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I agree. Send an email saying you withdraw the paper - that's it, you are done. Any problems that might arise are clearly the journal's problem/fault at this point.

As for what should be done: One of the things that I think could help is openly naming and shaming. This, of course, would be more effective if done by powerful persons in the profession. Short of that, I don't think there is much. Journals would probably be happy to get less submissions! (and for those who want to defend journals. This isn't one missed email. This is a string of them. In my past experience journals ignored me until by "big name" adviser wrote on my behalf. ugh.)

Pendaran Roberts

I agree with Marcus and Amanda. After you've sent an email saying that you withdraw, the paper is withdrawn. It doesn't matter whether they notice or reply.

I think if we collectively assert certain rules that we can improve things generally. Here are my rules.

1. If a journal doesn't respond to my emails after 3 attempts over a month, I withdraw the paper.

2. After 3 months I start to email the journal for an update once a month.

3. After 1 month if the editorial manager has not been updated at all, I will email asking for an update or explanation.

Funny story. I submitted a paper to Philosophical Studies once. The editorial manager didn't update at all, and I emailed after a month. Could never get a response after repeated attempts. So, I withdrew the paper and sent it elsewhere. The journal never responded at all. I got a rejection a week after receiving an R&R at a different journal many months later.


I once had a situation in which journal X initially replied to a query after 4 months, didn't reply to my 8 month and 10 month query. I sent them an email saying I was withdrawing the paper. No reply. I submitted it next to journal Y. It is now 12 months after initially submitting to Journal X, and I, within a few weeks, receive a R and R to Journal X and Journal Y. It was Journal X's problem, so I didn't let them know about the error in case I got rejected from Y.


On the broader issue of what should be done about journals like this: it might be helpful to complain directly to the publisher of the journal (rather than the editors) since they have a financial stake in the reputation of the journal (and are less likely to care about any deserved or undeserved reputation within academia). One complaint is hardly likely to make a difference, but if a lot of people start telling the publisher of a journal that they will not submit to it because of lax editorial standards then they might take some action to improve those standards.

Sam Duncan

I agree with a lot of what Pendaran and Amanda say. Despite what you may hear don't be patient. If you haven't heard anything in three months email them. If they don't reply, pull it, and if they don't give you a decision in about five or six months pull it no matter how many empty reassurances they might send you. Patience has never paid off for me at least. It requires an assumption that the journal editors are acting with at least a minimum of concern and competence and you simply can't assume that. (I once let a paper sit for four months at a journal and when I finally emailed them the editor confessed that "it had been misplaced" and then desk rejected it with no comments a few days later. I sent an openly angry email back to this guy at least trying to get him to drop the passive voice dodge and take responsibility for losing it and wasting four months of my time but nope.) I agree with Amanda that we should name and shame but I don't suppose this is the place. On the other side of the coin there are journals that have always done a good job and seem well run so we should name the good ones. I've never had a bad experience with the Journal of the APA, Ergo, the British Journal for the History of Philosophy, History of Philosophy Quarterly, or the Southern Journal of Philosophy. Even when they rejected I felt that me and my work were treated with the proper level of respect and care.


I also concur with the above suggestions. Write a polite but direct email withdrawing the paper. Save all email correspondence. Forward that correspondence to someone at the publisher. Submit the paper elsewhere and don't look back.

A Philosopher

A few thoughts:

1. The ratio of my good-to-bad journal experiences is about 9/1. If we count waits over 4 months (or desk rejections over 1) as bad regardless of whether the journal keeps you up-to-date, it's maybe 7/1?

2. So I wonder how widespread the problem is. But even if it's not terribly widespread, given how important even a single publication is for early-career professionals, it still seems to be a serious problem. Another factor: there aren't *that* many journals out there, so even a few bad apples really cuts down on potential places to submit.

3. The double standard noted by Amanda above is particularly egregious. Given the role of journals in the profession, I think everyone can agree that journal editors ought not have one set of practices for handling famous philosophers and another for handling everybody else. I know Amanda isn't the only one with this experience, either.

4. It's hard to name-and-shame when you're a precariously employed philosopher depending on the favor of journal editors as a body of people.

5. My memory is fuzzy, but didn't the APA release a statement on journal best-practices awhile ago? If not, why not?

6. Regarding naming-and-shaming, it would perhaps be most effective for the APA to do this. A few volunteers could be recruited to keep track of an email to which philosophers can send complaints about journals which fall outside those best practices. Based on those emails, follow-ups with the journals, and perhaps other forms of auditing, that APA committee could keep a simple list of journals which are, and aren't, in compliance with the best-practices. (Obviously some standard should be set which avoids too many false positives, so that journals don't fall out of compliance from one complaint, etc.)


Thank you very much for the comments, everyone. I'll withdraw the paper. And I'm sorry to hear that many of you have experienced something like this as well.

When it comes to what's to be done - I agree very much with (4) posted by A Philosopher above.


Sam: FWIW, I've had a bad experience with the JAPA (it took too long [4 months], and the brief comments were neither constructive nor acceptable). I also know several other people working in my area who've had bad experiences with the JAPA (which leads me to suspect it might be subfield-specific).

Sam Duncan


Hmm, maybe I've just gotten lucky. I mean I've had pretty good experiences with Phil Review (less than four months and super helpful comments in one case quick desk reject in another) but man do I ever know that that's not typical.

Kenny Pearce

I agree with the general advice being offered here, though if you are really hoping to get in to the journal you might be better to send an email saying you are *considering* withdrawing, and then if they don't reply to that email in a week or two send an email actually withdrawing.

I have had good experiences with most of the journals Sam Duncan mentions, including JAPA, and I haven't had bad experiences with any of them. (There are a few on his list I've never submitted to.) The best average quality of comments I've received (across a variety of different verdicts) is from Phil Imprint, but I recently talked to someone who got a desk reject with no comments at all from them, which would be *very* irritating after paying a submission fee. (It's one thing when Analysis does it—no submission fee, and response within a couple weeks—quite another if there's a submission fee and/or a long wait.) JHP has, within the last few years, started providing one paragraph explanations from the editorial committee with their desk rejections, which is nice (especially because they send a lot of desk rejections!). They also usually have high quality referee comments (when things do go to external referees), though their turnaround times and general editorial practices are not as good as BJHP.

The most obvious way of punishing bad journal practices is to refuse to referee for those journals. (Refusing to submit to them is not something you do to punish them, it's something you do because you don't want to deal with them.) However, a lot of what's wrong with the current journal publishing system has to do with the difficulty of finding quick and competent referees, so there's a worry about just snowballing and making things worse for people who don't know not to submit there. I faced this issue just recently. A few years ago, I had such a bad experience with a journal that I decided I would not submit there again as long as the same editor was in charge. Then I got a referee request from them. I ultimately decided to do it in the hope of making things better for the other author, and also because there really isn't another journal with the same aims and scope and we need one. But I am not sure this was the right decision.


I've submitted 4 papers to phil imprint. All 4 were quickly desk-rejected with no comments after I paid $20. Two of those papers were later published in top 20 journals.


Like Amanda I've sent a few papers to phil imprint. They were all desk rejected or returned without comments. I think they've gotten a hundred bucks from me or so. Many of these papers were later published in other top 20 journals. I don't submit there any more obviously. haha!


Good info an phil imprint...thanks.

Michael Barkasi

In defense of Phil Imprint, I've submitted there 2-3 times and (despite all rejections) I've always gotten timely and high-quality comments from the referees.

The negativity about the $20 fee sans comments feels misplaced to me. You aren't paying for referee comments, you're paying into the operating expenses of the journal. And the thing about publishing later in another top-20 journal, that happens all the time, at every journal, right?

For myself, I would happily pay $60-80/semester in submission fees if it meant all the journals I submitted to were like Phil Imprint (timely, open-access, simple, etc).

Sam Duncan

Since we're on the subject I guess I'll go on and say it.... Phil Imprint is the journal I was referring to earlier that lost my paper and then desk rejected it a few days after finding it. I'd had decent enough experiences with them before that-- a couple of desk rejections and one set of comments where half of them were pretty useful-- but after that experience I'll never submit there again. It's hands down the worst experience I've ever had with a journal and that's saying something. I don't need to publish for my job and I was angry enough. I can't imagine how I would have felt if I had a tenure clock ticking or was an adjunct worried about staleness.

Marcus Arvan

Just another quick data-point. I've submitted a handful of papers to JAPA, and had a good experience with them each time--good turnaround (no more than 3 months each) and (for the most part) helpful comments.

Kenny Pearce

Michael Barkasi, my experiences with Phil Imprint are like yours, and for the reasons you mention I'm not inclined to complain about the price. (It's not expensive, after all, it's just that we're comparing it to a bunch of other places that don't charge submission fees at all.) But the consistently excellent referee comments are among the things that, in my experience, have been best about Imprint. I was surprised to learn that other people had had different experiences than mine.

For a while Faith and Philosophy was providing substantive reports to authors of every single paper it received. (I don't know whether that's still happening.) I'm not sure it's feasible or desirable for every journal to do that. However, providing comments on a larger percentage of submissions and/or providing some brief explanation for desk rejects (as JHP does) are among the things that I would call 'good editorial practices', and good editorial practices+open access is what I feel I'm paying for at Imprint.


The issue with Phil Imprint it seems to me is that they have a high desk rejection rate but provide no comments when they desk reject. If you're going to pay 20 dollars, it seems you at least deserve some kind of explanation when your submission is rejected. This is especially the case when journals that don't charge anything are likely to get you a pair of referee comments. Referee comments are not always that helpful but sometimes they are, and at least you get something for your time. Phil Imprint is fast, but it feels like your money is just going into a void. I don't like that experience at all. Feels like theft. I'm not saying it is. Maybe they read the papers, but maybe they don't. From the author's perspective, there is no way of telling what they're doing, if anything.

Michael Barkasi

Re: Pendaran, I just don't see the submission fee at Phil Imprint as transactional. When submitting, I'm not giving money in exchange for some good, whether that be even just their consideration. *Someone* has to pay the costs of running a journal, and for most journals that someone is libraries, and instead of $20 it's a massive subscription fee. When submitting, my fee is a donation to cover a part of those costs, so libraries can avoid a (very) large subscription fee. I've made the decision that this is a good way to distribute the financial burden of running a journal, one I'm happy to participate in. Those, anyway, are my thoughts on the matter.

Sam Duncan

I'm not sure that a journal needs to go with a high desk rejection rate to keep a reasonable turn around or publish high quality work. The BJHP for instance seems to desk reject very little and both has a quick turn around and maintains a very high standard.
Having said that I am sympathetic to a journal using the desk reject liberally and I've no problem with making authors pay. (I'd even be fine with a sliding scale that charged folks like me with a full time job more than 20). However, I think if a journal is going to desk reject a lot they need to make sure that the decisions aren't arbitrary. I like Ergo's model here a lot. They aim to desk reject the majority of papers that come in but they have area editors so the paper is read by someone who has a good bit of background knowledge and not just by a general editor who might know little to nothing about the area you're working on or even have some sort of bias against it. Now of course that wouldn't necessarily eliminate all arbitrariness and prejudice but at least if you say sent a paper into them on some specialized and/or not so trendy topic like say Sartre or medieval theories of perception you'd know that you got rejected because the editor didn't like your reading of Sartre or the medievals and not just because he or she thinks Sartre or the scholastics aren't good philosophy. More than that every journal ought to have a system where the author can check the status of their paper without having to write the editor. Phil Imprint is the only major journal I know that doesn't have something like that. If after a week or two I'd checked and seen that my paper was still in the "awaiting initial review" or whatever stage I could have known something had gone amiss much more quickly.


When phil imprint first started I think there was some talk about having different rates for grad students, adjuncts, and professors. I would feel better about things if they did that, but $20 can be expensive for people who are grad students or adjuncts. I'm sure they could run their journal by changing the fee system to account for this. Perhaps it is harder than I think. I recall one of the most frustrating things as a grad student was professors really not understanding just how financially difficult life was. I didn't have and couldn't get credit cards, which no one seemed to understand or believe. Of course, I think imprint doesn't want grad students submitting, so perhaps that explains it.

Michael Barkasi

Amanda's point about the financial difficulties of graduate student life is well taken. $20 dollars is not a trivial amount of money on most graduate-student stipends.

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