Philosophy Workshop Introduces New Kind of Prize (guest post)

One of the small number of speaker spots at the Northeast Normativity Workshop (NEN) is reserved for the winner of a prize that’s structured in an innovative manner.

In the guest post, below, Daniel Fogal (NYU), Nick Laskowski (Maryland), and Nate Sharadin (Hong Kong), the organizers of the upcoming workshop, explain how it works.

[Do Ho Suh, “Screen” (detail)]

The New NEN Workshop Prize
by Daniel Fogal, Nick Laskowski, and Nate Sharadin

There are not enough prizes in philosophy. Few prizes are awarded for specific papers. To our knowledge, none is funded largely by small-dollar donations, and none is awarded by the community via a transparent review process.

We aim to start a prize with all of these features.

The prize is associated with Northeast Normativity Workshop (NEN), an annual workshop taking place on a rotating basis at different universities along the Northeast Corridor. The workshop aims to bring together the large, diverse group of philosophers working on issues related to normativity in the Northeast (and beyond). Previous workshops have included talks on reasons, ignorance, enkrasia, consent, love, error theory, envy, the difficulty of ethics, bias, encroachment, deontic concepts, and many more. You can find more about the talks at the upcoming one here.

Here’s how the prize works:

  • Paper submitters pay a $22 submission fee, 100% of which (after credit card fees) goes into a prize pool. (Note: attendance at the workshop is free and open to all!)
  • Submitters will blindly score 2 other submissions according to a rubric on which we’ll solicit community feedback after all submissions are in.
  • The top 5 submissions from the initial scoring round will be subject to a Condorcet polling round by the entire community of submitters.
  • We’re capping the submissions at 100 for this year (so, a maximum of ~$2,200 in the prize pool). If we hit 75 submissions, we plan to split the prize into two and add one runner-up (90/10 prize split). If we hit 100 submissions, we’ll do two runners-up (80/10/10).
  • The author of the winning paper(s) will be invited to present their work at the 5th Annual NEN Workshop, being held this year at the University of Maryland, College Park.

You can read the details (and submit your paper or reserve a slot) on the workshop website.

Anyone can reserve a slot today (we expect the limited number of slots to fill up quickly), in case they don’t yet have a paper ready for submission.

We hope to raise outside matching grants (if you’re interested in contributing, get in touch). 100% of any outside grants will be added to the prize pool, potentially substantially increasing the overall payout.

We expect that there are many ways this process could be improved, and we hope to pursue them in future years. (Please let us know your thoughts on how to do so below!) For this pilot year, we think our idea has four main advantages compared to other prizes in philosophy.

First, it is open to the entire community of philosophers. There are no memberships to buy, societies to join, or social networks to belong to.

Second, it is as transparent as possible at all stages. There are no “selection committees” or opaque review procedures.

Third, it can scale. Since it does not depend on a single group of editors and referees, if it works for 100 submissions, it can perhaps work for 1,000; it can also be duplicated at current scale in other areas.

Fourth, it is novel. Novel things are worth trying, especially at low cost.

We think the prize offers an important test of the hypothesis that good philosophical work will rise toward the top in a fair, transparent process of blind review and comparative voting by experts. We look forward to seeing what philosophers submit and, importantly, what philosophers decide is best.

Read all about the prize, and submit your paper (or reserve your slot) at the workshop website.


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Jon Kvanvig
8 months ago

A wonderful idea! Kudos to the organizers!

Nicolas Delon
8 months ago

That’s awesome. Kudos.

8 months ago

Yay mechanism design!