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Louis Chartrand

Here is another issue: there is something deeply dispiriting in publishing in journals whose business model involve appropriating volunteer work from researchers to resell it at prohibitory prices to their own institutions. To my knowledge, none of those top-20 journals offer free open access (as Ergo or PLOS ONE does).

I sort of wonder if only publishing in open source would write me off from a job in philosophy?

In the Know

There is a hefty fee for publishing in PLOS ONE. I know this because I am an Academic Editor for the journal.
If you want a job in philosophy, publish in mainstream philosophy journals (or highly regarded specialty journals, for example BJPS and Philosophy of Science in philosophy of science)

shane wilkins

@Louis Chartrand,

Philosopher's Imprint is a free, open-access journal that consistently ranks in the top 10 journals over at leiter's blog. Ergo is also consistently climbing. I won't at all be surprised to find it in the top 20-25 in the next couple of years.

shane wilkins

Let me also say that I think the worry that to get into a top journal you have to write tightly focused "response piece" kind of work is a red herring. I don't mean that it isn't a real *feeling*, and I don't mean to suggest that Marcus is wrong, above to mention it. I am just saying the feeling can't possibly be veridical.

If you were a journal editor who read (at least the first page or two of) 800-900 papers a year, would you really want to keep publishing marginal, epicycles-upon-epicycles papers? No way! I'd imagine Ernest Sosa wakes up in the morning hoping to find something in his inbox that is really novel, groundbreaking, different and well done.

I think the more likely explanation is just this: it's really hard to do something new well enough to pass the (rightfully) high bar at a top journal. Working within an existing debate is essentially having a bunch of the hard work already done for one in terms of delineating the terms of a debate, locating its significance, and so on. That makes it *easier* to publish on an existing topic in one sense. But that doesn't mean the door is closed to doing something different. It just means you have to be very careful, very explicit and very conscientious in communicating the important new thing you have to say to an audience not antecedently familiar with or motivated by your concerns.

Pendaran Roberts

Shane, I think there is another aspect of why it's harder to publish really novel papers in top journals: referees at these journals often look for reasons to reject more than reasons to accept, and really novel stuff is always going to be harder to understand and more contentious. What we really need is different standards for papers engaging with a current debate and papers starting a new area of research. However, we don't have different standards right now, as such really novel papers are somehow expected to have the same form as papers engaging with a well hashed out debate. That's just silly.

As an aside, it seems to me that the word limits on a lot of philosophy journals make it hard to publish really novel stuff. As referees look for reasons to reject, a really novel paper needs to be exceptionally long to deal with everything thoroughly. You're not allowed to publish a paper just introducing a new idea. It has to be a thorough defence of the idea. That takes a lot of words.

shane wilkins


You write: "You're not allowed to publish a paper just introducing a new idea."

That doesn't mesh with my experience, depending on what "just introducing a new idea" amounts to. I think good papers should anticipate criticism and respond to at least the most likely lines of criticism. But the way you're putting things makes it sound like for a paper to get into Nous, it would have to basically defeat *all* the feasible lines of objection and that sounds wrong to me.

Think of the early x-phi papers like (Weinberg, Nichols and Stich 2001). That got published in Phil Topics, which I would certainly think of as a "top" journal. The paper has certainly received a lot of attention, inclusion in anthologies and so on. Nonetheless, that paper isn't especially long and doesn't include especially many responses to objections, at least relative to the base rate I'd expect from a philosophy paper.

Now granted, that's just one case, and it's possible that my anecdotal impression of the field is wrong. For what it's worth though, whenever I read something written by a journal editor about the job, it really sounds like they're desperate for papers on new stuff, not just rehashes. For an example (not from philosophy, sadly) see: http://www.rob-warren.com/one-thing-i-learned

In the Know

Your choice of examples is misleading. Philosophical Topics is not a typical journal.


"Each issue consists entirely of invited papers." This is not an example of a typical journal being open to novel lines of research.

shane wilkins


Sure Phil Topics is invite-only, still it's a prestigious journal that was open to one of the biggest significant departures from established methodology in recent years.

But maybe what you suggesting something like, "Yeah, you can get permission to do something different if you're already Stephen Stich," where the insinuation is supposed to be that that very same paper wouldn't have been publishable in a blind-reviewed journal.

I guess my response to the insinuation here is that I just don't see any evidence that that is true. I feel like I read plenty of pretty good, pretty novel stuff in the pages of top journals, even triple blind reviewed ones like Phil Review, Nous, Mind and PPR.

I can give examples: (Nahmias et al 2006) was the first x-phi paper on free will and it landed in the pages of PPR. (Nichols and Knobe 2007) responding to Nahmias was in Nous. I think Mark Johnston's 2006 "Hylomorphism" paper was really a pretty path setting new paper resurrecting a view a lot of people would have found completely implausible, and that was published in the Journal of Philosophy. I'll happily grant that all this is anecdotal, but I wonder if there's any real empirical data for the claim that the top journals are biased against new topics? If there is, I certainly haven't ever seen it.

I *have* seen stories about great papers that keep getting rejected top places, even though they go on to be highly cited in the same journals that had previously rejected them. I'm not sure, however, that this really constitutes evidence for the claim that there's a bias against the new at top journals. Given the high volume of submissions, there are going to be great papers that get rejected from such places. That's just evidence that resources are scare and editors and referees aren't perfect, not evidence for the existence of some bias against novelty.

Sam Duncan

I'll put in another plug for Ergo here. They're very quick, they're deliberately inclusive, and your paper will be read by someone knowledgeable in your field (their editorial system ought to be a model for the profession). They already have a good reputation and it's growing. The downside is that they use desk rejection very, very liberally by design. Still if any of you have an interesting piece that wouldn't fit at any other higher prestige journal you should maybe give them a try. Even if it doesn't pan out you won't lose more than two months tops.

Pendaran Roberts


From the papers I've read in Nous and from my attempts to publish there I have developed the impression that a paper has to basically be 'perfect' to get into Nous, meaning no rock left unturned so to speak. That's really hard to do with any particularly novel idea in under 10k words. I admit that my impression is just based on anecdotal evidence, which we should be suspicious of.

Perhaps 'novel' is the wrong concept. Papers in top top journals end up being very narrow in order to be 'perfect.' Thus, they are pretty boring. haha! Whereas, broader papers, which are thus more interesting, don't appear in the top 5. I wonder if anyone else feels that way? That's just how I feel based on my experience. Preferably, we'd find some way to put this to the test.

Regarding Ergo, from my experience with them I agree with Sam: they are a model of how an editorial system should be and very quick.

In the Know


There was no sub-text to my message. I merely noted that Phil Topics hardly illustrates your point to Pendaran about the openness of top journals to novel ideas. Phil Topics is by invitation only. That does not help Penderan until he gets an invitation.
No other insinuations. In fact, I think that the peer review system in philosophy is generally fair.

An anonymous philosopher

It's also worth noting that there is a further misleading example that Shane cites: Johnston's "Hylomorphism" in J.Phil., which was contained in a invite-only special issue on parts and wholes (which anyone can verify by checking the publisher's website).

Trevor Hedberg

From my own experience, I'm not sure about how great Risk #2 really is: "Few, or no, people may read or engage with your work."

A few years ago, David Palmer and I published a piece on the ethics of marketing in the Journal of Business Ethics. Now that's a good place to publish business ethics, but it's not going to show up on any top-20 lists for philosophy journals. I have published other papers since then, including an epistemology paper in Synthese (which routinely makes recent versions of these top-20 lists), but the statistics I've got from academia.edu and PhilPapers indicate that this paper on marketing ethics has been read and downloaded far more than my others. I even got interviewed by someone from Inside Science about it last year in connection with marketing cancer research.

Obviously, this is just one set of personal experiences, but I have heard of other cases like this in applied ethics. Offhand, I recall Tim Bayne and Neil Levy having a similar experience with their "Amputees by Choice" that got published in the Journal of Applied Philosophy: it was much more widely read than most of their other works. Maybe applied ethics is unique in this respect because it has the potential to appeal to non-philosophers in ways that, say, traditional metaphysics and epistemology do not.

I get that the claim being made is supposed to be a general rule rather than an absolute principle, but I suspect that the extent to which it is true will vary a lot depending on the subfield in which one is publishing.

Mark van Roojen

You want people to read your papers and early in your career you wants it to help you get a job or tenure. I think this means other things equal a more generally recognized good journal is a plus for both of those goals, especially before people have a sense of your work from reading other things. But I don't think that means it is bad to publish in journals that aren't well-recognized generalist journals, it just means that if you have a choice you'd rather put your papers in a more prestigious place. I think too many folks pull their punches early on when they will still have time to send a paper to less widely read journals later. It makes sense to send papers to the most prestigious venues first, at least early in a career. But if such journals are not eager to take a paper, and if you can't do anything about that, and you still think it is a good paper, it makes sense to send it to a less widely read journal. I really doubt anyone is going to hold that against you. It will just be swimming upstream to get recognition a bit more.

I think that means that a person early in a tt job should aim for more widely read journals if they can, but if tenure is approaching, the paper is good and you need another publication, there is no shame in getting a paper in a less well-regarded journal. Better to have it out for people to read than to keep it hidden, at least if you think it is a good paper and would be happy to have people (including tenure referees) read it.

WRT, tenure and promotion. Venue of publication can help make a case. I've seen cases where paper probably should have been sent to some better places before they were published in more obscure venues. But venue is only one factor and your referees should be doing their best to explain why papers they like are good papers, wherever they are published. At many places having good work in progress counts positively as well, so long as the referees get a chance to look at those. Tenure rules vary and all politics is local, so generalizing too much is probably a mistake, especially with respect to this. My point is partly to say that venue matters professionally, but it has to be traded off against other things that matter, like getting work out, and that the weights of the considerations likely vary over the course of one's pre-tenure career.


I'd like to see an assessment of the potential risks and benefits of publishing in edited volumes. It seems to me publishing in edited volumes is worthless at best for early career philosophers, since such volumes are typically not peer reviewed. Is there any reason to publish in edited volumes?


I am skeptical about some of your journal level metric hypotheses. What evidence is there that people are more likely to read and/or cite things in better ranked philosophy journals over lower? Most evidence I've seen does not support this hypothesis or even points in the opposite direction.

I was also wondering what evidence there is to support the claim that higher acceptance rates in philosophy journals supports the existence of "the very real risk that, by publishing in low-ranked journals, one is more likely to actually publish bad--even embarrassing--work"? Extremely low acceptance rates of elite journals could just as well reflect the need for sensational results, which has been associated with QRPs and other negative aspects of research.

In the Know

About edited volumes:
-they are very slow in production. Typically they can take 5-6 years before the piece is in print
-with good presses (OUP, for example), papers in edited volumes ARE refereed
-because edited volumes take so long to get through the production process, your work will not be read and cited (except by those to whom you circulate the paper)
-if you can afford the time, it is great to be included in an edited volume by a good press (OUP, for example)
-but with very junior people there is often the assumption that they were invited because of someone they knew, and not on the basis of their reputation as a player in the field, one who has made a contribution to the debate

Marcus Arvan

Wesbuc: I'm glad you're skeptical, and if the hypotheses are wrong, I'm more than happy to be set straight! Could you perhaps point me/our readers in the direction of some of the evidence you know of (viz. "Most evidence I've seen does not support this hypothesis or even points in the opposite direction", and, "Extremely low acceptance rates of elite journals could just as well reflect the need for sensational results, which has been associated with QRPs and other negative aspects of research")? I, for one, would be very appreciative!


I don't know of any convincing evidence but data from links below encouraged me to question those two hypotheses about subjective JLMs:





Can you offer your readers concrete evidence for your hypotheses that publishing in a journal ranked subjectively lower predicts quality or readership or citation?

Pendaran Roberts

Regarding edited volumes, I think those done by top presses are respectable, but probably not as good as a top 20 journal article. The peer review process for invited pieces has a reputation of being less rigorous, and the invitations have a reputation of being based on who you know more than merit.

If you have a great paper, I'd steer away from putting it in an edited volume. That's just what I've heard though from the grapevine.

shane wilkins


Could you spell out a bit more clearly how the google scholar listing of h-indexes that you cited would cast doubt on the claim that more prestigious journals predict more citations? I had the opposite reaction on looking at the list--almost all of the items on list are things that I would have counted as "top" philosophy journals based on reputational surveys at Leiter and elsewhere.

Further, isn't that what Devitt's analysis shows? (genuine question, not sure I understand her methodology at a quick glance) It seems like she's saying once you control for number of citable documents, the top ranked journals at google scholar (which is based on citation data) basically the same list with the top raked journals in reputational surveys, which means reputation predicts citations. (At least the top six in Devitt's list is identical with the top six in Leiter's "top journal without regard to area" ranking. Once we get out of the tippy top places, there's more variability, but that seems like just what I would expect.)

In the Know

Shane has a point, @wesbuc.
Data do not speak for themselves. You need to draw out the inferences that you are making. You may find your readers do not see those inferences as reasonable (or they may see them as reasonable?!). But you should be explicit about what you are drawing from the data.

Marcus Arvan

wesbuc: Thanks for those links. I will definitely take a look. In the meantime, here is some research I quickly did today...

A search of citation rates (http://www.scimagojr.com/journalrank.php?category=1211&order=sjr&ord=desc ) ranks philosophy journals as follows:

1. Phil Review (SJR=3.062)
2. Nous (2.4)
3. Journal of Philosophy (1.992)
4. Ethics (1.938)
5. Australasian Journal of Philosophy (1.747)
6. Mind (1.671)
7. Political psychology (!? this appears to be a psychology journal)
8. Business ethics quarterly (1.534)
9. Philosophers Imprint (1.481)
10. Bulletin of Symbolic Logic (1.405)
11. Mind and Language (1.388)
12. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly (1.294)
13. Review of Symbolic Logic (1.294)
14. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (1.270)
17. Philosophical Studies (1.263)
20. Analysis (1.242)
24. Philosophical Quarterly (1.062)
25. Philosophy of Science (1.017)
26. Journal of Political Philosophy (1.010)

Although these citation rankings don't map perfectly onto standard lists of top-ranked philosophy journals (e.g. http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2009/03/which-are-the-highest-quality-general-philosophy-journals-in-english.html ), the list does seem to me to broadly cohere with the hypothesis that articles in higher-ranked journals tend to be cited and discussed more. I find it especially notable that the top 6 journals on the citation-rate list are indeed widely recognized to be among the most prestigious journals of all in our discipline. The only real "surprises", by my eyes, are Pacific Philosophical Quarterly scoring better than some other journals that are regularly ranked higher in the philosophy world, PPR scoring much lower than its similar-in-prestige sibling Nous, and less so, Business Ethics Quarterly, Mind and Language, Bulletin of Symbolic Logic, etc. (which do not surprise me that much by scoring so highly, as they are all interdisciplinary journals plausibly attracting more readers/authors that straight-up philosophy journals).

Similarly, when I Googled impact factors for several journals in political philosophy (my AOS), I found broadly the same thing. Here are four journals I googled, along with their respective most recent impact factors:

Philosophy and Public Affairs: 1.652
Journal of Political Philosophy: 1.044
Ethics and Global Politics: 0.316
Political Theory: 0.161

Although I was a bit surprised to see Political Theory have such a low impact factor (as it is a relatively well-known journal), otherwise the list coheres with the hypothesis that journal prestige and citation/discussion rates are related. PPA is widely recognize to be the #1 specialty journal in political philosophy, JPP a fairly close second, Political Theory significantly further down the list, and Ethics & Global Politics a relatively new journal.


Shane and In the Know: I said there is nothing convincing I am aware of, asked for evidence, and simply that those things led me to personally doubt the hypotheses. Google has Philosophical Psychology, Review of Philosophy and Psychology, and Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences in the top ten of the field, unlike any subjective ranking I have seen before, as well as a rank order of journals at odds with other reputational surveys I am aware of. Additionally, I linked to PLoS coverage of a paper demonstrating that impact factors do not predict citation very well in some fields where they are relied on heavily, which made me wonder how good informal reputation polling could possibly be at predicting that practice? Marcus: thank you for those data. There is some overlap for sure but I am also unsure what to make of other aspects of it.

shane wilkins


If the worry is just that there are items on the google scholar that don't show up in the ranks on leiter's blog, that's got a simple explanation, I think. Google scholar takes a "wide net" approach to what to count as a philosophy journal, leiter takes a narrower net, and the things that get caught in google's net include some journals that garner more citations by also being read by people outside of philosophy. (And of course that's a good thing!) The journals you mention are all of that type. Professional ethics journals also "outperform" their reputation among philosophers for the same reason.

Another significant factor here is that citation practices between fields vary, so some caution is needed in comparing the h-indexes of journals across fields, or journals that verge on the interdisciplinary with more straight-shot journals. Psychologists cite a lot, philosophers less so, so other things equal, I'd expect Mind and Language or something to do quite well on citation measures, vis a vis a journal that's primarily of interest only to philosophers, without thinking that meant too much.

Also I did find the PLoS thing interesting, but notice that that article is targeted at one very specific impact factor, which is one I personally wasn't familiar with. There are significant criticisms of most of these kinds of things.

shane wilkins


by "most of these things" above I meant "most such proprietary citation weighting schemes". I should say that I think some citation data, such as the h-index *might* be useful, but only given caveats including (but not limited to) the ones I just gave above.

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