Our books

Become a Fan

« In Defense of Publishing in "Bad" Journals | Main | Another Reader Poll: How similar is too similar? »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Mark Alfano

My (unsupported) hunch about this stuff is that it's fine to send the paper around by email. I'd be a little more hesitant to post it on my website unless I really thought that it was near-publishable already. About the email method: in my experience senior and rising-star junior scholars are often quite generous about providing feedback, even if you send them an unsolicited message. Say something like, "I'd be very grateful if you were able to find some time in your busy schedule to take a look at this paper," and see what happens. I've had plenty of non-responses and quite a few people tell me they don't have time (fair enough), but then I've also gotten some really good feedback.

Marcus Arvan

Thanks, Mark. You're not the first person I've heard that from. I guess I need to be less shy!

Kyle Whyte

In terms of SSRN: the folks in law I know who use it avidly say as one of their reasons for doing so that it actually "publishes" one's initial draft, which makes it so that anyone who would steal one's ideas would be doing the same thing as if they stole them from a fully published, polished article in a peer reviewed journal. Plus SSRN provides a citation system, and I see SSRN citations all the time in the references of peer reviewed publications. My thought has been to agree with the legal scholars, which would mean that if one has a really great paper topic, put it up on SSRN. For humanities scholars it's not a great place to get feedback, but it does claim one's original ideas. Doing so certainly, however, spoils one's being blind reviewed. Though from what I can tell, disciplines that use SSRN heavily must have given up on that goal. Plus, for any paper that I've written and presented at at least one conference, even if no version of it is online, it's going to get tracked down by a curious reviewer and the identification will be made.

Trevor Hedberg

I imagine this is a common problem for professors. At the University of Tennessee, we recently instituted a research seminar to help faculty members get feedback on papers, particularly those that are much too long for conferences. (Some of those that we've discussed are over 10,000 words.) A professor or lecturer distributes a paper to the department about two weeks in advance of a session. The actual meeting lasts for 90 minutes. There's an assumption that everyone present has already read the paper, so the person presenting only takes about 15-20 minutes to highlight the key points or the areas he or she is most concerned about. The rest of the time is spent discussing the paper with an eye toward helping the author improve it. Sessions occur every 3-4 weeks during the semester.

I'm not sure how feasible this sort of solution would be for smaller departments, though. If you teach at a school with only 2-3 other faculty members and none of them work in your area, this process might not be very helpful.

David Morrow

Kyle, I've heard the same thing about SSRN from an economist. He tries to get a draft on SSRN as soon as he can, so that he can "stake out" the idea. He said it was especially important when working from a recently published data set. I guess the analogy would be that if you're working on a particular response to a recently published paper/book, you can lay claim to that response.

Some very minor protection against non-blind peer review would be to circulate things under a working title that differs from the title submitted to the journal.

Here's a variation on Trevor's suggestion: One of the other junior faculty members here at UAB organized a "faculty philosophy club." Two or three of us get together once a week over coffee, beer, lunch, or whatever and talk informally about philosophy. Sometimes we talk about our current projects, sometimes about other things. The only rule is that we can't talk about students, departmental politics, administrators, etc. I've found it to be enormously helpful for my own work, even though the other junior faculty aren't in my AOS.

Kyle Whyte

David: Those are good ideas. Regarding feedback within a department, here is what I know. When I was at the University of Memphis, there was a weekly (Fridays, same time, same place) talk given by a doctoral student, faculty, or visitor. Attendance was essentially mandatory, so all faculty and graduate students attended. There were always receptions right after. The feedback perhaps wasn't as good as what Trevor described at UT, mainly because no one saw the papers in any form beforehand, and they were full length presentations. So those outside the AOS didn't seem to always have enough time to absorb the information presented to them. At MSU, there are some informal groups that get together, similar to what David describes, but I don't think meeting as often. One interesting program we have at MSU is called "external connections." It awards junior and associate level faculty a small amount of funds to spend time with a senior scholar in that person's AOS. Money can be spent on attending a few conferences that that person goes to, or actually swapping campus visits. I'm sure programs like this exist elsewhere.

Marcus Arvan

Mark: I can't thank you enough for your advice. I tried it and already have a top scholar in the area agree to read the paper!

Andreas Wolkenstein

We have something similar to the research seminars mentioned by Kyle and Trevor at the Ethics Center at the University of Tübingen. Members of the Center but also guests can present their papers or ideas. The good thing is that you are also invited to present only rough ideas or outline some thoughts on any philosophical issue you have and that puzzle you. So it is not needed that you have a full (working) paper. Those who attend the seminar which takes place 4-5 times per semester will then discuss the ideas and (try to) give helpful input. Of course this procedure also implies that you do not necessarily have read the papers prior to the seminar so that new ideas or arguments still have to be explained. However, as the program is published at the beginning of the semester, you can choose the talks you are interested in and where you already have a kind of expertise. I pretty much like this kind of event because for me this really represents the core of science: coming together and debating ideas that will then lead to new knowledge. With the internet, of course, things are even getting better because you have the opportunity to discuss your ideas internationally and even attend conferences or give talks without travelling, for instance by using Skype - although I still prefer real travelling.


On the issue of whether or not to post stuff online. I tend to post a lot of draft papers online, even relatively unpolished ones. I don't see a big problem with that as I try to make it clear that they are works in progress. Sometimes I do get useful comments like this, but beyond that, it's a sign of being active, and there's a chance that someone organising a conference or editing a volume on the topic will come across your draft...

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Subscribe to the Cocoon

Job-market reporting thread

Current Job-Market Discussion Thread

Philosophers in Industry Directory


Subscribe to the Cocoon