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I wonder what folks think about the following publishing issue.

I just received a second R&R from journal x regarding a particular paper.

This second set of referee comments is mixed. One referee’s comments are on the mark and helpful. But, the second referee’s comments are a bit off the mark, by my lights, and she or he recommends that the editor not publish the paper.

Now, the editor’s communication regarding this second R&R seems fairly positive because he or she uses language like “before we can publish your paper you must respond to these referee comments.”

My question is how much should I countenance or revise in light of the negative referee comments? I ask because seemingly the editor is not taking the second referee’s recommendation to not publish the paper.


A few years ago, before I secured a permanent position, I applied for a tenure-track position at the institution where I was on a year-to-year fixed-term contract. Department members seemed favorably disposed to my teaching, service, and research. When a tenure-track position in my AOS was advertised at the institution, I jumped at the opportunity to apply.

One member of the department sent an email to other members of the department indicating he was against my candidacy for the tenure-track position. According to the email, which one member of the department forwarded to me, his reasons were that people who obtain fixed-term contracts shouldn't be hired at those institutions permanently and that people on fixed-term contracts were less talented than those who get a tenure-track position directly out of graduate school.

You've discussed the precarious relationship between permanent department members and fixed-term contractors on this blog, but what should we make of this professor's behavior? Is it prejudice? Or is it mere preference?

Tenured SLAC Chair


This is a fine line to walk. I would say that in the event you do not make changes as per referee #2, that it would be wise to explicitly state why you do not feel they are necessary. This too requires a delicate hand. By the sounds of it, something like what I describe would satisfy the editor.

Sorry for being so vague.


Here's a question I hope can be answered. How short is too short for a book? To make it more concrete, I have a book idea, and am thinking it'd end up being around 50,000 words. I know that's quite short for a philosophy book, but short books are always better! Moreover, I can say what I want to say in that many words. (Why not do journal articles? I have. I'd like to do an elaborated defense of some things I've written on, as well as bring in new, related material.) Should I consider adding more material to make it longer, or should I try to swing it as a short book?


Some publishers want book manuscripts of very specific lengths, say 90,000 to 110,000 words. So such publishers will generally not be interested in a short book. But there are now series devoted to short books, like Springerbriefs, published by Springer, of course. Some of the books in the collection are quite good. If you were already an accomplished author, then many publishers would publish whatever Bullshit you have (I hope this joke is not lost everyone).


Anon: you can email editors at publishing houses directly and ask this question. They'll normally get back to you quickly. There's really no reason not to do this.


Routledge has a series for short books. Some other publishers too. So you can make it work. You just have to find the right spot. And yeah, established people could probably publish a 10k word book!


(Part of the reason I haven't been super alarmed by this issue is that the paper in question is a short side project sort of thing rather than my main research project, which has been doing better than this paper.)

But anyways: say a paper of yours has been under review for about a year, and that you started checking in on its status after the four month mark, and you haven't gotten a reply to your 3-4 short, polite inquiries that you've sent since then.

Is it fine to just send an email saying "I am withdrawing this MS", and then to proceed as if the MS has been withdrawn? I get the impression I shouldn't expect a reply (or for anyone to read my email), which makes me a bit worried about effectively double-submitting when I resubmit the paper elsewhere. But on the other hand, this paper has probably just been "lost" this whole time.


Is there a meaningful difference between going on the job market as a lecturer and a visiting assistant professor or are both viewed equally?

Obviously, the institution where you're employed and other details have to be considered, but all things being equal, will the title alone confer or convey any meaningful difference or are both viewed as what they are: temporary, contingent appointments?


I don't know about how they appear, but many lecturer positions are permanent. Our schools has 5 permanent lecturers and while technically their contract must be renewed every few years, their positions are almost as secure as tenured persons, especially those who get promoted to "distinguished lecturer" (And yeah I'm in the US).



I just saw your comment, and while I don't have any insight, I want to express sympathy. That seems like a gross prejudice, and it also seems like the sort of thing one should keep to oneself. Sorry you are facing that!


Interesting, I guess I was taking my own current status as a lecturer with contingent status as indicative of other trends when perhaps that is not the case elsewhere.


I have a practical question about interviews. It seems like there are two kinds of interviews--(a) those where the committee asks follow up questions, and (b) those where they don't. I assume (b) happens because of HR regulations, but I am really bad at these interviews. My answers tend to run short even when I have a lot to say. And that's bad, since a lot of fixed term lecturer jobs have (b) type interviews, and that's mostly what I'm competitive for right now. Should candidates plan responses to certain typical questions to fit a target time-length, so they don't run short? Or is it expected that this stuff happens? Is there some way to turn it into a conversation that I'm missing? There's often not even any nodding or eye contact during my answers, let alone follow-ups. Sometimes these interviewers skip important questions too, like "How would you teach Intro?" I'm pretty good at (a) type interviews, but utterly bewildered by (b).


re: anonymoose

I am unsure if we interviewed for the same position but I just had an interview with an eerily similar experience regarding the "b" type of interview you mention.

It lasted around 15 minutes; 6 interviewers with one question each and no follow ups; I tried to be cognizant of keeping my answers short because I think I have tended to ramble in the past but after I finished, there was nothing really. Just nodding of head and onto the next question. It was an impersonal and awkward experience which left me second guessing myself.

I'd like to hear more about this others.


I've also had both. (b) type invariably sucks. I got no solutions.

Recent Grad

I don't think I've had the pleasure of this kind of interview, but has anyone in this situation tried inviting the interviewers to follow up on various answers? I.e., mentioning during your answer that you'd be happy to elaborate more on a topic if they'd like you to? Even if the interviewers don't take you up on it, it might make things feel more conversational; it would also indicate that your brief elevator speech style reply doesn't exhaust what you have to say.

Opportunity hires?

How do "opportunity hires" usually work? I encountered this phenomenon a few times at my PhD institution: the department wasn't hiring, but through word of mouth it became known that some philosopher was looking for a way to live in the area (usually for family reasons), and then this person ended up giving an unofficial job talk. Nothing came of it on the occasions it occured at my former department, but the idea that it was possible always intrigued me. How does one go about trying to arrange this sort of thing? Is it rare? Any stories of it actually working out?

Worried philosopher

I am applying for a research position (in ethics) outside Academia. I want to remain active as a researcher (go to conferences, give talks, publish, review papers, etc.). I feel like I'll remain much more active with a research job than with a teaching position. Yet I'm worried: since the position I'm applying for is outside Academia, perhaps I won't be taken seriously by the rest of the research community. So, a couple of questions:

- Do journals care whether you hold a position in Academia or not?
- You see people at a conference with "private sector/government/public sector" on their name tags. Will you talk to them? Will you attend their talks?
- When browsing for papers on topic X, you notice that the author is not from Academia. The paper is published in a good journal. Will you still read the paper?


What me worry?!

Worried Philosopher,
The best way to get answers to your questions is to answer them yourself. Have you ever talked to someone at a conference whose name tag said "private sector"? Did you go to their talk or instead to the talk of someone from Yale, etc.?
My sense is that most journals just process papers, whether they are from industry or elsewhere.
My sense is that if you leave academia, then you should NOT expect a research position. People at those places have very linear careers.


In an interview setting regarding a question about diversity, is a self-deprecating joke about philosophy being dominated by white men (I am one of these white men)likely to be frowned upon?


You probably should not joke in a self-deprecating way in an interview. Either the committee cares about diversity, and will think you are an @ss, or they are required to ask, and then they will probably not like the joke anyway.


The "joke" was made to basically acknowledge that philosophy has a diversity problem that needs to be taken seriously, not to somehow indicate that I don't take diversity seriously.

Marcus Arvan

Anon: I will write a post on this seeking input from others, but my sense is that SWM is absolutely right on this. Candidates should never, ever joke in a self-deprecating way in an interview, regardless of the topic. Interviews are not the time or place to say self-deprecating things. It comes off very poorly, in my experience—making the candidate come off as immature and/or insecure. It’s just not the place for it.


No post necessary, honestly.

Point well taken.


I'm nearly finish with my PhD and recently had an article accepted to a top-20 philosophy journal. The journal is "hybrid open access" and, for "green" open access articles, has a 2-year embargo on self-archiving the accepted version of the paper. The "gold" open access option (specifically the APC) costs a couple of thousand dollars and my institution won't pay for it. I can afford to pay the APC myself, but it is certainly a lot of money. Through doing some research, I learned that open access articles in hybrid journals get significantly more downloads and citations. I also like the idea of retaining the copyright on my paper. Is it worth the cost to pay to publish my article gold open access, considering that I am at the beginning of my academic career and would benefit from more recognition, citations, and ability to freely share my article?

do I really want to wade into this

Do not waste your money. There is no evidence that open access in the humanities. See my paper on this: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11192-016-1833-5
Further, you have the right to circulate your article, that is, to send it to people. In fact, you should be doing that. If your article discusses people's work, send a copy to them.


Sorry for the half message ...
What I meant to say is that there is no evidence that open access leads to more citations in the humanities.


Normally I just use one teaching letter, from someone who saw me teach at my current job. I've come across something that asks for more than one teaching letter.

I do have another teaching letter handy that describes my teaching from the last job (it's on Interfolio). The thing is, it's "out of date" - but does that matter in a case like this?

I get that my research letters change from year to year, but this is just a letter describing what I was up to in the classroom at a particular time and place. So is it okay to use an old one or does it look weird?


I have a question about tailoring cover letters. I'd like to convey in my cover letter that I'm not a flight risk but I'm unsure of the best way (or anyway besides outright saying this) to do that. Any advice?


Suppose there are two job candidates with roughly equal qualifications in terms of publications, teaching experience, Ph.D. granting institution prestige or rank and letters.

But, they differ in terms of their career-level or status. Candidate X is a graduate student and candidate Y is junior faculty, recently hired, at a teaching-focused public university.

Will search committees favor candidate Y, the junior faculty member, over candidate X, the graduate student? Does the the answer to this question depend on whether a search committee is at an R1 institution, a SLAC or public university?


I would love some advice (and maybe even some sample language!) about how to negotiate effectively. Some background info: I'm a junior woman, and the institution that made me the (as yet unofficial) offer is unionized, which might affect how much room there is to move when it comes to salary. Thanks in advance!


just a quick remark. If the university or college is a state school, then the information about salaries should be publicly accessible. It may not be super easy to find, but you should be able to find it. Salaries at SUNY, for example, are public. That can give you a sense of what you might expect.


I'm a current MA student about to visit PhD programs, and I've realized that I have no idea what to say in meetings with potential faculty advisors. I've thought about trying to read some of their work beforehand, but I'm not sure how discussing that would help me (other than perhaps getting a handle on their methodological approach). I'm concerned about quality of advisement and so on, but I don't want to ask questions that might come off as indelicate or rude. Some guidance would be much appreciated!


I have a question about the journal review process. I have run into the following problem in submitting to top tier journals, namely, that the journal gives a rejection without providing comments. It seems clear that it is not a desk rejection, as the papers were under review for several months, so it seems that the referees would have written down their thoughts on the paper. But the following justification is given for not providing comments: “We cannot provide comments on all rejected papers. We focus rather on arriving at a well-informed judgment without undue delay.” What is going on here? Are the editors simply refusing to provide comments because it takes up unnecessary time? Did the referees not write comments up at all? If there are no comments, on what basis is the rejection being made?

I know that the journals in question *do* occasionally given comments for rejected papers, so it is not as if they do not have the infrastructure or mechanism to provide them. I am wondering then why comments are provided on some rejected papers but not others. It is hard to see how simply *passing on* the comments for all rejected (but not desk-rejected) papers would make the process take longer or cause an undue burden in any material sense, but if I am missing something here, I would genuinely be curious to know. After all, having the comments can be extremely helpful. Any thoughts on what’s going here would be greatly appreciated


As an undergraduate student, I wonder what is the best way to choose a dissertation topic? Since my department does not provide many courses on the topic I am interested in, I have to read something by my own. I have read some companions and Philosophy Compass articles, is there anything else I can/should do?

Good problems to have, I know

I've just been offered a VAP at Institution X, where a decision is expected of me within about two weeks. However, I recently interviewed for a VAP at Institution Y, where I was told that they'd make a decision in about a month. I strongly prefer the position at Institution Y. How do I diplomatically reach out to Y in a way that might speed up their timetable, but not in a way that seems pushy or likely to tell me to PFO?


Good problem,
I am curious to know how different the two institutions are that are offering you positions (or potentially, in the case of Y). I have seen people turn down tenure-track jobs at 4 year state colleges to take a VAP at a fancy elite school. What they do not realize, until after the fact, is that it is a very different thing to get a TT at a fancy place than to get a VAP. One person I have in mind, ended up at a place about as lousy as the first TT place they turned down, but seven years later.


My school encourages faculty members to do research with undergraduate students. This seems uncommon in philosophy. I have a few friends who did conference presentations with undergraduate students; some of them may co-author papers but I am not sure. I am very curious to see how people conduct research with undergraduate students.


I'm not sure if you've covered this already, but.... When do you think a person is "allowed" to take time away from research?
My list of papers-in-progress is long and so I more or less always think I should be working on one of them, whenever I have a spare moment (i.e. a moment not devoted to fulfilling other obligations). But right now I have a couple of hours to kill and yet I'm not doing research. I'm tired. I have a young child. I had 4 campus visits this semester and each one was fatiguing to prepare for and to go through. I'm teaching (albeit with a light load).
How do you decide when to rest and when to push through?


Is there is a situation in which it makes sense to leave a potentially renewable lecturer position with pretty bad pay for a better VAP position with much better pay?

Is the renewability factor too important to give up for the one year, non-renewable position that pays much better?

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