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Perhaps a noob question: What is it to “referee-proof” one’s paper? Just hedge hedge hedge, anticipate anticipate anticipate?

Anti-Sontagist but not Anti-Sontag


Yes. Another tactic is anticipating and accommodating the views of referees, based on the views that are currently dominant in the sub-field.

So, if Sontagism is the dominant view and you have identified a problem for Sontagism, you don't call it a "problem" but a "point for further research". If you are arguing for a view that implies not-Sontagism, you argue how Sontagism still retains significant value if your view is correct, e.g. as a simpler approximation or as a pragmatically superior view.

This tactic is especially useful given that a surprising number of journals will make Susan Sontag your referee if you are writing anything in relation to Sontagism. Or you might get one of her grad students (even current grad students) as Reviewer 2, who happens to be writing their thesis on applying Sontagism to the free will debate and who will not be amused by a fundamental critique of the whole theory.

As annoying as this form of referee-proofing is, I have actually found that it's improved several of my papers. Often I think I have found a refutation of Sontagism, but it's really a case where Sontag just never got around to filling in some gap in her theory. Often there really is a place for Sontagism as some sort of heuristic, or at least I haven't refuted that. If you have a marginal view and you want to publish in top journals, you have to be more aware of these finer details than someone with a more mainstream view, like Sontagism. This is even more the case if you are not very thoroughly networked in the subfield. It's a blessing and a curse.

Sam Duncan

Referee proofing is a couple of things: 1. Citing every single thing written on a topic no matter how blatantly wrongheaded, trivial, dishonest, or just plain *****y you find it and avoiding any criticisms of those works so far as possible. The hope is that referee Jones won't reject your paper out of hand because you fail to cite or sufficiently appreciate Jones's "seminal" and "path breaking" work published in the Zemblan Digest of Theosophy and Deep Thinking. 2. Spending a lot of time and ink addressing every possible objection even those that rest on obvious misreadings of the paper.
It results in papers that are bloated and a pain to read. If there is a good idea it gets buried under the author engaging with enormous amounts of dreck that isn't worth engaging with or, in the case of some wrongheaded objections, doesn't merit the pages and pages the author devotes to it. It's a lot of the reason that academic writing, especially in philosophy, tends to be awful I don't think it's worth doing myself and have stopped even trying to do much referee proofing, especially of type 1. I've decided that if an unfair referee wants to reject you he'll find a reason. Unless you gush about how Jones is right and has solved all problems in this area that type of egomaniac is still going to be annoyed and find some reason to reject. And if you agree with him, well then what's the point of you writing a paper? Beyond that I don't feel that I need to amplify bad work by making readers aware of it. If I think a paper is trivial, shoddy or even blatantly dishonest then I'm not making academia or the world a better place if I talk about it and make sure other people have to waste their time and effort thinking and talking about it too.

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