The JPP saga — and the way forward

by Ingrid Robeyns on January 17, 2024

This is a post that will mainly be of interest to academic political philosophers, as it concerns what happened to The Journal of Political Philosophy, and I’m assuming readers know what happened to that journal recently (if you don’t, you can read first this, and then this piece on Daily Nous).

Earlier today I attended a meeting that Wiley organised at the Eastern Philosophical Association meeting, and want to share my impression as well as share the three conclusions that I draw from this session.

The announcement was that Wiley would answer questions and talk to the community of political philosophers. But anything they said about why this happened was at such a general level and in vague formulations, that those in the room didn’t really get any new factual information. Wiley stressed repeatedly that they respected editorial independence. Wiley did say that they had underestimated the response from the community, and that they were here to listen to the community, and gather from the community ideas to how to take the journal forward.

That Wiley was there with some clear business-goals was clear, since at the end I approached a young person who had been frantically taking notes. I was assuming he was, like me, going to write up a blogpost – perhaps he was a friend of Justin Weinberg, I thought, doing a guest post for Daily Nous. When I introduced myself and asked him whether he was writing for a blog or for whom he was taking those notes, he revealed that he was a Wiley-employee.

So Wiley has its own notes on this session. Here are mine.

In essence, I understand the claims that Wiley makes as follows:

(1) Wiley needs to standardise the way they operationally proceed, because of pressures in this industry. Open Access publishers are fully standardised, Wiley has thousands of editors they are working with, and they can’t do things differently for every journal. The industry is changing and they need to adapt [to survive in the industry? To keep up profits?]

(2) On the particular case of JPP and the firing of Bob Goodin, they didn’t really say anything, except that they “couldn’t continue working with the editor and fulfil their role as a publisher”. And when they described that role, there was lots of talk about the needs of ‘operational standardization’. Apparently, even within that small room, they could not provide details. They only claimed that some things posted on the firing of Bob Goodin on social media were not true, but did not say what was or what wasn’t true. So the people in the room were left completely in the dark.

(3) They did answer the question about ownership: “Wiley is the owner of JPP, since Bob Goodin sold it to us.” I would draw from this statement the lesson that, ideally, we should find ways to own our own journals.

(4) When Annie Stiltz shared her experience with Wiley as editor of Philosophy and Public Affairs, in which she was put under pressure to publish a much larger number of papers and Wiley refused to accept her as an editor for many months, the reaction from Wiley was that they acknowledge that she had had a bad experience but that none of the people in that team where still working at Wiley. Still, to my mind no reassurance was given to why what PAPA had experienced would not happen again.

(5) Annie Stiltz also mentioned that there was pressure on the journal by Wiley to move to publishing in html. She mentioned that this might be a suitable model for the sciences, but which philosopher reads html, she asked? To this the publisher responded that “most of our readers read html” and that it was an accessibility issue. Whether that was “most of all readers, across all the sciences and humanities” or “most of the philosophers”, was not clear. It was also unclear to me whether they would want to publish html next to publishing in pdf, or replace the former with the latter (that makes a big difference, obviously).

When the floor was opened for discussion, the following things (in addition to 4 & 5 above) came up. There were more things that came up, but I couldn’t keep complete track, so hope that the other philosophers in the room can correct me if need be, and complement my reporting and impressions.

(6) Jonathan Quong, a member of the editorial board of JPP and now of the new journal Political Philosophy reminded Wiley that more than one thousand political philosophers had signed the petition in which they pledged not to submit, referee, or provide editorial services for the journal. So, he concluded, JPP doesn’t have a future. To which Wiley responded “thank you for that statement” — and that was it.

(7) Someone asked what would happen with the papers that are submitted now, given that there is no editorial team. They are received, and the authors get notified that the papers can currently not be processed. In essence, until there is a new editorial team, the papers are not being reviewed. I think under those conditions, it is unwise for anyone to submit a paper to JPP.

(8) When I asked them what they were planning to do with the journal given the boycot, they said they feel that the community would be underserved without the changes they are envisioning, and that they picked up some of the comments of the younger scholars on social media [including blogging], and that they want “to widen out the journal to new topics”. There are allegedly ongoing conversations with political philosophers. I responded that JPP should be buried.

(9) Carol Gould, editor of the Journal of Social Philosophy, then suggested that we shouldn’t ditch JPP. Instead, Wiley should change the name of the journal, to make a clear cut with JPP. She stressed that the field needs more journals. Not all good papers can get published, and young scholars need a place to publish their work.

(10) Jonathan Quong noted that Wiley mentioned repeatedly during the meeting that they are not political philosophers and that they respect academic independence. “Yet how can they then appoint a new editorial team?,” he asked. To this question, Wiley responded that they are in touch with the community, and that they are gathering advice on whom to ask for these editorial roles. No names were mentioned. There are multiple realities consistent with what they said, including that no-one is giving them useful advice. The fact that after so many months since the announcement that Goodin would be fired they still do not have an editor, doesn’t bode well.

I came away with three thoughts on this.

First, this was a meeting Wiley set up to limit the damage. I doubt, though, that anyone in the room who signed the petition, has changed their mind. If anyone did, please do let us know in the comments section. Wiley did not give any details that could help me change my mind. All Wiley had said could have been preceded by the sentence: “Because of our mission to increase our profits”, …. we need to standardise our procedures / increase the number of papers we publish / work with editors who do what we ask them / want to talk to political philosophers to improve our image etc. etc. One may arguably object that I’m being a bit cynical here, but then I am a scholar of capitalism and Wiley is above all a capitalist enterprise.

Second, we, political philosophers, need to talk amongst us what we need in terms of journals to serve the needs of all political philosophers, including political philosophers who currently don’t get their papers published because acceptance rates are so low. Are the acceptation rates too low? Do we need more journals? Do we need to expand the current journals?

Third, we, political philosophers, also need to talk about good practices. Carol Gould suggested that journals should adhere to the APA’s guidelines on good publishing practice, which includes the strong recommendation of triple blind anonymous review. JPP didn’t have that, and its “true successor” Political Philosophy doesn’t have that either. There are also concerns that it’s really hard to publish on some topics in political philosophy in the journals that we have, such as nonwestern political philosophy.

I strongly support the solidarity of political philosophers against Wiley’s top-down decision making, which I still consider a violation of academic autonomy. I have not heard anything in this session to make me change my mind. But the attack on JPP also brought out more in the open some voices who are worried about how the field of political philosophy journals looks like. In the context of a journal under attack, it is understandable that we don’t want to conflate these two discussions. Whatever criticism one might have on the old JPP, we must not let that be used as ammunition by Wiley to let them get away with what they did.

So what then should we do? We, political philosophers, should take control over our future. We should not contribute to the revival of JPP, so that it is clear to Wiley and any other publisher what we do not tolerate. But we should also have a discussion, outside the sessions organised by publishers trying to do damage controle, what we need in terms of journals – whether we have enough journals, whether their practices can be improved, and whether they are sufficiently pluralistic in terms of methods, traditions and topics. And that conversation can’t just take place at the APA, since journals are international, and political philosophers are spread over the globe. In order to make it accessible to all, perhaps it is a conversation we can have on blogs?



Michael Kates 01.17.24 at 10:29 pm

Thank you so much for this helpful and informative post, Prof. Robeyns. I wasn’t able to make it to the APA because my semester has already started and I was very curious to hear what Wiley would say at the session. Really appreciate the detailed account!


Chris Brooke 01.17.24 at 10:48 pm

Since the JPP scandal blew up, I’ve refused to referee for Wiley titles. It’s a slightly different boycott from the boycott that lots of my colleagues are taking part in, insofar as they’ve pledged not to referee for the JPP, whereas I’ve never been much of a part of the world of the JPP (only having refereed for them once, not really being that kind of political philosopher), but have refereed in the past for half a dozen other Wiley journals (the American Journal of Political Science, the European Journal of Philosophy, History, the Journal of Applied Philosophy, the Journal of Political Philosophy, and the Journal of Religious Ethics). And since the JPP saga has kinda sorta resolved itself, I’ve been wondering whether to persist with this boycott. But in light of the kind of thing that’s reported in this post, well, yes I will. I’m reporting this here, because Wiley is probably going to be monitoring this thread. And what they have to learn is that actions have to have consequences, and if they are going to fuck around with precious institutions like the JPP like arseholes, well, people like me just won’t review for them anymore.


Alex SL 01.17.24 at 11:07 pm

Not a political philosopher, and I am publishing in Wiley, Springer, etc journals, because those are what there is and where some of my papers need to go.

But in my eyes, this is the kind of scenario that illustrates why making every activity for-profit is a Really Bad Idea.

Apart from that, I find it interesting how academics try to push publishing in their preferred direction. We went through the open access movement, which was successful, including in producing the extremely bad outcomes that everybody who thought for ten seconds could see coming a mile away: incentive structure is now to publish as much as possible instead of only high quality as it was under subscription funding, and where academics at underfunded institutions could previously request a reprint from the author to overcome the issue of subscription fees, they now cannot publish because they cannot afford the publication fees/article handling charges, with predictable consequences for their careers.

Now we are seeing movements for paid peer review or for full open peer review, as if that would solve any problems that are ultimately caused by the for-profit nature of publishing. Interesting therefore that political philosophers mentioned in this post prefer double (or even triple) blind review, because that would also be my preference. I am at a complete loss how the advocates of open review cannot see what would happen when an early career researcher on a precarious contract is given the manuscript of a very influential colleague to review, maybe of somebody who will decide if the reviewer’s next proposal gets funded.


Harry 01.17.24 at 11:17 pm

This is just a sort of historical background comment. In Remaking the American University Massy provide a brief but fascinating history of the way academic journals ended up where they are. Originally most journals were owned by departments or scholarly societies, which managed their publication and distribution themselves, often in conjunction with libraries at home institutions. Typically there were reciprocal arrangements so that, eg, USC published The Personalist, and sent free copies to Florida State, Cornell, Columbia, etc, which in turn sent free copies of Social Theory and Practice, Phil Review, JPhil, etc. A massive and complex web of interrelationships, which kept costs down for everyone, and where editorial labour, etc, was voluntary but nobody made a profit.

Over time, publishers bought the journals from the societies. I remember when Blackwell acquired PPQ (formerly the Personalist) and how pissed the philosophy librarian was with the editors for selling it because, suddenly, she had to pay for 30 journals she’d been getting for free. Library costs increased, and academics continued to provide editorial (and refereeing) labour for free, but now to for profit corporations rather than to academic institutions.

From what I can see Goodin’s new venture is a direct reversal of this: the refereeing (and possibly editorial) labour will be done for free, but essentially the cost is being born by a library; and no-one profits. In the sciences I don’t see a way of shifting to this model, and to be honest I don’t really see how existing journals pull themselves out of the hands of corporations, but it seems possible that in the humanities new ventures on Goodin’s model would, over time, take over the market, especially if people determinedly reserved their refereeing labour for non-profits.

Not advocating that, just musing.


Kevin 01.17.24 at 11:53 pm

Harry @ 3 “and no one profits”. Well, university libraries benefit financially when their libraries are freed from the predatory pricing practices of for-profit journals. But that benefit does depend, as you say, on a longer term take over of the market by diamond open access publishing operations (and on other things like universities using the money saved to good purpose, and states or other funding sources not using that as an excuse to further reduce university funding).


Matt 01.18.24 at 12:32 am

Thanks for this, Ingrid – I appreciate you “taking notes” for those of us who couldn’t be there. It’s very interesting, if not (unsurprisingly) 100% informative or transparent in relation to Wiley’s figurings and doings. And, thanks to Harry for the background info.

One thing I wonder about is the role of university presses. Should we want them to play more of a role going forward? OUP and CUP still publish a lot of journals, but is their model closer to that of Wiley than is ideal? I’m not sure, but it might be worth thinking about. And, P&PA was, fairly recently, published not by Wiley but by Princeton University Press. Why the change? It’s not at all obvious to me that P&PA has improved in any way since the change. Phil Review is (somewhat oddly) published by Duke University Press. It has a less than ideal web page, but is that because of Duke? I don’t know. Ethics is published by the University of Chicago Press. Are these options significantly better than commerical pubishers? I wish I knew, and think it’s worth thinking about. Of course, university presses are under significant strain these days, too, so they may not be a great answer, even if they would be improvements in principle.


Carl Knight 01.18.24 at 12:45 am

Thanks for the helpful summary, Ingrid. There’s some good detail there. I had, for instance, never heard about the HTML dimension of this, which is just weird. Also, hi! (My first comment here.)

As the JPP ship has sailed, with PP to all intents and purposes replacing it, I will focus on the more forward-looking issues you raise.

Do we need more political philosophy journals? I’m not so sure about that. I can name about 50, which seems a reasonable amount. I imagine many of them have quite high acceptance rates.

The more common request seems to be for the top journals – especially Ethics, PAPA and JPP (now PP in its place, I assume) – to publish more papers. Bob Goodin has given some reasons against this, which I’m inclined to agree with.

But I do think there may be something to the view that it’s problematic that fewer than 50 political philosophy articles are published per year in the “top” journals (bearing in mind that many Ethics articles aren’t political philosophy). Philosophy of Science and the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science alone publish more than twice that, for instance. (That’s leaving aside that Synthese publishes more articles per year than the top dozen political philosophy journals combined – admittedly a more complex case as it spans other areas such as epistemology as well as philosophy of science.)

Why is this relevant? Well, it suggests that political philosophers might find it harder to publish in their top or even toppish journals. This can be quite impactful. For instance, if you have a political philosopher and a philosopher of something else going for the same open field job, and the philosopher of something else has published in a top subfield journal while the political philosopher hasn’t, probably the philosopher of something else will get the job. Similar points would apply to promotions, grant applications, and so on. The point generalizes not only to comparisons with various subfields of philosophy but also to comparisons with subfields in political science and other departments where political philosophers might be found. The exclusivity of political philosophy journals might be selling the subfield short. “Might” does, however, mark an important qualification: I don’t have the demographic data to confirm that there are, by comparison with other subfields, few top political philosophy publications relative to the number of political philosophers.

But if there is a problem, I don’t really have an easy answer. I certainly don’t think Goodin and others in similar positions should accept papers that they think aren’t good enough.

One not very easy answer is to have more clearly defined fourth and fifth best political philosophy journals. Over the years I’ve found political philosophers either have no firm views of which journals come directly after the top three, or firm views that conflict with the firm views of other political philosophers. If fourth and fifth were clearer, as they are for general philosophy journals, economics journals, etc, that might in a sense create more spots at “top” journals without any Wiley-style interference with editorial judgment. Extending the hierarchy in this way might be seen as detrimental, but maybe it isn’t if it lessens the impact of the existing hierarchy. (Is there such a thing as relational egalitarianism about journals?)


Harry 01.18.24 at 1:09 am

“Harry @ 3 “and no one profits”. Well, university libraries benefit financially when their libraries are freed from the predatory pricing practices of for-profit journals”

Yeah, that was astonishingly badly worded even by my low standards. What I meant was, “no for-profit company makes a profit on this”. Many of us profit in the sense of gain!


Ingrid Robeyns 01.18.24 at 3:28 am

Bob Goodin sent me an email regarding (3), the ownership of the journal. He wrote:

“At point 3 you report Wiley as having said, “(a) Wiley is the owner of JPP, (b) since Bob Goodin sold it to us.” Point (a) is true. Point (b) is not. In terms of ownership, JPP was never mine to sell. Blackwell owned it from the start. We initiated the proposal that they publish JPP; but the contract we signed for them to publish it gave Blackwell ownership of the journal. When Wiley subsequently bought Blackwell, they acquired ownership of JPP in turn.”


Ingrid Robeyns 01.18.24 at 3:30 am

Carl @7 – If what you write about the difference between political philosophy and, say, theoretical philosophy is true, than there really is a problem that we should address as a field. The question is really who or wha should initiate that discussion. If the APA is the biggest philosophical association, perhaps the APA should take the lead to bring together the other philosophical associations worldwide to intiate a conversation about this.

On reputations of journals: I would love to see some solid research on what people think about the reputation of those different journals. Do we know that political philosophers have no firm views on which journals are in the top 5, or the top whatever? For example, I would put PPE in the top 5.

Housekeeping comment: Comments by people who think this is an appropriate place to give their views of particular members of the editorial team of JPP/PP will be deleted.


Matt Brown 01.18.24 at 3:58 am

Thank you for this! I wasn’t able to make the session and was really curious about how it went.


Henrik 01.18.24 at 8:39 am

I don’t know much about the field of political philosophy, but I just want to say that all modern academic journals really should provide the possibility to read articles in HTML as well as in the form of a PDF file. PDF is a terrible format for anyone who is reliant on accessibility tools such as screen readers or needing to adjust font size or contrast or the like in order to be able to read (or listen to) text. About the only good thing megacorp publishers bring to academic journals is the technical infrastructure to produce modern, ADA-compliant manuscripts.


Carl Knight 01.18.24 at 10:53 am

Ingrid @10

I would also probably have PPE up there. But the Journal of Moral Philosophy, Utilitas, Economics & Philosophy, Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, and Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy are each ahead of it in at least one of the two Leiter polls (links below). These polls do have methodological limitations, and are for moral and political philosophy rather than political philosophy alone – which just underscores that evidence beyond the top three is thin.

Here, to substantiate my earlier comments, are the number of articles published in 2019-2021 (Scimago data unless indicated):

Ethics 72
JPP 72
PPE 59
JMP 84
Utilitas 92
Economics and Philosophy 63
JESP 87 (my count)
ETMP 207
OSPP 22 (my count)
JAP 179
Journal of Ethics 86

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 113
Philosophy of Science 235
Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science (summed across A, B and C, which merged in 2021) 475
Synthese 2017 (yes, over two thousand)

So we have 348 in the top two philosophy of science journals and 823 across the likely top three, versus 188 in Ethics, PAPA and JPP (and many of those 72 Ethics articles aren’t political philosophy).

Synthese (which is in the next tier of philosophy of science journals as well as publishing in some other areas) publishes twice as many articles as the 12 selected moral and political philosophy journals combined.


Matt 01.18.24 at 12:03 pm

I think one difficulty in establishing a clear ranking beyond the (impressionistic) “top three” is that, as you go a bit down the scale, it matters a lot more if the journal has a particular fit or niche or style. So, for some of my work that over-laps between political and legal philosophy, while I would have been happy to published it in Ethics or P&PA (I’ve never actually submitted anything to either one, for various reasons), if I’m not going to publish it there, it’s probably better for me to publish it in a journal like Law and Philosophy than in, say, Social Theory and Practice or the like, as its more likely to be seen by the people I most want to see it, and more likely to find referees who are well suited. No doubt this is so for lots of the journals – A “PPE-ish” paper will do better at PPE than at Political Theory, I’d expect, and is more likely to be seen by the “right” people. This makes it hard to say one or another is clearly better, I think, but this also doesn’t seem like a big problem to me. I actually thinks it’s at least somewhat better if many journals have some degree of specialization or focus.

(On Synthese, it’s worth noting that it published 12 issues, somewhat confusingly split into two volumes, per year, while Ethics, P&PA, and JPP publish only 4 issues per year, so for that reason alone it would be surprising if Synthese didn’t publish a lot more articles.)


Chris Bertram 01.18.24 at 1:21 pm

The “top journals” I think matters less and less. In the old days, when people subscribed to physical copies of journals and were more likely to subscribe to “top” ones in their area, there would be (a) the cachet of being published there and (b) the fact that people would see in each physical issue an array of pieces. Nowadays what we have, de facto, is the fragmented publication of individual papers, some of which have the cachet of a top journal, but none of the associations that were formed by seeing that array in a physical issue. Propagation of a paper occurs more by contagion and social media than by the fact that it appears in the place where it appears.

If we are playing “top journals” though, I think Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy (CRISPP) is getting close.


Chris Armstrong 01.18.24 at 1:36 pm

@15. I think there is definitely something to what you say there, Chris. I have often been struck by the fact that the big 3 journals publish quite a lot of papers that turn out to get very, very few citations over the years (citations are not doubt an imperfect indicator for propagation – but what better index do we have?). Ranking journals by Impact Factor of course obscures this, and allows people to say something which is fact quite odd when you think about it: “my paper must be a good paper, because it was published in a journal where the average paper is cited quite a lot (even though my paper wasn’t).”

So, yes, +1 I guess for the thought that the qualities of individual papers matter a bit more than they used to, now everything is digital.


Anna Stilz 01.18.24 at 2:03 pm

Thanks for this post, Ingrid. On the HTML vs. PDF question: I wholeheartedly support publishing in HTML for accessibility reasons, and P&PA does so for all its articles. But what Wiley has indicated to me (something they confirmed again in their meeting with me yesterday) is that they anticipate phasing out PDF publication. This is because their statistics show that the majority of their readers tend to access the HTML version. From my perspective, this is bad for philosophy: I know that when I read a paper carefully, I still tend to print out the PDF version and to take careful notes on it. Philosophy papers are intricate and often technical, and I find it much harder to read them by scrolling through an HTML version. But in thinking about whether to push back against this change, it would be good to know more about others’ reading habits. Wiley has told me they are unable to provide specific statistics about HTML vs. PDF hits either for P&PA specifically or for their philosophy journals only, only for their general portfolio of journals.


Joshua Preiss 01.18.24 at 2:08 pm

Thanks so much for taking the time to write this, Ingrid! These discussions always leave me wondering: are political philosophers really attached to judging articles and philosophers by where they publish (or teach) rather than, say, by the depth, innovation, and political or policy relevance of their work? I understand the ways rankings can save time in determining what to read. For reasons Matt, Chris, and Chris (@14, 15, 16) noted, however, I myself tend to read things based on it’s relevance to my work and teaching, which typically comes organically from citations of previous things I’ve read, people I know personally or from social media, etc. Perhaps for this reason, I’ve not actually submitted to Ethics or Philosophy and Public Affairs. I generally submit to places based on fit or style rather than some notion of rank.

If it is for some reason not feasible to not place great emphasis on journal rank, and Carl’s analysis is accurate (which I assume it is) then we are indeed doing our field a great disservice by accepting so few papers at “top journals.” It undermines the career prospects of present and future colleagues, at least those who haven’t already secured a place at “top” institution. Given the fact that positions and programs are increasingly under threat from changing demographics and institutional priorities, it may ultimately function to narrow the opportunity to study political philosophy for the vast majority of students who don’t attend these universities. In an American academy that is highly sorted by class, I find this potentiality troubling.

I’d like to add that we really ought to get in the habit citing each other more as well. As someone who has served on grant committees that operate across disciplines, I’ve seen first had how our field gets killed in cross-disciplinary comparisons for both of these reasons. In addition, when we cite relatively few papers, the tendency is to again cite from prestige, further exacerbating the above issues.


P.D. Magnus 01.18.24 at 4:00 pm

Regarding HTML vs PDF: I see why there should be an HTML or XML version, for accessibility reasons. And I can see why a casual reader would go no further than the web page.
I also prefer PDFs for anything I am thinking about seriously. I can annotate them. Also, I can keep them in on my own computer so that they are there for reference when I think more about the topic.
So I worry that a commercial publisher wants HTML-only journals so that every access to an article has to be refreshed from their website. With no downloadable file, there’s nothing to share around on pirate cites like SciHub. But it also thwarts legitimate academic use of the paper.


Linda Barclay 01.19.24 at 1:04 am

Thanks for the post Ingrid.
I found it very difficult to get very hot under the collar about what happened to the JPP. I agree with you about the importance of academic autonomy and the seriousness of (some of) Wiley’s behaviour. But I also struggle with philosophers apparent lack of concern with some of the other serious issues that have plagued the running of the JPP since its inception, and which are an open secret. Why the selective moral attention? Why the near universal outrage at the way the editor of JPP was treated, and the near public silence about the ethical problems with the way the journal was run?

I appreciate your worry that conflating these separate issues might be perilous, and provide succour to Wiley. But here’s the thing. The previous editor and editors of JPP have established a new political philosophy journal with the exact same team and the exact same lack of safeguards that undermined the good running JPP. Why not take the opportunity to establish a new journal that (could have easily) avoided some of these well-known problems? Is it because they, and we, actually don’t care about meritocracy, fairness, diversity and robust procedures that are our best alternative to the (overwhelmingly male) gatekeeping of the past?


clew 01.19.24 at 1:27 am

perplexity about the HTML-PDF thing…

Any HTML file that is straightforward enough to play well with accessibility software should translate very easily into PDF. It should be like choosing a meal as a burrito or in a taco bowl, not a whole different thing. I think of it as a publishing house’s job to define straightforward layouts and cooperate with the authors so the paper is marked up to work in either format. Is there a counterexample?

(I don’t even think of HTML as being particularly STEM-ish because publishes PDFs, exactly because it’s pleasant to read if you can, with source files always available. The HTML version is the autogenerated poor cousin there. I bet Wiley doesn’t think of arxiv as central the way I do, though!)


Avery Kolers 01.19.24 at 2:09 am

Thanks so much for this thread, Ingrid and everyone. Very small reply to @2 Chris Brooke: Journal of Applied Philosophy is published by Wiley but is owned by the Society for Applied Philosophy. The proceeds from the Journal are used by the SAP to pay stipends to editors and to support grad students, post-graduate researchers, and philosophy events. In other words, although Wiley does make a profit, JOAP is a different beast from journals that are directly owned by for-profit publishers. (Full disclosure, I edit JOAP, and admit I have a stake in its not being included in a boycott of Wiley-owned journals!)

Which goes to the question of who would do the reviewing if a lot more papers were published in this field. It’s already hard to find reviewers. Who is doing all the reviewing for Synthese? How many papers is your average epistemologist or philosopher of science reviewing per year, as opposed to the average political philosopher? In addition to not citing each other much, do political philosophers also not review very much? Is reviewing papers in (political) philosophy harder (does it take more time) than reviewing papers in epistemology or social sciences? Do we need to learn how to write papers in a more standardized or formulaic way? Maybe that would make reviewing easier/less time-consuming, and would enable us to read more papers and cite one another more.


Dave Wallace 01.19.24 at 3:06 am

@P.D. Magnus: There can be serious problems with citation permanence if the only copy of a publication available has to be refreshed from the owner’s web site. I remember reading an article a while back where the author noted that copies of certain Chinese legal journal articles available online differed from the paper copies of the journals he had kept in his library. It appears that certain views were no longer endorsed by the party hierarchy. Unless the HTML is stored on some sort of archival web site that can be guaranteed to serve the original version on request, regardless of later political fashions, there is no guarantee that the article you are citing is the same as the one another author cites with the same citation string.


John Q 01.19.24 at 4:06 am

I’m writing from the perspective of academic economics which is, I think, similar in a sociological/cultural sense to philosophy (except that philosophy seems to have a strong norm in favour of sole authorship).

Economics has a limited set of “top” journals, with very high rejection rates, and a strong prejudice against publishing in lower-tier outlets. This creates lots of high-stakes lotteries for tenure-track scholars, and is, I think, intellectually stultifying. The reliable way to get published is to do technically difficult PhD variation, shop your job market paper around a fairly limited seminar circuit, and hope for the best. Nothing really challenging ever gets up, except from the most securely established stars, usually bypassing peer review. I don’t know how to fix this, and I have mostly given up trying, at least as regards journal articles. It’s one reason I love blogging so much,


JamesG 01.19.24 at 9:47 am

Genuine question: is there a good argument for not adopting a triple blind process? I know lots of high-ranked journals don’t and I can only assume the people who run those journals think the decision can be justified. So what is the argument?


Chris Bertram 01.19.24 at 10:53 am

One reason to stop at double-blind is efficiency. With triple you can end up sending people their own papers to review, or their student’s and so on. Which leads to further iterations while acceptable reviewers are sought, people complaining on social media etc. It is already hard enough for editors to find competent reviewers, so why make it harder? If you don’t trust the editor, then perhaps submit your paper elsewhere. Linda Barclay complains about “serious issues” and “open secrets”. Well, come on, tell us what they are (without defaming anyone).


JamesG 01.19.24 at 12:23 pm

Thank you, Chris Bertram. That is relevant reason. Whether it should be decisive is another matter.

As for trust issues: In recent years the journal has published papers by: the husband of one of the co-editors; the partner of one of the founding editors; and a surprising number of PhD candidates or recent-PhD students supervised by the editor or co-editors.

I’m guessing Linda is worried about this sort of thing, but perhaps there are others concerns too.


Chris Bertram 01.19.24 at 2:23 pm

I think JPP has probably published around 600 papers under Bob Goodin’s aegis (one by me). I think I’d need to see statistical evidence that supports any claim of bias of favouritism. It wouldn’t be surprising or concerning to me to discover, for example, that many former PhD students of David Miller had published in JPP, simply because he has supervised so very many at one of the world’s top institutions (most of whom don’t share his views). My own view of the three top journals has been that Ethics and JPP are pretty clean and a plausible submission would have a fair chance (not a high chance) whereas I think PPA had a history of favouring quite a narrow circle (Harvard, Princeton etc). I had a paper published in Ethics (suggesting it was quite good) that had received an instant desk rejection from PPA and led to me not wasting my time there again. But editorial teams change and I imagine PPA is better now.


Rob 01.19.24 at 3:14 pm

The statistical work Chris Bertram calls for was done for P&PA, and looks pretty damning about its practices around a decade ago. I am not sure what similar analysis of it would reveal now.

I doubt analysis of JPP’s practices would reveal the same sort of pattern, but then the rumours about its operation have tended to focus much more on Goodin himself, and his idiosyncracies, than on preference for a particular set of institutions and their members. It does seem revealing to me that Goodin himself would describe JPP as ‘Bob’s picks’ (page 12 of the PDF below). And the well-known speed with which Goodin makes those picks from non-blind submissions does invite questions about the basis on which they are made.


Jonathan Quong 01.19.24 at 4:35 pm

Since a couple of people have made comments about Philosophy & Public Affairs in the comments above, I think it’s worth clarifying that P&PA has for several years now been using triple blind review, and also does not accept submissions from the current editor or associate editors, so some of the concerns expressed about the journal a decade ago do not seem applicable given the journal’s current policies. This information is on the journal’s website.


Chris Bertram 01.19.24 at 4:46 pm

@Rob, well, read in context, the remark about “Bob’s picks” does not see as “revealing” as your comment suggests.

@Jonathan Quong Thank you, that’s very helpful information.


Aaron 01.20.24 at 10:33 am

Definitely push back against the HTML only thing. Seems like they are either wrong or up to something. Of course the HTML versions are getting much higher hit rates. People are checking articles out at the first place they land. If they eventually want to engage meaningfully with the paper I would think that most would download the pdf (or am I old and missing some better way to collect your literature). Raw hit statistics don’t look like a good proxy for what users find useful. Like someone said above, one suspects that they want to make access as online only as possible to squeeze the last few dollars out. That would be super annoying!


djw 01.20.24 at 6:57 pm

Echoing everyone’s thanks to Ingrid for writing this up.

html/PDF–strong agree with Anna Stilz; the PDF format, for whatever reason, facilitates the kind of careful reading I want to do. If I try to read something in html, I often catch myself skimming when I shouldn’t be.

Is there any more information on the new Quong-edited journal? My googling isn’t turning up anything.


Rob 01.20.24 at 8:13 pm

@Chris Bertram: I also think it’s quite revealing that you say nothing about what the context of Goodin’s remark is. The context is that Goodin explains that he used to joke with JPP’s previous publishers that if they annoyed him, he’d stop cooperating with them and put up a website announcing the papers he’d seen and liked recently, which would do basically exactly the same thing as the journal. This doesn’t seem to me to suggest that Goodin doesn’t have the kind of large sense of his own importance that might lead him to over-value his own judgment in the way the rumours claim.

@Jon Quong: I didn’t know P&PA had changed to triple-blind. Has it also changed its refereeing process, which I understand used to rely entirely on its editors, and which one can easily see might generate various kinds of idiosyncracies?


LFC 01.20.24 at 10:34 pm

If I had an academic job and had to keep up closely with the literature in my field, I definitely would get print copies of a couple of journals, at least. Chris Bertram’s implication in one of his comments above that no one uses the print copies anymore surprises me a bit. (And it’s not an age-based thing, b/c we’re roughly the same age.)


MisterMr 01.21.24 at 1:06 am

A non academic here.
It is possible to print HTML on paper, or print it as a PDF.


Chris Bertram 01.21.24 at 8:54 am

@Rob, well that context, (ie, as you say, a joke) plus the fact that the paragraph in question comes with a footnote that starts “‘Or something like it’, because of course it would require committee of editorial advisers with the capacity to take external advice on submissions beyond the committee’s competence.” As for Goodin’s “large sense of his own importance”: well, his publication record, intellectual contribution and hard work for the discipline over many decades suggest to me that it wouldn’t be out of place for him to take pride in what he’s done. I don’t see in that anything particularly sinister. Perhaps JPP rejected one of your submissions?

@LFC, well, not literally no-one.


Enzo Rossi 01.21.24 at 3:03 pm

Re: HTML, I would push back. Think of how people store PDFs with dedicated software like Zotero. If that became impossible, we’d be stuck with badly formatted screen captures, or with the need access the publisher’s website every time, much as when one saves webpages through Zotero. This would be great for the publishers’ page views, not to mention for their desire to limit access to current subscribers. I don’t think saving on producing PDFs is worth those downsides.

Re: Triple-anonymous review, I’ve now been co-editing the European Journal of Political Theory in this way for a decade. There are occasional downsides, but they pale in comparison to the benefits. I can’t speak for others, but my experience is that knowing the author’s identity tends to distort my judgment most of the time–I know this from the rare occasions in which I’ve recognised a paper from a conference. The lower the acceptance rate, the harder it is to justify double-anonymous review, as I see it.

By the way, EJPT has an acceptance rate of about 8%, we usually manage to turn papers around in two months or less, and we welcome analytic political philosophy (this is my own background). It’s curious how often philosophers in the US tend to avoid journals with the words ‘political theory’ in the title, and I can see why that may make some sense in their context, but from a global point of view we are a broad church political philosophy journal. And yes we also publish “non-Western” political theory.


Harry 01.21.24 at 3:19 pm

There’s a kind of political theory that happens in political science departments in the US which doesn’t really seem to happen elsewhere. (Do other people write about Strauss, de Toqueville and the Federalist papers in that funny discursive way?). Of course plenty of political philosophy happens in political science departments still, but I think in the US “political theory” still means “something which is not analytical political philosophy”, whereas elsewhere it means “political theorizing of various kinds which include analytical political philosophy”.

On LFC’s point: I hate reading online, and print off anything I am going to read properly, but even I don’t actually subscribe to any journals anymore (though I seem to have a complimentary lifetime subscription to a couple).


Enzo Rossi 01.21.24 at 3:31 pm


Yes, US-style political theory is sui generis. We publish some, when we feel it sheds light on questions that any political philosopher would find interesting, with arguments that most political philosophers would find at least somewhat compelling.

I think some of the barriers between US-PT and standard analytic or continental political theory are finally coming down though.


clew 01.22.24 at 10:40 pm

The PDF-HTML-readability-verifiability thing is giving me collywobbles because comments above are badly confused about what computer actions can fix which problems. I can’t tell what’s synecdoche and what’s confusion.

HTML allows reformatting to make documents more readable or PDFs to make them differently editable. There are online converters. I tested that one with a JPP article and the result is complete but not polished.

PDF on the publisher’s website are no more a guarantee of not having changed than HTML is. PDFs in your directory don’t have any proof that you didn’t edit them! If this is now a problem, the best computer approach we have is public key cryptography, a specific kind of digital signature (more like a watermark than a John Hancock).


engels 01.23.24 at 7:34 pm

Surely the important question on the PDF vs HMTL issue from a political philosophy perspective is which one did Rawls use?


clew 01.24.24 at 5:17 pm

.tex files are inherently behind a veil of confusion?

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