Thursday, July 28, 2011

What if Nous & PPR Published More?

For the past few years, Nous and PPR have stopped accepting submissions for about half the year. This is, as they say, because they have such a backlog and their acceptance rate is so minuscule that it doesn't make sense to accept submissions all year. I wonder why they don't start publishing more issues. If they published bi-monthly instead of quarterly, they could accept more articles and have a shorter backlog. And if they have such a backlog, and they get so many submissions, and their acceptance rate is so small, the could do this without reducing the overall quality of the journals. What would be the problem with that?

--Mr. Zero

23 comments:

Euthyphronics said...

I suspect the main problem would be publisher resistance to double-plussing the production load associated with the journal. Twice the typesetting, twice the printing, twice the copyright agreements... (If they did, I expect we would see twice the cost, too.) Not to mention increased workload for the editorial staff, who are already doing this in conjunction with their day jobs.

Anonymous said...

The only problem I could see might be the cost of printing 2x as many issues. Would they have to raise their subscription rates?

Anonymous said...

There wouldn't be any intrinsic problem. The problem is appearances. By publishing fewer articles than they could, they can maintain a truly superlative advantage in reputation. It's not clear that the financial gain from publishing more issues (if there is any such gain) would be a compensating gain.

In the words of Bender, "Great is OK, but amazing would be great."

Anonymous said...

I would guess the problem is this: money. It takes editorial assistance to publish a journal like PPR or Nous, and that costs. In order to increase the number of issues that come out each year, the editorial assistant(s) would have to log more hours. Where is that extra cash going to come from?

Anonymous said...

Well, the obvious problem would be that they would probably need a larger in-house editorial and production staff, and more referees. That may all be possible, but the reality is that you can only do so much. I like the temporary moratorium at PPR because I'd rather know that my submission will be reviewed promptly (always the case at PPR for me) rather than that it will just sit idly on a desk because everyone is snowed under.

If that helps them manage their own work (and avoids the idling problem above) then it seems like a perfectly reasonable and considerate practice, assuming they currently can't operate at a higher capacity.

(Contrast with J Phil, where I'd like to submit something, but feel quite apprehensive about the thought that I may not hear anything--given the data at Cullison's Journal Surveys--for a year or more...I ask myself, will I still care at that point? Will I remember what I've said enough to care? Etc. Perhaps those worries are a result of my own immaturity on these issues, but I'm not sure. I would probably be better off timewise--i.e. in expected time to decision--to submit to PPR in October than to submit now to J Phil.)

Anonymous said...

PPR went from four to six issues in 2000. So, we've been down that road already.

Word Verification: "stert" as in, "PPR better stert publishing more so I can get accepted there."

Anonymous said...

Thread HJ-

Anybody have any thoughts on the practice of having an author referee a papers that critically assess his/her work? I can't be sure that this has ever happened to me, but I've been suspicious a few times. Further, I've been told by a colleague that one author outed himself in such a case.

I think the practice (if it truly occurs) can actually cut both ways (for better or worse). The criticized author may have an incentive to accept since it may be in her best interest to further citations of her work, philosophical engagement, etc... This I think holds when the criticism is of the your counter-example is not that persuasive...

On the other hand, when the criticism is especially heavy, I take it that the reviewer may have a hard time accepting given the impending body-slam. Also, if your claim is that the author is confused, and the author really is, it may be a hard sell.

Anonymous said...

I understand that it would cost more, but isn't then also a reason for moving away from print journals? There is no reason - other than silly bias - why journals can't move to all-online publishing.

Anonymous said...

As unofficial editor of both NOUS and PPR, I like this idea and will begin implementing changes immediately.

Anonymous said...

It is a matter of cost. My experience is that publishing companies set a fixed page limit for the year and the editor is constrained on threat of dire consequences to stick to that. It is partly a consequence of having to pump out hard copy but as someone has pointed out, even if the journal went entirely electronic there would still be prep and proofing costs etc. And if they produced more issues, would more individuals and/or libraries subscribe? Almost certainly not. So that would mean increasing subs. Bottom line: increasing no of issues eats into the publishers' bottom line.

Ben said...

I'm curious as to whether these moratoriums (-ia?) on new submissions really do that much to reduce the number of submissions that they receive. If you really want to send a paper to Nous, I don't see why you couldn't wait a couple of months.

Of course, often one wants to get a paper out as soon as possible, but then one is probably best advised not to send it to a top tier journal anyway. Also one could send it to a different top tier journal and then, once rejected, maybe Nous if not currently subject to a moratorium.

So do they really reduce submissions? Or is any effect more down to signalling (to potential authors) that they have a huge backlog so are likely to be harsh in decisions and slow to print? That, of course, might discourage many submissions.

Aidan said...

Ben,

It's a couple of months to wait *now*. But the doors closed several months ago. And a couple of years ago they were closed between January and October, if my memory serves me correctly. I'm sure they get a wave of submissions as soon as they reopen each time, but it seems plausible that they do reduce the number of submissions they get over the course of a year considerably.

Anonymous said...

the APA changed their website
http://www.apaonline.org/

Ben said...

@Aiden,

I see your point and it's certainly plausible that they reduce submissions, but it also seems plausible to me that they don't really have much effect - so I was wondering whether anyone had figures that might allow us to make more reliable estimates.

My couple of months comment wasn't a particular reference to now. But I think it's rare to have any clear idea of when a paper's finished and ready to go to a journal. If you have your heart set on PPR, then you can always spend a couple of extra months tinkering with the paper first - not obviously a big loss (unless time is particularly pressing, in which case you may not want to submit there anyway).

Alternatively, if you decide that *now* is the time you must send this paper out, but PPR has a moratorium in place, then you might send it to (say) J. Phil. When it gets rejected, see whether PPR are accepting papers again and, if so, send there. If not, try (say) Mind. When it gets rejected, see whether PPR are accepting papers again. Etc. If papers keep doing the rounds in this way, then they'll get to PPR at some point.

So, if you really want to submit to PPR I don't see waiting a little longer as much of a problem, and if you're just aiming at top journals generally then I'd have thought you might try PPR at some point anyway, between moratoriums.

Added to this, as you say, there may be a rise in submissions when these journals are accepting papers. People might (probably mistakenly) think that now they have a better chance of submission, since the backlog is cleared a bit. And this may even encourage people who have a paper ready sooner to wait a bit for the moratorium to lift.

So I'd have thought, from these considerations, that it's plausible the moratorium makes little difference. I wondered whether anyone had figures to show whether this is the case or not. I also wondered, if there is a difference, whether it's really attributable to the signal sent by the moratorium, deterring people from even trying PPR, rather than the actual temporary refusal to accept submissions itself.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hijack this thread. Ok, so I'm looking at the new APA website. They removed a "call for (conference) papers" section? What?! Why?

Etaoin Shrdlu said...

Question from an ex-Philosopher who now works in journal publishing:

As authors, would you be happy if these journals published your articles in an Online Only issue and not in a print issue?

Would you feel that Online Only publication wouldn't carry the same weight as print publication?

Anonymous said...

Etaion,

No objection in principle. Some journals are effectively online only anyway (I edit a journal that is theoretically paper and online, but so few paper copies are printed that they don't even send me one). I would object, though, if a two-tier system emerged (nous and Nous-lite). I think there would be a real danger of that if the editors were deciding that some articles were for online only. For that reason, I would have no objection to Nous (say) moving entirely to online only, but would not be happy with some issues being online only.

Anonymous said...

Uh. I know an editor who can barely keep up already with the workload, and remember this is all volunteer work. Plus, twice the number of issues means finding twice the number of referees -- good luck with that!

Mr. Zero said...

Uh. I know an editor who can barely keep up already with the workload, and remember this is all volunteer work.

There's no reason why they should have to be edited by the same person. If it's too much work, that is.

Plus, twice the number of issues means finding twice the number of referees -- good luck with that!

That's not how it works, is it? I thought the number of referees would correlate most directly with the number of submissions, and only indirectly with the number of issues (insofar as the number of issues is connected with the number of submissions).

Anonymous said...

Mr. Z.,

That's a good point. It wouldn't mean more refereeing. And in the big picture (that is, profession-wide rather than just for the particular journal), it would mean less refereeing, because more issues means more acceptances, and more acceptances means fewer resubmissions.

It's worth asking particular editors what the obstacles are to increasing the number of issues the journal publishes. I do think it's very largely a matter of the cost of producing the issues, which would become negligible if journals went entirely online. (Of course, if they went online, they would not even have 'issues' in the traditional sense -- as Philosophers' Imprint or JESP.)

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:54AM looks at Mr. Zero sheepishly after having really whoopsed her reasoning :P

Anonymous said...

A general question about others' experience, separate from the details of this thread: I'm a relatively new tenure-track philosopher, increasingly frustrated by the publication/review process. Do others regularly get reviews that show little attention to your papers--e.g., a reviewer says that my account of X is inadequate, when I explicitly say that my focus is Y not X; e.g. another reviewer saying I need to address A, not noticing that I spent 5 pages doing so; etc.? Do others send papers out 4 or 5 times to different journals before finding a suitable home? The acceptance rates at the major journals would suggest there is a lot of this going on, but is my experience typical? To me it seems as if there is a sizable random element, much depends on the reviewers, whether they like the paper. Of course, that shouldn't be the standard: reviewers should be able to say, I disagree for the following reasons, but this paper makes a thought-provoking claim, etc. I've written that as a reviewer, but so many of the reviews I get seem to be an exercise in nit-pick-to-death.

Anonymous said...

^Anon, yes these are common experiences. The whole reviewing process is slowly becoming a sham. It is not blind and is far too often subject to whims.

On the other hand, if you have a website and are tracking it with google analytics you can almost definitely backtrack your reviewers IF they decide to break the blindness and look you up.