The Future of Philosophy Journals


“What is the future of philosophy journals?”

That’s the question at the heart of an upcoming open online event taking place on Wednesday, January 17th.

“The Future of Transformative Journals in Philosophy” is organized by the Open Access working group—Sophia Crüwell (Cambridge), Chiara Lisciandra (Utrecht), and  David Teira (UNED). They write:

Many publishers (like Springer or Elsevier) have declared their journals “transformative”, hoping to transition to a Gold Open Access regime, in which all papers will be freely accessible, since their authors will have covered the costs with an Author Processing Charge. But while opening access to scientific publications enables a wider circulation of scientific work, this might come at the cost of hindering access to scientific contributions from authors, institutions, or countries with limited funding opportunities. European funding bodies, like the Coalition S, are now surveying the scientific community to grasp its views on this process.

The 90 minute session will have a quick introductory overview of the situation, delivered by an expert librarian, followed by a panel discussion with four journal editors and an open debate with the participants. Throughout the discussion, we will reflect on the steps to take in response to current challenges, our options as editors, and prospects for developing alternative publishing models. Overall, the session will provide a critical examination of the evolving landscape of academic publishing in philosophy.

More information and registration are here.

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naive skeptic
naive skeptic
6 months ago

My dream is that libraries around the world could form a consortium, set aside some small percentage of their acquisition budget every year, and collectively by up stock in the various companies that own these journals. Eventually the consortium would be the majority shareholder, and the journal publishing company would then have a fiduciary duty to them. Since libraries aren’t in the business of making money this would lower the costs for everyone.

Alas, this dream will remain only a dream

Platypus
Reply to  naive skeptic
6 months ago

I like the idea of libraries financing *something* on their own, but this would cost billions of dollars (Wiley alone has a $1.6B market cap), and more importantly, it wouldn’t be stable. Another for-profit firm could spring up at any time and members of the consortium would be tempted to defect.

A similar idea would be to finance a nonprofit publisher and try to make it competitive with Wiley and the rest. Then there would be no need to buy them out and immediately lose our money when the businesses stop turning a profit.

By the way, there’s a precedent for this: university presses! OUP for example is technically a charitable organization, not a for-profit business.

That said, if anyone thinks that OUP, as a nonprofit, is “not in the business of making money”…

David Wallace
Reply to  Platypus
6 months ago

“ OUP for example is technically a charitable organization, not a for-profit business.”

Technically it’s not even that: it’s a department of Oxford University. It transfers fairly large amounts of money to the University’s academic departments.

Platypus
Reply to  David Wallace
6 months ago

That’s an example of the point I was trying to make. “Nonprofits” often have to be in the money-making business.

I’m sure you know this already, but for those who don’t, Oxford itself is a charity.

https://www.ox.ac.uk/about/organisation/university-as-a-charity

mark.wilson
mark.wilson
Reply to  naive skeptic
5 months ago

That would just increase the stock price and help make Elsevier executives very rich. Why would we want to do that?

Joshua
Reply to  naive skeptic
5 months ago

Let’s make it happen. Anything, is possible at this point. 😉

Richard Brown
6 months ago

one thing I would like to see is journals, or at least a journal, take the lead in certifying that the papers I am reading are human generated content. I don’t know how they could do that, but it seems like it will be important at some point for those like myself who value that sort of thing (at least until AI gets better at doing philosophy)

Kenny Easwaran
Reply to  Richard Brown
5 months ago

I think that already there are some blurrings of the lines. Technically, to the extent that autocorrect is involved in correcting misspellings, a paper is already going to be partially AI-generated content. If people use services like Grammarly to correct malapropisms and infelicities of expression, this is a little bit deeper. I personally wouldn’t mind if people go somewhat farther, like feeding a whole page of text or section of a paper into ChatGPT, asking it to edit for conciseness. How *much* farther I’d be ok with is less clear. But on some level, if a paper addresses issues in the literature, raises points that editors and referees find interesting and of merit for discussion, and carries this out in a clear and novel way that aids in human understanding, I suppose I don’t care too much whether the paper was written by a human, a team of humans, a team of humans with AI assistance, or by AI alone.

Brian Weatherson
Brian Weatherson
Reply to  Kenny Easwaran
5 months ago

If the author used Google in doing any research, then there was already AI involved. I think whatever Google uses to turn text in a search bar into lists of links has as much claim to being called AI as chatbots do.

And to be clear, I am *not* signing up for policing whether authors have used Google in researching their papers.

Travis
Travis
6 months ago

I worry about publication becoming cost-prohibitive to many philosophers. $1000 or more to publish a single article is by no means rare.

Consider the importance of having publications in securing an academic job, or tenure. In the early stages of your career, you probably don’t have $1000 plus of extra money you can put towards publishing costs.

I understand that some open access journals plan to make efforts to assist people with low-incomes, but this raises other issues. How do we determine an author’s income? If I submit a paper, should I upload my paystubs, and sign an attestation that this represents the entirety of my income? Does the journal hire additional staff to check these documents?

Getting published in academic philosophy journals is already challenging enough. It seems likely that pushing costs onto authors will create a further obstacle to early career philosophers, for whom publishing is especially important.

Aeon J. Skoble
Reply to  Travis
6 months ago

Yes. I’ve so far seen zero reason to think this new model won’t discriminate against scholars with less access to funds. It’s as if they’ve tried to solve a problem that wasn’t a super huge deal by creating a new problem that’s a much bigger deal. Old model: submit paper to journal they accept it, it’s free to read for anyone near a library. If your library doesn’t have that journal, you get it from ILL, or subscribe at the individual rate which under 3 figures, or write to the author for an off-print. New model: submit paper, find out you have to pay $500 dollars, never mind then,. But hey, we can read it online! Doesn’t seem like a good deal to me.

Noah
Noah
6 months ago

The future of philosophy journals should be taken out of the hands of the predatory publishing conglomerates and into academic-run venues (on the model of Phil Imprint), regardless of the new open access profit model at these publishers.

Caligula's Goat
6 months ago

Allow me to propose what I hope is a moderate proposal (a real one, not in the Swiftian tradition). The reason I think it’s moderate is that, in my view, it (a) doesn’t require changing capitalism (something that is far beyond philosophy’s power to do in our lifetime), (b) already captures some norms about publishing (at least for senior scholars), and (c) doesn’t affect poorer philosophers / universities disproportionately (as current open access models do). So…what’s the plan?

  • Keep everything as it is for scholars near the beginning of their careers (e.g., 0-10 years post PhD). The purpose of peer reviewed research at this stage in the game is to essentially mark a scholar as competent at contributing to intellectual conversations
  • Once an author either publishes more than 10 peer reviewed publications then authors should be expected to circumvent the peer review system in favor of some posting their research on an open access archive like phil archives (the exact number of articles to shift to this stage isn’t important but 1 publication per year is in line with tenure expectations at R2s, high research SLACs, etc.)
  • From that point forward, the author, having been previously vetted by peer review, can produce research that is accessible to anyone. Peer review, essentially, has done its job. Future review of an author’s work can be done in print instead of in the dark alleys of editorial review
  • One side benefit of this proposal is that scholars who have already established themselves via peer review can now get to work writing exactly the kind of research that peer review is worst at producing (e.g., big ideas, systematizing work, interdisciplinary work, etc.)

Now I hear you wondering to yourself: but how will this affect hiring, tenure, promotion to full professor, etc. Because younger scholars will be expected to have their initial publications make their way through peer review, I’m not sure I see how tenure track hiring would be affected. Whenever I’ve been on search committees the vast majority of candidates are less than 10 years post PhD and have 10 or fewer publications. 

Similarly, traditional tenure is unlikely to be affected. 95% (or more) of working philosophers will have met their universities and colleges tenure standards with 10 peer reviewed publications so my modest proposal doesn’t change the assistant > associate path.

In terms of associate to full, in my experience, impact really matters more than quantity of additional work so it’s not clear to me that my proposal would really get in the way of evaluating a person’s application for full professor since we’ll be looking at things like citations, responses to a person’s work, or other measures of impact in the literature.

We could adopt this proposal today if we wanted to. It doesn’t require changing the basic structure of (academic) society. It only requires that we change our expectations.

Timothy Sommers
Timothy Sommers
6 months ago

So, I’ll just go ahead and reveal my total ignorance, but why is it so expensive? I don’t get it. How can posting stuff on the internet be more expensive than printing it? And if paying off, or including the pre-existing print journals is the expense, why don’t we just reorganize on a preexisting blogger platform and let the print journals die a natural death over time? Again, I’m sure this is a dumb question, but I am interested.

Beth
Beth
Reply to  Timothy Sommers
6 months ago

This is a good place to start:
https://f1000research.com/articles/10-20

Relatedly, Wikipedia’s authors and editors are unpaid, but it still costs something in the region of $140 million to run.

Timothy Sommers
Timothy Sommers
Reply to  Beth
5 months ago

Wow. Crazy. Thanks.

Mahmoud Jalloh
Mahmoud Jalloh
Reply to  Beth
5 months ago

This is a very interesting article, I didn’t read too carefully but some thoughts:

Our calculation of per-article publishing costs in a conventional pre-publication peer-review (50% rejection rate) scenario where all editorial duties are performed by in-house staff (Scenario B) ranges from US$643.61 for a journal that publishes 100 articles per year down to US$565.15 for such a journal that publishes 1,000 articles (or more, as the indirect costs become increasingly negligible around this value). These values consist of US$266.53 direct publishing costs (i.e., Similarity Check, DOI for an article, DOIs for two or more reviews, copyediting, typesetting, formatting figures/graphs/tables, Altmetric badge, indexing, XML and metadata preparation), US$ 289.91 for editorial staff and US$8.72 to US$87.18 for 1,000 to 100 articles, respectively, in indirect costs (i.e., Web OA platform and hosting, digital preservation, memberships).

It would be helpful if any editors (including open access journal editors) in philosophy could confirm if this compares with philosophy journals. The Journal of the APA published 43 articles this last year. If the per-article cost estimate for a journal that publishes 100 articles a year is about right, it should have cost ~$27k to publish those articles. The APC fee for the publisher, Cambridge University Press, is $3255, meaning the APC fees for about 8.5 of the 43 articles published last year (or 20%) would have covered the complete costs of publishing the whole slate of articles. There seems to have been 30 open access articles published in the last year, even if only half were funded by APC fees rather than waivers, etc. that would be almost 100% rate of profit (making back twice what was spent). This seems consistent with an estimate given by the authors of the article.

Finally, taking a ballpark cost figure of US$600 for a scholarly article with full editorial services (i.e., scenario A/B) and comparing it to the low end of the average price estimate for a subscription article of about US$4,0001013,22,23, it becomes clear that publication costs only cover 15% of the subscription price (Figure 1). Assuming a conservative profit margin of 30% (i.e., US$1,200 per article) for one of the large publishers2427, there remains a sizeable gap of about US$2,200 in non-publication costs, or 55% of the price of a scholarly subscription article (Figure 1).

Now the authors go in to consider some “non-publication costs” that journal may have, but they still do not seem to cover the gap—maybe in the case considered above, some of the excess profit goes to the APA (i.e. what isn’t going back to Cambridge).

I’d like to see more society based journals (like the new Philosophy of Physics) move to a diamond open access model supported by member costs. I do not see why an organization the size APA could not raise fees or move around some of its current spending (even giving up one of the yearly meetings) to make the journal diamond open access. Both large and small societies could consider other cost-cutting measures: e.g. (1) we likely don’t have to pay market rate for editors, a postdoc or dissertation stage grad student could likely handle the duties of a managing editor for cheap rather than teach (I could certainly use pandoc and LLMs to handle typesetting and copy editing at the rate of 500$ per article 😉 ); (2) more barebones journals could be built on repos like philarchive or philsci-archive, removing some hosting, etc. costs.

Likely I’m missing something and I welcome criticism or explanations of my naivete, or else advice on how to short academic publishers. More forthcoming explanations from editors would make things clearly regarding philosophy in particular. (Was there an APA vote on the form of the journal that I am forgetting/missed?)

Shane Epting
5 months ago

“expert librarian” – Are the any “amateur librarians?” Asking for a friend.

Shane Epting
5 months ago

Is there a list of society journals?