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Steven French

Maybe we need a new journal: 'Discussion Notes'

(Here's the obv point where the volume issue bites, at least when it comes to journals that still retain a print version - the more replies you publish, the fewer original papers. So, a reply is going to have to be *really* good to bag the spot that would otherwise go to an original contribution ...)

shane wilkins

My thought was along the same lines as Steve French's, with the addition of an observation about citation rates.

Other things equal, one would prefer to edit a better journal than a worse one. Since one common metric people use to judge the quality of a journal is citation rates, therefore one has a reason to want to increase the citation rate of one's journal. Further, replies to pieces in other journals are less likely to increase your journal's citation rate than original pieces, so it makes sense to bar replies to pieces in other journals. (Note that journals less commonly bar replies to pieces in their own pages--and the citation rate hypothesis explains why a reply piece automatically guarantees at least one citation to the original paper, and a rebuttal by the original author might generate even more.)

Perhaps that's an overly cynical view, but it seems to me that people's behavior in the profession is often shaped by precisely these kind of quantitative metrics.


It already exists. Check out the online journal American Dialectic: http://www.americandialectic.org

Marcus Arvan

Hi Shane: Very cool!

American Dialectic has a very neat format, publishing original articles and then continuously adding published replies below those original articles. I think this is great idea, and hope American Dialectic can rise to greater prominence in virtue of how it generates discussion! (As an aside, I would suggest to the editors of AD that perhaps they might include links to replies below the original titled article on front page of each "volume", below the titles of original papers. Currently, one has to actually click on the original paper to see whether there are any replies! I suspect listing the replies on the first page of the Volume might entice readers more).

At the same time, it is not entirely clear to me that American Dialectic is exactly a "replies only" journal. Rather, as far as I can tell, it publishes original articles which can then be replied to. Although I think this is great, I still think the discipline could use a journal dedicated merely to replies to articles in other journals!


I agree with Marcus. I also think that such a journal is liable to be heavily cited. I see this happening essentially in the following way: suppose you want to use article X as part of an argument. A natural thing to check would be if X had been replied to in the replies journal. If it had, then it would be natural to cite the reply along with the article.

Thus, instead of `See X', the footnote (or whatever) could read `See X. For an interesting response to X, see Y', where Y would be in the replies journal.

Derek Bowman

It is not a "replies only" journal, but I'm sure the SERRC (Social Epistemology Review and Response Collective) would be happy to post short replies to journal articles published elsewhere. See https://social-epistemology.com/about/

What do you think the advantages are of a peer-reviewed replies journal over a venue like the SERRC which is a more open platform affiliated with a peer reviewed journal?


For the reasons Marcus outlined, it's tough to get a pure reply piece published. This is probably why I haven't written any replies except short response papers for BBS and other journals that have this format (it used to be that you pitch your reply, and they then decide to invite you to write the full paper, which is nice in terms of time investment). I have, however, started writing replies to papers that I then put in a larger framework, situating my piece as an original contribution to the field, and there is then just a section of that paper critiquing a recent other paper (I recently got a paper into a top-10 general journal that uses this strategy, and I have done it before, so it pays off). I do think that pure replies have value and not every idea lends itself to being placed in a larger frame like that.


Hi Helen,

Do you have any advice (that you would be comfortable sharing) about how to turn a reply paper into an original contribution. I've got some abandoned reply papers that I put a lot of work and heart into that ended up being rejected by the journals in which the papers to which they were replies appeared. It would be an unexpected delight if it turned out that some of the papers could be turned into something that eventually found a home at a journal.


Marcus Arvan

Hi Helen,

Like 'S', I too would be very interested in any advice you have there. I have tried on a number of occasions to convert replies into "original contributions", but in every case so far I have run into trouble with editors treating (and rejecting) the pieces as a "reply to an article in another journal."



Hi S and Marcus: Sorry for the late reply. You can e-mail me for more details. What I did was start the paper off with an introduction that frames the broader debate. Say you want to reply to some influential philosopher's take on a given problem X, then the intro should be something about that people have worked on X, and there's this unresolved issue about X. You can then also introduce the piece you're responding to as one particularly influential view in the debate on X. You then outline your novel contribution to X. It's important to also have a constructive piece and not just the critique, otherwise it will be read as a reply. That's when you put up the reply to the philosopher you're targeting. I'm not sure this strategy works always, but it has worked for me (in a journal explicit about not publishing replies, and the paper ended up, I think, as an original contribution to the field that's larger than a reply - but my very first draft was a pure reply, which I then broadened out. I started out at about 3500 words, and ended up with about 8500. I think it helps that the paper you're responding to is fairly recent (< 5 years old in philosophy, I guess)


Hi Helen,

Thanks! That is helpful.


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