JESP to Pause New Submissions


The Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy (JESP) will temporarily stop accepting new submissions on November 1st.

Executive Editor Mark Schroeder (USC) writes that the moratorium on submissions will allow the editorial team, which has grown considerably since the journal’s founding in 2005, to catch up on its backlog of submissions. Currently, the journal has twelve associate editors, a discussion notes editor, an executive editor, a managing editor, a volunteer typesetter, and three copyeditors. Despite this growth, Professor Schroeder says:

Over this time, we have failed—by which I mean, I have personally failed—to keep our copyediting staff growing sufficiently fast to keep up with the volume of accepted papers, and our backlog of accepted papers awaiting copyediting and publication has grown to unacceptably long. The moratorium on new submissions will not immediately slow the growth of this backlog, because we will continue to accept papers submitted over the past months, but it will give us an opportunity to start to catch up as we bring on new copyeditors to share this work as quickly as we are able.  JESP will re-open for new submissions as soon as we are once again fully on top of our copyediting and publication queue—and by May 1st, 2023 at the latest.

He adds:

We don’t take this move lightly, as we are well aware of the shortage of good venues to publish all of the great new work in moral, social, legal, and political philosophy, and the lengths to which many younger scholars entering the field must go to publish their work. But at this time we believe that taking this brief hiatus from new submissions is the best way to protect the future of the journal and ensure that JESP can continue to provide a model for completely open-access, university-funded publication far into the future. 

The full announcement is here.


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Joe
Joe
1 month ago

Had an awful experience submitting with them. They rejected my paper but never emailed me to let me know. I only found out when, after waiting 7 months of not hearing anything, I started doing some digging on their website to see if there was some notice I missed about the submission process, I clicked on the link to my paper to make sure it had been submitted okay, and upon clicking my paper’s link I found that next to the submission they had written “declined,” and—unbelievably—the decline date was 5 months prior! What a waste of 5 months of this young scholar’s time.Report

Last edited 1 month ago by Joe
non-tt faculty
non-tt faculty
Reply to  Joe
1 month ago

I also had a rejection from them. But for some reason, the rejection email went directly into spam. I had a habit of checking the spam folder weekly so it didn’t cost me anything. Not sure whether the same thing occurred though.Report

Joona Räsänen
Reply to  Joe
1 month ago

No-one should simply wait 7 months without checking the status of the paper. After 3 or 4 months max, you should contact the journal and ask what is the status of the paper if you have not heard anything or cannot see the status of the paper from the system. I know there are more senior scholars (or perhaps even editors) who think it is normal to wait a year for a (desk) rejection. But it is your career which is at stake.Report

Kris McDaniel
Kris McDaniel
Reply to  Joona Räsänen
1 month ago

Agree. I would never wait longer than 3 months.Report

JESP is good actually
Reply to  Joe
1 month ago

It seems like they rejected your paper quite promptly but the e-mail must have gone to spam and you forgot to check in with them.Report

Joe
Joe
Reply to  JESP is good actually
1 month ago

To be clear, I *did* check my spam folder thoroughly and nothing was there.Report

Kenny Easwaran
Reply to  Joe
1 month ago

Spam folders often automatically delete anything older than 30 days.Report

Mark Schroeder
Reply to  Joe
1 month ago

I’m very sorry to hear that you had this experience. Having had an almost identical experience as an author with a prominent journal early in my career down to the “7 months” detail, I can identify thoroughly with the nature of your frustration. I just want to point out that JESP *did* send out an email notification about the verdict of your paper, even though you did not receive it. It is likely, if the message did not show up in your spam folder, that it was filtered as spam by your email server before it even got to your spam folder.

It turns out that one of the difficult challenges of running a journal that requires communicating with hundreds of authors and referees every year in a timely manner is that we send many messages out without having any good way to know which are actually received and which are not. Over the last two years we discovered that the server that we were using to send outgoing messages had been being rejected by many incoming email servers in this way, and as soon as I discovered this, I found and paid for a solution. So no one should be having this experience again.

Unfortunately, I am not an IT professional and do not have the support of a for-profit press with professional staff. I’m a philosophy professor running a fully university-funded, completely open-access journal using money that I have personally raised so that zero costs are passed onto either authors or readers as a volunteer as a service to the profession and doing the best that I can, trying to fix the problems that come up in the order that they come up. I have always endeavored to be up front with authors and referees at all stages of the process and would have been happy to have discussed your experience with you if you had reached out.Report

Joe
Joe
Reply to  Mark Schroeder
1 month ago

Yes, to be clear, I *did* check my spam folder thoroughly and nothing was there.Report

Mark Schroeder
Reply to  Joe
1 month ago

Yes, Joe, I understand that you did, and I want to explicitly apologize, which I failed to do in my previous message that I composed while trying to juggle my morning coffee, for your experience. No one should have to go through your experience, whether there are excuses for it or not. And there is a narrow line between the advice to always check in with a journal after 3-4 months no matter what, which is good advice, and victim-blaming. Ideally, you shouldn’t have to check in.

The problem in this case, I believe, is that the outgoing server that JESP was using was being wholesale rejected by many university e-mail servers and so messages were not even making it to spam folders. I didn’t even know that this was a problem that you could have until it happened to us. Running a journal is pretty much a seven day a week job of constantly learning new things that can go wrong that you didn’t even know about before and then having to figure out on the fly how to fix them while hundreds of anxious and frustrated people wait on you. But that’s an explanation for context, not an excuse.Report

Joe
Joe
Reply to  Mark Schroeder
1 month ago

Thank you for this extremely kind response! I honestly did not expect to get this level of uptake on my post, and I am sorry my post was not phrased more gently in the first place. It is heartening that there are people like you in positions of power across the profession!Report

Early Careet
Early Careet
Reply to  Joe
1 month ago

I don’t have settled thoughts on this, but I want to note how impressed I am at your willpower: if a journal permits me to check status online, I check starting about 24 hours after submission. And relentlessly from then.Report

non-tt faculty
non-tt faculty
Reply to  Early Careet
1 month ago

same here. I check about 3 times everyday, knowing that checking won’t help at all…Report

JESP is good actually
Reply to  Early Careet
1 month ago

Their willpower didn’t prevent them from posting a disparaging comment as soon as the post was up though. I would find it disheartening if I were Mark Schroeder. You put in a lot of work in creating a unique journal, you provide a detailed and sincere explanation for your moratorium, and then an anonymous Joe who waited seven months before contacting the journal thinks their negative experience is relevant and important enough to be featured in the first comment. When the most likely explanation is a spam filter issue that would taken a couple minutes to resolve.Report

Last edited 1 month ago by Justin Weinberg
Mark Schroeder
Reply to  JESP is good actually
1 month ago

Thanks for the support, Good Actually, but as Joe’s followup comments reveal, I think the problem is a harder one than checking the spam filter. Let’s take this as a good object lesson for everyone else who is learning the journal submission process without victim-blaming!Report

JESP is good actually
Reply to  Mark Schroeder
1 month ago

You’re right—and impressively gracious.Report

JTD
JTD
1 month ago

This seems reasonable. What I particularly like is that in explaining their reason for the temporary pause on new submissions they express their commitment to the norm that a well run journal should not be regularly closed to new submissions as this slows down the publication process and harms early career people. Instead, a good journal should address the issue of editors needing a break by bringing in more editors and sharing editorial responsibility with a larger group.

This norm needs to be established more broadly in philosophy. In particular, journals like Nous and PPR that run afoul of it should lose status and prestige. Indeed, their bad practices in this respect is one reason why I rank them much lower than many of my colleagues do. I hope that others who see their violation of these norm as significant will start doing the same.Report

Early Career
Early Career
Reply to  JTD
1 month ago

This may very well be a wise move but I don’t see how it helps early career scholars so I expect that I’m missing something. As I understand it, the moratorium is to allow for copyediting and then publishing accepted papers. But isn’t having a paper accepted is about as good as having one published? Sorry if that’s a dumb questionReport

JTD
JTD
Reply to  Early Career
1 month ago

JESP closing to submissions for several months will disadvantage some early career scholars who have a paper that is a good fit for JESP and have exhausted other good options. This is regrettable.

What is good about JESP’s actions here is that they explain their special reasons for needing to close to submissions, express regret that this will be to the disadvantage of some early career scholars, and express their commitment to not closing again like in the future. This helps to reinforce the norm that well run journals should not be closing to new submission for several months, a norm that several highly regarded philosophy journals flaunt.Report

Just Saying
Just Saying
Reply to  JTD
1 month ago

Even without knowing all the details, the JESP decision seems a quite reasonable editorial decision, as is explained by its Executive Editor. 

What does not seem so reasonable is the criticism of other journals for having instituted such moratoria with apparently smooth success for more than a decade.

What is the rationale offered? In substance it’s just that this “slows down the publication process and harms early career people.” Let’s think that through for a minute.

First of all, the author claims to rate those journals lower in journal polls because of their schedules. But that would seem disingenuous. Here’s the heading for the Leiter polls (which are the best known, and typical): “Rank order these journals in terms of the quality of the work they typically publish in your experience.” Period. So, in ranking on the basis of factors such as schedules of journal operations, one would be doing the moral equivalent of lying. (This is the most damning objection to the author’s remarks.)
 
In the second place, the reasons offered would seem to imply that a more voluminous journal would ipso facto be a “better” journal that should be more highly rated and ranked. It would after all do the opposite of “slowing down publication.” 

Thirdly, the acceptance rate at all the very top journals is quite similar, a matter of a few percentage points. So, from the publication volumes of those various top journals, together with the fact that PPR is substantially more voluminous than the typical top journal, one can infer that PPR does not consider lower numbers per year of submissions than the other top journals (and similarly for Nous). Is the calendar distribution of submissions then a major factor? Or is it at most a minor consideration to be weighed against whatever has motivated those journals to adopt their present calendar distribution?Report

JTD
JTD
Reply to  Just Saying
1 month ago

Thank you for the critical pushback. I am glad to respond.

The moratoria create a dilemma for early career scholars who think they have a paper that is a good fit for Nous and PPR. If their paper is ready for submission at the start of the moratoria they must either (1) wait several months before submitting to these journals, or (2) forgo these journals and submit to another journal instead. (1) is costly because it delays the eventual publication of their paper by several months (either at these journals if the paper is ultimately accepted there, or at the journal that eventually accepts their paper). For scholars trying to put together a tenure dossier, or be competitive on the job market, such delays can significantly hamper their efforts. (2) is costly because the scholars will normally end up submitting to journals that are less prestigious than Nous and PPR. If their paper is accepted at such journals they will be left wondering whether it could have been accepted at Nous and PPR, which, given prestige, could have helped them have a stronger CV.

In theory, this effect should mean that Nous and PPR publish less articles by early career scholars than they would publish if they did not have the moratoria. This is because there are some great papers that would have been published in Nous or PPR if they had only been sent there. However, they were not sent there because when the author was ready to submit, the moratoria was in place, and hence they instead sent the paper to another journal where it was eventually published. Furthermore, the time pressure early career scholars face means that they are far more likely to submit elsewhere rather than wait. In practice, it it hard to know how significant this effect is. Comparing the percentage of articles published in these journals by early career scholars with the percentage at other journals would not help because other factors may also affect the rate at which early career/non-early career scholars submit to various journals.

On the matter of journal rankings, Leiter’s polls are problematic in part because he does not give clear instructions about how the ranker should interpret “best”. You say his instructions are “rank order these journals in terms of the quality of the work they typically publish in your experience.” But looking at past polls I don’t see those instructions and if they are there somewhere they are not clear enough because many people report that they rank in terms of their impression of how much prestige each journal carries in the profession rather than in terms of their judgment of the quality of work each journal publishes. Indeed, when Leiter publishes these polls the comment section often contains comments discussing what interpretation of “best” different rankers are using. If he makes the interpretation of “best” crystal clear in his next poll then I agree that the norm of honesty speaks in favour of following his stipulated interpretation when answering the poll. However, given how much influence his polls have, it would arguably be wrong for him to insist that, in a poll of “best” journals that will often be appealed to, everyone adopt a narrow and disputed interpretation of “best” that he favours. So if he did this, it would arguably be reasonable for people to ignore his instructions and just apply whatever interpretation of “best” they think is most salient.

In any case, my main point here is that there are a number of professional standards that all well-regarded journals should meet and that not having a moratorium is one of them. Therefore, Nous and PPR should lose some of the esteem they are held in for failing this professional standard.Report

Just Saying
Just Saying
Reply to  JTD
1 month ago

Yes, there is a possible cost of the sort described. But from the armchair the cost does not seem to be high, if these journals consider just as many submissions as other top journals. Scholars can turn to several other top journals in the very special instances where they are ready to submit and these particular journals happen to be in a moratorium. 

How many are the cases where there is simply no other journal that will do for their particular paper at that particular time? I would venture that the number of such papers is unlikely to be high, and that in the few cases where there is simply no other journal in our universe of journals that will do, the cost of waiting a few weeks or months is unlikely to be high.

These journals have obviously not been held to the standard that you would like to impose, given their ascent over the last decade. 

And one wonders how far this line of criticism should go. Take a journal that decides it will publish only one volume a year. Is it objectionable that it does not publish at least quarterly, or maybe even monthly, or maybe without regard to the calendar, as some journals now do? Should our rating and ranking of journals be determined by that? 

What about volume? Is it objectionable that journals do not match the most voluminous journals? Should there be a standard that journals must publish more issues and larger issues? This would facilitate publication opportunities!

Is it appropriate to force journals who have opted for their own procedures to adopt other procedures, when there is so much variety in our present universe of journals, in respect of how many pages they publish, and how many issues per year? 

Or is the objection that these journals are *different*? Well, they have been different for over a decade, and this does not seem to have affected their standing. They are also different in the number of issues that they publish per year, in the schedules of publication, in the number of pages per issue, and in many other respects. This is because there are so many philosophy journals, and they spread out over so many different dimensions. Should all journals be forced to be the same in respects that one finds salient, with no good idea of why or how much this matters?

As for the Leiter polls, here’s the clear heading for the most recent one, this past August: “Rank order these journals in terms of the quality of the work they typically publish in your experience.” This is made absolutely clear at: 
https://civs1.civs.us/cgi-bin/results.pl?id=E_7080864b7fac7708Report