Saturday, May 19, 2012

Is it Wrong?

Is it wrong to send out a paper that you believe isn't quite ready for prime time to a journal that you know does a good job of securing good reviewers who write good reports, simply for the purposes of getting good comments on your current draft?

This seems to me an abuse of the system of journal peer-review. I have a colleague who does this regularly and sees nothing wrong with it on the stipulations that if the under-cooked paper gets accepted (or conditionally accepted), one must publish it with that journal, and if the paper gets an R&R, one must revise and resubmit to that journal.   

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is wrong.

I'm a trained ethicist, so you can close the comments now.

Anonymous said...

Typical of the anal-ytics who populate this wretched blog. No sensitivity to context (what field is the submitter a member of? is he tenured?) or history or the sociology of philosophy. Just a bald assertion of expertise, a simple judgment that the practice in question is wrong, and then an absurd foreclosure of any openness to interrogation of the matter.

This is to say nothing about the defenseless presupposition of the legitimacy of the peer-review regime and the journal paradigm that dominate the profession. News flash for you latter-day logical positivists: None of Aristotle, Spinoza, Shelling, Kierkegaard, or Nietzsche got past blind-review. Do some real philosophy.

Strom Thurmond said...

Why wouldn't this person just send the paper to colleagues who would return the paper with constructive comments?

Christopher Hitchcock said...

I don't see any problem with this practice if the paper is not wildly inappropriate for the journal in question, and your colleague intends to publish a polished version of the paper with the journal if the un-polished version gets accepted or an R&R request.

I've often encouraged junior faculty (on short time-lines) to start sending papers to journals at the same time they send them to colleagues for comments. No matter how polished a paper is, odds are you are going to have to revise it before publication anyway. No point waiting until you think a paper is perfect, sending it out, and then having to do an R&R.

traumadite said...

Hear, hear 11:40. The logo-peero-centricism of the hegemonic referee-construct does violence to the Being of philo(so)phy. The trauma to the "rejected" shows it to be nothing but an always-already engine of power. Context is key. Heroic Philosophers should never be "peer"-reviewed. They should be praised. Never questioned by the to-be-published-later graphomaniacs who show so little interpretive imagination! The anal-ytics work on "problems." But real philosophers engage in discursive ruminations. Somewhere there is a picture of a broken guitar. I would devour Lanan's shorts to see a rough draft of Zizek's next philo-bloviation-sophy.

Anonymous said...

Surely 11:40 is a Poe.

Anonymous said...

As someone who has reviewed half baked papers for good journals, I feel that the author is basically wasting my time. Maybe I'm too conscientious a reviewer, but if I have to point out flaws and suggest literature the author should look at before resubmitting, I feel like I'm doing the author's job for him/her. That said, I think Christopher Hitchcock makes a good point. I guess it depends on how unfinished the paper is. Sending out a paper that needs a bit of polish seems fine (as per what CH was saying) but submitting sketchy or halfway finished drafts is just rude.

Anonymous said...

1:01, awesome.

Sincerely,
11:30

Anonymous said...

Like most assessment of crime this seems to be a matter of intent. If someone knows that a paper is half-baked and chooses to waste the time of someone (like me) who tends to make extensive comments on a paper that is promising but not quite there, then I really resent that. But if someone is clueless about what is half-baked, then that's forgivable in a given instance. But if that someone gets rejected/r&rs over and over again and doesn't get the message that the submissions are not sufficiently polished for submission, then that constitutes negligence and is abhorrent for another fault of intent.

I'm with Spiros on this one.

Anonymous said...

Seems simple enough to evaluate.

What is the premise of the process that you are invoking?

Are you attempting to go with this premise?

To the OP, ask your colleague if they would like to sit around reading unpolished papers of the same level and dishing out commentary.

Given that they seem semi-convinced that they might get through it implies that the level of unpolishedness is not as severe as some may jump too. Without this information, responses are limited in ability to discern whether your indignation is justified.

Anonymous said...

Don't know if it is wrong but I wouldn't do it. I send my undercooked papers to conferences/ workshops. I take an acceptance at this stage as a positive sign for the paper and then the presentation of the paper at the conference provides the opportunity for feedback. After I have presented and polished the paper a few times, I sent the paper out to journals.

Glaucon said...

@traumadite --

Is that broken guitar an electric guitar that got run over by a car on the highway? That is a crime against the state.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11.40: real philosophers can spell "Schelling". There's rigor for you.

Anonymous said...

My names is Rod Shelling. I've never published anything. I assumed 11:40 was talking about me...

Anonymous said...

Many journals operate on a kind of 'triage' system with mad/inappropriate submissions weeded out immediately, half-baked ones reviewed (if at all) internally by the editorial team and only those that are closer to being fully baked sent off to referees. In part this is simply a response to referees' concerns about the demands being made on them. So, the less baked your paper is, the greater the chance it'll get bounced with little if anything in the way of useful commentary. My advice is not to wait til its perfect because that day will never come but let it get bashed about a bit at seminars, conferences and at the hands of colleagues before submitting.

Anonymous said...

Most top journals take laughable amounts of time to review papers, and they rarely publish anything without first giving it an R&R. So I don't see why anyone would wait around before submitting, once the paper is good enough to scrape through the R&R barrier.

The process is something like this:
1. Write paper.
2. Submit to top journal.
3. Send to colleagues, go to conferences, etc.
4. Revise the paper in light of comments from colleagues, comments at conferences, etc.
5. Iterate steps 3 and 4 several times.
6. Hear back from prestigious journal, by which time, if you get the R&R you were aiming for, you will already have a vastly superior version of the paper ready to go once you've made a few token gestures to accommodate the objections from the referees -- objections which, in all probability, you've already pre-empted and taken into account in the revised version.

Anonymous said...

You don't have to think the papers you submit are perfect, obviously. But submitting papers you think won't (or even worse, ought not) to be accepted as is--with a bit of tidying of presentation--is just rude, and wasting people's time.

Anonymous said...

Forget about whether it's wrong...how could waiting around for it actually be practically helpful? It also makes me sad your colleague doesn't have any friends (including you?) to read it.

The Doc said...

Suppose I referee a paper for a journal with the amount of care and effort that I usually provide. (This will involve carefully re-reading obscure parts of the essay, double-checking references that seem to be misattributions or misinterpretations, and writing copious comments, carefully worded both for content and for tone, to protect the ego of someone who I assume is submitting work they are emotionally invested in.) Suppose I am surprised by the low quality of the submission and, I worry that the author (who I assume is a grad student or beginning asst professor) has not been getting good advice about professional standards, so I allow the journal to release my name to the author, in case he or she wants additional feedback. The author emails me and thanks me profusely for my time, explaining that he knew the paper wasn't polished enough for publication, but submitted it to be refereed "simply for the purposes of getting good comments on [his] current draft." I would feel that the author was a tool, and that I had been ill-used.

Anonymous said...

11:40:

Typical of the oversensitive cunt-inentals that populate academia. No sensitivity to sarcasm (do you think it's charitable to interpret such a bald assertion and overemphasized appeal to authority as anything other than facetious?) or humor. Your obfuscatory use of adjectives and adverbs really gets my sanctimonious emotions stirring.

News flash for you Derridaphiles: No one has accepted logical positivism in 30 or so years. STFU about it.

Anonymous said...

Our peer review system is already massively overburdened, and this is particularly detrimental to junior people who need a fast turnaround for the market cycle or tenure clock. Unless the author in question referees 2-3 papers for every submission, it seems both wrong and unprofessional to me.

Side-note: as a referee, when I sense that a paper is half-baked, I'm likely to respond quickly (within a week), and reject with only very brief and general comments about the paper's flaws.

Anonymous said...

"Our peer review system is already massively overburdened, and this is particularly detrimental to junior people who need a fast turnaround for the market cycle or tenure clock."

And here I'm willing to bet that it's junior faculty and grad students who are doing this more often.

Personally, I do think it's bad to send stuff off to journal that you *know* still needs work. If you know it needs work, you should some idea as to where in the work and why.

More importantly, I think it reflects poorly on the author's ability to develop useful professional contacts. Anyone whose work is at the stage where they can reasonably think about publication is someone who should have enough contacts that they can get a reading of their work without resorting to this kind of practice.

Anonymous said...

Why is everyone here upset at the fact at the submitter? Shouldn't the real question be that the review comments are being mischaracterized... who really thinks that the review comments of prestigious journal X will give the type of criticisms intended for publication?? Some comments I've gotten back have been clearly meant to eliminate papers; they did not improve upon the content of the paper in any way.

Anonymous said...

I think you've phrased the question in an unsympathetic way to the subject. How about this question instead?

"Is it wrong to send out a paper that you believe will probably not get accepted to a journal that you know does a good job of securing good reviewers who write good reports, knowing that if it (likely) is not accepted, you'll at least get good comments back?"

I've known many scholars who were very poor judges (in either direction) of their baking skills. I'd say that if you think there's a chance in hell of it being accepted, then it's morally permissible.

Anonymous said...

"Why is everyone here upset at the fact at the submitter?"

Because the submitter is doing something wrong. But if you want us to be angry at journals because people send half-baked ideas, I'm fine with that, too.

"Shouldn't the real question be that the review comments are being mischaracterized..."

No. Because it's not a given that such comments will not be helpful. Some readers are better than others, and some - as noted earlier - give better reads to more fully-developed works. Just because you have not received useful comments doesn't mean that's true for everyone. Perhaps your work wasn't worth giving more attention to. Or maybe you got a reader who wasn't inclined to be more helpful.

I'd like to suggest that one reason why more articles don't get such favorable reads is precisely because too many people send in work they know to be incomplete. If journal readers are overburdened, by being asked to fulfill the roles that should be fulfilled by advisors and colleagues, then they need to do a better job of triage.

This, ultimately, is why it's bad to send work one knows is not ready. It forces journals to spend less time on each submission.

Anonymous said...

I'm reading this thread quickly, but has any post considered the responsibility of the editor to assess the quality of the submission before sending it along to a reviewer for a report?