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10/06/2021

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Getting them published is harder in one way and easier in another one.

Harder because, in my experience, referees will hold the objection you offer in your reply to a higher standard than they would hold it if it was in a standalone paper. For example, consider a paper that develops a new theory of phenomena P and has a section saying that x has offered a rival theory of P but it is implausible because of a certain objection the author has come up with. In my experience, if the referee thinks "I'm not convinced by that objection but I can see how others would be" they are likely to nonetheless accept the paper if they like the rest of it. However, if you write a reply to x with the same objection, a referee who is unconvinced is likely to reject the reply even if they agree that it might convince others. So, referees generally apply a higher standard of proof to objections in replies.

Easier because you have one very narrow job to do in a reply, whereas in a standalone paper you have many jobs to do. In a reply you simply must produce a powerful, original objection against some significant paper. Get this right and you should get it published (although incompetent referees mean that there is no guarantee). In a standalone paper your arguments will usually be more complicated, perhaps with several distinct parts, and there will be much more literature to engage with, and deciding on the framing will usually be more complicated. This leads to many more points where an unsympathetic referee can find something they don't like and use it to reject your paper. Many people have had the frustrating experience where each new referee takes issue with a different part of their paper while thinking that the things that bothered other referees are completely fine. But this problem rarely happens with replies because of their narrow focus.

stm

I myself am thinking of writing a reply for a journal that has a section devoted to them. One question I have, and which I feel like I know the answer to but want to ask anyways, is whether there is any shot that when you submit a reply, the referee is not the person whose paper you are discussing. They have got to be the first referee asked, right? And now let's imagine they're excited that someone wants to reply to their work, rather than being annoyed (or can we not count on this?), is there anything those who have written replies before would recommend to us noobies as something we should definitely not do/say? Of course, we should all be respectful in our writing, while also not being afraid to make objections. But given the nature of replies, is there anything one should be especially cognizant of, given the likely initial audience? Thanks

RJM

Agree with the advice. Just to add though that I suspect a part of the evaluation of any reply is the quality of the paper you are replying to. Is it sufficiently central in the (sub-)discipline to warrant a reply?

confusedgradstudent

Very helpful, thanks so much!

re.ply

stm
I think it is often quite common for journals NOT to send reply pieces to the author of the article being criticized. Journals want impartial referees, insofar as that is a realizable ideal. So do not assume that the author of the piece being criticized will decide the fate of the reply piece.

Daniel Weltman

@stm and @re.ply: on Dec 12 2020 I posted this on Facebook: "Philosophers: question. If you write a reply to some paper and send it to a journal, do you think the editors are likely to send that to the author of the piece to referee? Or are they likely to avoid sending it to the author? Or is this a tossup/do editors differ quite a bit in their practices/etc.?"

Three people replied. One said it depends on the paper: if it focuses exclusively on a person's view then the journal likely would not send it to them (since they'd have a conflict of interest) but if it engages with other others they might send it to that person. Another is a junior philosopher who hasn't been in the field super long and who said he had already received two review requests for papers that were direct replies to his own. (And he checked with the editors to make sure they knew this was the case.) The third said that, speaking just for one journal, they would not send replies to be reviewed by the person they are a reply to.

So, I suspect there is wide variation among journals. Some will often (always?) try to get the original author as a reviewer. Some will never do this. And some (based on the judgment of the editors) will do this only when they deem it appropriate.

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