Murdoch Demands Curtailment of Parliamentary Democracy over Brexit

Earlier today I put up a piece about an article in the I newspaper about the claim by a charity, the Hansard Society, that British people were increasingly demanding a more authoritarian leader, who could override parliament. This is obviously dangerous, as at the end of such anti-parliamentary sentiments lies authoritarian political strongmen like Vladimir Putin outright dictatorships, like those of Hitler and Mussolini. I speculated that, if the findings are correct, they’re probably due to Tweezer’s supporters getting impatient with parliament blocking her wretched, worthless Brexit deals.

It turns out I may well have been right. Brexit is involved. And so, unfortunately, is that curse of the modern press, Rupert Murdoch.

No sooner had I put my piece up then I found that the good fellow behind Zelo Street had put up a similar article based on articles about the Hansard Society and its wretched poll in the Times and the Guardian. The Thunderer’s article had the headline, ‘Brexit-weary Britons long for political strongman’, contained the following ominous statements

In findings that suggest large parts of the country are ready to entertain radical political change, nearly three quarters of people felt that the British system of governing needed ‘quite a lot’ or ‘a great deal’ of improvement.

More than four in ten thought that the country’s problems could be more easily solved if ministers ‘didn’t have to worry so much about votes in Parliament. The findings come two days before Theresa May returns to Brussels to ask the EU for another Brexit extension.

The Street says that it is no accident that the mythical desire for a political strongman is here linked to Brexit, and that the only surprise is that the Scum hasn’t received its orders to put the same demand in cruder terms. The article then goes on to discuss the Groan’s treatment of these findings, which is hostile, and quotes Rose Carter of the anti-racism, anti-religious extremism organisation, Hope Not Hate. She says

We are facing a crisis of political mistrust. And when people do not trust traditional political systems, they look elsewhere. That’s when support for political extremes grows.

The Street then goes on to describe how political strongmen look good, until they’re actually put to the test, and goes on to give examples. These aren’t just the obvious cases of Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, but also the Greek Colonels, who left Cyprus partitioned, Salazar in Portugal, who left his country poor and illiterate, General Franco in Spain, who brought some people prosperity in the 1960s, but from a very low base; General Pinochet and his legacy of death and division in Chile; and finally Vladimir Putin in Russia. His gangster regime has brought some people prosperity, but only recently has the Russian economy started growing.

But, as the Street’s article notes, the Dirty Digger likes Donald Trump and his authoritarian style of government, as he mistakenly thinks that the Orange Generalissimo gets things done. The Street therefore concludes that, once again, Murdoch is debasing politics for his own ends.

Murdoch’s selfish demand for the curtailment of parliament’s powers and the establishment of the Prime Minister as some kind of quasi-dictator isn’t quite as extreme as Lord Rothermere’s support of Adolf Hitler and Oswald Mosley in the 1930s and the Daily Mail’s infamous headline ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’. Nor is it quite like Mussolini, who was the editor of a radical newspaper, the Popolo d’Italia, which he used to promote Fascism and his personal dictatorship. It’s far more like Berlusconi, who used his vast media empire to promote his political ambitions. It wasn’t a military dictatorship, like Mussolini’s with paramilitary thugs running berserk and the banning of other political parties. But then, as the author of the book, The Dark Heart of Italy stated on a radio interview about his book on Berlusconi’s Italy, this new form of Fascism didn’t need them. Unlike Berlusconi, Murdoch hasn’t put himself forward for political office. But he has been instrumental in framing policy in several governments, most notoriously in Blair’s, where one minister described the Digger as almost being like a hidden member of the cabinet, so concerned with Blair to have his approval.

This makes Murdoch a real threat to British democracy. There are reasons why the monopolies and mergers commission sought to prevent newspaper proprietors owning too large a portion of British media, and why many people, including many Tories, were not in favour of the Digger getting hold of the Times. But they were overruled by Thatcher, and have been overruled by other Prime Ministers ever since, eager to grant Murdoch an ever-increasing share of press and television broadcasting in order to gain the support of his squalid empire. And Murdoch’s own political views are directly opposed the welfare of Britain’s working people. They’re pro-privatisation, including that of the NHS and education, because he’s moving into educational publishing. He wants low taxes, less government regulation, and, surprise, surprise, a minimal welfare state. And now he’s shown himself to be an outright enemy of parliament and the British democratic tradition it represents.

Murdoch has no right to demand this. He isn’t British, but a foreigner. He’s actually an American citizens, as the Americans have the good sense to pass regulations stopping foreigners possessing a controlling interest in the newspapers and utilities. Which is something we should have done long ago. John Major back in the 1990s finally came round to realising that Murdoch’s squalid empire should be broken up, but by that time Murdoch had ditched him and was putting his weight behind Tony Blair, who more than willingly returned the favour.

Murdoch and his wretched papers have been bad for Britain, bad for British politics, bad for its working people, and now have begun an attack on the democracy. This can’t be allowed to continue, but I fear that with his newspapers now so powerful, too many people have been brainwashed by him to make this possible.


Are Spam Filters Blocking Referee Requests?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/03/2019 - 11:23pm in

A philosopher wrote in to share a lesson she learned recently.

Elizabeth Radcliffe (William & Mary) writes:

I wonder if others have had the experience of finding one or more referee invitations from journals in their spam or junk e-mail folders. This has happened recently to me and to someone else. In that person’s case, the journal had written months back and had contacted the person with two follow-up e-mails, all of which, he discovered,  landed in the spam mail folder. In my case, the request, from a different journal, was only about a week old. I rarely check my junk mail, but decided to do so when I heard about this case—and was surprised to find the same thing had happened to me. I’m mortified to think how many times this might have happened in the past, since any junk mail older than 3 weeks is deleted automatically by my system.

What the e-mails seem to have in common is that they contain an active URL  (http://www…  etc.) for the site where the journal instructions and submission are located. Perhaps this triggers an anti-spam program to discard the e-mail, in order to thwart clicking on links that download viruses?

It would be good for journal editors to be aware of this problem, especially if they frequently don’t get replies to their requests. But it also behooves all of us to be checking our spam and junk mail folders.

Depending on your university’s email system, you may be able to whitelist certain email addresses so that they’re less likely to get blocked. “Unjunking” the messages probably helps train the system’s spam filter, but I don’t know to what extent. If others have suggestions on how to avoid this problem, feel free to share. In the meanwhile, check your junk mail.

Uttaporn Nimmalaikaew, “Nostalgic”

The post Are Spam Filters Blocking Referee Requests? appeared first on Daily Nous.

Publishing Your Philosophy Book with Open Access

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 21/02/2019 - 10:26pm in

Some academic publishers offer authors of monographs an “open access” option. For a fee, the publisher will make a version of the text available online, free to anyone.

Nicholas Shea (University of London) recently published his book, Representation in Cognitive Science, with Oxford University Press, and chose open access (you can view it here).

He writes:

I recently published an open access book with OUP, using grant money to pay for the substantial open access fee. This isn’t something OUP has done much in philosophy, and it’s certainly an experiment for me, so I want to make up my mind about whether it’s a good use of funds.

Given that the book would be on Oxford Scholarship Online (OSO) anyway, the biggest advantage is for people whose universities don’t subscribe to OSO, e.g. in resource-poor settings. There’s also an advantage to having a portable pdf that you can read when you’re offline.

The cost approximates to four open access journal articles, so getting an eight-chapter monograph sounds like a reasonable value. On the other hand the money could instead pay for a conference or a couple of workshops. And it’s a route that’s only open if the author can find some research funds to pay the fee—which of course is more expensive if taking advantage of the reputational and editorial benefits of a major publisher like OUP.

So there are arguments either way and I’m trying to see what people in the profession think. 

Readers, what do you think about the value of choosing and paying for open access publishing? And if you have ideas for/experience with obtaining funds for the express purpose of paying open access fees, please share them. Thanks.

Daniel Lai, “Thinker Under Tree”

Related: “What Is the Best Type of Open Access for Philosophy and Other Humanities Disciplines?“, “Open Access Philosophy Textbooks

The post Publishing Your Philosophy Book with Open Access appeared first on Daily Nous.

The Best Reviewer/Editor Comments You’ve Received

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 12/02/2019 - 10:50pm in

Last week people shared their horror stories on “The Worst Reviewer/Editor Comments You’ve Received“. But refereeing papers and editing journals is crucial and often underappreciated work, and, as some noted, sometimes the comments can be extremely helpful or encouraging or otherwise appreciated.

So we shouldn’t just focus on the negative. As one commenter suggested, “How about a post with ‘best’ comments from reviewers/editors received?” Good idea. Let’s hear ’em.

The post The Best Reviewer/Editor Comments You’ve Received appeared first on Daily Nous.

Who’s Down With QPPs? (Questionable Publication Practices) (guest post by Mark Alfano)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 12/02/2019 - 1:57am in

The following is a guest post* by Mark Alfano (Australian Catholic University & Delft University of Technology).

Who’s down with QPPs?
Mark Alfano

Questionable research practices (QRPs) appear to be troublingly common in contemporary scientific practice. To call something a QRP is not in itself an indictment. Rather, QRPs are just that: questionable—meaning that a reasonable person would have some questions (and potentially some follow-up questions) when they encounter any particular case.

Whereas QRPs mostly have to do with data collection and analysis, we might also have some questions about instances and patterns in a researcher’s approach to publication. To this end, I’ve developed a list of “questionable publication practices” (QPPs) meant to mirror the list of QRPs. QPPs are meant to be questionable in just the same way that QRPs are. While there has been some discussion of QPPs in other disciplines (here, here, here, and here), it’s worthwhile to address them specifically in the context of philosophy.

Here’s the list[1]:

  1. self-dealing
    a. individual self-dealing (e.g., publishing in one’s own edited volumes)
    b. collective self-dealing (e.g., publishing in one’s department-mates’ edited volumes, or those of a similar cabal)
  2. publication in predatory journals
    a. publication in clearly predatory journals (e.g., those on Beall’s list or some other, better-curated list)
    b. publication in economically predatory but academically respectable journals (e.g., those held by Elsevier, Springer, Wiley-Blackwell, and Taylor & Francis)
    c. publication that is not open access
  3. unoriginal publication
    a. plagiarism and borderline-plagiarism of others
    b. self-plagiarism
    c. highly repetitious but not quite self-plagiarizing publication
  4. misuse of textual evidence
    a. quote fabrication or fudging
    b. citation fabrication or fudging
  5. problematic citation patterns
    a. stingy citation patterns
    b. clique-ish citation patterns
    c. brown-nosing citation patterns
    d. excessive self-citation
    e. giving in to citation-extortion by referees
  6. financial conflicts of interest
    a. industry funding (especially undisclosed)
    b. ideological foundation funding (especially undisclosed)
    c. potential to reap financial gain from publication (e.g., IP or spin-off companies)

While the items on this list obviously differ in severity, all are cause for questioning. A few are constitutively bad practice, such as 3a, 4a, and 4b. Others, like 1a and 1b, are signals that might be thrown off when someone is engaged in bad practice but are not in themselves objectionable. It’s also helpful to distinguish between one-off and occasional instances of these QPPs, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, robust patterns of them—especially when someone’s profile includes little else. Additionally, it’s important to recognize that perverse incentives embedded in our publishing culture put pressure on people to engage in various QPPs, especially people with precarious employment.

I’ll briefly go through the rationale for each item on the list, and include an asterisk next to ones that I’ve committed myself and a dagger next to those I’ve witnessed.

1a*†. Imagine glancing at a CV and seeing that the researcher has eight original publications.[2] Two are in peer-reviewed journals and the other six are in volumes they themselves edited. This would give me pause. By contrast, if I saw six peer-reviewed articles and two chapters in the author’s own edited volumes, I’d shrug. Self-dealing of this sort seems to be a problem only when it constitutes the bulk of someone’s publication record. Where exactly to draw the line is tricky, of course, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t clear cases on either side of the line.

1b*†. Likewise, imagine glancing at a CV and seeing that the researcher has eight publications. Two are in peer-reviewed journals. Two are in volumes they themselves edited. And four are in volumes edited by their department-mates. This would also give me pause. It indicates the establishment of an academic ghetto or perhaps a chummy in-group. Of course, it might be the case that the best work on a given topic is done within a single department, but then again it might not. This is why further questions are called for.

2a†. I’m sure most of us have spam folders full of invitations to publish in predatory journals. Don’t do it. (This one isn’t merely questionable, though researchers who are just getting started and don’t have a strong support network may understandably fall for these spam invitations.)

2b*†. Given the sorry state of our publishing ecosystem, avoiding this QPP is probably supererogatory—especially for scholars in junior and precarious positions. Many of the most prestigious journals in philosophy have been captured by rapacious publishing houses. If one wants to make a name for oneself or just accrue enough of a reputation to enjoy stable employment, one may have to publish in such journals. But for those who already enjoy stable employment (especially those with tenure at prestigious universities), there is at least a defeasible reason to avoid such journals. European universities (and others) are starting to put economic pressure on these publishing houses, as is the popularity of sci-hub. If the publishing ecosystem is adequately reformed, this QPP would disappear.

2c*†. This QPP is essentially the same as 2b: avoiding it is desirable and supererogatory, especially for those in senior, stable, prestigious positions. For those in more junior and less stable positions, it’s just part of the game.

3a†. Outright plagiarism is obviously just wrong. Cases of borderline plagiarism are harder to assess. I’m thinking, for instance, of cases where someone hears a work-in-progress presentation at a colloquium or conference, then goes on to scoop the author of the work-in-progress. This might even be done innocently, with the expectation that the original author’s work must already be in press. One way to handle this problem would be to develop a more robust culture of sharing pre-prints on, for example, Doing so would lay down a mile-marker that could both be used to establish precedent and be cited by others who want to avoid engaging in borderline plagiarism.

3b†. What exactly constitutes self-plagiarism is often hard to say. Obviously, if someone publishes verbatim the same paper in two places, that’s self-plagiarism. But it seems to be pretty rare in philosophy. More common is the practice of publishing 70% (near-)verbatim content with a little twist thrown in at the end. This sort of thing really bothers me, but I’ve spoken with quite a few philosophers about it and many of them just shrug their shoulders. Your mileage may vary.

3c†. This QPP is meant to capture cases that don’t quite rise to the level of self-plagiarism but are still worrisome or annoying. Such publications clog up the pipeline, gobble up limited space in journals (there already isn’t enough!), and artificially inflate the author’s publication count, citation count, h-index, and i10-index.

4a†. Whereas outright citation fabrication may be rare, citation fudging seems to be fairly common. What I have in mind by this is citing a paper or book as an exemplar of a view, argument, objection, or fallacy when it probably isn’t.

4b†. Again, outright quote fabrication may be rare (though I’ve caught a case of it!), but quote fudging is more prevalent. Similar to citation fudging, quote fudging takes a quotation out of context or slightly misuses it in some other way. Other types of sloppy quotation and fabrication also fall under 4a and 4b.

5a*†. There seems to be an emerging consensus that philosophers don’t cite enough. We can (and should) do better. Of course, exactly how much is enough is itself contentious.

5b*†. This QPP is related to 1b. The clique might be a department (e.g., one that conceives itself better than the rest of us), a small consortium (my own dear 4TU is often like this), or an academic ghetto (e.g., an isolated ideological or religious network of hold-outs and last-standers). It can be hard to distinguish a small but robust community of discourse that tends to have inward-facing citation patterns from a problematic, self-congratulatory in-group. Since there’s no such thing as instant rationality, we may have to wait for decades to decide which was which.

5c*†. People who have already published on a topic are most likely to be referees, so citing and praising them is tactically smart, even if it does make me throw up in my mouth a little bit.

5d*†. We probably all think our work is unfairly neglected, so this QPP is easy to fall into. For those operating in academic environments where citation counts, h-index, and i10-index matter, there’s also a perverse incentive to self-cite.

5e*†. Referees often demand that they themselves be cited before a paper can be released from R&R purgatory and enter the blessed realm of the forthcoming. As with many of the other QPPs, there are perverse incentives for authors in this context. To some extent, they should be expected to push back against such demands, but it’s also on editors to weed out and curate citations that don’t belong.

6a†. This QPP and the others in category 6 are probably rarer in philosophy than, for instance, the hard sciences, but they’re not entirely absent. Industry funding sometimes (perhaps often) comes with gag rules, non-disclosure agreements, and corporate oversight of findings. That can be problematic for obvious reasons.

6b*†. The elephant in the room when it comes to this QPP is of course the John Templeton Foundation. In my experience (I’ve received three sub-awards on JTF projects), JTF does not dictate analyses or results. What they do do is fund research on some topics/questions and not on others. That sort of agenda-setting has a slow but steady influence on the discipline. Thus far, I’d say that JTF has done considerably more good than harm, but I certainly understand why others might disagree.

6c. This QPP seems to be vanishingly rare in philosophy, but I’m happy (well, unhappy) to learn otherwise.

[1] Thanks for suggestions and feedback are due to Jack Woods, Richard Pettigrew, Kate Norlock, Kevin Timpe, Jade Schiff, Roman Altshuler, David Rosenthal, Kareem Khalifa, Neil van Leeuwen and Elizabeth Harman.

[2] Reprints are a separate issue, since they presumably passed through peer review before being chosen for reprinting.

The post Who’s Down With QPPs? (Questionable Publication Practices) (guest post by Mark Alfano) appeared first on Daily Nous.

The Worst Reviewer/Editor Comments You’ve Received

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 09/02/2019 - 12:31am in

By request, here is a spot for you to tell us about the harsh, insulting, devastating, stupid, nonsensical, mean, unhelpful, contradictory, and otherwise objectionable comments you’ve received from peer reviewers and editors on your work.

Why? The graduate student who asked me to do this writes that he “recently got comments from a journal referee that ended in a snide remark” and that “it would be cathartic for people to post about similar experiences… It would certainly make me feel a little better knowing that such experiences are relatively common.” Also, he adds, “it might be fun.”

(I once submitted an article to a journal whose offices were in a different time zone. They sent back the desk rejection in a couple of hours. It was so quick that, technically, they rejected my paper before I even gave it to them. Now that was harsh.)

Related: “Reasons You Rejected a Paper

The post The Worst Reviewer/Editor Comments You’ve Received appeared first on Daily Nous.

PROSE Award Winners in the Philosophy Category (Updated)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 02/02/2019 - 9:04am in

[See the update, below.] The American Association of Publishers (AAP) bestows awards on publishers for books that “demonstrate exceptional scholarship and have made make a significant contribution to a field of study.” Known as the PROSE Awards, they are given for books in various disciplinary categories, including philosophy.

The 2019 PROSE winner in the philosophy category is Oxford University Press (OUP) for Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny by Kate Manne, assistant professor of philosophy at Cornell University. Whether the book will win OUP  the PROSE Award for Excellence in Humanities, or the AAP’s R.R. Hawkins Award, which goes to the overall winner across all categories, will be announced next month.

Though the AAP has been dispensing its awards since 1976, it only recognized philosophy as a distinctive subject category for the first time in 2002 (prior to that it shared a category with religion). Here are the PROSE Award winners in the philosophy from today back to then:

Oxford University Press
Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny
Kate Manne

MIT Press
Understanding Ignorance: The Surprising Impact of What We Don’t Know
Daniel DeNicola

Princeton University Press
The Philosopher: A History in Six Types
Justin E.H. Smith

Princeton University Press
How Propaganda Works
Jason Stanley

Cambridge University Press
Torture, Power, and Law
David Luban

Palgrave Macmillan
The Problem of Political Authority: An Examination of the Right to Coerce and the Duty to Obey
Michael Huemer

Oxford University Press
The Geometry of Desert
Shelly Kagan

Harvard University Press
The Ethical Project
Philip Kitcher

Cambridge University Press
Friedrich Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography
Julian Young

University of Chicago Press
Plato’s Philosophers: The Coherence of the Dialogues
Catherine Zuckert

Princeton University Press
Made with Words: Hobbes on Language, Mind, & Politics
Philip Pettit

Princeton University Press
Only a Promise of Happiness
Alexander Nehamas

Princeton University Press
Joshua Foa Dienstag

Princeton University Press
Ethics of Identity
Kwame Anthony Appiah

Princeton University Press
The Reasons of Love
Harry G. Frankfurt

Princeton University Press
Philosophical Analysis in the Twentieth Century, Volumes I & II
Scottt Soames

Princeton University Press
Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy
Susan Neiman

(Note: there is no 2014 listing because that was the year the AAP stopped identifying the awards with the years in which the books were published and began doing so using the year in which the awards were bestowed. Also, in some years “honorable mentions” were bestowed; those are not included on this list.)

 So, during the existence of the PROSE subject award for philosophy, Princeton University Press has won the category nine times. Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press have each won it twice. MIT Press, Harvard University Press, and Palgrave Macmillan have each won it once.

How many times has a philosophy category winner advanced to win the overall Humanities award, which the AAP created in 2007? Just once, in 2009. That year, University of Chicago Press won both the Humanities award and the Hawkins Award for Plato’s Philosophers: The Coherence of the DialoguesThe author of that book, Catherine Zuckert, is emeritus professor of political science at Notre Dame.

UPDATE:  Oxford University Press, with Kate Manne’s Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny, has won the 2019 PROSE Award for Excellence in Humanities. This is the first time a publisher has won the category with a book authored by someone whose primary appointment is in a philosophy department. The R.R. Hawkins Award, which goes to the overall winner across all categories, was the winner of the social sciences category: OUP, for Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President by Kathleen Hall Jamieson (University of Pennsylvania).

The post PROSE Award Winners in the Philosophy Category (Updated) appeared first on Daily Nous.

Stakeholder Refereeing for Controversial Ideas: Replies to Some Criticisms

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 22/11/2018 - 2:34am in

I appreciate the responses, here and elsewhere, to my idea of using stakeholder refereeing as an alternative to the pseudonymous authorship policy planned by the Journal of Controversial Ideas.

Below are some criticisms of the idea and my responses to them.

Criticism 1. Justin’s idea is intentionally aimed at preventing the publication of controversial articles.

No it’s not. As I’ve said many times here on Daily Nous, I favor an intellectual community characterized by thoughtful disagreement.

Here are some positions I’ve taken, quite publicly, here on Daily Nous:

  • arguing in favor of demographic diversity in the profession in order to bring new perspectives and experiences into philosophy;
  • supporting an expansion of what counts as canonical philosophy, to learn about earlier differences and to see how disagreement may have been suppressed by cultural chauvinism;
  • fighting attempts at mob rule in academia, because the academic enterprise is about argument and evidence, not social media popularity;
  • skepticism about the “culture of fear” narrative in academia, in part because it inhibits minority voices;
  • opposing the “universities are overrun with political correctness” narrative in part because it encourages dismissive attitudes rather than thoughtful engagement;
  • criticizing obnoxiousness in the profession, in part because it discourages people from participating in public conversations.

All of these are about promoting more and better disagreement.

I’m not opposed to the publication of controversial scholarly articles. I’m just doubtful that creating an academic journal based around offering authors the cover of pseudonymity in order to publish such articles is a good idea.

Criticism 2. Stakeholders should not have a veto over whether an article that may offend them gets published.

My suggestion does not give stakeholder referees veto power over publication. Publication decisions would, as with other journals, rest with the editors. And as with the assessments made by ordinary referees, it is up to the editors to decide what weight to accord the reports of stakeholder referees.

If an editor judges that a stakeholder referee is using inappropriate criteria (such as agreement with the thesis) or is being purposefully obstructionist, and this cannot be resolved in a way that allows that particular stakeholder referee to continue to contribute to the process, the editor might reasonably weight that referee’s assessment less.

Some may feel that this gives the editor too much discretion, or too much responsibility. Perhaps there are better ways to strike a balance between stakeholder referee input and editorial power. Just keep in mind that any arrangement is going to have its flaws. The goal is not to find a problem-free solution, but to find a solution that has problems we can live with.

Criticism 3. Stakeholder referees would not favor the publication of high-quality controversial articles.

I envision a stakeholder referee as having several characteristics: (a) belonging to one of the stakeholder groups, (b) being an academic or an expert, (c) willing and able to approve for publication articles that defend or rely on theses they disagree with, provided the articles are of sufficient quality.

Most versions of Criticism 3 appear to operate as if (c) is not part of the understanding of who should be selected as a stakeholder referee. That may be owed to me not making that explicit enough in my original post. My apologies.

If we assume that Criticism 3 is made in light of (c), though, then it seems to be saying that despite (c), the stakeholder referees would be too restrictive. That may end up being the case. I don’t know. I suspect whether one thinks that’s so depends a lot on who one talks to, and how well one knows the types of people one’s talking about. I would guess that some commenters are inferring people’s refereeing tendencies from their comportment on social media, and that seems like a bad inference to me.

Criticism 4. There are no (or not enough) people who would be willing and able to serve as stakeholder referees.

The criticism here is that while there may be enough people who fit the criteria of (a) and (b), there aren’t enough people who fit those two criteria and (c).

I would bet that people who assert something like Criticism 4 believe that were they themselves asked to be stakeholder referees, they would be willing and able to approve the publication of articles that defend or rely on theses they disagree with, provided the articles are of sufficient quality. But if they can do it, why can’t others? If people who agree with them on certain matters can do it, why can’t people who disagree with them on those matters do it, too?

This will come as no surprise to regular readers of mine but I suspect that the availability heuristic is at work here. When thinking of controversial views and those who might be bothered by them, people are thinking about political opponents, and when we think of our political opponents, who comes to mind? Generally, the loudest, most vocal, most visible, most dogmatic of them. Such people might indeed make lousy stakeholder referees, and editors would probably be wise to avoid them. But such people are not properly representative of the stakeholder groups of which they are members. Are you a reasonable person? Do you know other reasonable people? Of course. Why believe there aren’t such people in various stakeholder groups?

Criticism 5. People who would be willing to serve as stakeholder referees are not the people authors are fearful of, and so getting them on board does nothing to solve the problem.

It is true that the people likely to, say, attempt to instigate a social media pile-on against an author—call them “mobbers”—are unlikely to be well-suited to be stakeholder referees. I never took my proposal to depend on denying this. What the stakeholder refereeing process can do is: first, send a message about the paper that makes it less likely for mobbers to pick that paper’s author as a target, second, provide good examples of how people who are similar to the mobbers (and those who would follow them) in some relevant respects might take a non-mobbing approach to reacting to papers they do not like, and third, improve the quality of the paper in various ways, including helping it jettison unnecessary distractions and provocative missteps.

Criticism 6. For any given paper, how do we decide who counts as a stakeholder?

This is a good question to which there are probably several reasonable answers. It may be that none of these reasonable answers is completely unproblematic. But that’s okay. In policy matters, the absence of problems is an unreasonable standard.

Criticism 7. Stakeholder refereeing will bring papers to the attention of the very people authors are likely to be fearful of.

I think publishing the articles in something called The Journal of Controversial Ideas will probably do that, regardless of the refereeing process involved.

Criticism 8. If this process had long been in place at every journal, so few interesting ideas would have gotten published.

My proposal is not a proposal for all journals. It is an attempt to help provide a solution to a problem some people think is worth addressing: how can we ensure that defenses of worthwhile yet politically unpopular theses by authors fearful of the professional repercussions of being associated with such theses get published?

Jeff McMahan, Francesca Minerva, and Peter Singer offered one solution to this problem: create a Journal of Controversial Ideas and protect the authors by hiding their identities with pseudonyms. My proposal took the creation of that journal for granted, but offered an alternative mode of protection that I argued was better for a few reasons. Nothing about my proposal involves subjecting all articles to the process.

That said, the process formalizes something that is generally advisable for anyone wading into particularly controversial waters with their work: have others, especially those who disagree with you and those who are more expert than you on evidence or methods you rely on, give you their assessment of  your work prior to publishing it.

*  *  *  *  *

Further feedback is welcome.

Takehiro Kishimoto – carving of an apple

The post Stakeholder Refereeing for Controversial Ideas: Replies to Some Criticisms appeared first on Daily Nous.

Solidarity Instead of Pseudonymity: an Alternative Strategy for “Controversial Ideas”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 20/11/2018 - 1:23am in

Last week we discussed the planned Journal of Controversial Ideas, which will allow its authors to protect themselves from possible negative professional and social consequences of their writings by using pseudonyms. There was a hint of paradox: the proposal to create such a journal was itself so controversial that perhaps it would have been better published pseudonymously in the journal itself. 

But that wouldn’t really have been better—not just because of possible paradox, but because, had the idea been proposed pseudonymously, no one would have taken it seriously. It would have been dismissed as the creation of cranks and trolls. There needed to be identifiable people associated with the journal whose trustworthiness in gauging the need for it and managing it responsibly could be assessed by the fellow academics to whom it was being proposed.

This post is not about providing such an assessment of the journal’s principals (so please do not do that in the comments on this post). But it is based on the importance that intellectual accountability has for the academic enterprise, and on the uncontroversial idea that making people put their names on their work usually encourages intellectual responsibility.

On its most charitable interpretation, the plan to permit pseudonymous authorship is motivated by a concern that some ideas don’t make it into scholarly journals because of their mere unpopularity, offensiveness, or political incorrectness, rather than any lack of intellectual merit. Authors interested in writing on some topics or advancing some arguments might be discouraged from doing so by the prospect of outraging others who have influence over their career prospects. But if those outraged others don’t know the identity of the authors, then the authors are safe.

While I think that worries about what authors of intellectually responsible yet controversial scholarship have to fear are overblown, let’s just grant for now that we have a reason to try to keep them safer from professional repercussions for their controversial views. Hiding their identities is one way to try to keep them safe, but it has the downsides that come with decreased accountability.

Is there an alternative? Yes: make the publication of scholarly articles on controversial ideas less outraging.

How can this be accomplished? By bringing those people the authors fear into the publication process.

There are different ways to envision this. Here’s an outline of one possibility.

  1. Author submits manuscript to the journal; editors decide it should not be desk-rejected, and send the article out to referees for standard anonymized peer review.
  2. If the referees return the manuscript with a favorable assessment, the author makes any needed minor revisions and then the author and editorial team make a list of what we can call the article’s stakeholders. These are the types of people who they believe are likely to be outraged by the publication of the article. (Suppose the paper argues for a controversial thesis in some area outside one’s current area of specialization about some group of people, in part by making use of evidence from another field. On the list of stakeholders might be those who disagree with the thesis, specialists in the area, members of the relevant group of people, and those who are experts on the evidence.)
  3. The editor assembles a team of referees from the various stakeholder groups, and sends the manuscript out to those referees for a second round of reviewing. The goal is to make sure the paper is in such a condition that the stakeholder referees agree that it is acceptable for publication—not that they necessarily agree with the paper’s thesis. Preferably, the stakeholder referees are paid for their time. The process may require a fair amount of back-and-forth between the editors and the referees and the editors and the author. The group of referees will likely be interdisciplinary, and so the editor will have to manage different disciplinary expectations. And the referees may require substantial revisions before agreeing that the paper is publishable. If all goes well, after some rounds of revisions, all of the stakeholder referees agree that the paper is publishable. It is of course possible, though, that, despite revisions, sometimes some of the referees will not agree that the paper is publishable. It would then be up to the editor to decide whether to proceed.
  4. When the journal publishes the paper, it is published under the author’s real name, along with the real names of all of the reviewers who deemed the article acceptable for publication in the journal. The names are accompanied by a “review statement” that makes explicit that a reviewer’s judgment of an article’s acceptability for publication does not imply an endorsement of the article’s thesis, only that the article is of sufficient quality to be at least worth disagreeing with, rather than condemned. The article is prefaced by a “review narrative” that explains the peer review process, explains why certain stakeholder groups were identified and why particular reviewers were selected for the stakeholder review team.

One downside of my proposal is that, in the short run, it likely offers less protection to authors than an intact pseudonym does. Instead of attempting to provide safety through hiding, my approach attempts to offer safety via solidarity and improvement.

The idea is that the names of stakeholder referees on the article, along with the review narrative, send a message to readers along the lines of: “people who are likely to have the same concerns we do have vetted this article and believe it is worth taking as a piece of scholarship to be read and responded to in a scholarly way, even if they don’t agree with it.” The reviewers stand with the author’s right to contribute this article to the academic debate. It is a kind of Voltairean solidarity.

The solidarity is only possible, though, if the article is of a certain quality in the judgment of the stakeholder referees. Getting their approval may involve multiple rounds of substantial revisions (perhaps through some modified variant of this process). But the result is likely to be a much better article—better researched, more perceptive, and showing a greater depth of understanding—that will provoke fewer of the feared reactions.

Yes, this will make it more burdensome to publish some “controversial ideas.” But that seems reasonable, given that some of the ideas are going to be controversial because they go against strongly held expert consensus, while others are going to be controversial because of their perceived potential for serious negative effects.

A critic might say that my proposal of named stakeholder referees risks making things worse by providing more targets for the outraged. It does have that risk. But I have enough confidence in my fellow academics to believe that many of them are willing to bear this risk. (Peter Singer and Jeff McMahan are not the only scholars with the requisite Millian commitments.) The hope is that through the referees’ display of an academic virtue—comfort with disagreement—and a more general virtue if they believe it’s needed—courage—they promote a picture of academia that draws attention to what is in fact its typical friendliness towards controversial ideas.

Pseudonymity offers authors a life on the lam, and risks jeopardizing intellectual accountability. My approach offers authors solidarity, recognition, and a route towards more responsible scholarship, plus it promotes an academic culture of open, robust disagreement. If the Journal of Controversial Ideas is indeed supposed to be an experiment, why not use it to test out a version of academia we actually want?

(And if this isn’t the way to do that, let’s hear a better way.)

UPDATE: I respond to some criticisms of this idea in a subsequent post.

Takehiro Kishimoto – carving of lemon

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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

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