Certain philosophical domains (and subjects) do not often appear in the pages of prestigious generalist philosophy journals. Is it because journals don’t get many submissions in these areas? (And if so, why not?)
Or is it because the editors and referees of these journals tend to pass negative judgments on the submissions they see in these areas? (And if so, are those judgments about quality, or fit, or what?)
Is it a combination of these reasons? Or something else?
It would be useful to know this, since publication in such journals is, in practice, an important means of gaining recognition, influence, promotions, jobs and other professional assets in academic philosophy.
The actual explanation could influence authors’ publication strategies: if it turns out that a particular journal almost never receives submissions in, say, feminist theory, which can reasonably affect the practical implications an author contemplating submitting to it should derive from the fact that relatively little work on feminist theory has appeared in its pages.
The explanation could also be useful to editors, who may aspire to broaden the range of topics covered by their journal. This could tell them, for example, how their conception of scope matches the actual scope represented in submissions to their journal, or whether they should make efforts to encourage more submissions in certain areas (perhaps for counter what they consider to be an outdated image of the types of philosophy published by their journal), and so on.
One thing needed to get more clarity on this is Data on the topics of the submissions that the journals receive. So I contacted a number of very reputable generalist journals* to see if they could share their data on the fields, topics or keywords of manuscripts submitted over the past few years.
Turns out most of them couldn’t, because they don’t keep track of that information.
May I suggest that journals start doing this?
With today’s technology, it should be fairly easy to collect, probably in an automated fashion, the subfields that submissions fall into and the keywords that authors associate with their articles.
Among the newspapers that have reached me so far, only one…ergonomics— keeps this kind of data (along with other statistics, publicly available here). Below is a breakdown by subject area of submissions to the journal in 2021:
Editors of generalist journals influence the perception that philosophers have of their discipline, playing a role, through their publication choices, in establishing what is considered dominant or important. Having an idea of the difference between what is submitted and what is published can help us better understand the nature and extent of this influence. As one editor wrote in a response to my query:
I would personally be interested in the outcome…since I have tried to be open and encouraging to increase the range (in some respects including areas/subjects) of our submissions. My informal impression is that it has improved, especially in recent years. Still, maybe that’s just how I to want to see the situation.
Scholarly journals and their publishers also have effects on career trajectories, publication strategies, as well as influences on philosophers’ perceptions of the subfields they cover, so I think the advice to start collecting data on topics and keywords on submissions also applies to them.
Once set up, this type of data collection does not seem particularly restrictive, and I see no problem with it.
Are we going to turn this on, then? Comments are welcome, especially from journal editors.
(Perhaps what we will learn is that, as Brian Weatherson (Michigan) explained in a different context, “there is no such thing as a general philosophy journal.” What would be the result? )
- Brian Weatherson informs me that The footprint of the philosophers started collecting this information last March, so the newspaper doesn’t have much of it yet. When he has the opportunity, he will seek to make it public.
- John Heil says he will ask the APA Review‘s publisher, Cambridge University Press, to find out if there is a way to pull recent data along these lines from their system.
* Journals contacted: American Philosophical Quarterly, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, canadian journal of philosophy, ergonomics, Journal of the American Philosophical Association, Philosophy Review, To listen, We, The footprint of the philosophers, Philosophical Quarterly, Philosophical review, Philosophical studies, Philosophy and phenomenological researchand Southern Philosophy Review. Not all reviews have responded yet. If it turns out that one of them ergonomics follows the data submitted by the topic, I’ll update the post with that.
Related: Citation Patterns in Journals, A History of Philosophy Journals Using Topic Modeling