I've been following the hullabaloo about the special issue of Synthese dealing with "Evolution and its Rivals" with interest. Very briefly, what happened was that Synthese had a guest-edited special issue this past January dealing with Intelligent Design. One of the articles, Barbara Forrest's "The Non-Epistemology of Intelligent Design," is I would say pretty critical of Francis Beckwith's ID advocacy. According to the guest editors, after the article was published online (but before it appeared in print) friends of Beckwith and of ID protested to the editors-in-chief. The EiCs attempted to get Forrest to revise the article (after it had been published), but she declined. The idea of inserting a disclaimer into the issue was broached and rejected--the guest editors claim that they were assured on two different occasions that no disclaimer would be attached. Beckwith was then given space in (a later issue of) the journal to respond to the Forrest article.
So the guest editors were really pissed when the editors-in-chief did attach a disclaimer to the print version of the issue, vaguely indicating that some of the articles included in the issue violated the journal's editorial standards with respect to tone.
Leiter thinks the EiCs caved to the ID lobby and is urging people to boycott Synthese unless they can present a satisfactory explanation or make things right some other way. The EiCs have issued a response. The most interetsing discussion so far has appeared in this thread at New APPS.
There are, obviously, a bunch of issues here. But one thing I would like to know more about is this: what kind of editorial procedures are normally in place for guest-edited special issues like this? Do the editors-in-chief just hand over the keys to the guest editors and then leave and not come back until the issue is done? I am naive about this sort of thing, but that strikes me as unlikely. It seems to me that even if the guest editors are doing the hands-on work of finding authors, selecting and editing the articles, sending them to reviewers, assembling the issue, and that sort of thing, the editors-in-chief would still have to be reading penultimate drafts and exerting final executive authority. Right? The editors-in-chief do not just totally cede all executive control over those pages of the journal to the guest-editors, do they?
If my sense of how these guest-editing procedures would work is correct, then the decision to disclaim the issue is ludicrous. If the EiCs read the Forrest article in advance of publication and felt that it would violate their editorial standards for tone or whatever, they should have taken steps in advance of publication to correct the problem. And if they read the article in advance of publication and felt that it would not violate their editorial standards, then they should stand by the issue and their guest-editors now. And if they are going to disclaim the issue, they should let the guest editors and contributors know about it beforehand, and they should not assure the guest editors that they aren't going to do it.