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early career philosopher

Just a note that it's now lifted on November 15th for both PPR and Nous, and was introduced in early March -- so the window is now less than four months long. And yes, I think it is awful, especially since if you don't manage to get a paper in by early March (if it's tied up with another journal -- in my case Nous desk-rejected a paper after three months, almost the entire length of the embargo for both venues, preventing me from then trying PPR), that's tough luck for you in terms of the next year's job market. You'll have to wait eight months, just in time for the privilege of submitting your paper along with your second or third wave of job apps.


A brief thank you for the post and discussion. I totally hear what early career philosopher is saying and am in basically the same boat. In general, I think it's great to keep in mind that embargoes and limitations on submissions to once a year uniquely harm those early in their careers and grad students. Perhaps there is no other way, I can't really comment on that. What surprised me was what I took be a change in Nous/PPR's policy; I remember the embargo being shorter, and the time for submissions being longer.

Again, I get that there is a lot with how journals work and how much is demanded of uncompensated reviewers. I also think that policies that restrict submissions should carefully take into account the interests of the most vulnerable in the profession.


I’m not sure if the effects of having the embargoes and not having them will cancel each other out since people can simply move on and publish in the other *top* journals instead. The rational thing to do would be to move on, which I suspect many or most people would do anyways i.e. those who aren’t obsessed with getting their papers published in Nous/PPR each year. This is an empirical matter of course, so I can only make a logical and not an empirical claim on this issue.

I do have three comments regarding Velleman’s article: First, he did not address the possible solution of having more referees and editors if there are so many submissions at certain journals each year. The amount of submission is also a reflection that there are more philosophy graduate students and professors now than there were before. Perhaps the ratio of journal editors/referees per submissions in the past has not been adequately adapted/evolved to deal with changing of times. Given this cause, it’s unsurprising that Velleman stated: “As one colleague put it to me, the literature is becoming like AM radio (you had to be there for the heyday of FM.)”

Second, even if grad students delve into these smaller subfields as he suggested, chances are, they’re going to get their papers rejected from generalist journals anyways even *after* they’ve obtain a PhD as Helen wrote about the practical contradiction between a journal’s aim and its function. Velleman’s article was written in 2017, so he couldn’t have anticipated Helen’s observation. Nevertheless, his argument here is still relevant and may be used again and so it’s good to not forget about such a reality of some or many philosophy journals.

Thus, unless philosophy has more journals dedicated to more subfields and that these journals’ functions aren’t contradicting their aims, we shouldn’t assume that graduate students devoting themselves to other various sub-disciplines will result in “open[ing] up new frontiers in the subject” since many of their papers will probably “never see the light of day” to use Velleman’s phrase. At least, not at the rate that he would expect.

Third, there is one unintended consequence of not allowing graduate students to publish: decreasing their chances of practicing publishing and improvement via referee comments and rejection. So focused on those good graduate students’ papers, he overlooked the ones who actually need their papers critically scrutinized to gain practice, experience, and improvement in publishing. As a result, this can cause an unintended consequence of having *more* philosophy professionals making more mediocre work and stagnate in terms of not getting much to publish, which will undermine his above argument about “opening up new frontiers.” As Marcus said before about publishing, practice is practice.

The above oversights exist in his argument because he gave journals too much discretion without questioning and critiquing them.


FWIW I think we are annoyed that some journals have such practices because of other factors we take for granted, such as:

1. We classify journals by "how good" they are instead of, e.g., what function they play in the publishing ecosystem (how about "this is a great journal for replies" instead of "this is a low-tier journal");
2. Having ranked the journals, we refuse to send our papers to "lower-tier" journals (and we endd up with ridiculous collective practices, such as trying to publish interventions and response papers in Mind);
3. Even if there are more and more journals (and papers), we still entertain a dichotomy between the top 5 journals and the other ones (Why? Being top 5 out of 40 good journals is different than, say, being top 5 out of 100 good journals);
4. We are fine with acceptance rates of 2% to 5% at "top journals", while the most prestigious journals in the world (e.g., Nature) have acceptance rates around 8%;


If any of the above were to change, we would be less irritated by Nous and PPR's policy.


I want to (sort of maybe) echo Postdoc. There are two reactions you can have to embargoes and other bad practices by journals: (1) take it as tragic and unfair that you don't have access to the top journals; (2) take it as a sign that these aren't actually good journals and that they aren't worth your time.

More philosophers need to realize they can effect change through their market choices. (I guess more don't because it's taboo to think in capitalist terms.) Journal editors need a stream of (a) submissions, and (b) clicks/citations. If you really feel that journal X (Nous, PPR, etc.) is doing bad by having embargoes or some other practice (e.g., bad referee standards, poor editorial oversight, etc.), then just stop submitting and stop reading articles from that journal. Basically, go somewhere where the people there actually want you and value you. Find journals, researchers, colleagues, etc. who want your work and want to engage in it. You have (market) choices.

Will your actions have a noticeable effect overnight? No, but if more angry early career people made the rational choice, there would be an effect in a few years. Most likely, the effect would be that the "top" journals (with their fairly ridiculous and distorted image of "philosophy") would whither and lose their relevance as people cared less and found and engaged with other, more interesting, more responsible, and better spaces.

Maybe people care so much about publishing in Nous and PPR because they think it's their ticket to a job at a top-10 R1, but this too is totally irrational. If these embargoes matter to you, you probably have about a zero percent chance at those jobs anyway. Besides, my guess is that going forward some huge percentage of philosophy jobs will want someone who works on feminism, race, nonwestern philosophy, social justice, the ethics of AI and big data, or some thoroughly interdisciplinary stuff that will attract students. Basically, none of those jobs require you publishing in Nous or PPR or some other fancy-pants old-boys-network journal.


I believe JPhil also has an embargo now. Moreover, some of these top journals, like Phil Review, only allow one submission per year.

With policies like these, it is safe to say that the "top five" journals are no longer the most reliable indicators of the very best work in philosophy.

early career philosopher

aphilosopher: I take your point, but why do you say "Maybe people care so much about publishing in Nous and PPR because they think it's their ticket to a job at a top-10 R1, but this too is totally irrational. If these embargoes matter to you, you probably have about a zero percent chance at those jobs anyway"? If those jobs care about publishing in Nous and PPR, then surely their applicants would also care far more about the embargoes (since those play a large part in determining whether they can publish in Nous or PPR or not) than those primarily interested in, say, SPEP schools that don't care about Nous or PPR.


I have some political questions we should think about: Do these embargoes undermine academic freedom? Do these embargoes contribute to epistemic injustice/oppression? If Velleman is right about publishing not being a right, then how can and should one reconcile that with (the demands for) academic freedom and epistemic justice?


@early career philosopher: My thought was that those fancy jobs (at top-10 R1, or thereabouts) go almost entirely to ultra-well connected candidates, e.g. students from other top-10 schools, who have super-star advisors, etc. If you have the kind of connections and positioning needed to have a realistic shot at one of these jobs, then either you have so many other high-prestige opportunities that a Nous or PPR publication won't make or break you, or your high-prestige positioning helps you get into Nous or PPR anyway. (The latter might be totally mundane, just your advisor helping you plan out the submission; alternatively, your high-prestige advisor has the know-how to tutor you into a manuscript that only needs one or two submissions before it's accepted at a top-5 journal.)

Marcus has posted extensively about this stuff, including hard numbers on placements by PGR rank. I think the general consensus is that if you're from a mediocre program and lacking a super-star advisor, your odds of a job at an R1, even with a publication in Nous, are extremely low.

early career philosopher

aphilosopher: I agree there are many other important factors besides publications, especially program prestige. But, anecdotally from seeing and hearing about people's placements, I haven't seen almost any recent hires in, e.g., metaphysics or philosophy of mind without something in one of these journals; I've even seen some first hires with 10-20 pubs, of which 5 to 10 or so are in top 5 journals. So I'm not sure if having nothing in one of these journals is really enough anymore, even for the top candidates (many of whom do not get any jobs, despite their prestige -- I myself came from a top 10 program, but the same is also true for the top 1-3 programs).

Evan: what kind of epistemic injustice do you have in mind, given that there are many other venues out there without embargoes in which to publish one's work?


Man, I'm glad I got out of philosophy! All I can say is these embargoes are a very good sign you should be running for the exit!


early career philosopher: Yes, people can always submit/publish to other venues. I have suspected that that could be one way to reconcile with epistemic injustice.

But the worry is that if these embargoes can be justified and hence override epistemic justice/academic freedom, then it’s possible that other journals can still use the same justification to override epistemic justice/academic freedom as well.

Even though such embargoes may be rare, they nevertheless show the possibility that widespread limiting academic freedom is still possible through such justifications that Velleman advocated and the justification that journals made for the embargoes.

I’m just curious to know how defenders of absolute academic freedom, in general, would reconcile with Velleman’s argument about publishing not being a right. At least, for grad students.

I don’t have straightforward or definitive answers to the questions I asked. Instead, I intended to cut through the debates about academic freedom and show how all these issues (e.g., embargoes, Velleman’s argument) are entangled.

Rights and wrongs

One does not have a right to publish in a specific philosophy journal. One does not even have a right to publish in any philosophy journal.
One can self-publish (most things) - that is what one has a right to.
I think people are getting mixed up about our relationship to publishers.


Rights and wrong: Wiley says they serve the government. Now, I’m not sure what such a relationship entails. I’m not sure if they receive money from the government or serves the government without any funding. But in either case, there is some string attached between them and the US government.

They wrote: “Wiley...assist[s] in the professional development of its employees and the evolving needs of the US Federal Government, including technical certifications, computer technology, business & leadership development, and higher education textbooks.”

They say they serve our government, but our government represents us. I am curious to know if publishers like Wiley receive government funding. If so, then one can argue that people do have a right to publish based on that fact. The line between public and private is often blurred when the government and private entities interact, work together, and/or receive mutual benefits/support such as the Federal Pell Grant/federal loans. Again, this is another entangled issue.


Rights and wrongs

I won't push this issue, but NASA is a supported by taxes ... that does not give you a right to experience space travel. MIT and Harvard get a pile of money from the government. Do you think we have a right to attend those schools? You do not even have a right to use Harvard's library. How on earth is Wiley supposed to deliver on these alleged rights claims? Is everyone in the USA entitled to publish?


Rights and wrongs: Obviously, there are certain constraints as with every institution. But even if those rights resulted from meeting specific criteria, then those are still rights. It’s just what I will call a conditional right or maybe even an imperfect right (Tony Manela’s term).

If I’m a Harvard student, I have a conditional right to use its library since 1) I attend there and 2) I pay to go there. If Harvard doesn’t allow me to use it's library, then that it is unfair and I might seek ligation. It would also be a contradiction of their policy to not allow students to use it. Seeking ligation would be impossible if there are no rights (conditional rights included) being violated in the first place. Unless Harvard unilaterally changed their policy on libraries and no longer allows students to use them, then students will lack such a right. Thus, even if our conditional rights arise from a contract or general policy, they’re still rights.

If a scholar meets specific criteria, passed peer-review, etc, then they have a conditional right to publish since Wiley’s policy states that they support researchers and academics and share their knowledge.

A lot of the rights we have to certain things are conditional (or imperfect). It’s one way we can intelligibly discuss rights in general when it comes to institutions, e.g., jobs, NASA, Harvard, etc.

Maybe we don’t have an *unconditional* right to many or most things, but we do have conditional rights to them. But this leads me back to Velleman’s argument: Do and should grad students have a conditional right to publish? Empirically it looks like they do right now since a lot of them have already published papers. But should they have the conditional right to do so? Why or why not?

Again, another entangled issue.


Some clarifications:

I think the confusion here was that Velleman made a misleading empirical claim that “publishing isn’t a right.” It’s misleading because such a right can and does exist because journals have specific policies that allow people to publish. Of course, these rights are granted to the person if she meets specific criteria. Hence, they’re conditional rights. Combined with imperfect rights, this explains why she can’t legally force journals to publish her work even if she meets the criteria since journals have a limited number of publications per volume. Limitations create conditional and imperfect rights. Voting is a conditional right as well since one must be a US citizen to be able to vote. Some unconditional rights include the right not to be unjustly harmed.

I can give an acquaintance the right to drive my car under the condition that he pays me gas money in advance. We also have the right to certain services under the condition that we pay a deposit or money in advance.

Obviously, some of these rights aren’t constitutional/legal rights. But they are still rights nevertheless. They just originate or result from different things e.g., individual policies, contracts, personal relations, consent, etc.

Also, I used the wrong word, sorry, haha. It’s litigation, not ligation.

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