have a non-philosopher like Amy Ferrer on that committee were it not for the fact that she’s the Executive Director of the APA. And so on.

A set of norms presented by the director of an organization and a number of colleagues can have a significant effect even if it isn’t officially linked to that organization, naturally…Report

Kathryn Pogin
Kathryn Pogin
Reply to  Justin Kalef
2 years ago

Oh, but lots of white papers are developed outside of organizational contexts and without ever being adopted as policy, but rather as a kind of informational advocacy effort, or to gather expertise in the face of controversy or dispute — e.g., https://www.feministlawprofessors.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Title-IX-Preponderance-White-Paper-signed-8.7.16.pdf

And I think the idea that it would be strange to include Ferrer were it not for her role at the APA is totally consistent with the white paper nonetheless not being a project nor an arm of the APA. I might get invited to give a talk somewhere, for example, because of my work as a philosopher, but that doesn’t mean the event would necessarily have any relationship to my philosophy program; or, I might get asked to comment on a matter of legal theory because I’m a law student, without thereby being asked to speak on behalf of my law school.

And of course you’re right that, generally, a a powerful person within an organization, speaking in their individual capacity, can still exercise institutional power without intending to — but if you are right that the comments here are indicative of significant discontent from the philosophical community writ large, I sort of suspect this isn’t one of those cases!Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  Justin Kalef
2 years ago

In such cases, it seems, there is all the more reason for that discontent to make itself heard, and more reason to help others see they are not alone — provided that the majority is in the right. And when the majority lacks institutional power, those with the power tend to try to shut down any free discussion on those topics, since the best arguments might go against them and those without institutional power might get the right idea, inconveniently, so maintaining fair dialectic in which the best ideas win out regardless of who presents them becomes an especially important goal.

But perhaps there’s no disagreement here about that general idea.Report

Jamie Dreier
Jamie Dreier
Reply to  Justin Kalef
2 years ago

Justin, I guess the reason I couldn’t figure out that by “the APA executive” you meant the Board (please do correct me if I still don’t understand — you have not said explicitly that that’s what you meant) is that you wrote “every member of the APA executive is appointed to that position by the board.” I don’t understand what sense that makes if by “APA executive” you meant the Board.Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  Jamie Dreier
2 years ago

Hi, Jamie. Yes, those in power in the APA seem now entirely to be members of the board, and 90% of those people are appointed or elected solely by the board itself. So it appears that the problematic feature I suspected is real. To repeat: there is apparently no way for the current, or any, leadership of the APA to be stopped or even slowed down in pursuit of some ideological goal it might have that the majority of the members of the APA feels is harmful to the profession; and further, it appears that the board can continue along any path it chooses in perpetuity simply by continuing to appoint or vote in people who accept the same ideology. I hope it goes without saying why that’s a problem!Report

Jamie Dreier
Jamie Dreier
Reply to  Justin Kalef
2 years ago

Justin,
You said

“There are never, as far as I can see, any elections in which the general members participate.”

In fact, there are elections every year—and right now! There are 15 elected Board members.
I hope that helps.Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  Jamie Dreier
2 years ago

Hi, Jamie. My rereading of the bylaws yesterday indicated that there are, to the best of my calculation (all of which is above) exactly three members of the board who are elected by the general membership, versus twenty-seven who are in some way elected or appointed by members of the board or decided upon by the various divisions, none of which are obligated to consider the wishes of the general membership in making their choices. Could you please tell me which fifteen positions on the board can only be filled by people elected by the general APA members?Report

Sergio Tenenbaum
Sergio Tenenbaum
Reply to  Justin Kalef
2 years ago

Hi Justin. Each division votes on a Vice-President, which serves for three years (first as VP, then as President, then as Past President). This is 9 people who are elected by a vote of the (division) membership. I think each division rep is elected (by the division) , and so are the at large members (by the whole membership). This is how Jamie gets the 15 members. Is the concern that those people elected by the division do not represent the membership as a whole? I take it that this is a historical quirk of the APA being really a federation of three associations, but I don’t think the geographical division makes the elected members less representative (I guess that the more populous division might have a complaint here, but I don’t think that there is much of a geographical division with respect to views or interests for this to be a serious concern). Or is the concern that the bylaws do not guarantee that each division could change its method of choosing presidents and representatives, so there is not guarantee that these twelve members would be elected? This would require changing the division bylaws, which could only done by membership vote. (for instance, for the Eastern Division, see here: https://www.apaonline.org/members/group_content_view.asp?group=110422&id=193777)Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  Sergio Tenenbaum
2 years ago

Thanks for the reply, Sergio.

Yes, I was counting the number of positions that are guaranteed to be filled by members who are elected by the general membership of the APA. I found it unfortunate that there is no obligation on the part of the divisions to have elections by the general membership to determine their officers. If you’re right that all the divisions happen to determine their officers that way, that’s very good. Still, especially in light of your comment (which I think is accurate) that the APA is really a federation of three associations, it hardly seems to be enough.

Let’s suppose that a group of people with a harmful agenda were to take over the non-division-associated positions in the APA leadership. That’s fifteen people. Even if the members of the three divisions were to be generally opposed to the direction the APA was taking, they could never, it seems, have the numbers to outvote the in-group. Isn’t that still true?Report

Andrew
Andrew
Reply to  Sergio Tenenbaum
2 years ago

I’m having trouble following your math, Justin. Maybe I’m misunderstanding.

7.3(a) – (f) are board positions elected by APA members, either through the general membership ((f)) or through division membership ((a) – (e)). Admittedly, (b) is is someone who WAS elected to a division office, but I don’t think that’s relevant for your concern. For each of (a) – (f), there is one position for each division. So, we get 18 positions.

The positions on the board that involve nomination and approval by the board itself are (g) – (k). That’s 10 positions. One each for (g), (h), (j), and (k), and six for (i).

Isn’t that right?Report

Jamie Dreier
Jamie Dreier
Reply to  Sergio Tenenbaum
2 years ago

Andrew — the secretary-treasurers aren’t elected.
Otherwise, correct.
Maybe it’s worth mentioning that the secretary-treasurers, unlike the elected officers, spend a significant percentage of their working years on Division business. (And I’ll sneak in this opportunity to add that all three Divisions have exceptionally good Secretary-Treasurers right now, and that has made inter-divisional coordination and cooperation a relative breeze.)Report

Andrew
Andrew
Reply to  Sergio Tenenbaum
2 years ago

Thanks, Jamie. I realized after I posted that that I didn’t know whether the division secretary treasurers were elected. At any rate, that they are appointed at the division level still makes them largely irrelevant (I think?) to Justin’s concern about ideological capture at the APA board level.Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  Sergio Tenenbaum
2 years ago

Thanks, all. That’s good to hear.

I’m still quite surprised that there are so many positions, including the position of Executive Director, that are not elected by the general members of the APA.

It sounds now as though the main hope for change within the organization lies in the election of the divisional presidents and other representatives. That’s useful information.Report

J. Bogart
J. Bogart
2 years ago

1. Administrative Issues:
There is no information on the selection of the Team or of the Advisory Board. The respective roles are left obscure. What are the responsibilities of the Advisory Board, for example?
The demographics of the Advisory Board are not reflective of the membership of the APA or of the broader philosophical community. The demographics are not representative along lines of gender, sex, areas of specialization, experience, geography, employment histories. It is unclear if there is any ideological diversity on the Board. Too many of the members of the Team and Advisory Board have known, highly controversial views on the instigating events of the project, in particular regarding the Tuvel/Hypatia controversy. The project thereby appears political slanted and ideologically tainted.
It is unclear where competence lies with respect to the methodology employed by the Team. The project here is not an intra-institutional project, but one directed at a wide range of outsiders. It may that the consultant has experience with similar efforts, but it is not apparent from the webpage.
The Team is somewhat suspect on other grounds. The inclusion of the Executive Director of the APA is troubling. The project is not sponsored by the APA, yet its Executive Director is a central player and the APA released an Press Statement about the Project, quoting the Executive Director. The Press Release nowhere says that Ferrer is acting on her own or that the APA is not involved in the project, or otherwise clarifying relationship between the APA and the project. It strikes me as inappropriate for the Executive Director to have such a role because it creates a host of conflicts and problems that cast doubt on the integrity of the Project, when the involvement is not approved by the APA governing board.Report

J. Bogart
J. Bogart
2 years ago

2. Methodological Issues.
There is too little information about the people who actually participated in the focus groups. While the initial outreach was appropriately wide, that is of no help if those who actually showed up were not representative of journal editors in philosophy. Without such information, the reporting at least sounds, if not is, merely anecdotal. Even if there is some reason not to identify the actual participants, or the journals represented (I do not see why anonymity would be important here, but there may be reasons), other indicia of an adequately representative set should have been provided.
The project is misrepresented in the descriptions. It is not about general issues of ethics in publishing, but on a set of narrower concerns, framed in a leading fashion. The central project is: “our project has been especially interested in work on and by marginalized groups, including but not limited to inclusive citation and engagement practices, peer-review practices, and scholarly consideration of the effect of the research being undertaken on those most affected by that scholarship.” That is certainly a legitimate stance and worth exploring and developing. It is not a good basis for developing a general ethics of publishing as, by its very terms, it is not addressing the general publishing practices as they affect the greater portion of the APA or philosophical community.
The questions used for the focus groups and for the “intuition pumps” are focused on, and slant responses to, the issues identified in the quotation above. As noted, that is not illegitimate on its own, but is not helpful o proposed project of an ethics of publication.
The central or key terms are not properly explained or defended. The Paper makes no distinction between Ethics of Publication and Best Practices. It assumes a normative account that is nowhere set out. The Paper assumes that, for example, it is unethical not to adopt what it calls “inclusive citation” practices. That is a controversial claim that should be defended, not assumed. It is not obvious that there is anything immoral in limiting citation to sources that were actually relied, whether or not there are arguments for a different sort of citation practice. The use of “ethical” in this context is a way of loading the conversation in favor of particular views. The Paper does not distinguish or explain how the Ethics of Publishing relates to best practices. It may be that there is no difference between them in the minds of the authors, but that would be a mistake. To the extent there are suggestions of ‘best practices’, the suggestions should be supported by explanation. There is too little explanation, and at important points, none at all.
The Paper uses inconsistent qualitative terminology. For example, in three succeeding paragraphs, ‘rare’ means 20.8%, ‘uncommon’ means 17.7% and ‘rarer still’ means 6.8%. Such inconsistencies cast doubt on the qualitative reports. Doubt is increased when the Paper reports views and comments while at the same time admitting that they have no significance other than anecdote, i.e., that the they came from an input source that was too small to be significant.
There are focus groups of Editors, Publishers, and of APA Committee members. There is no explanation of how the APA members were selected. There were no focus groups composed of readers of journals or the submitters. In other words, key sets of stakeholders were not included.Report

Caligula's Goat
Caligula's Goat
Reply to  J. Bogart
2 years ago

These are all excellent points. In general, the report writers, and its backing board, commit a very familiar, and at this point very tired, sort of mistake. We, rightly, look askew when physicists make philosophical claims without asking philosophers or even seeming to be familiar with contemporary philosophical methods or claims. Philosophers make the same mistake when they attempt to do social science without, it seems, involving anyone who is familiar with the sorts of methods and statistical analyses that compose best practices in those disciplines (the consultant may have provided these services but I’m not sure if one ought to rely on a single person to do such analysis). Those of us who were *rightly* critical of Leiter’s snowball sampling method for producing his gourmet report should be equally critical at self-selected and opaquely defined focus group research being generalized to populations which vary widely and to which the focus groups are not representative.

As far as I can tell, there are several different problems that we seem to be coalescing around:

1. Apparent or at least unresolved inconsistency between the aims of the report and the actions of the report’s writers and board with respect to the Tuvel publication in Hypatia.

2. Arguably intentional opacity about the relationship between the APA and this white paper especially given the roles played by non-academic members of the APA and by the APA’s publicizing of the white paper .

3. Lack of professional social scientific oversight on the nature of the questions or the methods used for data analysis especially when the data produced appears to use inconsistent or prima facie invalid methods.

4. Unchallenged, uncritical acceptance of specific values enshrined in the white paper about which there is significant professional disagreement and which appear to represent only a minority of APA member views or interests

5. Unclear guidelines about how individual journals should incorporate these recommendations or how to handle conflicts between the mission of each journal and some of the recommendations (especially those which revolve around increasing the methodological or identity-based diversity of a journal’s authorship or its citation practices)

I feel like I might have missed one or more of the more subtle criticisms involved in the comments. I’m trying to combine them here just to make conversation about individual points more clearly.Report

krell_154
krell_154
Reply to  J. Bogart
2 years ago

”The central project is: “our project has been especially interested in work on and by marginalized groups, including but not limited to inclusive citation and engagement practices, peer-review practices, and scholarly consideration of the effect of the research being undertaken on those most affected by that scholarship.” ”

So basically, the paper is about Rebecca Tuvel.Report

Another Gopher
Another Gopher
Reply to  krell_154
2 years ago

As if the title “Just Ideas?” wasn’t a dead giveaway. Lest you forget, academic articles aren’t just ideas. They can be literal violence. smhReport

J. Bogart
J. Bogart
2 years ago

3. Substantive Issues.
The previous posts concerned what I saw as problems or potential problems with the Paper. I want to emphasize that here I am trying to identify important substantive issues, and not thereby suggesting that the positions are wrong or constitute a problem.
The Recommendations at the end of the Paper (beginning at 53) are, by and large, uncontroversial (in my view). Explicit policies and guidelines on reviewer conduct, etc., are desirable. Publication processes can be improved. Many of the Recommendations are sensible, e.g., make clear what the review process is, make clear what reviewer duties are, think about burdens on reviewers, etc. An invitation to consider whether there are matters beyond plagiarism that constitute misconduct that journals should respond to is certainly a topic worth discussing.
Some Recommendations are controversial. From Recommendations under “Discuss and disclose”:
Journals should consider taking specific steps to increase the diversity of editorial staff and authors by methodology, approach, demographics, institutional affiliation.
Journals should diversify the range of accepted styles of expression and argument.
Journals should consider specific expectations regarding engagement with and scholarship by and about marginalized groups.
Journals should have a position on the possibility of harm done to marginalized groups as a consequence of work published in the journal.
Word count, bibliography, and citation policies may limit the works an author engages with.
Journals should have policies and procedures for responding to allegations of misconduct from or by reviewers, authors, readers, editors.

These constitute small portion of the items listed in the Paper, and a smaller portion than one might expect given the space devoted to the issues in earlier portions of the White Paper. And, to emphasize the obvious, they are proposed as topics of discussion by journals and, to my mind, the controversy really lies in the responses.
There is a list of Sample Policies (at 56-7), accompanied by a disclaimer of any endorsement of the listed policies.

Recommendation 2 is to take steps to diversify journal leadership and reviewer base. The recommendation includes suggestions about how that might be done. The focus is on scholars from marginalized groups. (A definition is offered at note 8 (p. 70) for ‘marginalization’.)

Peer review is at Recommendation 4. (I would have put this first, as it is the core of the publication process.) There is a focus on issues particularly pressing in small sub-fields where anonymity is more difficult and the workloads of review are more narrowly distributed. One point of controversy in this section is the encouragement of “inclusive citations.” (The language is picked up from one of the Sample Policies (note 51), which is not entirely consistent with the claim that the Sample Policies are not recommended or endorsed.) Another is the discussion of work where anonymity is difficult to maintain because of the authors’ distinctive voice, use of own life experiences, or has discussed the work in conferences or colloquia, which is focused on the concern that such authors “are not at a disadvantage.” That the same features may just as well give an advantage is not noted.

To the extent the Recommendations are controversial, it is due either the particular phrasing adopted in the White Paper or surrounding social controversy. The ideas are all susceptible of quite vanilla interpretations.

Finally, a discussion in the body of the White Paper I found troubling concerned ‘misconduct’. There is, first, the suggestion that there is sufficient misconduct (of some undefined sort) for developing institutional responses to be a significant issue. If so, it is not sourced in the text or notes. There is reference to four instances the authors think involved misconduct. See note 6. Except in one case, the authors give no explanation of what the misconduct was. It may that they have a wide view of misconduct. As the body of the Focus group discussions make apparent, however, it is far from uniform to think anything other than plagiarism (narrowly construed) is misconduct in publication, so it would not be a viable line for the authors to claim the misconduct in the other three cited instances is or was obvious. What the views of the authors or the Advisory Board are on what constitutes misconduct in publishing is not discernible from the White Paper. But it is a topic that calls for caution. Aside from the logistical burdens of asking journals to adopt standards of misconduct beyond plagiarism, there are significant political risks. I did not see an argument that would support the notion that it is unethical to hold or defend stupid views, or that it is unethical to choose citations without regard for demographics, etc. There is a difference between irresponsible work and unprofessional work, and between unprofessional work and unethical work. The White Paper gives little indication that the authors have thought much about the issues or to views inconsistent with their own (would that mean that they are unethical in publishing it? I think not.).

Conclusion: Beginning at 53, the White Paper makes useful and, in substance, reasonable proposals for consideration and discussion. The administrative problems could be addressed by substantial changes in the staffing of the project. If the project is sound, such changes will not impair the value of the outcome, and need not cause undue delay or additional cost. The methodological issues may be resolved by disclosure of more information about the focus groups. If not, the necessary additional resources may be difficult to secure. It is not clear if the focus group material matters very much to the recommendations, but that too could be resolved by greater transparency.Report

Shelley Lynn Tremain
Shelley Lynn Tremain
2 years ago

Some readers/listeners of this discussion might be interested in the post I wrote this morning for BIOPOLITICAL PHILOSOPHY: https://biopoliticalphilosophy.com/2019/05/09/some-things-to-consider-about-disability-and-diversity-in-philosophy/Report

Paul Taborsky
Paul Taborsky
2 years ago

A brief comment on the idea of ‘marginalized groups / populations / communities’, which underlies much of the white paper proposals, and about which one hears so much of in these kinds of discussions.

In think one has to admit that, compared to many other parts of the world, we all in the west, and especially in North America, live in one of the most egalitarian and privileged societies in the world, the admitted growing financial inequality of the last few decades notwithstanding. There are laws against discrimination of all kinds (ethnic, religious, gender etc.), though yes, some details are still being worked out; in Canada (I’m Canadian) the hiring of members of ‘marginalized groups’ is legally encouraged in colleges and universities, and in government bureaucracy. Apart from perhaps a few remote indigenous communities here and there, no-one really belongs to a completely physically or economically isolated or marginalized community, cut off from the broader economy – it is not as though, after work, people have to return to an isolated ethnic Bantustan, a self-governing ethnic minority area, or an economically isolated suburban banlieu, as exist or have existed in other parts of the world.

Things are really very different elsewhere, and I don’t think that we should use language which implies that we here are in a similar situation. In China, for example, where I lived for a few years, there are national identity cards that identify which ethnic group one belongs to, and a Household Registry system which dictates where one can live and work. They have semi-autonomous ethnic areas, ethic villages, and so on, in the countryside. Sometimes land is appropriated and entire communities are forced into moving into cities. There is little population change from outside, as immigration (aside from repatriation of ethnic Chinese from abroad) is essentially zero. I suppose one could legitimately talk about marginalized communities there, and elsewhere, such as in other parts of Asia, and certain parts of Europe.

But North America is not like that at all. In Canada, many, many new immigrants, from a variety of backgrounds, have been very successful in starting businesses, finding work, purchasing property, and integrating themselves into the community, in the first generation. I assume that the US is not too different. We are all part of the same economy, able to live in the same neighbourhoods, compete for the same jobs, and are subject to the same laws. i don’t deny that there is inequality or marginalization of various kinds (and as a Canadian perhaps I’m missing some of the American context to all of this) but to speak of ‘marginalized populations’ as if entire communities were cut off from the wider economy or legal system in ways which do exist elsewhere, and which, in the last analysis, is the kind of marginalization that really matters. “[Being ] made to feel as if they are less important”, the white paper’s definition of marginalization, is a trivialization of what genuine marginalization really means (besides being subjective and unmeasurable), and stretches the expression ‘marginalized group’ beyond all meaning.Report

Kathryn Pogin
Kathryn Pogin
Reply to  Paul Taborsky
2 years ago

I’m confused. The history of the term ‘marginalized’ as I understood it, and to which my quick search of the web seemed to confirm — though maybe there’s something missing from this story that you know, and I don’t — here: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/marginalize was that ‘marginalized’ is both a relatively contemporary term, and that it’s basic, earlier, meaning was more in the neighborhood of how it’s used in the white paper, not in the more extreme, excluded and segregated sense you describe. Is there more to this story?Report

krell_154
krell_154
Reply to  Kathryn Pogin
2 years ago

It seems to me that Paul is trying to say that, save a few exceptions, there are essentially no powerless or unimportant groups in Canadian and American societyReport

Kathryn Pogin
Kathryn Pogin
Reply to  krell_154
2 years ago

Yeah, caught that much on my own but thank you for trying to help. I’m asking about whether ‘marginalized’ generally has meant something like how the authors use it (as I understood its short history to suggest), as in to be treated as if powerless or unimportant, or if it has typically meant something like the literal exclusion and powerlessness Paul describes.Report

Paul Taborsky
Paul Taborsky
Reply to  krell_154
2 years ago

With a few exceptions, especially in the US (which I admit is a much more complicated place than Canada!), yes.

Note that this is not the same as saying that there are no marginalized individuals.

Probably the greatest exception to the above would be due to divisions of wealth and poverty. So, one could say that non-unionized service sector workers are marginalized. But I don’t think they are marginalized as a group – they don’t form a permanent community, and also have recourse to the same laws and rights that everyone else has. And the kind of group marginalizations that do occur in our society are mitigated by other forms of inclusion.Report

J. Bogart
J. Bogart
Reply to  Paul Taborsky
2 years ago

The White Paper uses a definition from Syracuse University. You will find it in the endnotes.Report

Kathryn Pogin
Kathryn Pogin
Reply to  Paul Taborsky
2 years ago

Sorry Paul, I must not have been clear: I meant to be asking for something like references to the history of the term, or to its use, that point in the direction you suggest it should be used, rather than the definition I linked above or the one from Syracuse, J. Bogart points out. (Or did I misunderstand your first comment? You might not have been saying that what you described is what ‘marginalized’ does mean but rather been arguing thats what it should mean.)Report

Max F.
Max F.
Reply to  Paul Taborsky
2 years ago

This is phenomenal news Paul, and I’m sure that everyone who has struggled to be heard about their specific experiences of marginalization in North America will be relieved to hear your diagnosis that this has all been overblown.Report

kailadraper
2 years ago

I hope that what is valuable in this report isn’t lost due to the connection to the Tuvel fiasco. Tuvel was wrongly subjected to loads of abuse as at least some of those who were signatories to the open letter and contributed to this white paper publicly recognized. I was opposed to the open letter (and also to the open letter in response to the open letter), and I have only respect for Tuvel, but some of the issues raised by the controversy are actually worth exploring in a serious way.Report