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07/21/2022

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Filippo Contesi

I post my work on PhilArchive before submission, and earlier this year I co-created this website to discuss any PhilArchive (and PhilPapers) papers:

https://freelosophy.github.io/

As my co-creator Giulio Pietroiusti and I said in our announcement for Freelosophy, journal publishing houses are in large part legally/publicly committed to considering pre-archived papers. So are, as far as I can tell, most if not all individual philosophy journals published by those publishing houses. You can double-check for your journal of choice on the Sherpa Romeo database:

https://v2.sherpa.ac.uk/romeo/

Preprint

To see if such crowdsourcing undermines anonymity, we should ask: what is the purpose of anonymity? If the main purpose is to ensure that reviewers aren’t accepting papers based on arbitrariness, then such a system can be justified under one condition: 1) if the papers lack substantial feedback on the pre-print. If the paper is published in pre-print archives and there’s very little to no input from others, then the only input it will get will be from the reviewers who may have already seen it before by that author. And their judgments can be influenced by the exposure of the author. The assumption about crowdsourcing reviews is that every paper that gets published in some preprint archive will be read and commented on by others, which is false. Many papers may be too specialized, boring, or won’t be seen by others.

The worry is that you publish a preprint and nobody comments on it and eventually, it may be submitted to journals where the only input it will get is by the reviewers who now know you wrote it, which can influence their decisions.

All this brings to these questions: Should every preprint be submitted to journals? When is a preprint ready to be submitted to journals?

Realist

"If, for example, an author posts a preprint on PhilArchive, it seems possible that journal editors or referees might react negatively--seeing it as an attempt to circumvent the anonymization process involved in journal review."

For an editor or referee to react negatively to finding the paper they are reviewing posted online they must be very conscientious about anonymity in the peer review process. But if they are very conscientious about this they wouldn't be googling the title or key words from an article they are reviewing (which is the main way that they might become aware of it being posted online). An exception might be editors at journals that do not practice triple-blind review and hence already know the author's identity. But, if you were very conscientious about anonymity then you would be dissatisfied with non-triple-blind review and hence probably wouldn't be an editor at such a journal. Therefore, overall I don't think there is serious worry here for authors.

However, there is a strong reason for many of us not to post pre-prints online. Many referees are the opposite of conscientious about anonymous review. They deliberately google the title or key words from an anonymized manuscript to try and find out who the author is. Some do this cynically, thinking to themselves "I would like to know whether this author is a "good" philosopher before making a decision on the merits of this paper". Others do it self-deludedly, thinking: "I'm curious who the author is and I'm confident that knowing their identity will not effect the standards I apply when reviewing this paper, so I will check their identity now even though I haven't finished the review". Given these practices, if you are not among the small minority of philosophers who benefit from prestige bias then it is in your interest that, when an unethical referee googles your paper, they fail find a link to your name. So that is why most of us should take precautions to make our author identities unsearchable online when our papers are under review. However, if you are a grad student from an elite department, or a well established philosopher, then the opposite might be true.

Jake Nebel

Marcus, the journal you have in mind might be Ethics: "We ask that authors not post or publish online manuscripts that they have submitted or will be submitting to Ethics, as doing so may compromise the anonymous review process or may disqualify the submission on grounds of prior publication."(https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/journals/et/instruct#whattoexpect)

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