In the discussion about Sympoze below, Anon posts the following query:
Like many readers of this blog, I'm a young untenured faculty member. I think I have some really good papers, but thanks to the awful review process (and my tendency to work in isolation) it's been difficult to get many of them published. I've had a few minor successes but spend a lot of time waiting to hear back on several papers (and racking up rejections!)...all this while I'm scared to death of getting my best ideas "scooped" by someone else (i.e. published before me). Here, then, are my questions: how does everyone feel about posting working papers to places like SSRN? Is it a bad idea, because it "unblinds" what is supposed to be blind review? Or, is it a good idea, because it's a good way to publicly stake your claim to an idea ("getting there first"), even though it's just a repository for working papers? I just don't know, and I'm stressing myself out. The publishing game just sucks, and I could basically just use some advice on how to best deal with the issues I raised. Any ideas are greatly appreciated!My initial response is to wonder if this a common problem and/or concern in philosophy, having "your idea" published by someone else. (This obviously gets into interesting territory about identity, and the possession of ideas, and idea provenance, and inception.) Given the long time it takes to get anything published, how would you know who had the idea first (and would it matter)? Is this something we should be worried about to the point of posting WIPs online? And is posting WIPs online a solution to this problem, or a way to facilitate the theft of your ideas? (Your papers are copyrighted (by law) when you create them, but you can't copyright your ideas. And you wouldn't want to.) Again, the provenance issue comes up -- posting your paper online would not seem to really prove that it was your idea first. Just that you posted it online before anyone else did. And anyway, don't we have a long history in philosophy of commenting and elaborating on ideas that are already out there?
Which is not to dismiss the question or the concern. The process of getting published is unnecessarily onerous, and someone doing really interesting and original work might rightly have concerns about their work gathering dust while something similar gets published.