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Another grad student

I'm not sure if this is what OP meant, but I'm curious about how much the prestige of the respective journals matters. I would guess that publishing a standalone article in the Journal of Philosophy counts more for hiring and tenure committees than publishing a reply piece in Mind does. But would publishing a standalone article in, say, Pacific Philosophical Quarterly count for more than publishing a reply in Mind? How far down in the prestige rankings could one go before it becomes better to try to publish a reply in the original journal? Does it matter at all if you're not replying to an article in one of the most prestigious journals?


I agree with another grad, or at least what they imply. I think a reply piece in the best journals (JPhil, Mind, PhilRev, Ethics, PhilSci, BJPS ... and not many others), would be better than or as good as an article in many other journals. It shows you are engaging people at the highest places/levels. Having served on search committees, we never discussed the length of articles. There was, occasionally, discussion of co-authored pieces ... how much did the applicant contribute?

Bill Vanderburgh

If a candidate only has one publication, it would be much better for it to be a full-length article. If the candidate has several full-length articles, an additional one that is a reply is a good thing, demonstrating engagement with current discussions.

Elizabeth Finneron-Burns

With time pressure, there is also the consideration that writing a reply is risky. If it is not accepted at the journal that published the original article to which you are replying, the chances of a home for it are slim and your time is wasted (unless you can repackage it). On the other hand, short replies don't take that long to write so if it is wasted, it's not too much time gone. If you are writing it up as part of a PhD thesis for example, it doesn't hurt to send it out I don't think.

Charles Pigden

I think it depends on how many applicants there are and at what stage we are in the selection process. If there are two hundred applicants we won’t have the time or energy to read their stuff and crude measures must be used to shorten the list. One of these might be a preference for original articles over short replies. But by the time we have arrived at the shortlist things are different. For by that time we will be reading or at least skimming samples of the candidates’ work. Fairly obviously somebody can write an original piece and somebody else can write a much better devastating short reply that knocks it on the head. If so , such a short reply could redound to a candidate’s credit, especially if it rids the world of some pretentious philosophical folly. A tedious ‘footnote to a footnote’ reply that adds one more tiny wrinkle to an already convoluted debate would do a candidate a lot less good.


Speaking personally, I don't find the distinction helpful. Some journals do publish a special section for 'replies' or 'discussion' or what-have-you. But much of the work published in our tops just is of the same exact genre, even if it isn't presented by the author or journal in that way. So I would tend to ignore this distinction entirely when evaluating candidates and focus on other things (e.g. research trajectory).


Reply pieces often have laxer reviewing standards, and don't need to engage with the literature in the same way (indeed, referring primarily to the responded-to paper is common practice in response pieces), so there's clearly a relevant distinction, even if standard articles vary in their degree of responsive to others' work. Though I haven't thought about it in these explicit terms, I suppose, other things being equal, I view a reply piece in a top 5 journal as something on a par with a standalone publication in a top 15-20 journal, though if one only has one or two pubs, I'd think having them be standalone papers (in top 15-20) is a better sign than their exclusively being reply pieces in the top venues.


Some reply papers make really substantial contributions to the literature. They aren't "just" responses to other people's arguments. Some suggest original, positive proposals as alternatives to the views they target. Others show how the problems for the target generalize to a wider class of views. And some just make extremely valuable progress by showing some really important argument or view fails. (Similarly for the related genre of paper-length review essays.)

It's probably true that the typical reply paper makes less of a contribution than the typical freestanding article. And at certain journals the reviewing process for replies may be less rigorous. So when giving a cursory look at CVs at the early stages of a search, for example, it seems reasonable to discount reply papers. But when we are past the bean-counting stage and actually reading papers, my colleagues and I will not discount a paper simply because it's a reply.

Caligula's Goat

I definitely understand where questions like this are coming from. Folks in graduate school and on the market are trying to make sense of a fundamentally chaotic process full of uncertainty, good and bad luck, and genuine randomness. However, I have yet to run across one of these sorts of questions where the answer isn't always the same: It Depends.

Every university is different in terms of its values, priorities, internal politics, and so on. Every department is different along the same dimensions, every search committee is different than the ones that came before it, and every member of every serach committee has their own sets of internal weighting for all of the variables that might factor into any choice. There isn't a rule or even a good guideline to give an answer to these sorts of questions without, as Marcus has said in the past, saying more about which job market you're actually targetting. The answer for US-based R1s might be different than for research-intensive SLACs, less research intensive SLACs, regional state universities, community colleges, etc etc etc.

In terms of tenure each will also have their own considerations on how a response article counts for tenure. For tenure especially I think the answer has to be hyper-local. What are the actual written tenure standards for this or that specific department? Equally importantly, what have the successful applications of recent faculty looked like? If there are unsuccesful applications, what have those looked like?

I've been employed at two very different universities in my life. One was a large, underfunded, large (20,000+ students) regional university that would probably be considered an R2 (no graduate program, relatively high teaching load, lots of adjunct faculty, and large classes). There a response paper may, at least in the time I was there, have counted just as much as an original article with respect to tenure (though even in that case an application consisting entirely of such articles would be weaker than one that consisted of some original reserach articles). Journal venue typically didn't really matter at all so long as it was peer-reviewed.

I now work at a research intensive medium-sized (8,000 students) SLAC with much lighter teaching demands (six courses a year) and much smaller class sizes (about 20 students in a typical class) and subsequently much higher research expectations for tenure. In a place like this a response article would definitely not be counted equally as an original article regardless of the venue (though venue matters more here, at least in my experience, than at my prior university). Here, a response paper in Ethics is likely to be judged as less impressive than an original article at the Journal of Value Inquiry (though again, it depends on the department member doing the evaluating, I have some colleagues that attach a significantly higher weighting to prestige than I do). In that sense, my current university will probably be more in line with Marcus' answer. I have friends who work at commmunity colleges (where publications are typically not required for tenure) and so anything (even a book review) is seen as a positive contribution. All politics are local, as they say.

I know that this is probably not as helpful as the OP hoped but I think that the answer to questions about how search (or tenure commmittees in this case) committees think is always going be: it depends on the place and the people making the decision. The right answer here is to get more information from those in your department (especially those who have served on Rank and Tenure committees) and to look at the applications of those who came before you.


First, how do committees go about determining whether something counts as a reply paper? The length (e.g. assuming any short paper is a reply)? The title (e.g. if it says "A reply to XYZ")? The abstract? The Biblio (e.g. a short Biblio that does not interact witht he broader literature)? Or do they manually check the journal website and see if it is published under a "discussion/reply" section?

Second, there's something that I think should not be conflated.
(a) The length of the paper
(b) Whether the paper is just a reply to another paper.
The 2 should not be conflated because there are short non-reply papers and there are long reply papers.

The question then is how are all of these viewed relative to one another:
1. Short reply papers
2. Short non-reply papers
3. Long reply papers
4. Long non-reply papers

Do the comments above only reflect views on short reply papers, or do they also reflect views on long reply papers and/or short non-reply papers?

Daniel Weltman

@fc: If a committee were reading my CV, they would distinguish the replies from other papers because I list them separately on my CV. There was a discussion on this topic on the Cocoon a while ago: https://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2020/03/potentially-deceptive-cvspublication-lists.html


You are asking for a level of precision that is not there to be found. Here is a quick and dirty answer: if a committee looks at two applicants and one has ONLY one article and ONE has only one reply piece, other things being equal, the first is ranked higher than the second. Things might be different if there is a huge difference in rank of the journals - the reply piece in Ethics or PhilSci, and the article in some obscure journal. But once we are looking at applicants with multiple publications these sorts of things get lost in the fog. So do not sweat the small stuff, and do not look for the algorithm

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