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I've tried sending off replies as regular articles, and have had the exact same experience as Marcus. Well, I've heard one of two things, (1) We don't publish papers responding to articles in other journals, or (2) We don't publish papers that are only a response to one person (I get this if my paper is addressing an article in the same journal.)

Now, on the one hand, I understand the point. But on the other I agree with the OP that we have all seen articles published as regular papers that are basically replies. Indeed, I have seen a lot of these. So I am curious how they get in, because when I try to do something similar my paper doesn't even get sent out to reviewers.

I also have a related horror story. I sent a replish piece to a top 10 journal as a regular article. I was told this is a good paper but it is too narrowly focused on this one author, so can you broaden the paper and resubmit? I decided to do it since the editor specifically asked. I went through 6! (yes 6) rounds of revise and resubmits spanning a year and a half and the paper was eventually rejected, due to reviewer #2's (of course!) opposition.


I have published numerous papers that take as their point of departure a single article. In that sense they are replies of sorts. But I contextualize their argument into the larger landscape, and then generalize my critique, showing how the same criticisms I advance apply to other players in the field. That is a strategy worth pursuing. It has got me papers in Synthese and other respected journals. It is crucial, though, that the article that is the point of departure is published in the journal to which you are submitting.
Though I can think of an exception. P.D. Magnus' critique of Kitcher's Galilean strategy (Kitcher in JPhil, Magnus in BJPS).

another postdoc

Amanda, that sounds awful. Were you able to send it someplace else?

Regarding the strategy: I think it depends on the nature of the reply. If your argument is primarily negative (the author made this error, so their conclusion doesn't hold), then it's hard to cast it as anything but a narrow reply. But if your argument is positive (the author doesn't consider this point, which is original and answers their concerns, so their conclusion doesn't hold), then it's much more like a standard article even though it's focused on a specific author. This latter kind of paper is doing something different--making a positive contribution to an ongoing debate by replying to a specific instigating case.

I mention this because I had a reply paper that was primarily negative morph into this kind of positive thing and it seems like it is being taken up more seriously. It's also relatively easy to reframe the paper that makes this kind of positive contribution into a broader piece, where you cast the author you're replying to as simply exemplifying the general form of argument you're addressing and the focus is on your positive contribution rather than a specific author's error.


Postdoc funnily enough I am currently working on a second revise and resubmit for this same paper at another top journal. I almost cried (okay not really) when I got the response to my revision that asked me to revise again. It will be pretty rough if it is again rejected.


As long as I am on this soap box, I want to add that at the journal where I did 6 revisions, several times the editor encouraged me to keep revising the paper. I thought there is no way he could reject this after encouraging me to work on revisions for 1.5 years. Well, apparently, he could.


Amanda, that's awful. You should tell us the journal so we can avoid it.


It starts with an S. I believe you have published there, Pendaran. So maybe my experience (and I believe this journal has a lot of editors and has had a lot of turn around) was just a one off bad luck sort of thing. Still sucks though.


If you are referring to Synthese, it’s hard for me to believe they would ever treat someone like that. They’ve been very professional with me with all 4 of my papers published by them. I’ve submitted I think 9 papers to that journal over the years and every time was a professional experience. I could not recommend them more highly. And I’m not a journal suck up kind of guy. I will say here that I have not had good experiences with philosophical studies. Specifically, they have never responded to an email. I noticed on dailynous people complaining about them too.

Was this many years ago?

Are our experiences really this random?

Anyway, really sorry this happened. It would make me cry.


To say something about replies. My experience is avoid them unless you can’t. What I mean is if something is published that you just have to unload on then do what you must. But in general of the three replies I’ve written only one is published.

Marcus Arvan

Pendaran: Fair points - though the thing about replies is that it's possible to write them super-quickly, so the sunk costs may be far lower than for standalone papers.


Hey Marcus. Good point. So many of my papers have ended up 9k words or more. I think I have a hard time writing short stuff. haha! Writing an analysis style piece gives me nightmares. So, my replies were not easier or faster for me to write, in fact probably harder or just as hard.

I'm probably not the norm though!


Yes it was synthese. And every experience is different, so I wont judge them forever for it. I half blame the journal (at least for my experience) and half reviewer number two. This reviewer became increasingly belligerent after each review and every single time came up with NEW things to respond to, instead of addressing how well I responded to the old comments. I could tell the first reviewer (who really was pushing for publication) was beginning to feel sorry for me. I tried to address this to the editor to no real avail. He just kept pointing out ways I could respond to the new comments, without really being familiar (it seemed) with the topic. I will now anxiously await what happens with this RandR at a different place.


And no, this was not many years ago, just a few months ago. But I know they have many editors and have turned things over a number of times.


Hey Amanda, very sorry you had that experience with Synthese. The Synthese I know would have gotten a third opinion on the paper probably, especially if one of the referees was being rude and unprofessional.


Thanks Pendaran. Such is academia, we all must move on from these experiences.

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