An Objection Does Not A Rejection Make

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 26/10/2018 - 5:31am in

“If philosophers are serious about improving the way their journals function, they need to consider not only how to improve the mechanics of the reviewing process, but also how to improve the way they criticize one another.”

What are good grounds for a journal referee suggesting a paper be rejected? Tim Crane (CEU) has some thoughts on that.

In a recent piece at the Times Literary Supplement, he discusses the low acceptance rates of philosophy journals (discussed previously here, here, and here, for example) and suggests an increase in publication:

The discipline has high standards, but the number of competent philosophers in the world and the number of articles they are trying to publish are all growing. Given this, and given the new opportunities presented by digital technology, there is no reason why the leading journals should not just publish more stuff. Of course, it might mean that publication in one of these journals may no longer be that sole decisive achievement that will get you that job or grant. But this could be beneficial: rather than evaluating someone’s work by looking at which journals they publish in, assessors would have to actually read the work itself. 

However, one obstacle to publishing more philosophy, Professor Crane notes, is “the attitude of philosophers who act as peer reviewers”:

Many behave as if finding an objection to the claims of a paper is a sufficient reason to reject it, or to ask for revisions before publication. Authors are regularly asked to revise their papers to take account of a wide variety of more or less plausible objections. This inevitably results in papers that are longer than they should be, and in many cases far more boring and hard to read than the original. The whole “revise and resubmit” process also adds months to the publication cycle. In many cases, journal editors would do a service to their readers if they took a few more risks and published even those papers to which someone might—shocking as it may seem—make a good objection.

It will be difficult to improve this situation without making some fundamental changes to the way academic philosophers are trained. In the analytic tradition, philosophers are taught to write in a style that, in the memorable words of Bernard Williams, “tries to remove in advance every conceivable misunderstanding or misinterpretation or objection, including those that would occur only to the malicious or the clinically literal-minded”. It is therefore unsurprising that the criticisms often put forward in peer review can seem uncharitable, pedantic and pointless. If philosophers are serious about improving the way their journals function, they need to consider not only how to improve the mechanics of the reviewing process, but also how to improve the way they criticize one another.

The full essay is here.

Edmund Dulac, illustration from “The Princess and the Pea”

Related: “Don’t Forget to Remove the Scaffolding

The post An Objection Does Not A Rejection Make appeared first on Daily Nous.

Open access: five provocations

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 26/10/2018 - 2:07am in

This week marks International Open Access Week 2018. At the Alliance for Useful Evidence, we’re big supporters of the principles behind the open access (OA) movement: scholarly research should be available to everyone, not just to academics. OA is also central to the success of the evidence movement: lack of access to quality research is a frequently cited barrier to evidence uptake by policy-makers.

Our own work also needs the evidence produced by academics, so we’re often frustrated when we find that so much of it is tucked away behind paywalls. Unfortunately, access can come down to who you know: asking a university-affiliated friend or colleague to download an article for you can be a quick solution for one person, but it’s no good to people without those kinds of networks (and it may well be in breach of copyright law).

There’s a huge amount out there extolling the benefits and lamenting the challenges of OA, but much of what we hear seems to recycle the same old debates, or operate within the confines of the systems and norms already in place. We need a system that supports the academic community, but also creates genuine change in the availability and dissemination of research.

Inspired by the British Library’s Open and Engaged event earlier this week, we’ve decided to play devil’s advocate with OA, asking five provocative questions to stimulate some new debate and ideas on what we think is a crucial topic.

1.     Could we just cut out the publishers?

As Professor Jane Winters told us at Open and Engaged, the costs of making an academic book OA can be astronomical – we’re talking between £5-10k per book. Journal articles average between £1.5-£2k each (see the Finch Report for estimates). In an article for a TLS special edition this week, philosopher Tim Crane points out the ‘implausible and outrageous’ burden placed on individual researchers and public institutions by academic publishing – and in practice OA means that publishers seek to recoup costs directly from academics. While there are initiatives which help to cover these costs, like the KU Leuven Fund for Fair OA from Leuven University Press, or the rise in OA journals which don’t charge fees at all, for the majority of journals which aren’t OA, someone still has to pay. Authors themselves aren’t necessarily paid to write in the first place – certainly not early career academics without contracts, or in teaching-only positions – so the idea that they then ought to pay to get their work published seems ludicrous. It’s the publishers who make the money, so what if we took them out of the equation? Instead, universities themselves could provide the editors (other academics) and the blind peer review matchmaking system (often the authors will be asked to recommend reviewers anyway, themselves usually unpaid), and could publish papers and books online in their raw PDF formats. The question of whether we need publishers is one that’s been asked before, and there have been boycotts of journals, petitions, and mass resignations in protest at the amount publishers make from academics’ writing, as well as calls for academic self-publishing, but we still don’t have an answer.

2.     Can we stop talking amongst ourselves?

The conversation about OA has mostly taken place in the academic community, a point raised this week by the British Library’s Dr Torsten Reimer. There is now increased will to bring together open access with public engagement, including for the British Library as it develops its ‘Living Knowledge’ vision. So far, however, debates about OA have excluded the people it nominally aims to serve – the ‘public’, an impossibly varied category. Consultations on OA policy have pretty much exclusively involved representatives of the HE sector, funders, publishers and sometimes libraries. The language of OA isn’t exactly self-explanatory; Plan S, gold routes, green routes and APCs don’t make much sense to anyone unfamiliar with the workings of journal publishing. Meaningfully opening up the conversation involves something a bit pithier than tagging a commitment to public engagement on to the in-and-outs of publishing rules. Making research available to everyone will involve consulting as widely as possible – with government, charities, community organisations, foundations, social enterprises, independent research organisations, and business. It’s also the only way we’ll know if policy is on the right track.

3.     Why aren’t we addressing demand?

UKRI – the UK’s new research funding body – has adopted the principle that OA should ‘assist the development of a research system that facilitates “openness”’. Openness is a hugely valuable principle, but not if we don’t know what it means. If we are making research open to the ‘public’, we need to identify specific ‘publics’ and what they actually need from research. In other words, we have to address demand. Do we really have evidence that the majority of the public want access to academic articles addressing detailed debates within their research disciplines? Or even shortened lay summaries? This isn’t to say that this writing shouldn’t be produced or made publicly available. The point is that the content and style of research dissemination has to speak to its purpose – and will likely need to be as varied as the ‘public’ itself. At the Alliance for Useful Evidence, we are working to make research evidence and methods relevant and digestible for decision-makers in government and charities. This involves looking at what works in dissemination, as well as making sure we have evidence that is fit for purpose in the social sector. If we want OA to support a more open research system, in which publishing works for the public good, we need a bigger shift in how we present and disseminate the findings of research.

4.     Do people value what they pay for?

It may be a sad indictment of late capitalism, but we can argue that people don’t value things that are free. Given the rise in anti-intellectualism and the prevailing post-truth climate since Trexit, academics aren’t exactly top of the list when it comes to public trust. Low pay and precarious work are already becoming hallmarks of academic life for many early career researchers especially; if publications, too, become freely available, what does that say about the value society places on the academics who write them? Of course, the related argument, made by Professor Haidy Geismar, questions what ‘value’ really means: ‘how is research valuable and for whom, who should profit and how’?

5.     Are we willing to take risks?

Publishing is important for academics: jobs, reputations and tenure depend on getting work into peer-reviewed journals, even more so thanks to the REF. It’s both unfair, and unrealistic, to expect individual researchers to foot the bill for open access. But if academia as a whole isn’t willing to countenance change, we’re not likely to move far beyond well-established publishing traditions. There’s also some growing opinion that mechanisms like peer-review can serve to narrow, rather than expand, the amount of research that sees the light (see Martin Paul Eve’s challenge to the current peer review system). At Open and Engaged, Professor Haidy Geismar urged us to ‘reimagine the ecology of open access’; think creatively about new publishing models and draw on our collective expertise. This will mean taking risks and breaking with old habits. Are we up to the task?

We’d love to see more experimentation and innovation in OA publishing. Initiatives like show the potential for new solutions to public access, while the UK What Works Network demonstrates the growing appetite for freely-available research in helping to solve real world problems.

Share your ideas, initiatives or resources – and let us know if you disagree.


Emma Taylor-Collins (@ETaylorCollins) is a Senior Research Officer at the Alliance for Useful Evidence  and the Wales Centre for Public Policy.

Anna Hopkins (@Anna_NHopkins) is a Researcher at the Alliance for Useful Evidence.

Ways to Increase Diversity of Authors in Philosophy Journals

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 04/10/2018 - 10:51pm in

A recent series of articles on diversity and philosophy journals at the Blog of the American Philosophical Association (APA) culminates today with various suggestions for how editors can improve the diversity of authors they are publishing.

Nicole Hassoun (Binghamton), Eric Schwitzgebel (UC Riverside), and Sherri Lynn Conklin (UC Santa Barbara) first offer three general suggestions to editors:

  1. Set specific, achievable targets to make progress in increasing diversity in your journal.
  2. Implement promising practices to increase diversity in your journal and meet these targets.
  3. Collect data and evaluate progress at regular intervals and revise practices accordingly.

Their more specific suggestions of “editorial practices to consider” include:

  • Editorial Staffing:
    • Diversify representatives—editors, editorial board members, referees, trustees, staff, etc.—to include more people from under-represented groups and on important but neglected topics of interest to a diverse range of philosophers, utilizing a diverse range of methods.
    • However, also be cautious about creating disproportionate burdens on members of under-represented groups, especially if those burdens do not come with public recognition.
  • Publication Choices:
    • Solicit submissions of promising work by members of under-represented groups.
    • Reserve more space for articles by members of under-represented groups to help meet specific targets. 
    • Publish more papers of interest to under-represented groups in philosophy and on important but neglected topics of interest to a diverse range of philosophers.
  • Refereeing:
    • Encourage referees and authors to avoid using language that is insensitive to cultural differences or that inappropriately excludes or offends any group of people based on their ability/disability, age, ethnicity and race, gender identity, sexual orientation, class, nationality, etc. 
    • Encourage referees and authors to check that papers cite and discuss a fair representation of relevant work by members of under-represented groups.
    • Encourage referees to not reject promising papers on grounds of writing quality, if the concerns are merely stylistic, can be repaired to an adequate level, and the philosophical content is good. This helps ensure fair consideration of work by philosophers who are not native speakers of English.
    • Encourage timely and developmental reviews, since members of vulnerable groups are especially disadvantaged by long delays before publication.
  • Accessibility of Content:
    • Utilize text-to-speech capability for print-impaired users in the absence of an audio book.
    • Include Alt-text descriptions to explain illustrations for readers with reduced access to graphic information.
    • Give readers control over the font (size, style, and color), background color, and line spacing for online publications, and/or make them available in html.
    • Consider trying to make your journal more accessible for those in developing countries by making your journal open access in those regions.
    • Employ W3C web accessibility standards where feasible, and check for web accessibility.
  • Publicizing These Efforts
    • Inform all representatives and bind future representatives to uphold these standards.
    • Publicly and explicitly adopt diversity-promoting practices, helping to create a culture of concern that enhances the journal’s reputation for welcoming diversity, attracting more diverse submissions.

The full post is here. Further suggestions welcome.

Alma Thomas, “Starry Night and the Astronauts” (detail)

The post Ways to Increase Diversity of Authors in Philosophy Journals appeared first on Daily Nous.

Hypatia and other Journals Successfully Tricked Into Accepting “Fake” Papers (Updated)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 03/10/2018 - 11:44pm in

Three writers, working as a team and using pseudonyms, produced and submitted to academic peer-reviewed journals 20 “fake” papers—papers written with the intent to spoof certain areas of research and trick or embarrass editors and reviewers working in those areas. Seven of the papers were accepted, and four have already been published.

The authors are Peter Boghossian, an assistant professor of philosophy at Portland State University, James Lindsay, a writer on atheism, and Helen Pluckrose, a writer who edits the online magazine Aero.

Perhaps in response to criticisms of the previous attempt at an academic hoax by Boghossian and Lindsay, this trio embarked on a much larger project and sent out articles to a wider range of journals. They spent 10 months writing 20 papers. 80% of the ones they submitted were peer-reviewed (rather than desk-rejected).

As they describe in an article about their efforts, they wrote papers that were “outlandish or intentionally broken in significant ways”:

Our paper-writing methodology always followed a specific pattern: it started with an idea that spoke to our epistemological or ethical concerns with the field and then sought to bend the existing scholarship to support it. The goal was always to use what the existing literature offered to get some little bit of lunacy or depravity to be acceptable at the highest levels of intellectual respectability within the field. Therefore, each paper began with something absurd or deeply unethical (or both) that we wanted to forward or conclude. We then made the existing peer-reviewed literature do our bidding in the attempt to get published in the academic canon.

This is the primary point of the project: What we just described is not knowledge production; it’s sophistry. That is, it’s a forgery of knowledge that should not be mistaken for the real thing. The biggest difference between us and the scholarship we are studying by emulation is that we know we made things up.

This process is the one, single thread that ties all twenty of our papers together, even though we used a variety of methods to come up with the various ideas fed into their system to see how the editors and peer reviewers would respond. Sometimes we just thought a nutty or inhumane idea up and ran with it. What if we write a paper saying we should train men like we do dogs—to prevent rape culture? Hence came the “Dog Park” paper. What if we write a paper claiming that when a guy privately masturbates while thinking about a woman (without her consent—in fact, without her ever finding out about it) that he’s committing sexual violence against her? That gave us the “Masturbation” paper. What if we argue that the reason superintelligent AI is potentially dangerous is because it is being programmed to be masculinist and imperialist using Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Lacanian psychoanalysis? That’s our “Feminist AI” paper. What if we argued that “a fat body is a legitimately built body” [is] a foundation for introducing a category for fat bodybuilding into the sport of professional bodybuilding? You can read how that went in Fat Studies.

Two of the articles they wrote were submitted to Hypatia. One was accepted. Entitled “When the Joke Is on You: A Feminist Perspective on How Positionality Influences Satire,” its thesis is that “academic hoaxes or other forms of satirical or ironic critique of social justice scholarship are unethical, characterized by ignorance and rooted in a desire to preserve privilege.” [Note: I share my opinion of this paper in Update 2 to this post.]

The other paper, “The Progressive Stack: An Intersectional Feminist Approach to Pedagogy,” received three successive revise and resubmit decisions and was never accepted. Its thesis is that “educators should discriminate by identity and calculate their students’ status in terms of privilege, favor the least privileged with more time, attention and positive feedback and penalize the most privileged by declining to hear their contributions, deriding their input, intentionally speaking over them, and making them sit on the floor in chains—framed as educational opportunities we termed ‘experiential reparations.'” [Note: see Update 3 for links to commentary on this paper.]

In an article in the Wall Street Journal about the hoax, Hypatia’s current interim editor Ann Garry (California State University, Los Angeles) was quoted saying she was “deeply disappointed” to learn the papers were hoaxes, adding, “Referees put in a great deal of time and effort to write meaningful reviews, and the idea that individuals would submit fraudulent academic material violates many ethical and academic norms.”

What does this hoax show, if anything? For one thing, it shows that academic publishing is not particularly adept at engaging with those who are operating in bad faith and intending to fool the system. It also shows that a system which is set up to assess scholarship critically but charitably will have false positives.

What did the hoaxers want to show? They say that they take themselves to be exposing a problem with the social sciences and the humanities which they identify as the “belief that many common features of experience and society are socially constructed.”

But many common features of experience and society are socially constructed. So why is belief in that generic claim problematic? It turns out it is not, for as they say more, the authors reveal that their real target is the view they call “radical constructivism,” the “dangerous” and now “authoritative” idea that “we must, on moral grounds, largely reject the belief that access to objective truth exists.”

The reasoning seems to be this:

  1. Certain areas of scholarship are built on a foundational assumption of “radical constructivism.”
  2. Journals dedicated to those areas of scholarship can be tricked into accepting and publishing fake research that fits with this foundational assumption.
  3. If journals in an area of scholarship can be tricked into accepting and publishing fake research that fits with its foundational assumption, then its foundational assumptions should be called into question.
  4. Therefore, “radical constructivism” should be called into question.

I’m not sure what fields, if any, 1 is true of. But let’s just assume for now there are some fields it is true of, including some of the fields represented by the journals that Boghossian, Lindsay, and Pluckrose (BLP) targeted.

I’m not sure whether the papers BLP submitted are compatible with or illustrative of “radical constructivism.” I suspect this is harder to pull off than people tend to think, but let’s assume they are. On that assumption, then, BLP have shown the truth of 2.

It is not clear at all to me that 3 is true. Suppose my theory of pizza making is built on a foundational assumption that pizza must have cheese on it. You present me with something that looks like a pizza and that has cheese on it. I declare it a pizza. You reveal that while what you’ve handed me has cheese on it, the rest of it is actually a plaster sculpture. Oh no. You hoaxed me! And I was really in the mood for pizza! That sucks, but does it follow that I should call into question my view that pizza must have cheese on it?*

If 3 isn’t true, we don’t get 4. But again, I have questions about 1 and 2, as well. And in any event, is it the case that 4 is never called into question?

Perhaps there is a better way to reconstruct why BLP think they’ve made a point about “radical constructivism” with their hoax. If you can think of one, give it a shot in the comments.

That said, their hoax may show something about the standards at the journals into which their papers were accepted. Comments about whether that is the case, and if it is, suggestions about what can or should be done about it, are welcome.

*This is just an example; yes I am aware that there is cheeseless pizza.

(Thanks to Jonny Anomaly for bringing this to my attention. The hoax. Not the pizza.)

UPDATE 1: The articles and referee reports can be found here.

UPDATE 2: I read the article that Hypatia accepted, “When the Joke Is on You: a Feminist Perspective on how Positionality Influences Satire.” In my opinion, if the citations are legitimate and the descriptions of others’ views are accurate (something which I am not in a position to determine at this time), the editors of Hypatia have nothing to be particularly ashamed of. Most of the twenty-page paper is a reasonable synthesis of others’ ideas about oppression and humor. It may not be groundbreaking (as one of the reviewers points out), but it is not ridiculous. It seems to me that only on the last page of the paper are there certain statements that could be interpreted as outrageous, but they are so vague that a much more charitable alternative interpretation would be reasonable. In short, assuming accurate representations of others’ views and legitimate citations, one’s opinion of Hypatia should not be affected by its publication of this paper.

Now I know some of you won’t believe me. So please, read the paper for yourself. It’s right here (look for the document titled “HOH2 Typeset”). You can also read the referee reports and editors comments here (look for the document titled “HOH2 ReviewerComments”). Let me know what you think.

UPDATE 3: I have not yet read “The Progressive Stack: An Intersectional Feminist Approach to Pedagogy,” the paper that Hypatia did not accept (it received three successive “revise and resubmit” judgments), but Nicholas Delon (New College of Florida) did. He shares his thoughts in the comments, starting here. You can read the paper here (look for the file titled “ProgressiveStack3”) and its reviews here (“ProgressiveStackReviews”).

The post Hypatia and other Journals Successfully Tricked Into Accepting “Fake” Papers (Updated) appeared first on Daily Nous.

What Is the Best Type of Open Access for Philosophy and Other Humanities Disciplines? (guest post by Roberta Millstein)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 21/09/2018 - 12:36am in

The following is a guest post* by Roberta L. Millstein, professor of philosophy at the University of California, Davis.

The Implications of Plan S: What Is the Best Type of Open Access for Philosophy and Other Humanities Disciplines?
by Roberta L. Millstein

On September 12, Daily Nous posted about Plan S, an initiative requiring that any academic publications, including books, resulting from research funded by a number of major European research funders “be published in compliant Open Access Journals or on compliant Open Access Platforms.”

Both its advocates and its detractors think Plan S might have serious effects on the publishing landscape in Europe. Non-Europeans will almost certainly experience downstream effects as the journals we publish in change in response. But if Plan S potentially throws the publishing system off balance, what do we want it to look like as it regains equilibrium? Where do we want it to land?

Since Plan S’s announcement, I have been following the discussion in various venues with great interest, noting that there seems to be a lack of clarity on two points: 1) whether posting author’s versions of articles (lacking journal formatting and pagination) to repositories (so-called “green” access) “counts” as open access for the purpose of Plan S, and 2) whether Plan S is allowing for, or fostering, or promoting, no-fee open access (so-called “diamond” or “platinum” access, in contrast to access in which the author pays fees, so-called “gold” access).

I imagine that these points will be clarified over time. In the meantime, I think that philosophers should take these issues seriously—consider how they will affect us and consider what will bring about the best publishing system.

As background, let’s recall that one big push for open access comes from the exorbitant fees charged by a number of publishers for their journals. These fees are becoming difficult for many libraries to pay, and they are also high for individuals to pay on a per-article basis. Meanwhile, most of the “product” is produced by academics for free; we write the articles, we peer review the papers, and we edit the journals. And then there is the fact that, to the extent that we are paid, many of us are paid through public monies, yet the public is not given access to what they have paid for.

Finally, there are a number of categories of people who lack access to for-pay journals: academics at universities with budget challenges, people looking for academic employment, independent scholars, and the general public. So, there seems to be a strong ethical case for open access.

But what type of open access? Would allowing articles to be posted to repositories immediately upon publication be sufficient (as Peter Suber has suggested in response to Plan S)?

I think repositories are great—to give one example, I’ve used Philsci-Archive for about as long as it has existed, served on its Board for several years, and even wrote a blog post encouraging people to use it. But while repositories increase access, they are not sufficient on their own (that is, not sufficient if journals are still charging for access to the “definitive” version), for the following reasons.

First, they can create version confusion. Sometimes people post pre-prints; later, there is a more “definitive” version, but it’s the pre-print that gets cited. And it can become difficult to track the number of citations of a paper, with potentially multiple versions in the repository plus the journal’s own version. If the article were freely available at the journal’s site, it would be more likely to be the cited version (and editors could do their best to enforce those citations).

Second (and this is particular true for humanities disciplines like philosophy), we often want a precise quote with page numbers. Those who only have access to the repository but cannot afford access to the journal will not be able to cite properly. They might not even have the proper quote, given that edits are often made at the proof stage and may or may not appear in the author version. So, the various categories of people who lack access are all disadvantaged by not having access to the journal version.

Third, just because something is in a repository doesn’t mean it can be easily found by someone who isn’t familiar with such repositories. I frequently get requests for my papers that are available not only on PhilSci-Archive but also on my website. After my most recent such request, I googled the title to see how easy it was to find. A regular Google search did not turn up the free versions, at least toward the top of the search listings; only a Google Scholar search did.

Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, allowing for repositories to satisfy “open access” means that the unfair and exploitative system that we currently have in place will remain essentially unchanged. There will be no incentive for toll access journals to do anything different than what they are doing now.

The bottom line is that while repositories are useful and fulfill various needs, for the purpose of providing full open access we need something more.

So, then what is the answer? Many philosophers rightly fear open access that just shifts the costs from readers to authors via author processing charges (APCs). Most of us don’t have grants to be able to afford that. We need journals that provide full access to the journal versions of articles (copyedited and formatting) without charging readers or authors. We already have a few such journals, including Contemporary Aesthetics, Ergo, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, Philosopher’s Imprint (requests a $20 donation from authors), and Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology (full disclosure: I am a co-editor), but we need more. And it would be good if some of our existing and prestigious journals could be open access, not just new journals.

How can that be achieved? Obviously, that is a complicated subject. Luckily for us, others have already studied it. Check out “Converting Scholarly Journals to Open Access: A Review of Approaches and Experiences“. Note especially that there have been a number of success stories in converting (“flipping”) journals from toll access to fully open access journals without APCs, including the following intriguing suggestion:

Journal flipping can be funded through a broad cooperative consortium agreement among libraries. Commonly, multiple journals are flipped and supported as part of a single consortium agreement because the larger scale is beneficial to membership and publication outlets. Optimally, the funds directed to covering journal publication activities would be taken from funds that libraries previously allocated to pay for journal subscriptions, thus avoiding a substantial extra cost. SCOAP3 and OLH are the most prominent successful initiatives so far. Current successes suggest that the model can be successful. To date, the consortium approach has focused on a specific discipline and has been primarily driven by nonprofit or noncommercial organizations. Different approaches might also work, but so far, these have been the defining characteristics of the initiatives that have been successful.

I don’t pretend that conversion to open access will be without its bumps, but it is the most ethical and inclusive path. I call on my fellow philosophers and other academics in the humanities—those of us with job security, that is—to advocate for full no-fee open access. If not us, then who? Let’s make sure that the open access movement goes in a direction that works for us.

* * * * *

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology Executive Editor Christopher Eliot for helpful suggestions and wording.

Art: David Moreno, “Invitacion”

The post What Is the Best Type of Open Access for Philosophy and Other Humanities Disciplines? (guest post by Roberta Millstein) appeared first on Daily Nous.

Help Crowdfund a Book on Women Philosophers by Women Philosophers

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 19/09/2018 - 1:05am in

The Philosopher Queens is book in progress that features over 20 chapters on women philosophers written by women philosophers.

The book’s intended audience includes “newcomers to philosophy, as well as all those professors who know that they could still learn a thing or two.”

Edited by Rebecca Buxton (Oxford) and Lisa Whiting (Durham), the book sets out to respond to “those many people who have told us that there are no great women philosophers,” as they explain in the following video:

Production of the book is being crowdfunded at Unbound.  Check out this page to see the ways you can support the project, along with the various benefits you can get for doing so, as well the list of contributors and subjects.

Lisa Whiting and Rebecca Buxton

The post Help Crowdfund a Book on Women Philosophers by Women Philosophers appeared first on Daily Nous.

Philosophy Publishing and Europe’s New Open Access Requirement

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 13/09/2018 - 12:19am in

Last week, eleven national funding agencies in Europe, along with the European Commission and the European Research Council, announced the creation of “cOALition S,” which set forth what is being called “Plan S,” an initiative requiring that any academic publications, including books, resulting from research they fund “be published in compliant Open Access Journals or on compliant Open Access Platforms.”

At the end of this post I ask about the implications of Plan S for academic philosophy, but first let’s get some details on the table.

In a preamble to the plan, the funders state:

Publication paywalls are withholding a substantial amount of research results from a large fraction of the scientific community and from society as a whole. This constitutes an absolute anomaly, which hinders the scientific enterprise in its very foundations and hampers its uptake by society…

We recognise that researchers need to be given a maximum of freedom to choose the proper venue for publishing their results and that in some jurisdictions this freedom may be covered by a legal or constitutional protection. However, our collective duty of care is for the science system as a whole, and researchers must realise that they are doing a gross disservice to the institution of science if they continue to report their outcomes in publications that will be locked behind paywalls. 

We also understand that researchers may be driven to do so by a misdirected reward system which puts emphasis on the wrong indicators (e.g. journal impact factor). We therefore commit to fundamentally revise the incentive and reward system of science, using the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) as a starting point.

The deadline for authors and publishers to comply with Plan S is January 1, 2020 for articles “but it is understood that the timeline to achieve Open Access for monographs and books may be longer.” More European funding agencies are expected to sign on in the coming months.

Plan S does not allow publishers to satisfy its requirements by making research open access months after their initial publication; research must be OA upon publication. And, as Science Magazine reports, the plan “won’t allow publication in so-called hybrid journals, which charge subscriptions but also make individual papers OA for an extra fee.”

Here are some other elements of the plan:

  • Authors retain copyright of their publication with no restrictions. All publications must be published under an open license, preferably the Creative Commons Attribution Licence CC BY. In all cases, the license applied should fulfil the requirements defined by the Berlin Declaration;
  • Where applicable, Open Access publication fees are covered by the Funders or universities, not by individual researchers; it is acknowledged that all scientists should be able to publish their work Open Access even if their institutions have limited means;
  • When Open Access publication fees are applied, their funding is standardised and capped (across Europe);
  • The ‘hybrid’ model of publishing is not compliant with the above principles;
  • The Funders will monitor compliance and sanction non-compliance.

What are the implications of Plan S for academic philosophy?

There are a number of questions here. For example: How will Plan S affect where philosophers choose to study and work? How will it affect where they publish? How will it affect the perception of existing journals and existing presses? Will existing “prestige” journals switch to open access? Will we see the creation of more open access philosophy journals? Will we see the creation of reputable open access book publishers? How will Plan S change the funding landscape? How will it affect research and publishing outside of Europe?

Discussion welcome.

(Thanks to Anco Peeters for the suggestion to post about this.)


The post Philosophy Publishing and Europe’s New Open Access Requirement appeared first on Daily Nous.

Anonymous Peer Review: “An Inherently Conservative Procedure”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 31/08/2018 - 3:18am in

On the topic of anonymity, I should also note that I am deeply convinced by the point that anonymous review is a privilege afforded only to work in mainstream areas of philosophy, written in a conventional voice, and hence it is an inherently conservative procedure.

Those are the words of Rebecca Kukla (Georgetown), editor-in-chief of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal, in a post at the Blog of the APA, where she writes about practices the journal has instituted that have contributed to improving and diversifying the journal.

She writes:

Perhaps most contentiously, we have resisted the trend towards triple anonymous review. Because of my broad commitment to standpoint epistemology, I believe that knowing who wrote a piece is often important to assessing the value and meaning of what it says. I also want to be able to take extra care to mentor papers by scholars from marginalized groups, if they have potential but are not yet ready for publication. Given our roughly 85% rejection rate, many potentially excellent papers, including those by marginalized scholars, will simply get cut unless I go out of my way to recognize their potential and make sure they get good feedback and a chance to resubmit. While we do use a double-anonymous review system, my knowledge of who wrote a paper helps me contextualize the reviews it receives. Furthermore, my knowledge of the authors of our submissions has helped me to include more work by non-Anglophone scholars: Before either desk rejecting an awkwardly written paper or sending it out for anonymous review, I will often contact non-Anglophone author and ask them to resubmit it after getting help with proofreading and idiom from an Anglophone colleague.

On the topic of anonymity, I should also note that I am deeply convinced by the point that anonymous review is a privilege afforded only to work in mainstream areas of philosophy, written in a conventional voice, and hence it is an inherently conservative procedure. As Shay Welch pointed out eloquently at our APA panel this past spring, philosophers who work on marginalized topics or who have a distinctive voice or writing style really cannot receive anonymous review. Everyone qualified to review their work will already be able to tell or at least make a strong guess about their identity. So the idea that anonymous review levels differences and removes biases is a myth. Given that many of us take it for granted that formally and procedurally equal treatment tends to benefit the privileged rather than to promote genuine equality of access, it surprises me how many philosophers accept without question that more anonymity in the review process automatically promotes justice.

You can read the rest of the post, and comment on it, here.

Gabriel Dawe, “Plexus A1” (photo by J. Weinberg)

The post Anonymous Peer Review: “An Inherently Conservative Procedure” appeared first on Daily Nous.

Derogatory Language in Philosophy Journal Risks Increased Hostility and Diminished Discussion (guest post) (Update: Response from Editors)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 27/08/2018 - 11:48pm in

The following is a guest post* from Sophie Allen (Keele), Elizabeth Finneron-Burns (Warwick), Jane Clare Jones, Holly Lawford-Smith (Melbourne), Mary Leng (York), Rebecca Reilly-Cooper (Warwick), and Rebecca Simpson, concerning two articles recently published in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.

The articles in question appeared in a symposium in the journal earlier this year (Volume 96, Issue 2) on How Propaganda Works by Jason Stanley (Yale). They are “The Epistemology of Propaganda” by Rachel McKinnon (College of Charleston), and Stanley’s “Replies“.

(UPDATE: The editor of Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Ernest Sosa, responds here.)

Derogatory Language in Philosophy Journal Risks Increased Hostility and Diminished Discussion

by Dr. Sophie Allen, Dr. Elizabeth Finneron-Burns, Dr. Jane Clare Jones, Dr. Holly Lawford-Smith, Dr. Mary Leng, Dr. Rebecca Reilly-Cooper, and Dr. Rebecca Simpson

We write to register in public a complaint with a recent issue of Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (PPR). Two papers in this issue, the first by Rachel McKinnon and the second by Jason Stanley, used the term ‘TERF’, which is at worst a slur and at best derogatory. We are extremely concerned about the normalization of this term in academic philosophy, and its effect in reinforcing a hostile climate for debate on an issue of key importance to women. Furthermore, one of the papers also included a false empirical claim which misrepresents an ongoing disagreement between trans activists and gender critical and radical feminists. Here we’ll stick to those two points; we are currently working on a longer essay that elaborates upon our philosophical concerns with McKinnon’s article. We emphasize that our complaint is with PPR: proper oversight would have seen the term ‘TERF’ replaced with a neutral counterpart, and checked the accuracy of the empirical claims.

“TERF” is widely used across online platforms as a way to denigrate and dismiss the women (and some men) who disagree with the dominant narrative on trans issues. The acronym stands for “Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist”, and historically marked a difference within radical feminism. Although its usage is becoming ever broader, one of the groups it targets are lesbians who merely maintain that same-sex attraction is not equivalent to transphobia, another is women who believe that women’s oppression is sex-based, and are concerned about erasing the political importance of female bodies. Anyone who is in any doubt about the way this term is used should consult the following pages, which compile examples from Twitter and other online platforms:

Obviously, whether “TERF” is a slur depends on your preferred theory of slurs. McKinnon’s article provides an account of the origin of the term, and then suggests that because it was coined by “cisgender radical feminists” the idea it is a slur—indeed, a misogynistic slur—is “ludicrous” (p. 484)—although it’s not evident that origin rather than evolved usage should determine the meaning of a term. She also claims that thinking “TERF” is a slur because it is used to denigrate women is “‘absurd”’ and “‘nonsensical”’ (p. 485). However, the linguist Debbie Cameron argues that for “all the criteria that have been proposed for defining a word as a slur, [TERF] does meet most of them at least partially”. She adds:

My personal judgment on the slur question has been particularly influenced by the evidence that TERF is now being used in a kind of discourse which has clear similarities with hate-speech directed at other groups (it makes threats of violence, it includes other slur-terms, it uses metaphors of pollution).[1]

We’re aware, from recent Tweets of McKinnon’s and from other sources, that McKinnon’s paper was contested prior to publication, with people pointing out to PPR’s Editor Ernest Sosa that “TERF” is a slur and suggesting that a more neutral term, for example “gender critical feminists”, be substituted. Sosa and the other editors were given evidence of the offensiveness of the term; fielded complaints from the members of the groups it targets; and yet persisted in publishing the piece regardless. Furthermore, if McKinnon herself didn’t intend it as a slur then it’s hard to see why she would have been so adamant about keeping it given this contestation. We can’t think of another paper published in an academic philosophy journal that deliberately uses a term widely known to be offensive to those it targets, when uncontested alternatives are available.

In addition, the term “TERF” likely doesn’t refer to any existing person, but rather caricatures a wide range of feminist positions and gives opponents an easy way to pigeonhole and dismiss them. Gender critical and radical feminists are not an organized group and do not share a homogeneous set of opinions. The exposition that McKinnon gives of “TERF” beliefs is somewhat unclear, but includes, according to her, the belief that the inclusion of trans women in natal women-only spaces constitutes rape (p. 484), that trans women should be denied medical treatment or protection from discrimination (p. 486), and that trans women are sexual predators (p. 485) None of us hold these beliefs, but we have all been called “TERFs” online, some of us frequently, and indeed, one of us by McKinnon herself in a series of Tweets. Apparently, under the present conditions, holding any of the following beliefs is more than enough to attract the label ‘TERF’: believing that humans are sexually dimorphic; that it is not evident that “self-identification” is a sufficient basis for determining that someone is a woman; and that we should be able to discuss changes to law and social practice which impact women’s sex-based protections.

Whether or not it’s a slur, it is undeniable that”‘TERF” is a term used to harass, shame, dismiss, and denigrate women’s ideas and opinions. The fact that PPR has printed two papers that both deploy, rather than merely discuss, this term is unacceptable. It sets a bad precedent for other journals, and it signals disrespect to members of a group that is already underrepresented in academic philosophy, namely women. The conventions of academic discourse demand that radical and gender critical feminists, like anyone else in our profession, be free to state their professional disagreements and be engaged with in a way that is courteous and respectful. Ad hominem attacks are neither, and there are legitimate concerns about normalizing a term which many women feel is instrumental in creating a hostile and intimidating climate in this debate, and is stifling academic discussion of this issue.[2]

Our second main concern is with a dubious empirical claim made in McKinnon’s paper. On p. 485, in the context of arguing that women’s concerns about sex-segregated space are “unfounded’ and “based only a flawed ideology,” she asserts that “there’s never been a verified reported instance of a trans women [sic] sexually assaulting a cis woman in such spaces”. (Indeed, she insists that the reverse is true, without providing any sources.) The spaces in question are “bathrooms, changing rooms, shelters and rape relief centers, colleges, music festivals, mentorship programs, sports, and so on.” One major issue here is distinguishing a trans woman from someone falsely claiming to be a trans woman, when trans activism is committed to self-identification as the sole criterion of determination. In 2014, for instance, a serial sexual offender “pretending” to be a trans woman was convicted of sexually assaulting women in two women-only homeless shelters in Toronto.[3] In July 2018 it emerged that a trans woman had sexually assaulted four female inmates at a prison in England.[4] If we broaden out to sexual offences more widely: a trans women was charged in Idaho in 2016 for taking secret pictures of an 18 year-old woman in a changing room;[5] a trans woman was segregated for making inappropriate advances to fellow inmates in a UK women’s prison in 2017[6], and in May 2018 a group of nine women brought a suit against a homeless shelter in Fresno, CA, where they were required to shower with “a person who identified as a transgender woman who made lewd and inappropriate comments, and leered at them while they were naked.”[7]

One sex-segregated space that women are particularly concerned about preserving is female prisons. There is increasing pressure for trans women to be housed in the female estate, and yet there are real concerns about doing so. A recent freedom of information request in the UK revealed 48% (60/125) of the known-trans population in UK jails to be sex offenders.[8][See * note below]. This matters for several reasons: first, because sex offenses are disproportionately offenses against women (even if they don’t happen in women-only spaces); second, because only 3% of the female population in UK jails are sex offenders (128/4035), so this is evidence of male- rather than female-pattern crime;[9] and third, because 1/3 women in prison have been sexually abused, usually by males, making it especially traumatic to share space with offenders against women.[10] Women’s prisons have few facilities for segregating sex offenders (unlike men’s prisons), which means that when trans women are housed in women’s prisons, natal women pay a serious cost. Trans women should be provided with safe space in prisons, but housing them with natal women should not be assumed to be the obvious answer.

None of this shows anything about all trans women in general, just as pointing to the prevalence of male violence against women doesn’t show anything about all men in general. But it is to say that McKinnon’s claim is demonstrably false. She implies that it’s unreasonable for natal women to worry about male-pattern violence from people self-identifying as trans women; it’s clear that it isn’t and more empirical research should be done before self-identification is sufficient to gain access to women’s spaces.

Women have legitimate reasons to be worried about male violence, and the analysis of male violence has long been a central plank of feminist political practice. Resistance to male violence is not merely confined to a “radical fringe” of feminist women, nor is it a pretext for an agenda specifically targeting trans women. Women are being asked to accept, as a point of principle, that because a male person identifies as a woman, they immediately cease to belong to the class of persons who exhibit male-pattern violence, and should be allowed into women’s sex-segregated spaces on that basis. We consider that in the interest of proper oversight, this claim should be settled on the basis of thorough empirical analysis, and that it is unreasonable to stipulate that women give up their well-grounded concerns about male violence because it is mandated by a conviction in the power of self-identification. At present there are several documented instances of trans women who have been found committing crimes which are characteristic of male-pattern violence. To underline, this doesn’t give women reason to worry about trans women in particular, but it doesn’t give them any reason not to, either.

The reason this whole debate is so tense at the moment is that the UK and New Zealand are considering a shift to self-identification for gender identity. It follows from the belief in gender identity as the sole and sufficient determinant of whether a person is a man or a woman, that a male person does not have to undergo any form of transition in order to become a woman, but simply has to identify as one. In practice this means that anyone who claims to be a woman, regardless of their appearance, would be able to access women’s spaces, and there would be no basis by which women might question that access. Self-ID would thus undermine women’s ability to question male-presenting people entering women’s space, and also raises issues regarding the possibility of men cross-dressing as women in order to enter such spaces. It is notable that in her article, McKinnon reads a quote expressing concern about “men claiming to be transgender” directly as a claim about “[t]rans women as sexual predators.” (p.485) It is important to underline therefore that our concerns are not directed at transsexual women who have transitioned under medical care and acquired a Gender Recognition Certificate. Rather, the issues are around the intent to change the protocols for trans women to one operating on the basis of self-identification, and the way that could make women’s sex-segregated spaces de facto inoperative.

To conclude: There are many extremely complex theoretical issues raised by the current thinking that underpins the transgender rights movement, and many implications for the safety and rights of women as a class of persons subject to sex-based oppression. It is our experience that the current framing of these issues by the transgender rights movement has sought to restrict the possibility of debate by casting women’s concerns and objections as motivated solely by hatred, and hence as beyond the pale of legitimate democratic discussion. For the reasons outlined above, we wish to register our concern about academic philosophical discourse becoming a forum for legitimizing, reinforcing, and disseminating that framing. No journal should allow the term “TERF” to make it through to the published version of a paper.










[9] Ibid.

[10] Rumgay, J. (2005), Twice Punished: When victims become offenders. Criminal Justice Matters. The centre for crime and justice studies: 16-38

[Note from JW:] A reader has uncovered a possible problem with this statistic. He writes: 

This figure has been called into question by the BBC’s Reality Check Team. The BBC team demonstrates in that article that the 125 transgender prisoners only includes those who are on longer term sentences, and that it’s likely that many fewer than 48% of transgender prisoners are, in fact, sex offenders. This matters because in the original post on Daily Nous, the 48% figure is compared to 3% of the female population in general. The latter figure is taken from the whole prison population, not just those serving longer term sentences. I think that the promotion of this misleading figure without in-text correction, runs the risk of perpetuating harms to the trans community, and, in particular, to those trans people in prisons, who are among the most vulnerable members of that community. It seems very important that the figure be appropriately qualified. 

UPDATE: Reply from Ernest Sosa (Rutgers), editor-in-chief of Philosophy and Phenomenological Research

Some weeks ago, PPR received a letter from Dr. Holly Lawford-Smith that leveled two serious charges about the content of an article published in our journal: Rachel Mckinnon’s ‘The Epistemology of Propaganda’ PPR (Volume 96, Issue 2, 2018). We the editors took it seriously enough to deliberate extensively until we reached consensus. The complaints have now been made public in Daily Nous, and we appreciate the opportunity to make our response correspondingly public, which we would like to do as follows.    — Ernest Sosa

Dear Dr. Lawford-Smith,

Thank you for your letter about Rachel Mckinnon’s ‘The Epistemology of Propaganda’ PPR (Volume 96, Issue 2, 2018).

You have leveled two serious charges about the content of this article, and they deserve to be treated separately. 

The first charge, that we have printed an author’s use of a slur in our pages, is a serious one, if correct.  However, this issue did not escape the attention of the editor responsible for the publication of this article, who consulted with several senior distinguished scholars in the relevant field, whose consensus view was that though the term in question might evolve to become a slur, the denigrating uses that you have exhibited are on a par with denigrating uses of ‘Jew’ and many other terms, and quite compatible with its having a descriptive meaning.  Since in any case the question of whether it is a slur is a controversial one that is a matter of academic disagreement between you and the author of this article, it is not the role of the editors to decide this issue. 

Your second charge, that we have printed an article containing multiple empirical falsehoods, also deserves serious consideration.  It is the position of the editors that empirical falsity of claims in an article published in PPR cannot be a condition of retraction, correction, or apology.  And while we appreciate why you interpret the evidence that you have provided as showing that the author’s claim is empirically false, we are not persuaded that it is inconsistent with the letter of the author’s carefully worded claim, and whether it is turns again on an academic issue – namely, who is to qualify as ‘trans’.  Again, when something turns on an academic issue under dispute, it is not the role of the editors to decide this issue pre-emptively.

Thanks again,

Ernest Sosa

For the Editors [Anil Gupta, Maria Lasonen-Aarnio, Ram Neta, Carolina Sartorio, Mark Schroeder, Ernest Sosa, Daniel Stoljar]

[There has been some controversy over whether any of the authors of this post asked for PPR to retract McKinnon’s article. An article about this post at Inside Higher Ed says “There was some ‘back and forth’ in terms of an informal request for a retraction.” I asked Professor Sosa directly about this. He wrote the following to me: “The request we received at PPR was for correction and apology only, not for retraction.”]

[A comment about why I put up this guest post.]

Art: “Trees Bending” by Lili Elbe

Comments Policy

The post Derogatory Language in Philosophy Journal Risks Increased Hostility and Diminished Discussion (guest post) (Update: Response from Editors) appeared first on Daily Nous.

Journal of Ethics Founding EIC Steps Down after 23 Years

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 14/08/2018 - 10:13pm in

J. Angelo Corlett, professor of philosophy at San Diego State University, founded the Journal of Ethics in 1995 and has served as its editor-in-chief since then. In an editorial in the journal last month, he announced he was stepping down as editor-in-chief and made some remarks that readers might find of interest.

The first concerns a topic discussed recently here: the length of articles. While just last month, Av Hiller (Portland State) argued for more short philosophy articles, Professor Corlett writes:

I also hope that the new editor will continue my tradition of not placing any page limitations on what is published in its pages as most of us have important articles which deserve to be published but cannot easily find a home for them because of the obsession among most publishers and their academic journals to publish rather brief pieces due to the fact that, as far as has been explained to me by some academic publishing editors, publishers are paid among other factors by the number of articles per journal volume sold. Given this fact, it behooves publishers to have published in their journals a greater number of brief articles than lengthy ones, no matter how much this adversely effects the publication of excellent lengthy articles or the quality of published research generally. The Journal of Ethics should continue to serve the philosophy community of ethicists by remaining open to publishing high quality work no matter what its length as this is yet one more distinctive feature of the journal. And it should not hesitate to publish high quality philosophical papers which go against the grain of mainstream ethics, though it is increasingly difficult to procure suitable referees in various areas of ethics due to entrenched biases among ethicists. This journal must continue to stand with Plato’s Socrates who urges us to follow the arguments wherever they lead us. I am confident that Socrates means for this injunction to be construed in a non-partisan manner.

The second concerns the general approach that Professor Corlett thinks editors should take towards authors. I don’t think his ideas here are controversial, but some may think that in academic philosophy generally they are not always lived up to:

Equally as important is that I wish the new editor the best of skill, dedication and luck and encourage him or her to edit with moral integrity and to attempt as I did to treat authors as s/he would like to be treated. Authors ought to be treated with dignity, respect, justly and fairly. And when errors are made, it is the duty of the Editor-in-Chief to take ultimate responsibility (with an attitude of taking strict liability) for the errors and to do all s/he can to correct them as quickly and as well as possible, providing authors with as much autonomy and authority in the process and as is possible under the circumstances. I have attempted to do this since 1995. It is the very least that an academic editor can do out of respect to authors, the journal s/he edits, and to the academic profession as a whole.

The whole editorial is here. Professor Corlett will continue to be listed as the journal’s Founding Editor. To my knowledge, a new editor-in-chief has not yet been named.

The post Journal of Ethics Founding EIC Steps Down after 23 Years appeared first on Daily Nous.