“Considering my own area of philosophy of language and mind, I don’t think there is all that much difference between most of what gets published in the ‘top’ journals, and most of what gets published in the ‘tier 2 ‘journals. My sense is that there is rather too much good work to keep track of, not that the difference between the top tier and the tier 2 journals is so great.”
Goodin had said:
[The] blogsphere is full of bleating that journals should increase the number of articles being accepted, on the grounds that ‘my article was no worse than the worst article appearing there that year’. In most cases that is simply untrue. (I do freely admit, however, that in some years JPP published an article or two that we would not have done had we not been contractually obliged to publish a certain number of articles per year.) But suppose the claim were true, and just do the maths. Publishing more articles that are equally bad as the worst articles published would automatically reduce the average quality of articles in the journal—that is an unavoidable fact of simple arithmetic. Of course, each author of an almost-as-good article has an interest in their own article being accepted—but only theirs. If every almost-as-good article were published, the value of publishing in the venue would nosedive, to the chagrin of all authors publishing there.
Preston Stovall (University of Hradec Králové) sent in the following reply:
I was glad to sign the petition against refereeing for The Journal of Political Philosophy when it was sent around, and I stand by that decision. Business interests in revenue generated from published essays should not dictate editorial decisions at a scholarly journal. But I’m troubled by Goodin’s remarks about the “bleating” from people who call for an increase in the number of publications in top journals. I’m not sure the line of thinking here is right, but I can’t shake it, and if there’s something wrong with it I figure someone can point it out.
Considering my own area of philosophy of language and mind, I don’t think there is all that much difference between most of what gets published in the “top” journals, and most of what gets published in the “tier 2” journals. My sense is that there is rather too much good work to keep track of, not that the difference between the top tier and the tier 2 journals is so great. And more generally, given how many PhD’s are being produced each year, and owing to the strengths of the teachers and programs producing them, I find it hard to believe that the absolute numbers of publishable essays, at any venue, aren’t increasing.
That is to say, supposing whatever you’d like for the meaning of “top journal”, and given the increase in number of journal submissions everywhere, I don’t see the basis for thinking that the relative number of submitted to publishable essays at the top journals has dwindled so far, and so fast, that the top journals would decrease the value they add to the scholarly community by publishing, say, 50% more work than they currently do in a year. At least, not for what’s being produced right now in the philosophies of language and mind. Maybe political philosophy is different, but I don’t know why it would be. And I worry that in practice this becomes a way the profession ossifies around cadres of insiders gatekeeping their fields and subfields.
Either way, I hope that anyone who does hold this view is either at a department that does not have a PhD program, is actively trying to reduce the number of students admitted to that program, or is actively working to see that the program prepares graduates for work outside the academy. A job market producing an increased number of candidates whose work is regularly judged to be of poorer relative quality than previous generations, and at a time when judgments of value concerning things like publication venue are becoming so important for landing a job, is doing a disservice to the people in the field who are the least well off.