Monday, April 6, 2009

Journals: When to get Pissy?

A friend and I were swapping journal horror stories over the weekend. 15 months at top-tier journal X, then a reject without any comments; a revise and resubmit rejected after 10 months, with a report that criticizes the paper for introducing the issues the original reviewers insisted should be discussed; and so on. This stuff is, sadly, typical; and anyone who has been in the profession for more than a decade will have a large collection of such tales. But here's a question:

At what point is it appropriate to get pissy with the journal editor? I usually send a "friendly inquiry" after four months. Then, depending on the response to the four-month inquiry, I usually follow up with a slightly antagonized version in the sixth month. But what should one do in the eighth month? When it is appropriate to withdraw the paper and tell the editor that you'll no longer consider submitting to the journal, and will dissuade others from doing so?

BTW: When I was untenued, I was subjected to treatment by a journal that was extreme in it sirreponsibility. I contacted the relevant people at the APA about it. They did nothing.

76 comments:

PA said...

8 months? Man, you sure are honery. I usually wait a year before my first complaint. My "do not submit" list currently consists of the following:

Journal of Philosophy: 18 months, no decision ever reached, regret expressed by editor

CJP: 24 months, rejection, regret expressed by editor

Linguistics and Philosophy: 36 months (before I just gave up and submitted elsewhere), no decision ever reached, no response from editors

I've currently hit 19 months at another well-known journal but b/c I've published there before and the editor has repeatedly expressed regret, I'm holding off on writing them off just yet.

PA said...

Of course, I mean "ornery" and not "honery."

From the Urban Dictionary

HONERY!!, using all CAPS and two EX points...
verb--a state of being Not,
adjective, a lust-filled wondering wandering
the formal state of Horny Orneriness where one, usually a superior male individual, expresses in deafening silence --as if it were a banner hanging from a "flag pole" waiting to be saluted --one's utter exacerbation with a specific superior member of the opposite sex, without being noticably impolite or unfriendly, yet hoping ...

Krinos said...

Yeah, I've got a couple of journals on my NEVER AGAIN list, and the Journal of Philosophy is at the top with asterisks. And there are others, for example, the journal that took 10 mo to get me an R&R letter, and then after the resubmit, it took 12 more months to give me a flat rejection with no explanation.

In the case of the latter journal, I had thought that there was either a level of incompetence that was inexcusable or that there was some grudge being worked out against me. Either way, I thought the editor needed a stern letter. But I didn't send it, because I'm untenured (and have already a reputation for a short temper, and this wouldn't help).

I think that if you're going to send a stern letter, it should be *before* a rejection comes. If you want your message to get through, you don't want the letter read as another bit of feedback from a disgruntled rejected author. If I were to do it again, I'd have pulled my paper at the 9 month mark, and in each case, with my patented boilerplate "Go Jump in the Lake" Letter.

Oh, and Spiros, aren't you at the stage of your career when you only do invited material?

Anonymous said...

I've had very good experiences with P&PA. Two papers w/ initial decisions in 3 months. In the latter case, a R&R was decided in two weeks. Both times the feedback was relatively short but helpful. If P&PA can get their act together like this there is no reason why other journals cannot. More than 3 months is bad, but more than 6 months is insane, and no less insane for being common.

Anonymous said...

I had a J Phil piece under review for 17 months, a Mind piece under review for 12 months, a Synthese piece under review for 12 months, and an Australasian piece under review for 12 months. It's frustrating because I'm an untenured nobody who was trying to publish my way out of a shitty, shitty job and my best work was sitting on people's desks for no real reason. I've been ranting all day and all last night about the latest, so I thought I'd share this. I submitted a paper to a decent journal where I argued for a variety of conclusions, chief among them that phenomenal conservatism is unmotivated and generates all sorts of absurd results. After a two sentence summary that didn't actually correctly summarize the view I was attacking, here's what I get in response:

"The objection is that this thesis must lead to a "crude relativism." For suppose that it seems to each member of a group of cannibals that it is morally OK for them to eat people and suppose that there is nothing in the surrounding culture that speaks against this idea, then according to phenomenal conservatism, they are justified in thinking that cannibalism is morally OK. But then it couldn't be true that it they should refrain from cannibalism. But it is true that they should refrain from cannibalism. To think otherwise is to accept a kind of crude relativism. Since we cannot accept crude relativism, phenomenal conservatism must be false.

It is hard to see that there is anything new or interesting about this argument. The general issue has been discussed since Herodotus' first account of what he took to be cannibalism.

The present paper offers no argument to show why it must be true that the cannibals ought to refrain from cannibalism in any relevant sense. Nor is any argument offered to show that there is something wrong with crude relativism.

Perhaps the claims of the paper can be dismissed as exhibiting crude objectivism or crude absolutism.

Ho hum..."

I love it. There's no problem with the exceptionally complicated argument that purports to show that someone's theory of _epistemic_ justification generates these absurd results concerning our _moral_ obligations. No, the problem is with my naive assumption that there's something wrong with cannibalism. I appealed to the editor hoping that he agreed that if you show that your opponents view is no more defensible than cannibalism you win. That didn't work.

Spiros said...

PA: Waiting a year seems to me to be entirely too passive. There's no good reason why a review process should take more than 4 months. There are some acceptable excuses for its taking 6 months. But 8 months seems to me excessive and harmful to the profession.

Remember: part of what journals are supposed to do is facilitate quick dissemination of the most current research. A year in review typically means a year until print (at best). That defeats the purpose. We shouldn't allow it.

Spiros said...

Kronos recalls a statement we heard uttered by a named chair in our profession that went like this:

"I don't publish in peer-reviewed venues any more. All my publications now are invited."

The distinguished chair took this as a proof of his/her extraordinary level of scholarly accomplishment-- as if to say, "I have no peers." Hilarious.

Spiros said...

Anon 8:53: P&PA is typically very good. So is Ethics, in my experience. There's no reason why other journals can't be more like them.

Spiros said...

Anon 10:47: I once had a piece rejected on the grounds that the paper did not cite my own work-- the reviewer claimed that it was "a sign of the author's incompetence that s/he does not cite the influential work of [Spiros]."

AND THE JOURNAL EDITOR-- WHO COULD SEE THE PROBLEM-- REJECTED THE PAPER ON THE BASIS OF THIS REVIEW!

Anonymous said...

Spiros -- re: your 12:12, this is a problem I am now facing. I'm responding to someone who claims that X on the basis of Y. But I've argued elsewhere that ~Y, and hence my response to this person inter alia involves the claim that X can't be based on Y. Now the problem is do I (a) cite myself in third person, or (b) simply allude cryptically to my own "elsewhere" in which the argument against Y is presented? I worry that if I don't do either of these I'll get a similar response. But choosing (a) makes me seem highly unoriginal, and choosing (b) would probably automatically reveal my identity.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:05-

You should go with the Simon Blackburn strategy, and write, 'according to me . . .'

But seriously, this seems to be a pickle. Would it be kosher to cite yourself in the third person, and then, once accepted, change the citation? That seems like a fine and honest thing to do.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I lean to the third person option, and I think it would be honest. My worry is that it may seem as if I am piggybacking on someone else's work, whereas I am merely extending my own to the question whether X follows from Y (a question I only vaguely touched on in the original article).

Then again, maybe each publication ought to make its own substantive point, so whether or not ~Y has been defended elsewhere by myself or another person shouldn't affect the merits of the present paper. Except that's not how people think.

PA said...

Re Anonymous @ 1:05

Given the obscurity of my work, I can safely cite "Author's Article" without fear of my identity being revealed. In fact, given my own personal obscurity, I could cite my name without revealing anything substantial.

Neil said...

The interesting question is why do journals take so long? Bad reviews are a fact of life; reviewers have prejudices and quirks. So long as the opportunity costs of submission aren't too high, we wouldn't worry overly about this fact, because we would know that the breaks would even out, and good work would find a good home. So the problem is that reviews take so long that the costs of a bad review are high (esp. for untenured folk). There are two possible explanations of why reviews take so long. 1. Because reviewers take so long, or 2. because editors sit on reviews (of course this is an inclusive or). As an editor myself, I suspect that 1 is the main culprit. It follows that the profession is to blame. maybe YOU are to blame (I'm not: I have never taken more than 10 days to review a paper, and I try to do it in 48 hours). Editors can help by blacklisting slow reviewers (refusing to accept their submissions).

Anonymous said...

I am the editor of a journal (not a top tier one, but one that is important to SOME people in terms of professional advancement), and in addition, I am the editor of one of the prestigious book series in the entire discipline.

Folks such as you should know that the challenges faced by journal editors are not easy to understand until you have tried it yourself. We editors are often seen as beastly narcissistic individuals, elevated to positions of critical judgment we do not deserve. There is some truth in this, but as always, the world is more complex than that.

Rounding up enough willing referees to handle all the garbage generated by sloppy, careless people, and sent my way, is enough of a task. If those submitting articles looked upon the task as more than just aiming high and praying, it would help everyone. But every time I draft someone to referee a paper, I incur a sort of informal debt to that person for taking the time to offer a judgment. I have no control over when the judgment comes in or how much effort heshe has expended in offering it. But I am bound by it. If I do not follow the judgments of my own referees, I will have alienated those referees while either (1) over-extending my own editorial discretion of (2) spending another few months trying to get a better judgment on the same piece of work. Before I will do that, I have to really be convinced that a serious injustice is being done. So I read the article myself, I sometimes augment the comments or soften them, adopt the conclusion of the referee, make a note that the referee was either too slow or unfair or not thorough, and chalk it up to experience. I have 322 pp. per year I can say "yes" to. I have four to five times that much in submissions. Some of those rejected ought to be published, some that are published are weaker than some of those rejected. Some people don't hear back for a year, others get an answer in two weeks. I cannot control this. Unlike some editors, I answer all queries and I tell the truth. But I can understand why some editors do not. That doesn't excuse them, but I understand it.

I appreciate patience from submitters, but I don't mind being prompted after four months. Being prompted by the submitter leads me to prompt the referee. I can safely prompt a referee twice, after about three months and after about six. After that I have to hope. It cannot become a point of contention between me and my circle of supporters. If the review never comes in, I have to pretend like that never happened, and I just dont send that person and new papers --but I also have to replace him/her with someone of like standing and similar expertise, and I have to be careful not to over-tax my faithful helpers. It is a constant struggle, in addition to keeping funding in place, managing the journals affairs, and managing the managers of the journal's affairs. For doing this I receive NOTHING. I am a tenuired full profressor in a research university. I get no money, no usable prestige, many enemies, no advancement (I have nowhere to go, and if I wanted an endowed chair, I need to quit doing the journal and spend the time on my own books), no nothing. I get the satisfaction, several times a year, of holding in my hands a journal that is, in my oipinion, worth reading, cover to cover (with a few exceptions), and knowing that the people who published in my journal are proud to have been included, and to be read alongside the others who also got in.

And by the way, Spiros, I haven't submitted a paper of my own to a journal for actual refereeing for about a decade, publishing by invitation only with no one exercising judgment over the outcome of my work but rather publishing it sight unseen and feeling fortunate to have it. That is not narcissism on my part, that is liberation from a terrible prison of irrational chance, and I wish you godspeed in getting to where I am. Luck plays a part, but there is no substitute for hard work.

Spiros said...

Anon at 8:59:

Thanks for the post, and all the unwarranted assumptions contained therein! It's a true pleasure to meet you. You post prompts so many thoughts... Here are a few.

1. I take it you mean to include me in the "folks such as you" when you say that,

>"Folks such as you should know >that the challenges faced by >journal editors are not easy to >understand until you have tried >it yourself."

How do you know that I'm not the editor of a journal? How do you know that I've never been one? How do you know of anyone posting here that they've never tried to edit a journal? Let's see now... You don't.

2. Here's a tip for you in your office as journal editor: The stuff you receive that's "generated by sloppy, careless people" should be rejected by you as editor and not sent out for external review (yes, this requires you, as editor, to read the papers before sending them off to review-- something you suggest you don't do!). That you see fit to send the work of sloppy and careless philosophers out to review is part of the problem. Maybe if you sent out fewer papers by sloppy and careless people, your reviewers would be more eager to review what you send.

3. You first say you receive "NOTHING" for your (rather lax, it seems to me) efforts. But then you say that you receive satisfaction. So which is it?

4. If you find editing a journal to be such a drag, why not resign?

5. Good to hear you've produced nothing that's gotten past blind review for a decade. You're surely correct that "luck plays a part, but there is no substitute for hard work." But what's your point? Is you claim that you're professionally beyond blind review because of your hard work and not because of luck, or what? Since your work is accepted for publication "sight unseen," how could you know? I think I'd rather not get to where you are-- sounds to me like a demotion.

Anonymous said...

So as a new hire, it sounds like my best bet is to send a paper out to a couple of journals at a time. Granted, if I get caught it could be bad. But can't I just plan on one of the journals taking way too long, and then withdraw it from consideration there if the other one decides to publish it? Doesn't the benefit of having twice the chance at a publication outweigh the risk of both journals accepting it, or of there being a common reviewer, or something else going wrong? I realize this idea probably sounds crazy to you, but I simply can't afford to wait 18 or 24 months for a rejection. I don't have enough papers and I don't have enough time.

Spiros said...

Anon 10:41:

I understand the civil disobedience impulse. But multiple concurrent submissions floods the field with so many more papers, it's hard to see that as sustainable.

There's a philo journals wiki that allows people to post info about review times and the usefulness of referee reports. You might have a look:

http://www.wikihost.org/w/philjinfo/start

Anonymous said...

I hate to pile on, but Spiros let me agree with you about the invited publication thing. Isn't this counterproductive? Usually by the time someone reaches this stage of a career, they are in the 'I can't be wrong because I'm famous, so I'll recycle my tired ideas' phase: younger philosophers, who are more with the current debates, and who have to face the peer review process, seem more likely to publish relevant stuff. Of course there will be counter-examples.

Anonymous said...

Sorry: no intended ageism in the above comment: rather, anyone who is with current debates will be more relevant, and invited publications seems like an excuse - and I can think of a handful of examples off the top of my head - to recycle tired shit.

Anonymous said...

I'd just like to plus the BJPS model, which seems to work wonders. Decisions are promised within six weeks - it took 8 once for a paper of mine, but they apologised about it. Reviewers are asked to take 4 weeks, and receive a reminder after 3. This doesn't seem to offend anyone. Is there any good reason why other journals shouldn't adopt the same practice?

Anonymous said...

Spiros, I know you're a jerk, and that you like it that way, so I won't be bothered by your smirks, jabs and your patent narcissism.

One cannot be sincere with a person like you because you won't have it. You think philosophy is some sort of big chess game and the trick is to check-mate your enemies. Well go ahead have fun.

But I was silent on the issue of whether I send out every paper for review. Your inference was incorrect. I send about half out for review --those that meet the formal requirements of our journals mission and are substantial enough to require the judgments of specialists. But I have to read them ALL (another inference of yours that is both incorrect and does not follow from anything I said).

By "you folks," I meant those puzzling about why journals can take so long to get reports and judgments back. If that doesn't describe you, Sprios, you may excuse yourself from the class of referents.

As for whether I need blind reviews to know whether my work is any good, may I suggest that there could be more than one way of learning whether one's work is good, and add that blind review is not even among the better ways of learning that. It does not follow that MY work is good, of course, but it doesn't follow that it isn't, nor does it follow that I have no way of knowing. Being snarky, which you have down to a fine art, and being able to reason well, in which you are deficient, are independent abilities.

I continue with my journal because I received charge of it as a sacred trust from some people I respect, and I have to stay with it until I can find others who will continue its service to the discipline. I have wanted to quit many times, but not enough to allow it to pass into hands about which I couldnt be sure.

And finally, you would love to have my job, even though you have a good one, because I exert far more power and influence in the profession than you dc, which is all you care about, and unlike you, I have no enemies and everyone respects my judgment. Thats what you really want but will never have because what byou cannot achieve with your native gifts and subsequent exertions you try to attain by being a bully and intimidating people. This strategy will not, in the end, serve your true goals, which is to have everyone's genuine and freely given respect. You would take my job because if you had it, you could finally relax and stop living in fear.

If these observations make you my enemy, and you decide to do sufficient investigation to find out who I am, then I will count it a mark in my favor that I have succeeded in being hated and feared by you. And you will not find many to join you in hating me. But you are lonely enough already, I should think, to be quite miserable.

Spiros said...

Anon 10:52:

This is absolutely hilarious. I confess that you almost had me! I was just about to write a reply showing how stupid you are when I thought to myself, "really, can someone by *this* dumb?"! Then I got it.

Your post has all the trappings of the garden variety idiotic blog post: pop psychoanalytic diagnoses, passive-aggressive name-calling, self-righteousness, misplaced indignation, the fallacy fallacy, the ever-popular "If you try to respond to me, I will already have won" dodge, the self-serving "you wish you were more like me" trope, and my personal favorite, the "I feel sorry for you" closing!

A+ satire. Made my day. Thanks!

Krinos said...

Huh. Better not send a stern letter to Anon's journal-- you'll get a very long letter back about how you really should *respect* how long it takes to get a decision on your work, and how you should send *more* stuff Anon's way. What is it about some philosophers that make them think they can do ~*Jedi Mind Tricks*~?

Though Anon's note does show something, namely, that journal editors are aware of the plight of junior folks waiting for decisions. And it also shows that journal editors are inundated with crappy papers and sloppy submissions. I wonder if the latter has an effect on the former-- that after a while of the drudgery of slogging through so many uneven submissions, editors come to resent submitting authors? And even friendly attempts to speed up or even be updated about the process are really unwelcome inpingements? If you've reached this point, maybe it's time to find someone else to do the job, yes?

PA said...

At least Anon 8:59 & 10:52 isn't one of those editors who sends out papers that wouldn't get a passing grade in a graduate seminar that I often get to referee:

"I send about half out for review --those that meet the formal requirements of our journals mission and are substantial enough to require the judgments of specialists."

Or is he?

"Rounding up enough willing referees to handle all the garbage generated by sloppy, careless people, and sent my way, is enough of a task."

Now I'm confused. Why would you need the "judgments of specialists" to evaluate "garbage generated by sloppy, careless people"?

Anonymous said...

I'm a grad student who was asked to referree, thanks to an odd connection I had, a paper for an admittedly low-tier journal. It was such utter shit, that I wrote 4 pages of comments to justify my decision to reject (and have the author drawn and quartered). Once I saw the comments from other referees, I was relieved to have been in the majority.

Question to the wizened ones: does this happen at top-tier journals as well?

Anonymous said...

Hi PA. Fair point. Here is the explanation. I try very hard not to use my own judgment when the FORMAL requirements are met, as required by submission guidelines, the mission and readership of the journal, etc., AND when the paper is outside my own area of expertise. That leaves plenty of careless garbage about zombies and twin earth. Plenty. But I dont want to make my own judgment arbitrary. That serves no one. And we do publish papers I would have adjudged garbage until I saw the assessment of someone better qualified. The "carelessness" and "sloppiness" are almost universal, which is why over 90% of accepted papers require revisions for clarity, content, style, documentation, and thoroughness of research, in addition to modifications in content. Even at the highest level of the profession, where I work with books rather than journals, and even among the most widely recognized philosophers at the best universities, sloppiness and carelessness are the norm. It is a relief to receive the rare paper that has been well written, properly documented, and thorough --in addition to having something important to say philosophically.

Spiros: you are a genuinely pathetic narcissist. I really pity you, but there is nothing else to be done with you. You have dehumanized yourself as a means to dehumanizing others. It is so sad. And so unnecessary. It seems a shame that a man who knows as much as you do should need so badly to seem to know more.

Spiros said...

Anon 2:27:
Wait a minute! That torrent of stupidity at 8:59 and 10:52 was *serious*? Really?

I thought all the errors and lapses and clumsy insults were a dead giveaway that you were faking stupidity. Apparently I was wrong!

So let me take a minute to thank you, once again, for your truly idiotic post. Thanks especially for all the hilarious Dr. Phil diagnoses. Only a great philosopher could see her way to making such complicated determinations about a person's motives, commitments, and character from a series of blog posts.

Convenient that after simply asserting a very wide range of claims intended to insult me, you then seal yourself off from any criticism in return-- since "nothing can be done with [me]," and I'm a pitiable "pathetic narcissist," who sees philosophy as some kind of eristic "game," no rejoinder from me needs to be taken seriously. How clever: you get to criticize, and then also get to simply declare that no worthwhile rejoinder is possible. It's a favorite tactic of cowards and frauds the world over. Congrats!

Now, since you're a coward and a fraud who's also stupid, why don't you look back over this thread and demonstrate to yourself that you began this nonsense about narcissism with a post whose content is all about yourself. Then remind yourself that no one asked you for your input, and that you're my guest here. Then go away until you find some manners and are able to act like an adult.

Anonymous said...

I can see I've touched a nerve. Sorry to have overstayed my welcome. Yes, you are dying to draw me out, aren't you, so that you can threaten a law suit. There are two kinds of people who might be drawn out by your taunts: (1) fools driven by testosterone and its close intellectual kin; and (2) people with nothing to hide who are not afraid of you. I am fairly certain I fall into the second group, but just in case my testosterone is the culprit, I own that as a possibility here.

And since you doubt my courage, I will cease being anonymous, which is what you want. My name is Randall Auxier, of SIU Carbondale. I edit the Library of Living Philosophers and the journal The Pluralist, published by the University of Illinois Press. Well, I suppose I'm not a fraud after all.

Thank you for your hospitality, such as it is. I realize that boys will be boys, and that this list is for that purpose, but I think it does only a small part of the good it could do. Good luck intimidating me.

Spiros said...

Whoever you are @ 3:23:

I have no interest in who you are or in "drawing you out" for any purpose. You may be saddened to hear that you did not "touch a nerve"; you simply proved yourself to be foolish and rude. And your cowardice has nothing to do with anonymity-- which I suspect is still in place-- it has to do with following your insults with declarations designed to shield yourself from criticism (e.g., by asserting that the person who you insult is incapable of sincerity, incapable of reasoning, driven by testosterone, in the grip of some delusion, etc.). That's a coward's tactic-- since, when successful, it ensures that any rejoinder can be dismissed as only so much more bluster. And it's a fraud's tactic as well-- it mimics reasoned discussion, while in fact undermining it. Anonymity or not, you persist in this way in your most recent post.

That you persist in characterizing anything I've said here as "intimidation" is truly puzzling. But it's no matter, I'm not interested in your views about anything. Please go away.

John said...

This discussion took a disappointing turn after a promising start.

I have a question for people who have been on hiring committees. (Really, two questions.)

How big a difference does it make, in your estimation, if an applicant has a publication in a top-tier journal rather than a lower-tiered journal? And is one's effort better spent trying to get several pieces published in lower-tier places, or a single piece published by JP or Mind or the like?

Anonymous said...

The kindest words anyone has ever said to me are said by you, when YOU imply the I'M a woman --I MUST BE, you think, because no man would berate you in precisely this fashion. I have never felt more deeply affirmed in my masculinity.

As for my anonymity being intact, I quote Marley to Scrooge (as well as memory will serve), "Man, what proof would you have of my reality beyond that of your own senses?" You want my SSN? You want the name of my high school girlfriend? Ha.

But you are correct. It's your playground here. Ill go home. Anyone from among your compadres who wishes to discuss in a sincere way how to get published and how to interact with journal editors is welcome to send me a note at:

drauxier@yahoo.com

Pleased to spar with you, Brian. Let's have a beer when I'm in Austin in May.

Spiros said...

Dear John 4:26:

I think that we perhaps need three categories here: A-level, B-level, and C-level. A-level journals are the top-tier; C-level are the ones that people on a search committee will probably never have heard of (or that are generally regarded as unserious). Then there's the B-level: widely known and respected journals that are not regarded as top-tier, but are still seen as respectable. My view is this: A pub in an A trumps. A pub in a C hurts (and the more pubs in C venues, the worse). A pub in a B is good (thought not as good as an A). I think that in this climate, going on the market without at least a B publication is a really bad idea. If struggling for an A pub is going to prevent you from achieving a B pub (and you have no other pubs), then I'd go for the B pub...

Other Compadres:
When you turn to others for advice on these matters, you might look first to someone who still subjects her work to blind review. Remember: the point is not publication, but peer-reviewed publication in respectable and widely-read venues.

Spiros said...

And for the record:

My name is not Brian and I have never stepped foot in Austin. And I don't currently live or work in Chicago, either.

If you're looking for a blog by someone named Brian, you might try this:
http://leiterreports.typepad.com/

mmdetritus said...

Whoa, Spiros. Careful with your anonymity. Not-Brian narrows the possibilities in the philosophical blogosphere down considerably.

I agree with the A-tier vs. B-tier answer to John. The candidate who only publishes in C-tier is in serious trouble. I would add that that a few B-tier vs. ONE A-tier would be better. Having more than one publication in decent places shows in adance that you are not a one-trick pony AND that you have the drive and discipline to publish (i.e., that you are a good candidate for tenure).

As for time considerations, at least one can be set aside: there are enough A-tier journals with reasonable tournaround times so you shouldn't have to worry, as a time-crunched junior faculty member or grad student, about the vicissitudes of JPhil or Mind.

Spiros said...

mmdetritus:

Sounds right. One thing to keep in mind, I think, is that in a reasonably decent philosophy department (one that would be looking at the tier of the journals candidates have published in), *many* of the faculty will have had the experience of being rejected an A journal. So making it into an A is impressive, but it seems like it should also be the case that *not* having made it (yet) is forgivable, especially if there are other decent publications.

Anonymous said...

To John: (ignoring the meta-theatrics -- fictional self-outings, an obviously fake journal name, feigned ignorance of BL's current employer, etc. etc.)

I've been on search committees at a good research department (e.g. 2-2 load, everyone regularly publishes in top journals), and we emphatically do not give job candidates credit for pubs in weak journals. This does come up fairly often in meetings. It might not directly hurt you, but it's really not to your credit at all to have published in a weak journal. More than one publication in a weak journal might harm you directly.

[Previewing, I see that others more or less concur. As for 'B'-journals, well it depends on the case...]

My personal view is that I can forgive someone who's coming up for tenure for burying his or her work in an obscure place out of desperation that the clock is running out. (Maybe the work is nonetheless good. Read and see...) But someone whose clock hasn't even started? What's the point? To show that you're willing to give up working on an idea before it is good enough to make any difference?

The whole idea that grad students should be trying to publish strikes me as suspect. Five or six people in my graduate cohort a few years ago got elite jobs, and several others among us got very good jobs, and not one of us in that cohort had published anything (in philosophy journals) before we got a couple of years into the t-track. The point of a philosophical education is to learn how to make contributions to philosophy, not to learn how to add lines to your CV.

That's 'old school,' I know (though I'm fairly young). But I think this view -- the opposite of what many upcoming job candidates take for granted -- is quite widely held on search committees.

I'm curious, Spiros (and others): do you really expect people on the market for the first time to be getting their work under submission? (Expect, I mean, in the normative sense?)

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:49-

As a student who next year will begin PhD studies at a non-top 20 school, the advice I've been given across the board is that I should definitely plan to have a few things published or forthcoming when I hit the market. Only the MIT or NYUers can afford to have nothing published these days when they hit the market. If this is wrong, then bad advice is the order of the day.

Auxier:
Really? Is this about all those 'South Park and Philosophy' articles? Is this a now very drawn out satire?

mmdetritus said...

Relativizing the answer to the grad program is a very good idea. It is much more crucial to publish coming out of, say, Carbondale than it is coming from Rutgers.

I used to argue exactly what Anon 5:49 did (and this was actually pounded into me in grad school), so I have a lot of sympathy for the argument. Do good dissertation work in good time. If you can do that without the distraction of worrying about publication, then that's great. But people from non-top programs don't have the luxury, I think (as Anon 6:03 has been hearing). And even people from top programs are now, ever more frequently, competing with others from the same programs with publications and this makes a big difference.

Spiros: that seems right. A lot of this turns, as John noticed, on what counts as a B journal.

Brian Leiter said...

Dear Professor Auxier,

Spiros e-mailed me about the weird turn this particular discussion has taken. I actually have a couple of blogs, as you may know, and I post under my own name there, and anywhere that I comment on other blogs. But maybe you didn’t know this, since you also seem to think I’m still in Austin, Texas. Actually, since last year, I’m here: http://www.law.uchicago.edu/faculty/leiter/

I understand that your department has been unhappy with its treatment in the PGR, since you and others have a higher opinion of your department’s excellence in its areas than other scholars in those areas. (In that regard, I’ve even talked with people who do not respect your judgment, or your work, at all, though I assume this isn't really news to you; but I also do not doubt that plenty of others do respect your judgment and work.) In any case, apart from the PGR, I am not quite sure what I could have done to provoke the particularly intense, and slightly unbalanced, level of obsession with me evidenced by your comments, above.

One of the giveaways of actual narcissistic personality disorder, as you may know, is grandiosity and boasting that is not borne out by reality; this often manifests itself in acting as though others admire and are jealous of the narcissist. (This is standard DSM diagnostic criteria, if you care to look it up.) Now when you write this,

“you would love to have my job, even though you have a good one, because I exert far more power and influence in the profession than you do, which is all you care about, and unlike you, I have no enemies and everyone respects my judgment. That’s what you really want but will never have…. You would take my job because if you had it, you could finally relax and stop living in fear,”

I am inclined to think that you may be suffering from a personality disorder and would encourage you to discuss the matter with a professional. I sincerely hope you are happy with your job and your professional stature, but why would any normal person make the claim that Spiros or I would really prefer the other person's job, and his professional importance, and the ‘universal’ respect he purportedly enjoys? This is, one might think, quite peculiar boasting.

I do want to say, though, that I am flattered that you think I’m Spiros, since Spiros is usually a better writer and much funnier than I am, which is why I like to read his blog.

Spiros said...

Anon 6:03:

For what it's worth, I think the advice you're getting is right. I also think that one doesn't need an article in JP, Phil Rev, or P&PA right out of the gate. A paper in a more modest, but well-established and recognized journal (e.g., Phil Studies or J Pol Phil) would be fine.

However, I'd avoid like the plague anything that smacks of being backwater or published-out-of-a-basement. Roughly, any journal that your average SC member might not recognize the name of should be avoided.

Anonymous said...

Leiter/Spiros:

You're right. Spiros is the better writer, and funnier. I'm the narcissist, by DSM, as you suggest. All granted. But you're the one with the enemies, abosolutely everywhere (see the signers of Heck's letter, and you will note that I signed it a long time ago). I wonder how you managed that? Are ALL of these people cases of sour grapes? Must all slights be personal? Or could a person of good conscience, like Richard Heck, for example, just object in principle to everything you stand for? I suppose a person could so object, whether he had been personally slighted or not. On the other hand, and in all fairness, I could be wrong to hold your (joint or identical) efforts with "Spiros" to turn the discipline of philosophy into a popularity contest, as being beneath contempt. You (two?) might be right, and I might be the sophist/narcissist/weak-minded/sour-begraped one. But what can one do apart from following one's conscience?

Anonymous said...

But what can one do apart from following one's conscience?

Get a life?

Step away from the keyboard?

STFU already?

Anonymous said...

If this Anon isn't really Auxier, then I pity poor Auxier for having his good name be so besmirched.

Anonymous said...

Let me get this straight: BL is to be pitied because he has lots of enemies. *And* BL is to be pitied because he's turning Philosophy into a popularity contest? It seems only one who sees the profession as a popularity contest could see "X has many enemies" as a criticism.

PA said...

Three things:

1. Given that Anon 7:43 has already admitted to being Randall Auxier, why does he continue posting anonymously?

2. How does Anon 7:43 reconcile the suggestion that signing Heck's letter suffices for being an enemy of Leiter with his claim that many of the signatories of said letter did so in good conscience and not out of animosity to Leiter?

3. mmdetritus 5:28: Not only has Spiros narrowed down the possibilities as to his identity by revealing that he is not named "Brian", by revealing that he doesn't currently live or work in Chicago he has confirmed that he is not Martha Nussbaum.

Anonymous said...

Ok. In a post from Dec 08, Leiter claims access to info about the IP addresses of commentators to this blog. See:

http://philosophersanon.blogspot.com/2008/12/gloomy-in-philadelphia.html

How does he get such info if he's not the blog owner?

Anonymous said...

"I'm curious, Spiros (and others): do you really expect people on the market for the first time to be getting their work under submission? (Expect, I mean, in the normative sense?)"

I'm not Spiros (or Brian Leiter, for that matter. That's something I share in common with Spiros. Seriously, BL = Spiros? I know more about punk than BL and less than Spiros. You finish the proof.) I'll throw in my $.02. I'm pretty certain that I will likely follow the (defeasible) rule that on any search committee I'm on a candidate with a decent pub is put ahead of a candidate without a pub. For one, I don't see what's wrong with people having to spend a year or two after grad school working their way towards a TT job. For another, it seems that there are plenty of people on the market that either have managed to publish in grad school or are publishing without a TT job. I've met far too many people from fancy programs that aren't particularly talented with strong letters to back them up. I'm waiting to be impressed by a publication.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1044:

Uh... He asks?

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:03:

Thank you. I plan to publish good articles before I finish a PhD, and if I don't, no room for complaining. I just hate to see the top school crowd sneak ahead in virtue of nothing but letters from famous people.

Anonymous said...

re: "He asks?"

That would entail some intense interest on Leiter's part in the ferreting out of commentators, no?

Anonymous said...

5:49 here. It's probably impossible to defeat this impression, but I really did not mean that we interview only candidates from top-ranked programs. My point was that *no* first-time job candidate needs a publication to get an interview with my department (or with the other research-oriented department where I've worked and searched). We just aren't looking for publications, period -- at least, not from first-time candidates.

If someone has been out of grad school a few years, there would be the assumption that they are now trying to publish. So 'have they published yet?' would be a reasonable question. But we just don't care about publications for first-time seekers at all.

How do we decide whom to interview, then? We actually read as many writing samples as we can, and try to assess candidates' philosophical promise. And we have recently interviewed candidates from a wide range of programs whose work we liked. 'But hey, no pubs!' is a criticism we would almost never make. (Again, the exception is a candidate who has been kicking around visiting positions for a few years. There we do want to see a publication or two, or at least signs (e.g. reports of promising r&rs from recommenders) that the candidate will soon be publishing.)

But don't listen to me. It may be that my department and those of friends I talk to (who more or less have my attitude) are in a tiny minority. Looking at how Spiros and others have responded, I think that must be true.

Spiros said...

Anon 1:31:

No. The case you point to is one in which there was a question about whether a commentator here was the same commentator who had been disruptive (and exceedingly hostile) on Professor Leiter's blog.

Please take your detective routine elsewhere.

Brian Leiter said...

Professor Auxier, I have to confess that I really am beginning to think you're nuts. Why would you think those who signed Heck's letter are my "enemies"? I guess you are (thanks for letting me know!), but, as I've noted before, most of those who signed the Heck letter did so without either reading it carefully or thinking about it, many have told me they regretted it, many have since participated in PGR surveys, some are now my friends and colleagues, some I've done professional work with subsequently, and so on. Many had the reasonable objection at the time that the PGR needed to be less under my control, and have more input, given how influential it had become, a concern that I think we've addressed fairly successfully, with the Advisory Board and the increase in the total number and diversity of evaluators.

What in the world do I "stand for" to which anyone might object "on principle"? I stand for, inter alia, the value of helping students make informed decisions about where to get a PhD; for the importance of Nietzsche; for the correctness of legal positivism; for the philosophoical interest of American Legal Realism; for moral anti-realism; and so on. Which of these, exactly, demands a brave man of "conscience" such as yourself to come forward?

The puzzle raised by your comments is their extreme and somewhat irrational hostility together with the bizarre declamations, such as that I or Spiros would obviously prefer to be you. This looks less like a person of "conscience" and "principle" than someone with a psychological disturbance.

By the way, and I hope this isn't too hard for you to understand, the PGR is not a "popularity contest": it is a survey of a diverse group of hundreds of philosophers asking them for their expert opinion about the quality of philosophical work by their colleagues. Do you think tenure reviews or refereeing articles for journals are "popularity contests"? I would hope not.

Anyway, Spiros, sorry that you've been invaded by this man of "principle" and "conscience" and that your thread got derailed. And Professor Auxier, unlike you, I actually am indifferent to whether I have enemies. Sometimes one ought to have enemies, though it is better and more interesting to have worthy ones.

As to how I was able to identify certain juvenile commenters on another thread: an astute reader pointed out to me that with the site meter here one can, in fact, tie certain comments, based on their time, with IP address information. It's a neat trick.

brn said...

On A vs B vs C journals: Is there any consensus on how to carve Leiter's recent ranking into As, Bs, and Cs? The ranked list of about 30 is here:
http://www.cs.cornell.edu/w8/~andru/cgi-perl/civs/results.pl?id=E_066e4bb39f0a75cf

Anonymous said...

Further derailment:

Brian writes: "most of those who signed the Heck letter did so without either reading it carefully or thinking about it"

You must be kidding, Brian! Look, you aren't my enemy. I have friendly feelings for you. I do admire some of what you're doing for the profession (as I've told you in personal email). But I signed that letter because I agreed with most of it. Do you really think I'm in the minority on this score?

Maybe I am, but that would surprise me. And I doubt you know that I am. Why can't it just be the case that we disagree about this stuff? (It's old news anyway, and I'm no longer inclined to press the criticisms.)

That said, you're not the one misbehaving on this thread... (It's truly painful to see members of the profession self-destruct like this. Let's all just avert our eyes...)

Spiros said...

Anon 10:13

Same Anon as the one claiming to be Randall or not?

Brian Leiter said...

To Anon 10:13 (who can't be Auxier):

I take your point that there is another category here, namely, those who signed the Heck letter because they agreed with its content but who are also not my enemies (and that, Spiros, is why this anon can't be Auxier, since this point defeats Auxier's attempt to make my "enemies" list longer than it actually is!).

I may, indeed, be wrong that the majority of signatories of the Heck letter did not share its stated concerns; I developed that impression from correspondence and conversations with many signatories (three or four dozen) in which it became clear that their concerns were different than Heck's, but the letter was an easy way to make known, "I have a concern." I am also inclined, as a matter of charity of interpretation, to think that the majority did not actually endorse Heck's arguments, since his arguments against the PGR were not good ones, as I explained in some detail at the time (indeed, it was my response that led some other signatories to come forward and say that their objections were different). Anyway, I agree the matter is now ancient history and not worth debating on the merits any longer.

Spiros said...

Prof. Leiter,

I saw the incongruity between the anon 10:13 and the stuff posted by R.A., but I've also noted that some posters apparently do not value consistency, and are prone to backpedaling.

Anonymous said...

Brian and Spiros,

I'm 10:13, and I thought it would be clear that I'm not R.A., since I said that R.A. was misbehaving and indeed has "self-destructed" in this thread. Rereading, I see that it's possible to read that remark as saying that Spiros was the misbehaving one -- but that's not what I meant at all.

Thanks for the explanation, Brian. Maybe you're right. I found it a tad insulting for you to say that most signers signed irresponsibly or thoughtlessly, but having pointed that out I'm happy to let it go. If I see you in Vancouver I'll identify myself as the poster -- since I'm typing this from O'Hare maybe I'll see you at the gate!

My aim in intervening here is just to note that there are some -- as far as I can tell, lots -- of people in the profession who are perfectly capable of disagreeing about this sort of issue (i.e. the one misleadingly framed in terms of 'popularity contests') without making it personal.

Spiros said...

Anon 2:16:

Thanks for the clarification. I was just making sure the tacit implication wasn't that I was the one misbehaving. Cheers!

Brian Leiter said...

Anonymous at O'Hare:

Thanks for the follow-up, points taken. I should not have acceded to Professor Auxier's original assumption that a signatory to the Heck letter is my "enemy" (though we know now that at least one signatory was and is!).

I'm afraid I'm not going to be in Vancouver, though I wish I were!

Calion said...

You know, it's really really funny to watch established, professional philosophers (three of them, no less!) practice the fine art of Internet trolling...

Spiros said...

Calion,

I wasn't aware that it was conceptually possible for one to troll one's own blog... Neither was I aware that responding to unwarranted insults counts as trolling. Thanks for teaching me these things.

And I'm pleased to hear you're amused. That's important to me.

Calion said...

Oh, it's definitely possible to troll--or perhaps we should here use the term flame-bait as possibly marginally more accurate--your own blog. I've seen people set up forums and maillists for what would seem to be the specific purpose of attracting people in order to attack them and start off-topic flamewars.

Anonymous said...

Spiros,

The poster above is confused. If you own the blog and are posting as the blog-owner, you're not a troll.

If I catch your sarcasm, you're also right to dismiss the description under which the regrettable element of thread is the product of THREE people acting like fools. The fool here is the anon who began the foolishness.

But I was writing to thank for this thread (the parts not devoted to foolishness). I found this discussion helpful.

Anonymous said...

Spiros,

When you say that a pub in a C journal hurts, is that in general or just for peer-reviewed articles? So, it seems like good advice for grad students not to submit their work to C journals. What about for co-authoring an invited article with faculty or a not-so-prestigious conference proceedings volume? I can't imagine that these will get you a job, but I also wouldn't have thought they would hurt.

Neil said...

I think that as a blanket statement, it's not true that a publication in a C journal hurts. I don't even think that a publication in a C journal fails to help. It depends on the field. In some fields - I'm thinking especially of applied ethics, but there may be others - there are A journals but space in them is so limited that it is expected you will publish elsewhere. And 'elsewhere' means a C journal. In applied ethics, 'Ethics' and PPA are obviously one's first choice, but they publish very little in the way of applied ethics. Publishing in a C journal is therefore quite acceptable. It is different in M & E, meta-ethics, and other core areas: there if you fail to get into Phil Review or whatever, there are plenty of B venues, such that publication in the Zazak Journal of Interesting Stuff is seen as evidence you failed to get into the Bs/

Nick said...

One way that a publication in a C journal could hurt, particularly if someone is going onto the job market for the first time, is if the paper in question is a flaming piece of crap. The Chair of my department has brought this to the attention of the graduate students a couple of times. Deep enough into the hiring process, an SC member could google a prospective hire, and committing something terrible to print could follow one around for awhile.

Anonymous said...

Question. Suppose I know who my referee is because they used google to discover my identity from their office computer and this showed up in my blog's stat counter. Suppose they are taking longer than they should to complete their review. Is it inappropriate to email them and ask them politely to get a move on? It was 12 months for the first round of reviews to be completed and they've had the revised manuscript for 3 months now.

Thanks,
Grumpy epistemologist

Spiros said...

Grumpy Epistemologist:

I'd definitely not breach the assumption of blind review. Write a grumpy note to the editor reminding him/her of the timeline.

Spiros said...

Anon 8:15:

I'd keep away from invited pieces unless you also have single-authored stuff that has passed peer-review.

Anonymous said...

Been thinking about some of this old conversation here. Try this on for size...Spiros=Randall Auxier

People, come on--why haven't we considered this possibility yet?

I'd say let's have a beer in Carbondale when I'm there, but I';d never go near that shit-hole of a town.

personalist said...

This is saddening. I've seen Randy Auxier often at conferences. He is a decent and presentable person... not someone who could write the things that have been written under his name here.

Krinos said...

No, personalist. I've seen Randy Auxier at conferences, too, and he's a petty and stupid person. That the person posting as Randy is petty and stupid doesn't mean he's Randy, but we've at least met a necessary condition.
If the person posting as Randy is in fact not Randy, then this person has done Randy a real disservice, because this person has been defaming someone whose career is already in the toilet. Enough, already, the dead dog kicking has become morbid. Oh, and Library of Living Philosophers is effectively defunct, because of incompetent editing.

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