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IIRC, Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS) does this sometimes, too, under the label of 'open peer commentary' (on an article published in its pages). I don't often read work in there, but I do occasionally, and I treasure those open peer commentaries (esp. the one on Millikan's 'More Mama, More Milk' paper). I've learned so much from them, and that one in particular! I'd love to see more of it, and I can't imagine us being any the worse off for it.

The graduate journal of the BSA, Debates in Aesthetics, recently(ish) adopted a similar format for all of its content (viz., graduate student commentary on an established philosopher's work, and the established philosopher then replies to their commentaries), and the result IMO is a much more interesting and valuable scholarly resource.

I have no idea about the procedural issues, though. I imagine it's relatively difficult to chase all the contributors down and ensure that they submit their commentaries on time--it's hard enough to do that for conferences, after all!


I am a very large fan of reply articles, which I think are good because they make philosophy into more of a dialogue. (I also like them because they are short and because they model back and forth philosophical dialogue, which makes them very good to assign as readings for students.)

I am a fan of journals publishing replies to articles not originally published in the journal, because this incentivizes reply articles.

I am not a huge fan of AJOB's model, which seems to invite a lot of off the cuff replies of somewhat dubious quality and also a lot of "here's my schtick which I've been peddling for a decade, and I will now proceed to apply it to this particular topic" which is sometimes not particularly interesting. I am not sure why AJOB's model has this result: maybe it's the fact that they're committed to publishing some replies, so they pretty much have to settle on some subpar articles sometimes. Maybe it's the fact that people have a limited time to write the replies. Maybe it's the fact that replies need to be so short. Maybe it's just a function of bioethics as a field more generally. Maybe it's some combination of these things.

As an administrative matter it would be nice to link reply articles to the original articles on journal websites or something like that, but I don't think this is particularly important. If we want journals to publish replies to articles in other journals, we have to give up on the idea of the replies slotting nicely next to the original articles in the table of contents!

So, my own preference is to do it like the Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy does it: accept reply articles of all sorts (not just replies to articles published in JESP), publish them normally like other articles, don't stipulate any sort of timeline like AJOB does, have a relatively generous word count (3k at JESP), etc.

As for how AJOB does it, interested parties submit one paragraph proposals, and the editors pick some of those. Proposals which are selected then have a pretty tight deadline for sending in the commentary. Presumably this helps keep the number of submissions manageable.


My concern with this model of publishing is that it will further privilege the haves over the have nots. Who is going to get their pieces selected to be the focus of such discussions? People at community colleges? not likely. Those at teaching places? Unlikely? Those at elite R1s. Almost certainly.

Peter Furlong

I agree with most others on the value of reply pieces: I am a huge fan of them. I am persuaded, though, that Daniel is correct on the best way to format these. The only thing I would add is that a journal might consider having a certain target for each issue balancing replies and free-standing articles. I think such a target would demonstrate a real commitment to the value of replies (assuming the target provides a decent percentage of each issue to replies). I also think that the sort of model Daniel suggests, where (I take it), the article/reply format is not established ahead of time, takes care of the worries voiced by Concerned that this will privilege the haves.


You might also be interested in checking out this new-ish journal, Australasian Philosophical Review. They have both invited and "open" commentaries on a target article in each issue. (I'm not sure how the selection process for the "open" ones works.)


Every model has pluses and minuses. While I agree there are disadvantages to the AJOB model, there are also advantages to having the fast turn-around, i.e. this makes it less likely that articles that aren't written by famous persons will be overlooked and never engaged with at all. And I guess I'm skeptical that there is any model that won't result in some shoddy replies. I just read a lot of shoddy stuff in journals generally. Anyway, in an open reply model, which articles are most likely to get replies? Those by famous people, of course!

As for whether the AJOB model results in a favoritism for connected people in the *replies*..... yeah, it wouldn't surprise me if there was truth to this. But two points. First, if the main article is not written by a famous person, I actually think it is good (as far as breaking down prestige barriers is concerned) to have at least some replies from famous persons. Obviously, the result is a famous person specifically engaging with someone who is not famous (which rarely happens otherwise. I suspect it is rare for a famous persons to write a reply to a not so famous person in an open model. I'd be glad to learn I'm wrong.)Second, I'm not sure AJOB's reply model would favor the connected at a rate significantly higher than other models. When a famous person sends in a reply, it almost always has a significantly higher chance of getting published (What about triple-blind review,? Well, famous persons have a way of signaling who they are, even when their name isn't on the paper.And triple-blind is rare, with replies, anyway.)

In any case, I would love for there to be at least one other philosophy journal in a different area that used the AJOB model. It would also be great to have some other journals that used other mentioned reply models. Basically, I think any move that philosophy takes in the direction of more reply pieces is a good thing, as I really see the purpose of philosophy as continuing a conversation (not writing an analytically tight argument that no one besides the reviewer ever reads.)

One thing that frustrates me about philosophy and philosophers, is we are champions of "perfect as the enemy of good." Whenever a discussion comes up about either, (1) changing the current publishing model, (2) modifying current publishing norms and policies, or (3) creating a journal with a different or innovative format, then we get (4) The oh so critical bunch of philosophers explaining why the relevant change is flawed, and why some other change would be better. And then those suggestions are meet with similar criticisms, and then few things are ever changed significantly, as it is always too easy to find something wrong with the most recent proposal. I honestly believe this, in large part, explains why despite almost every philosopher I know having serious gripes with parts of the publishing process, typical grad school experience, job market hiring practices (among other things), these things typically remain the same.


Ethics, Policy & Environment does target and replies ("open peer commentary"). It's not exclusively a philosophy journal, nor does it only publish targets and replies, but it does so regularly. Target articles are selected after peer-review and commentaries are selected after a call published on listserves.

Axel Barcelo Aspeitia

When I was at the editorial board of Dianoia we used to do this. We selected one of the papers we had already (and on independent grounds) accepted and personally invited scholar specialized in the area to submit replies which were themselves refereed. The results were great, but it took a lot of time and organizational effort. Thus, I do not blame the new editorial board for not continuing with the practice

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