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Lewis Powell

You didn't note the trade-off that the reviewing is not even remotely blinded on such a model.

Marcus Arvan

Lewis: you're right, I didn't. But isn't the trade-off worth discussing? "Blind" review these days isn't all that blind, to begin with -- and might the aims of blind-review be achieved better in other ways, in light of new technology (i.e. the web)? As I've mentioned before (and imply in my post), the practice seems to work splendidly in physics. It's open and transparent in a way that traditional blind-review isn't, it's collaborative, helping authors improve their work, and it seems to vet good *and* bad work effectively. When people read something they find interesting -- whether it is by a well-known name or someone junior -- they tend to talk about it. As I see it, that's a good thing...far better than traditional blind-review, in which the gatekeepers are reviewers who may or may not even read the paper carefully...

David Morrow

The line from Mumford that really struck a chord with me is: "Nothing is as infuriating as working on a paper for a long time - sometimes years - only to be told by a reviewer who has looked at it for an hour that it's not been thought through."

I've probably mentioned this before, but I think PhilPapers provides much of the relevant infrastructure. People can post unpublished papers there. Other people can find them and comment on them. The biggest obstacle at this point to implementing the Physics/Arvan method of peer review is professional inertia.

Marcus Arvan

David: obviously, that line struck a chord with me as well. ;) Anyway, I think you're right. PhilPapers does provide much of the relevant infrastructure. It would be nice if someone over there made a push in favor of developing a strong and easy-to-navigate messageboard community where newly posted papers might be read and discussed. I know they have messageboards already -- but perhaps they could develop and emphasize that aspect of the site quite a bit more. They have this great resource: a running list of newly posted papers. How cool would it be if they really made a push to develop the communal/messageboard part of things?...a place where people across the profession regularly visited and discussed new papers en masse. I, at any rate, think it would be very cool, for a variety of reasons.

Brad Cokelet

I don't think the peer review system is flawless, but I really worry your proposed alternative will favor those who come from good schools and have good connections. When I review I resist the temptation to look up the author and I think this is a very good thing. I worry that on your system people with connections would get lots of heat in the discussion zone just because of who they know and that this would lead to their papers getting an easy pass. It seems like people would weigh discussion by "big name" people and such more too, and this would only make the problem worse. It is possible I am idealizing how little of an effect this already has, but I am glad there is at least an effort to give Jonny Bad Personality, from No Name Tech a shot at publishing in Ethics, JP, or Nous.

Marcus Arvan

Brad: I certainly get your worry. It is a serious one, to be sure. But I'm not sure about it myself. In light of what I've seen and heard in the physics case, I guess I'm more pessimistic about the merits of traditional peer-review, and more sanguine about the likelihood of good work being recognized and discussed as such on public boards, than you are. In physics -- including not just experimental physics, but abstract theory which is much closer to philosophy -- "nobodies" with great ideas, including independent researchers, have often rocketed up the charts (in terms of paper downloads) and online discussion. In other words, in physics at least, I think opposite of what you suggest has actually occurred. "Nobodies" have a *better* change of getting noticed and discussed, not less. And I'm not sure there's reason to expect any differently in philosophy. I guess I think -- both in philosophy and physics -- people tend to flock towards ideas they find interesting and potentially fruitful.

Brad Cokelet

Well that does sound appealing as an outcome!

Richard Brown

I think this was the idea behind Andy Cullison's Sympoze (http://www.sympoze.com) but I don't know what ever happened to it...

Marcus Arvan

Richard: Sympoze, as I understand it, is (was?) quite different than the physicists' model -- and, I think, much harder to get off the ground. Sympoze's aim was to replace traditional peer review with crowdsourced reviews. The physicists' model is different, and works within the traditional institutional framework. Physicists still have to send their papers to journals for review. It's just that the papers are already so widely discussed on messageboards that reviewers know whether to accept the manuscript the minute they receive it (as they've most likely already read the paper on Arxiv and seen whether others in the profession accept the paper as important. I think this is a much better approach for reasons of institutional inertia. Whereas Sympoze aims to start a whole new enterprise (a profoundly difficult endeavor to pull off), the physicists' model just supplements the traditional peer review model with widespread online discussion -- something I expect the people over at PhilPapers could probably pull off easily if they made a real push towards revamping their messageboard system and forefronting it on the site.

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