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05/31/2019

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philosopher with an idea

I'm just going to throw this out there. Here is a journal format which may mitigate a lot of the current problems with peer review.

1. You start with an online repository, like arXiv.
2. If you like, make it so that papers must be submitted blinded, with author information hidden in metadata.
3. Layer on top of that a commenting and rating function, wherein users of the system can type up referee reports, rate the paper, up-vote it, whatever.
4. Other commenters can respond to referee reports, either with written comments or up/down-voting. Authors can also respond and submit revised copies of the paper for further review/voting/whatever.
5. Institute some sort of algorithm whereupon a paper receives a certain number of up-votes or approvals, the paper is officially unblinded and published. The idea is that the algorithm, perhaps double checked by a human editor, amalgamates all the comments and ratings and checks for a certain threshold of approval or consensus.
6. Name a journal something like "Philosophical Record" and online-publish everything approved by this process in the journal.

Upshots:
1. The resulting journal serves (as the name implies) as a record of professional philosophical work which clears some minimal bar of professional standards for publication.
2. The approval process will make explicit just what that standard is, so everyone knows.
3. The current referee process makes publication both too hard and too easy: too easy because all you need is 1-2 sympathetic readers of your paper, and too hard because all it takes is one difficult, petty, or lazy referee to tank your submission. This process fixes both problems. Because the paper is open to all to read, it won't by luck only be judged by a few sympathetic readers. For the same reason, a single difficult referee can't tank the paper --- and in fact their review will be swamped out by other commenters if the paper has merit.
4. There is no limit to what's published in this journal, so there's no rejections based on silly artificial scarcity of journal space.
5. What is published in the journal will have already proved itself as an interesting piece worth discussion, as it will have had to generate such discussion to get published. The journal is a literal marketplace of ideas.
6. The journal is open access, of course.

As for the logistics, most of the work can be handled by the users of the system. Philosophers love to discuss philosophy, so it's not hard to see how such a system might quickly adopt a huge user base. As for the costs of typesetting and whatnot, well, look, it's 2019. Everyone in the sciences knows how to use LaTeX... we can learn too. If submissions were done as .tex files, professional typesetting becomes as simple as loading the journal's preferred package. Done. (Look at it this way: do you want to take control of publishing and rein in costs all while being efficient? We have the tools now to do this.)

Finally, I doubt we need to worry that people won't read unpublished drafts. We already do it all the time, no? At least, I do. People send around and post such drafts all the time, and those researchers trying to stay on top of their field activity seek them out ("I wonder what so-and-so is doing, or what's the latest on topic X"). This also, by the way, helps to make that whole process of getting feedback easier for those no lucky enough to have rich networks of well-placed friends.

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