A postdoctoral fellow from a prestigious university recently wrote to share his story of a leading journal that took three months to reject his submission. The experience, they wrote, was an example of “how dysfunctional publishing in philosophy journals can be.”
People have had a lot of bad experiences with philosophy journals. And there were a number of suggestions on what to do about one of the common causes of many of these experiences: the high ratio of submissions to (desirable) post space. However, these proposals often relate to changes in practices and institutions at the level of the profession whose adoption seems unlikely, or comes up against problems of collective action, or is rather indirect. As we await such significant changes, perhaps it is worth asking what journals, editors and publishers can do in the short term to improve the situation.
By asking this question, I’m not asking for suggestions that simply require more work from editors. Publishers already work long and hard, and suggestions that they should work 18 hours a day are unreasonable. Indeed, we might ask ourselves not what our journal publishers can do for us, but what can be done for our journal publishers. Editors, feel free to sign up here!
Here are some possible suggestions:
- Improve transparency where it is lacking and be explicit in order to properly manage the expectations of authors. “Warning: It may take three months before we decide your article is not worth reviewing” should appear on the “Information for Authors” web page of journals where this is true.
- Increase the number of associate publishers, pressure publishers to fund them if needed, and delegate more tasks to them.
- For the period between the submission of a manuscript by the author and the decision of an editor (or an associate editor) to decide whether it should be submitted to a peer review, authorize the submission of the manuscript to d other journals, explicitly stating that during this period the submitted manuscript is not actually “under review” at the journal, but merely “on a waiting list for review”. about to move from the waiting list to “under review”, the author will be informed and will have to choose whether or not to continue this process (and if so, withdraw the manuscript from other journals ).
Some of these suggestions and others may provide only minor benefits, but that’s okay. Together they can add something noticeably better. And besides, progress does not require us to completely solve all the problems. So let’s listen to your ideas.
Related: “Remarkably Good Experiences with Philosophy Journals”