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05/20/2014

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Elisa Freschi

Marcus, I see your points but I can't help playing the role of the advocatus diaboli:
----*if* you care about anonymous peer review (I am not completely sure I do), then posting unbpublished articles will be a problem
---A few days back, a colleague advised me to take down from Academia an article of mine which has been published on a Springer journal and of which I am thus only allowed to put on line a pre-print version which is distnat enough from the final one. He said that reading that non-final version would led people think that the article is weaker than it actually is. Accordingly, I wonder: WOULD REALLY EVERYONE PUBLISH ON PHILPAPERS EVERY DRAFT, if she knew that her drafts were really going to be read? I guess not, since many would worry that potential examiners, the ones one's life depends on, might get a wrong first impression of their work. Thus, I wonder whether publishing on PhilPapers, if it became really the place where everything is found and everyone refers to, would not become similar to publishing on a journal, with people hesitating to submit a paper unless they are 100% sure it is finalised. Then, would not we start soon a new thread about whether we should not publish drafts (not finalised papers) on, say, Academia.edu, in order not to get scooped?

Michael Falgoust

For an arvix-like philosopher's site, why not use paired encryption keys (as in PGP)? If every paper is signed by key, authors can identify themselves as holders of the corresponding private key in the event of a priority conflict. Open source developers use this method to sign changes to code so that a malicious actor can't simply push bad code upstream.

Paul Gowder

The real problem is that the concept of priority is idiotic. Why should it matter who published theory/claim/result X six months first, when both people have obviously been working on it for a long time beforehand? This is academia, not the marketing of patented products; there's no reason the idea can't be credited to both (Leibniz AND Newton), both can't be cited, etc., except when there is a question of actual misconduct like plagiarism.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Paul: Thanks for your comment. I appreciate your point about priority -- but simple fact is in this world that the researcher(s) who "get there first" are the one(s) credited with the discovery. Unless and until this practice changes, priority is something we have reason to worry about. It will hardly come as a consolation to the person who is not given credit for an idea that, "You know, the concept of priority is idiotic anyway!"

Hi Michael: I think that is a great idea, though I must confess I know nothing of encryption keys. Also, couldn't philpapers just have a (non-encrypted) time-stamp of when a given paper was first uploaded?

Hi Elisa: Those are all good worries to raise! But of course that isn't a reason not to have the practice. Physicists, for instance, are careful about what they upload to the Arxiv because their submissions *cannot* (by agreed-to terms of use) be deleted later on. I think something like this on philpapers might deter people from uploading bad stuff, but still encourage them to upload *something* if they really care about establishing priority on a particular idea/argument.

Anthony Carreras

Marcus, I am skeptical that scooping is that big of a problem for philosophy, and until I see more evidence that it is running rampant, I'm not inclined to worry too much about it.

Two reasons I am skeptical:

1) I think it must be extremely rare for two or more people to defend the exact same idea in the exact same way. One reason it is rare is because in philosophy (and perhaps this is one way philosophy differs from the sciences), we shape the problems we are trying to solve as much as we do the solutions to those problems. Even if we are working on roughly the same problem and arrive at roughly the same solution, I can shape my main research question in such a way that my answer to it is going to be different enough from yours. (At least, it will sound different enough.)

2) This is related to #1. Since #1 tends to be true, even if you have been "scooped," it probably won't kill you anyway. Here's a real life example: Simon Keller published "Friendship and Belief" in 2004 in Philosophical Papers, in which he defended the thesis that good friendship requires that we form beliefs about our friends in epistemically irresponsible ways. Two years later in 2006, Sarah Stroud published "Epistemic Partiality in Friendship" in *Ethics* in which she defended *the exact same thesis*. Though if you read both papers, they are still different in a lot of ways. They focus on different facets of friendship and develop different arguments to defend the main thesis. Anyway, my point is, Stroud got scooped, and yet she still got her idea published in Ethics. There is actually a footnote in her paper in which she gives credit to Keller. She writes:

"...there is now an admirable paper (Simon Keller, “Friendship and Belief,” Philosophical Papers 33 [2004]: 329–51, which appeared while the present article was being reviewed for publication) which develops many of the same themes I highlight here, although without linking them to the general notion of partiality. Keller is concerned in that paper to bring out the doxastic implications of friendship and to consider their epistemic status (as I also do here), and many of his conclusions, I find, anticipate and parallel those I advance in Sec. I."

Obviously, the editors at Ethics did not think that her paper did not deserve to be published just because another philosopher had already defended the same idea in print.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Anthony: Thanks for your comment.

Your first point is one that I was told by my graduate advisor -- that, chances are, even if someone publishes something similar to what you're working on, it will not be the *same*. While I think this is right -- and that scooping may not be that large of a problem -- I still think it can be good to use some online fora and disciplinary-wide norms to put people at ease. For there are occasional cases (I've had a few papers that I worked on for several years turned down by reviewers who said essentially, "X has already given this argument in paper Y"). When you've been working on something for -- I don't know, the better part of a decade! -- it can be really nerve wracking wondering whether this will happen to you. And online databases are one way to resolve the issue.

On your second point, you are also quite right. Getting scooped in many cases may only have a negligible impact on a person's career. One can always write a new paper on something else! That being said, some cases of getting scooped *may* have enormous impact on a person's career. I've known people who did their dissertations on X, and in the several years they were doing the dissertation, a bunch of other people published basically a bunch of really similar stuff on X -- thus making the person's dissertation "passe" before they had even finished!

Moti Mizrahi

Hi Paul,

I think that many who are concerned with priority are concerned with plagiarism as well (at least I am). Let me give you one recent example. In 2012, I published a paper in which I give a counterexample to “Ought Implies Can” (OIC).

Mizrahi, M. (2012). Does 'Ought' Imply 'Can' from an Epistemic Point of View? Philosophia 40 (4):829-840.

In 2013, a paper published in Ratio made an argument against OIC that is *very* similar to mine.

King, A. (2013). Actions That We Ought, But Can't. Ratio. DOI: 10.1111/rati.12043.

Since the arguments in these papers are *very* similar, suspicions of plagiarism may arise. Fortunately, a little bit of digging will reveal that my paper was received by Philosophia on July 26, 2012, whereas the Ratio paper was first published online on December 18, 2013.

In addition to priority and plagiarism concerns, there is another thing I am concerned about, as I have seen this happen in philosophy. Since King (2013) does not cite my (2012), and since Ratio is perceived by some as a more “prestigious” journal than Philosophia, King (2013) might still get the credit (e.g., in future citations) for undermining OIC.

Guglielmo Feis

Maybe we focus on priority and scooping but we are interested in citation practice. What we'd like to see is having the "state of the art" on a certain issue to be presented without omissions.

Assaf Weksler

Anthony says that scooping is not a serious issue in philosophy partly because it is “extremely rare for two or more people to defend the exact same idea in the exact same way … Even if we are working on roughly the same problem and arrive at roughly the same solution, I can shape my main research question in such a way that my answer to it is going to be different enough from yours. (At least, it will sound different enough.) “
In the same vein, a philosopher recently suggested to me that philosophers “don't care about priority in the same way [scientists do]. I'm not sure exactly why. Part of it is that everyone seems to have their own language, so even when an idea is duplicated, it's distorted enough (or camouflaged enough) that the duplication isn't as striking.”

I’m a bit puzzled by this. Here is why. I agree that philosophers use different “languages”, and that they emphasize different aspects of an idea and so on, but I think that nevertheless it is quite clear to us who made certain philosophical discoveries first. Here are some examples from philosophy of mind.

It is widely known (among scholars in the field) that Brian Loar was the first to suggest the idea of “phenomenal concepts” (for the purpose of blocking anti-materialist arguments), and that David Papineau was the first to present an important version thereof, namely the idea that phenomenal concepts are “quotational”. Both ideas were subsequently defended by many others, but everyone knows (despite differences in “language”) that these other philosopher were not the first to suggest them.

In 1983 Peacocke presented the “trees” example against representationalism (there are two trees of equal height, one further away from the other. The tree that is further away looks smaller. The challenge is to accommodate this example within a representationalist theory). One response is that the experience of the tree as smaller is illusory, another is that the experience veridically represents the tree as having some relational property like “subtending a smaller visual angler”. The credits for these responses belong to Bill Lycan and Gilbert Harman, respectively. Many have defended the same ideas since then, and have used different “languages”, and made various changes to them, but there is no doubt about who suggested them first.

Relatedly, consider the following quotations (emphasis added). The first is from the editor’s introduction to philpaper’s phenomenal concepts category: “The phenomenal concept strategy *was introduced* in Loar 1990.”
The second and the third are from SEP’s entries on teleological theories of content and on the disjunctive theory of perception, respectively: “Millikan (1984) and Papineau (1984) *were the first* to offer non-informational, ‘benefit-based’ or ‘consumer-based,’ versions of teleological theories of mental content.”
“Hinton is generally *credited with being the first* to demarcate clearly the disjunctivist stance, and the fact that the disjunctive theory of perception is so named is due to his way of framing the view.”

Assuming these are common, it seems that philosophers not only know who has presented certain ideas first, but also care about this enough to explicitly say who was first in introductions and encyclopedia entries.

Moti Mizrahi

Hi Guglielmo,

I think that issues of priority, scooping, and citation are interconnected. Even if one has published a paper that makes an original contribution to the literature, one can still "get scooped" and "lose priority" insofar as one's paper isn't cited (and then forgotten) while a paper that make a similar argument is. In that case, it won't matter anymore that one's paper was published first.

David Bourget

Here's something that might be helpful that we could do on PhilPapers.
We could give submitting authors the option of flagging a submission
as draft under review. This could have the following effects:

1. In order to lessen the risk of "Google reviewing", a draft under
review would only be accessible through a direct link. Authors would
be able to share their papers via PP but they would not be findable
through any kind of search.

2. In order to view a draft under review, one would have to be signed
in with a PhilPapers account, and there would be a (potentially
public) log of viewers.

3. The discussion space associated with a draft under review would be
moderated by the submitter. (Presumably, they want feedback.)

4. A draft under review would always be accessible for download, even
when replaced by a more recent version.

In addition, we could have a public policy encouraging citation of
unpublished work using canonical PhilPapers URLs or DOIs.

Having a public, verifiable record like this is a precondition for
dealing with many of the issues discussed on this thread. However, the
main thing that is missing is an authority that would use such
information to address such issues.

One thing that is coming up on PhilPapers and might help a little bit
in absence of a central authority is a feature whereby users can add
papers under "Related papers". Using this feature, someone whose draft
has been scooped could link the draft to the scooping paper, which
would make it more likely that their priority is recognized.

We're open to suggestions. Don't hesitate to share your thoughts (send
me an email, because I don't know that I will be notified of future
posts here).

Moti Mizrahi

Hi David,

I like your suggestions, especially having a policy of citing papers by PhilPapers URLs or DOIs (a la arXiv for physics) and the "Related Papers" feature.

As for the issue of a central authority, perhaps the APA could step in here and do something about citation practices in the profession.

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