More Details on the Dispute Between JPP & Wiley


The Chronicle of Higher Education has followed up on Wiley’s firing of Robert Goodin (ANU) from the editorship of the Journal of Political Philosophy.

As noted previously (see the updates on this post), part of the dispute concerned Wiley’s insistence on an increase in the number of articles the journal publishes. On this, the Chronicle reports that, after Wiley sent Goodin his termination letter,

With Goodin’s blessing, [Christian] Barry said, [the co-editors] began discussing with Wiley representatives the contours of an agreement to take over editorship of the journal. 

The conversation turned to numbers. Ed Colby, a Wiley spokesperson, told The Chronicle in an email that “a moderate increase of two additional articles per year had been proposed” to the co-editors. “Wiley is always looking for sustainable ways to grow our journals in close consultation with our editors, especially as we transition to open access and research becomes more international.”

According to Barry, Wiley’s original request was much higher. The journal had published 24 articles in 2022, per Barry. Wiley first proposed that the journal publish 30 articles in 2024, 32 in 2025, and 34 in 2026 — a more than 40-percent increase from its current level of production over a three-year span, Barry said. “It seemed very important to them that there be an upward trajectory.”

After some back and forth, Wiley agreed to a lower starting point of publishing 26 articles in the upcoming year and eventually publishing 34 articles in Year Five, Barry said. But Wiley also proposed, should the scholars not hit the mark, that the parties would discuss and agree on an action plan, he said. From the co-editors’ perspective, that was a no-go. They must have power to publish less than the target, to preserve the journal’s quality and their editorial discretion.

A high-quality academic journal is supposed to be selective, Barry said. He and his co-editors were not opposed to accepting more articles if, say, they were all of a sudden receiving 20 percent more excellent submissions. But “that’s just not really the way things work.”

To hit those targets would require lots of work and fundamental changes to the journal’s operations, Barry said. The journal would likely need to publish more and different types of content, such as review essays, which takes time and resources, he said. Also, the advice of reviewers who recommended against publishing an article would need to increasingly be ignored, Barry said, in order to hit a number.

And even if the co-editors made those changes, Barry said, they worried “at the end of this period, Wiley would still want more.”

In the end, the co-editors did not get the assurances they desired:

Ultimately, Barry said, he and the other co-editors “were not confident that we could have adequate autonomy in making our editorial decisions into the future in ways that would not be affected by the strong impetus to increase content.” They decided they would no longer pursue taking over editorship of the journal and plan to step down from their roles at the end of this year, once Goodin is no longer editor.

The full article is here.

A petition to calling for Wiley to rescind its actions in regard to the Journal of Political Philosophy is here.

Sanders Prize in Political Philosophy

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Murali
Murali
9 months ago

Notice here how Wiley was not demanding an order of magnitude increase in acceptance rate. The sticking point seemed to be whether JPP could simply fail to meet targets with impunity. There’s no point in setting publication targets if JPP could simply fail to meet them and say well, the quality of articles wasn’t that great. Every single time.
The worry about having to ignore reviewer recommendations is also a bit too precious. This would be a legitimate worry when such recommendations have a high signal to noise ratio. But they do not. We know that philosophers tend to reject good papers that they happen to have objections for even when that is not the standard that the journal requires for publication. Editors have a responsibility to override reviewer recommendations when the reasons provided are inadequate.

Laura
Reply to  Murali
9 months ago

If we can rely on observations made in the other comment thread, most JPP submissions are desk rejected without anonymity. In addition, other journals published by Wiley aren’t having this experience or pressure. We would need to know more about why the acceptance rate was so low and why the editors could not imagine adding even a few more articles a year. Was the overall quality of submissions so low that this limited demand would necessarily override editorial judgment and journal quality? I’m not seeing great evidence for it, and prefer a better quality of evidence before attacking one of the few big publishers that makes it easy for people to have open access to reading articles.

If Wiley turns out to deserve criticism for unfairly pressuring this journal’s editors, fine. But the demand for a couple articles a year is unlikely to radically alter the publisher’s profits, and meanwhile a plausible reason has been given for wanting change: greater global reach, which might mean including a greater variety of authors or topics than had been preferred in the past. Or maybe the publisher didn’t like all the negative press associated with publishing a Black Lives Matter issue with no Black authors, despite the lack of triple blind review. The point is, they might have had reasons that render it something beyond undue pressure on editors.

Noah
Noah
Reply to  Murali
9 months ago

I’m also surprised by the implication that only 24 articles per year of those submitted receive only resubmit or accept recommendations from referees. If more than that received no rejection verdicts, then they could publish more without overriding reviewer recommendations, of course.

My impression, from my own experience and from talking to others, is that top journals are now commonly rejecting submissions that receive two revise recommendations, or even better recommendations. For example, I had a recent submission at AJP that received an accept and a revise — the editor’s verdict was outright rejection.

This justification from the JPP people would seem to imply that they are not doing this — that to publish more papers they would have to publish some that received reject recommendations. That would really surprise me, given that they only published 24 papers last year.

Kate Norlock
Reply to  Noah
9 months ago

You got an accept and a recommendation to revise and you were rejected? Wow! This is very discouraging to read.

SCM
SCM
9 months ago

I appreciate the notes of scepticism that have been raised here and elsewhere about the petition, so I will try to elaborate on how I see things.

The fundamental and decisive issue here is editorial independence.

The issue is not whether JPP should accept more papers (maybe!). The issue is not whether there are improvements to be made in how it processes submissions (perhaps!). The issue is not whether Wiley wanted a few more articles a year or whether it wanted thousands, or whether it was tentative in its requests or belligerent in its demands (no idea!). Nor is the issue whether there is value in having a highly selective journal (I think so!) or whether editors should override the judgments of reviewers when the reasons they offer for rejection are weak (for sure!).

The fundamental and decisive issue is whether a publishing house should get to decide unilaterally who the editor of an academic journal is and whether it gets to impose its preferred editorial policy on the journal.

Wiley currently owns the journal and has a financial stake in its production and distribution. But the journal belongs to the political philosophy community at large. We built it over the years, writing for it, reviewing for it, reading it, and responding to it, making it an important part of our world. We would not have done so if we did not have confidence in its independence and integrity, in the judgment of its editors over what appears in its pages, and in the authority of its editorial board over its policies. It would not exist but for us. It would merely be housed elsewhere but for Wiley. We are essential to it, they are not.

Wiley has a financial stake in the journal, but so do we, and ours is much greater. Our economy is academic discourse in peer-reviewed venues and our currency is academic respect, regard, and reputation. We build our careers on the assumption that publication in these venues means something about the quality and importance of our work in itself. But that meaning vanishes if editorial independence is violated. And if our currency is so devalued, then the return on our labour is significantly diminished.

There are lots of issues with how any journal is run. We’re all fallible. If anyone has a criticism or suggestion to make, they can take it up with the editors or the editorial board. And if people remain unsatisfied with the response, then they can take their articles elsewhere or even set up an alternative venue. But what we absolutely should not do is abdicate our collective responsibility to determine, ourselves alone, the shape and content of our academic discourse. That is the simple principle at the heart of the current crisis, and it is on that basis that I urge people to sign the petition and help us bring this issue to a satisfactory resolution as soon as possible.

Last edited 9 months ago by SCM
Murali
Murali
Reply to  SCM
9 months ago

It is hard to disentangle the first-order issues from the second order issues. JPP and other top philosophy journals definitely should accept more submissions. There is no maybe about it. We have been complaining about this here and on other sites. And while sympathetic noises have been made with regards to these complaints, nothing has changed.

I.e. it is hard to feel sympathetic to JPP when it’s editorial independence was violated while it was being exercised in a patently bad way.

You say that if we are unhappy with the response we can take our articles elsewhere. However, as junior scholars struggling in a terrible job market, we don’t have much of a choice. There are only a handful of journals where our publications count towards getting into the TT job.

Is sacking Goodin a bit extreme? Perhaps. But it actually matters who was behaving reasonably up to that point. To turn around and say that the first order questions don’t really matter when you (well, not you but Anna Stilz) actually misrepresented how it went down is disingenuous. Up to this point, the narrative has been that Wiley was being unreasonable and JPP put upon. But if the latest is true, then that’s not quite what happened. Stilz previously said that publishing an ever increasing no of papers is not feasible for the journal. However, this seems wrong given that a) acceptance rates are absurdly low and b) the no of people submitting to the journal is constantly increasing since more people are entering the job market.

Given Wiley’s actual demands, JPP could have easily met those demands for the next 15 years without sacrificing quality. To reiterate, the question of who was being reasonable up to the point of Goodin being fired actually matters. Bad actors don’t have much standing to complain when their independence to act badly is curtailed.

SCM
SCM
Reply to  Murali
9 months ago

With respect, you are mistaken about some points.

1. Anna Stilz is the editor of Philosophy and Public Affairs. Her comments concerned the demands that Wiley made to that journal some time ago. She was not reporting what they demanded of JPP: From the “Wiley Removes Goodin” post: “Though I am not privy to the details of Bob’s communications with Wiley, I can say that P&PA has experienced similar demands.
2. “There is very definitely a maybe about whether JPP should accept more articles. You may think it is clear. But sixty or so highly experienced political philosophers on the board of the journal seem to have a different view, as do many of us in the profession. Perhaps we’re all wrong about that. But it is very definitely an open question.
3. Suppose you are right that the current editorial team were being highly unreasonable in their policies and practices. Then it is up to the board to decide what to do, not the publisher. The fact that the board has not so acted, and indeed has resigned en masse in response to Wiley, indicates what their views are on the first-order issue.
4. You mention that JPP is one of only a handful of venues where publication counts towards getting a TT job. I’m not at all sure that that is true, although it depends on what kind of TT job you have in mind and what you mean by a handful. There are many places that would hire a junior political philosopher without a publication in PPA, JPP, or Ethics. But, in any case, what exactly is it about publishing in one of these venues that is so helpful in landing that TT job? It can’t be that the editors of the journals have exercised their independence in a “patently bad way.”

Last edited 9 months ago by SCM
Murali
Murali
Reply to  SCM
9 months ago

Fair enough. I misunderstood her as talking about the current debacle. (And I don’t think I’m the only one)

Commentator
Commentator
Reply to  SCM
9 months ago

I think that point 2 above is slightly disingenuous in conflating the issues of whether members of the editorial board support editorial practices at the JPP and whether they resigned in response to Wiley’s actions in removing Goodin.

Speaking for myself, I think that the claim that it would be difficult to increase the number of papers published in that journal without compromising quality is highly suspicious. I regularly read papers in “second-tier” political philosophy journals which seem at least as good as – often better than – the papers I see in “top-tier” journals.

On the other hand, I also think it’s clear, from everything I’ve read, that the editorial team at JPP have been treated very badly by Wiley in these discussions. Quite apart from anything else, increasing the number of papers increases workload for everyone involved.

As such, I can very easily imagine a situation where, had I been a member of the editorial board at JPP, I would have felt I ought to resign in protest at heavy-handed management, while also thinking that there are excellent reasons to change editorial practices.

And, on the substantive question of whether JPP ought to have published more papers, it’s well worth noting that political philosophy is a particularly odd sub-field. Between JPP, PPA and (some papers in) Ethics, there are far fewer slots per annum in top political philosophy journals than there are in the top journals in philosophy of science, Phil Sci and BJPS. I guess there could be some explanation which justifies this discrepancy (maybe more people do phil sci than pol phil, so we should just expect more high quality work in the former? Maybe there’s the same number working in both fields, but philosophers of science are just “better” at doing philosophy?) Still, on the face of it, there’s something odd here.

Theorist
Theorist
Reply to  Commentator
9 months ago

There are good political theory and generalist political science journals where political philosophers can and do publish (PT, EJPT, APSR, AJPS, JOP).

SCM
SCM
Reply to  Commentator
9 months ago

— I think you are quite right that a board member may have resigned in protest at Wiley despite thinking that JPP should accept (a lot) more papers. That’s always an open question at any journal. My point was that the no one on the board seems to have thought that the issue is so beyond dispute that the journal is being run in a “patently bad way,” as Murali suggested.

— Regarding the comparison between political philosophy and other areas: as Theorist mentions, there are many other good journals that are either largely oriented towards social, political, and legal philosophy (or to value theory more generally, but very inclusively of social, political, and legal philosophy). In addition to the five s/he mentions, here are some others:

Contemporary Political Theory
Criminal Law and Philosophy
Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy
Journal of Applied Philosophy
Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy
Journal of Moral Philosophy
Journal of Social Philosophy
Jurisprudence
Legal Theory
Oxford Journal of Legal Studies
Philosophy and Social Criticism
Social Philosophy and Policy
Social Theory and Practice (where I am on the editorial team)
Theoria
Utilitas

I have no idea what the journal situation is like for philosophy of science beyond PS and BJPS. If those two journals publish quite a bit more than the PPA, JPP, and Ethics do in political philosophy, then that may simply offset a relative dearth of dedicated journals in the field.

I don’t know whether it is harder to get a good paper published in political philosophy or in philosophy of science, but we really can’t tell much at all from the respective acceptance rates or the sheer quantity of articles in the very top journals in the fields. So I would resist the inference that there is something odd here that needs to be explained. Different fields and different disciplines have different journal hierarchies (if you wish) with different shapes.

Last edited 9 months ago by SCM
SCM
SCM
Reply to  Commentator
9 months ago

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice
Feminist Philosophy Quarterly
Journal of Ethics
Journal of Value Inquiry
Law and Philosophy
Politics, Philosophy, and Economics
Public Affairs Quarterly
Ratio Juris
Representation
Res Publica

and so on … I’m sure I’m missing a few.

Kenny Easwaran
Reply to  Murali
9 months ago

> JPP and other top philosophy journals definitely should accept more submissions. There is no maybe about it. We have been complaining about this here and on other sites. And while sympathetic noises have been made with regards to these complaints, nothing has changed.
> I.e. it is hard to feel sympathetic to JPP when it’s editorial independence was violated while it was being exercised in a patently bad way.

This may be how you feel. But I don’t think it has been established in any sort of general sense. Some people say journals publish too little, while others say journals publish too much. Whatever problems there might have been with JPP’s editorial practice, I don’t think anyone has given any reason to think that it has been “patently bad”.

Kate Norlock
Reply to  Murali
9 months ago

What was the “patently bad way” — Do you mean the fact that JPP’s process is not triply-anonymous review?

David Wallace
Reply to  Murali
9 months ago

“it is hard to feel sympathetic to JPP when [its] editorial independence was violated while it was being exercised in a patently bad way.”

Isn’t the definition of editorial independence that publishers can’t interfere with editors even when they think editors are getting it wrong? Otherwise it doesn’t seem worth much.

Sam
Sam
Reply to  David Wallace
9 months ago

It’s not as if we face a dilemma: accept editorial independence as a licence to behave badly, or reject editorial independence altogether.

Or if we do face that dilemma, we ought to face another: accept freedom of speech as a license to make threats of violence, or reject freedom of speech altogether.

Have I misunderstood your point?

David Wallace
Reply to  Sam
9 months ago

I don’t think those are analogous. A closer analogy would be: accept freedom of speech as a license to say things we think should not have been said, or reject freedom of speech altogether. And it does indeed look like we have to accept one or other disjunct.

Most defenders of freedom of speech accept narrowly-tailored exceptions, such as credible threats of violence to individuals; similarly, there are probably narrowly-tailored exceptions to editorial independence. But they have to be narrowly tailored, otherwise the notion of independence collapses.

(This is all without prejudice as to the specific issues here with JPP.)

Sam
Sam
Reply to  David Wallace
9 months ago

Yes, I agree.

So your view is that it’s possible to take a reasonable and nuanced approach to the JPP issue: one can reasonably fail to be sympathetic to JPP, if the failure is due to one’s view regarding narrowly-tailored exceptions to editorial independence. It’s just that you don’t believe any such exceptions justify a lack of sympathy in this specific case. Is this right?

If people lack sympathy because editorial independence at JPP has allowed too much nepotism in editorial decisions, would you regard that as justified? And do you agree that Murali might have had
a nepotism concern in mind when saying editorial independence at JPP was being exercised in a patently bad way?

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Sam
9 months ago

I’m intentionally avoiding the details of this case – political philosophy is way outside my territory, substantively and institutionally.

Sam
Sam
Reply to  David Wallace
9 months ago

Thanks, David. As always, I appreciate the conversation.

Didier Torny
Didier Torny
Reply to  SCM
9 months ago

I am sorry to say that the journal does not “belong” to you in any way, just like a factory does not “belong” to its workers if they get paid by a corporation.They do if they have organized as a cooperative, so you will if you make your own journal from scratch, calling it New JPP and showing that all JPP value in fact was in its committees, authors and readers, not the publisher.

Chris
Chris
Reply to  Didier Torny
9 months ago

Sure, but if those workers form a union and strike, they can often get the corporation to give them stuff they want. Think of this petition as analogous.

Kate Norlock
Reply to  Didier Torny
9 months ago

I don’t think belonging is a simple matter so I’m somewhat sympathetic to this. But corporate publishers are not analogous to factory-providers. This part of your comment seems importantly disanalogous. The ‘factory’ necessary for a journal is largely the human input, that is, authoring, refereeing, and editing. It is a big internet and so the site offering the publishing platform is not really the producer.

Didier Torny
Didier Torny
Reply to  Kate Norlock
9 months ago

It was intended. They decided to work FOR FREE in a factory while they could build their own by relying on Diamond infrastructure and more volunteering for the technical publishing part. And they still want to do it after it was shown they had no control over the factory.

Chris
Chris
Reply to  Didier Torny
9 months ago

and yet they do seem to have control over many other exactly similar “factories” (see Sosa’s letter, etc.). So why not give the petition a try? Maybe it won’t work, but we’ll see.

a pol phil
9 months ago

HMMM. Going anon for this, but the tenor of these remarks seem in some tension with my last two rejection notifications from JPP, which amounted to “strong paper here, technically well done, but doesn’t move the conversation forward substantially enough to justify publication in a journal where competition for limited space is so fierce.” I more or less concurred with that judgement in both cases, but little did I know they were fighting tooth-and-nail to keep the artificial constraint in place that allows them to justify rejecting strong incremental work.

Perhaps Bob was being overly polite/gentle, but when I’d submitted weaker manuscripts in the past he (to his credit IMO) skipped the false praise and was frank about their shortcomings.