‘A Catastrophic Mistake’: Upheaval at Philosophy Journal Points to Publishing’s Conflicting Interests

“Wiley’s decision to remove the longtime editor of a highly regarded philosophy journal from his post has sparked outrage, resignations, and promises of boycott. The dispute underscores how the incentives of the academic-publishing giants can run counter to those of the scholars who produce the knowledge that helps fund them.

Last week, Robert E. Goodin wrote an email informing academics who help run The Journal of Political Philosophy that Wiley, which owns the journal, had removed him as editor, effective at the end of 2023. Goodin, who had received the news in November, wrote that Wiley was not contractually required to offer an explanation, and it did not.

Many associate editors and board members said they would resign, praising Goodin as a brilliant and dedicated editor who over a 33-year tenure made the journal into one of the most respected of its field in the world. Some have sharply criticized the publisher for what they consider a bad and baffling decision, especially because academics involved in the journal’s management were not consulted. “Wiley is making a catastrophic mistake,” Jeff McMahan, a professor of moral philosophy at the University of Oxford, wrote in his resignation from the journal’s editorial board. “It will be virtually impossible to reestablish JPP as the immensely distinguished journal it has become once Bob has left the helm.”…”

Statement of Non-Cooperation with the Journal of Political Philosophy (updated with list of signatories) | Daily Nous

“I have created a petition on change.org concerning the current crisis at the Journal of Political Philosophy. I urge all scholars who work on topics in or adjacent to political philosophy and theory, social philosophy, moral philosophy, philosophy of law, and related areas to sign the statement. 

As discussed in Thursday’s post, Wiley has removed Bob Goodin as the editor of JPP as of the end of 2023. Their explanation for this step is that there has been a “complete breakdown of professional communication” between Goodin and them. This is an entirely inadequate explanation. If a breakdown in communication were the problem, there is no reason why Wiley could not have brought the matter to the attention of the editorial board instead of acting in a unilateral and heavy-handed manner. In consequence, the vast majority of the editorial board have now submitted their resignations.

Wiley’s explanation is all the more dubious insofar as they have pressured journal editors to massively increase the number of papers they accept for publication. This pressure threatens to undermine the integrity of the peer-reviewed journal system and turn excellent venues for quality research into nothing more than crumbling paper mills. To be sure, there is an interesting question whether the top journals in political philosophy (and other areas) should accept more articles. Perhaps their current acceptance rates are overly restrictive. But this is an academic question that can only be answered by academic philosophers on academic grounds. It cannot be answered by publishing houses looking to maximise the profits they can extract from the labour we freely provide. Editorial independence over our journals is essential—without that independence, a journal publication will mean precious little.

The petition is in essence a call to strike action: a refusal to be associated with, submit to, or review for the Journal of Political Philosophy unless Wiley rescinds its decision, restores editorial control over the journal, and reaches an agreement with the editorial board, as recently constituted, as to the future relationship between Wiley and the journal….”

Tired of the profiteering in academic publishing? Vote with your feet. – Spatial Ecology and Evolution Lab

“First, let’s say one of the Olympian Editors asks you to review a manuscript for one of the profit-making esteem engines. You record on your CV that you have been asked to review for this journal (esteem points!), but you politely decline the invitation, explaining that you would rather your professional service go towards open science initiatives.

The editor at the esteem factory finds that her job has just become a lot harder than it used to be. It is hard to find reviewers, and the reviews aren’t as thorough or as good anymore. She keeps the line on her CV stating that she has been an editor at X (esteem points!), and then steps down at the next opportunity. She has better things to do than spend her days cajoling reluctant reviewers. And so it goes.

Being a discerning reviewer has nothing but benefits. There are no esteem points lost for the individual, and there is a higher turnover of editorial staff at high-esteem journals. This turnover means more opportunity and less competition for these positions, and it means the esteem hierarchy is flattened somewhat because, well, who hasn’t been an editor for Nature, and, besides, the stuff published there isn’t as good as it used to be. Overburdened reviewers have an important reason to do less reviewing; they are, through individual decision, changing the face of academic publishing and making science accessible to all….”

‘Stop Congratulating Colleagues for Publishing in High-Impact Factor Journals’ – The Wire Science

The current scholarly publishing system is detrimental to the pursuit of knowledge and needs a radical shift. Publishers have already anticipated new trends and have tried to protect their profits.
Current publishers’ power stems from the historical roots of their journals – and researchers are looking for symbolic status in the eye of their peers by publishing in renowned journals.
To counter them effectively, we need to identify obstacles that researchers themselves might face. Journals still perform some useful tasks and it requires effort to devise working alternatives.
There have already been many attempts and partial successes to drive a new shift in scholarly publishing. Many of them should be further developed and generalised.
In this excerpt from a report prepared by the Basic Research Community for Physics, the authors discuss these successes and make recommendations to different actors….”

Ending support for legacy academic publishing

“I profoundly disagree with the current system of academic publishing, and so I have decided that I will no longer give any voluntary labour to support it. I believe it no longer serves science well for us to maintain this unhealthy system. Instead, I will spend that time building alternatives….

We need to move to a system where reviews are given on a rolling basis to work that is immediately published on submission (post-publication peer review). This will increase the chance that errors are found, because there will have been more eyes on the paper, including from people who are more invested in the results….

Integrating all these functions into a single system of peer review and journal publishing rather than keeping them separate introduces additional problems. Since evaluation of technical correctness is considered together with opinions on significance that determine future career success, authors are highly incentivised to write their papers in a less transparent way that makes it harder to find errors, and to overstate the significance of their findings. This leads to a situation where the most prestigious journals with the highest competition also have the lowest reliability and highest rates of retraction.

The current system is incredibly wasteful in terms of time, effort and money. Competition for inclusion in journals means that papers often go through multiple rounds of peer review, being rejected by a series of journals after many hours of work by authors, editors and reviewers. The huge effort involved contributes to a culture of overwork in science that excludes people with caring duties and is damaging to mental health. Many scientists do their reviewing and editorial work in the evenings and weekends, for example….”

Boycott heralds Chinese publishing shake-up | May 3, 2022 | Times Higher Education (THE)

“China’s top research organisation has suspended its use of the country’s largest academic database, causing some scholars to question whether its stranglehold on the sector might be loosened. Several research institutes under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) have pulled out of its subscription to the China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) due to mounting subscription fees, local news outlet Caixin reported. According to reports, CAS made the decision over mounting costs. In 2021, CAS paid ¥10 million (£1.2 million) to access the database, with a similar amount expected for 2022. Academics said the reasoning behind the move – long-simmering frustrations over fees – was understandable enough. But they wondered what its knock-on effects could be in a market largely controlled by a single, powerful player. Roughly 90 per cent of China’s journal articles are listed on CNKI, according to estimates.  Futao Huang, a professor at the Research Institute for Higher Education at Hiroshima University, suggested that CNKI’s monopoly was under threat. While he said it was “extremely difficult” to predict what could happen, a reduced role for CNKI “might open up the market to new players”, including open access platforms, which allow readers to access papers for free….

Fei Shu, a senior researcher in the Chinese Academy of Science and Education Evaluation at Hangzhou Dianzi University, argued that “oligopoly” was a more fitting term for the country’s research database market, but he was also sceptical that a move away from its biggest player would result in a proliferation of openly accessible journal articles. “In my perspective, some other research institutions will follow the CAS and stop [their] subscription if they cannot get a deal with CNKI,” similar to when Western sectors boycotted Elsevier in the past, he said. “However, it has little to do with open access. In China, due to [its] censorship, OA is not favoured and promoted by the government. I don’t believe that this situation will change in a short term.””


I Don’t Peer-Review for Non-Open Journals, and Neither Should You

“Most will also agree that editorial work should also be done in the service of up-and-coming OA journals rather than to prop up the reputations of those that remain paywalled. But withholding peer-review from non-open journals is more controversial. Even OA campaigners sometimes raise objections. These I now propose to rebut….”

Universities UK statement on Ukraine: 3 March

“We do not support the application of blanket academic boycotts that prevent academics collaborating with other academics as a means of protest against the actions of their governments. We are therefore advising our members to make decisions about whether to continue collaborations on a case-by-case basis, informed both by UK Government guidance and appropriate due diligence. We have requested the government’s support for universities as they do this….”

Universities should not carry out ‘blanket academic boycotts’ of Russia

“Universities should not carry out blanket boycotts of Russian academics over the invasion of Ukraine, a leading sector body has said.

Universities UK (UUK), which represents 140 universities across the United Kingdom, said in a statement on the situation in Ukraine, published on Thursday, that it does “not support the application of blanket academic boycotts that prevent academics collaborating with other academics as a means of protest against the actions of their governments”. …”

My personal reviewing policy: No more billion-dollar donations – nicebread.de

“I get more requests to review scientific papers than I can reasonably handle [1]. Hence, I have to decide which requests I accept and which I decline.

I want to invest my reviewing work in research that is worth to be reviewed. Furthermore, I do not want to further increase the billion dollar donations to premium publishers any more.

When deciding whether to accept or reject a review, I apply the following heuristics:

Input filter: I decline to review manuscripts that fail these checks

(A) As a signatory of the Peer Reviewer’s Openness (PRO) initiative and the Commitment to Research Transparency, I expect open data and open material in each paper that I am supposed to review, or a public justification why it is not possible. I do not review manuscripts that fail this check.
(B) I signed the The Cost of Knowledge pledge, which means that I do not review for (or submit to) Elsevier journals….”

Commercial Science Journals: A Luxury Market? – SBMT

“SBMT: Why are the “diamond/platinum” journals the least valued by editorial metrics and funding agencies?

Dr. TR Shankar Raman: I have no idea why this should be so. It feels like the academic community has just painted itself into a corner. There are lots of excellent diamond open access journals. The journals published by Indian Academy of Sciences  are a good example (although they have a weird co-publishing arrangement with Springer Nature, the journals and papers can be freely accessed via the Academy website and there are no charges for authors to publish either). Of course, the number of papers that a diamond open access journal may be able to publish may be lower and many are in niche areas of science rather than multi-disciplinary in scope and hence their reach may be lower than what big-budget commercial journals can achieve with their resources. But this only means that diamond open access journals should be supported more to achieve better reach, not shift to commercial publishers. All public and philanthropic funding for science has everything to gain by supporting and mandating publication in diamond open access journals….

SBMT: How to design a policy in defense of Southern science through the promotion of “diamond/platinum” journals?

Dr. TR Shankar Raman: As individuals, we can each take a stand, as I have tried to in my post—that I will not review for or publish in commercial journals, but will especially do so for diamond open access journals. Particularly, senior scientists and leaders in their fields must set an example by publishing, reviewing for, or accepting to be on the boards of diamond open access journals. But this will not go far unless we also collectively work to change overall policy. As a community, we must petition our academies, funders, and science administrators to change policies to give greater recognition to papers published in diamond open access journals. This can trigger a big change: especially if it begins to count towards jobs and promotions in academia. Impact factor should be trashed as outdated, harmful, and retrogressive. Recipients of public funds should be mandated to publish in diamond open access journals published by nonprofit scientific societies as this is the most cost-effective way to spend the available (limited) funds to achieve publication that is freely, openly, and widely accessible, while supporting and advancing science. Other initiatives such as Gold Open Access, self-archiving of submitted final versions, or pay-to-publish APC models are all half measures or discriminate and exclude large numbers of scientists around the world, who cannot pay the large fees involved. Policies should support membership fee support for scholars and new and tenured faculty to join learned academic societies that publish diamond open access journals so that the funds are kept within the community and to advance science rather than feed the profits of commercial companies….”

FOASAS: Fair Open Access in South Asian Studies

“Profiteering and restricted access have led to a crisis in academic publishing. The Fair Open Access movement is best promoted by mobilizing individual disciplines. With this manifesto, we, an open group of scholars of classical and modern South Asian Studies, declare our support for Fair Open Access publishing….

The following publishers and journals meet many or all FOA criteria (see §7 of the FOASAS Manifesto). …”


ASAPbio open letter to ARC – Google Docs

“The Australian Research Council (ARC) does not allow researchers to cite preprints in their grant applications and recently disqualified a number of applications for this reason.  

Preprints advance scientific discovery and are encouraged by many funders, including Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council. Citation of any source, regardless of its peer review status, is essential for proper attribution of ideas, and prohibiting the citation of preprints prevents applicants from discussing and building on the latest science. Further, listing preprints as evidence of productivity allows reviewers to develop an accurate picture of an applicant’s research outputs.

On August 31, we will send the list of signatories below to the ARC along with an offer to provide more information about preprints in the life sciences that can inform their review of their policy. We are also happy to support Australian researchers, librarians, editors, and other stakeholders in having conversations about preprints. Please get in touch with Jessica Polka (jessica.polka@asapbio.org) if you would like assistance in hosting an event for your community. You can also sign other open letters: one drafted by Australian researchers to encourage the ARC to reconsider its preprint policies, and a second encouraging the same as well as eligibility extension and policy simplification. …”

Let’s stop reviewing for publishers that profit from research | Joseph Paul Cohen Blog (July 2021) – AHRECS

“What’s the deal with how we review papers for venues (like conferences and journals) for free and then they go on to sell and restrict access to them? How about let’s only review for venues that freely distribute papers and stop reviewing for those that restrict access? We can also stop reviewing for those that charge high publishing charges, I believe over $100 per submission is unacceptable.

We have the power to put an end to closed access research. By only reviewing for venues that freely distribute papers, we will ensure they have the best publications and become the premier venues. It will then become in everyone’s best interest to publish in venues with freely accessible papers….”


Addressing the Alarming Systems of Surveillance Built By Library Vendors – SPARC

“On April 2nd, news broke that RELX subsidiary LexisNexis signed a multi-million dollar contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). According to reporting on the ICE contract by the Intercept, LexisNexis’ databases “offer an oceanic computerized view of a person’s existence” and will provide the agency with “the data it needs to locate people with little if any oversight.” 

While this contract may be new, it is just the latest development in an alarming trend that SPARC is following. Two major library vendors—RELX and Thomson Reuters—have been building sophisticated, global systems of surveillance that include online tracking technologies, massive aggregation of user data, and the sale of services based on this tracking, including to governments and law enforcement. 

Dollars from library subscriptions, directly or indirectly, now support these systems of surveillance. This should be deeply concerning to the library community and to the millions of faculty and students who use their products each day and further underscores the urgency of privacy protections as library services—and research and education more generally—are now delivered primarily online. …

As alarming as these surveillance technologies are in their own right, they may already be crossing into academic products. Surveillance researcher Wolfie Christl has reported ThreatMetrix tracking code is now embedded in the ScienceDirect website, raising serious questions about what patron information is being collected and toward what purposes….

The Library Freedom Project’s Vendor Privacy Scorecard highlights the many privacy concerns across a wide selection of library vendors….”